Everybody’s journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality. ~ James Baldwin
America has a bizarre stomach virus. When we vomit, fluid piles of ignorance and fear scatter across our land, reinvigorating our social prejudices. When we shit, bigotry splatters on the walls of our homes, schools, and social institutions, reaffirming our hypocrisy as a nation in failing to treat people as equals. There is nothing like the smell and consequences of ideological duplicity.
It’s time that we acknowledge the stench of homophobia and how many people have suffocated as a result of our intolerance. Suicide is a preventable death and it partially continues to thrive due to repeated acts of discrimination against individuals’ sexual orientations.
In 2010, the suicides of Joseph Jefferson and Raymond Chase held a mirror up to the continued struggle of gay and bisexual men of color and this country’s shortcomings in providing a safe haven for people of non-heterosexual orientations.
Before taking his life, Jefferson wrote to his friends:
“I could not bear the burden of living as a gay man of color in a world grown cold and hateful towards those of us who live and love differently than the so-called ‘social mainstream.’ Belonging is one of the basic human needs, when people feel isolated and excluded from a sense of communion with others, they suffer….”
I cannot imagine the burden of living as a gay or bisexual man of color, but I can recognize how that burden is created. It is birthed between a fear of the “other,” skewed definitions of masculinity, and the unwillingness to accept anyone non-heterosexual as normal.
For those who ask how we prevent additional acts of suicide from gay and bisexual men of color, it starts with redefining prejudice, reshaping tolerance, and confronting heterosexual chauvinism.
Last week, Marsha Ambrosius released a powerful video entitled “Far Away,” which illustrated the emotional conflict within a man who happened to love another man. While this man was openly comfortable in his sexuality, numerous public encounters with bullying and bigotry caused him to struggle internally.
The video’s narrative operated like an emotional crescendo, placing “small” acts of ignorance into a larger perspective. Often, the bully stamp is only put on people that call someone a derogatory name or initiate a physical altercation. Yet, abuse also lives in the “little” things that we often disregard.
As effectively depicted in “Far Away,” bullying is when…
You snatch your child away from giving an openly gay or bisexual man a high five. It’s wrong and, as a parent, if you can’t explain to your child that people love differently, perhaps you have some work to do in the parenting arena.
You scowl when you see a gay couple walking and publicly displaying affection. If you enjoy holding hands with your partner or stopping to embrace in the park, don’t cast your eyes down on someone that enjoys the same act with someone of the same gender.
You watch as a gay or bisexual person is taunted because of their sexuality. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Compared to lesbian and bisexual women, far more men from the LGBT community commit suicide. This is not to discount the bullying that lesbian and bisexual women endure. However, it is important that we note the numerical gap in suicides between genders.
These men could be our brothers, sons, cousins, uncles, and fathers. While it’s not easy to disrupt prejudice when it’s rooted in religion, social upbringing, and the ideological “freedom” to believe whatever we choose, confronting prejudice starts within ourselves.
How would you feel if you were constantly ridiculed for being heterosexual? How would you feel if the way you loved discounted your womanhood?
Explore those feelings. Don’t simply shed tears when you hear about the next gay or bisexual man of color committing suicide.
As Baldwin says, “People can cry much easier than they can change.”