Gregg Homme
    First Published: October 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
As Peter Tatchell causes riots at this year's MOBOs after reggae stars known for anti-gay lyrics were nominated for awards and the Terence Higgins Trust gets set to launch a Black Gay Equality Campaign, OutUK's Adrian Gillan examines the extent of homophobia within black music and culture and asks whether the white gay scene can be just as racist.

Andrew Prince, Asante UK

Andrew Prince of Asante UK - a website for black gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk - has no doubt that black culture lags some way behind white culture when it comes to accepting gay people.
"Be it Africa, England, the Caribbean or America," says Prince, "for blacks, homosexuality takes the form of the foreign - the rupture on the border of black culture, the fall from grace. This perception not only locates black gay men as dysfunctional or sick - as in white homophobia - but also as race traitors, as sexual Uncle Toms who have surrendered their black identity to European decadence."

So black homophobia may ironically be part premised on black supremacist racism itself - the tragically predicable human backlash to centuries of being treated like shit by whites. And so the world turns.

"It is one thing to be rejected by society at large," Prince proceeds, "it is another to be cast out by the community in which you take refuge from that rejection. Homophobia is felt all the more acutely by black gay men because of the dual identities they face: they need the black community to counter racism in wider society, but look what they get."

"And the Church doesn't help but rather escalates the problem," he contends. "It has long been one of the strongest influences on black life - sustaining African and Afro-Caribbeans socially, culturally, politically and spiritually through a history of slavery, oppression and racism. But homophobia from the Church is as terrible as racism from society."

And Machismo? All those MTV Base and Kiss music videos full of aggressive gang-land males adored by women pouting like feminism gone into reverse? How does all that enter the black gay equation?

"What is it to be a man?" responds Prince to my question. "To father a child and walk away from it? To stab or shoot someone in a fight? To lie about all day and walk on the streets holding your crotch? To abuse gay people? I don't think so. Yet a rapist, gunman or thief will find protection in the community, far more quickly than a gay or lesbian person fleeing for their lives."

More specifically of the black music culture, Prince says: "I don't think it is right for the MOBO Awards to recognise reggae artists like Capelton, Elephant Man and TOK. But then again, they are catering to the wider black population, most of whom are homophobic anyway."

So you are rejected by your own homophobic black community and by a racist society at large - does the gay community extend its loving arms?

"Some think people are more willing to talk about racial prejudice within the gay community than in the straight population," suggests Prince dubiously. "In-your-face bigotry is now seldom seen in the largely PC and semi-sensitive GLBT community, but ignorance and subtle discrimination still exists. The whole topic of racism within an oppressed minority has been blithely ignored by mainstream GLBT."

And what of mum and dad?

"A significant proportion of the young people who approach Stonewall Housing are from an African or Afro Caribbean background," says Prince of the most fundamental yet ultimate rejection - for home is where the heart is broken. "How can parental love allow a person to put their own child out on the street, not knowing where they are, or how they are coping?"

"And finally," he concludes of black gay woes, "the black association of the gay lifestyle with white people, coupled with an association of HIV with gay people, has hindered the black community's response to HIV. It has certainly pushed black men who have sex with men to the community's margins. As a result, an already at-risk group becomes more difficult to reach with HIV prevention messages."

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