On Black People And “Our” Homophobia

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1. As I listened to Jason Collins and Oprah discuss the extra “stigma” of being gay and Black, I couldn’t help but wonder how true the “Blacks are more homophobic than everyone else” sentiment truly is. I think many of us—myself included—have said it so much that we’ve accepted it to be true, and since we’ve accepted it to be true, we don’t bother challenging or even testing that theory. And, over time, this widely-held theory is repeated as fact.

I’m not here to argue whether it’s true or false (at least not yet), but how do we really know? Sure, we can cite a few rap lyrics or some loosely connected vagaries about Black people and Christianity, but all that might prove is that a certain type of Black person might be more likely to be homophobic. But, once you control for education, class, location, and any other environmental factors, how would we (Black people) fare?

This phenomenon sort of reminds of me of the theory that Black people are the worst tippers. Whether or not the theory might be true is inconsequential (And yes, I believe it to be true). It’s so ingrained into so many people’s minds that they don’t even bother challenging it, they use confirmation bias to strengthen their beliefs, and after enough circular thinking it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. I think that when people say that Black people are more homophobic than everyone else, what they’re really saying is that Black men are more homophobic than everyone else. Black women generally get a pass, and I think that pass is undeserved.

Generally speaking, I think straight Black women are more superficially accepting of homosexuals—more likely to have gay male or lesbian friends, more “comfortable” around gays, more likely to participate in the fight for gay rights, etc. But, when it comes to actual beliefs about what constitutes male homosexuality, they’re no different than the typical Black male, as both the typical Black male and the “gay-friendly” Black woman tend to believe that there’s no such thing as a bisexual male. Basically, if a man has ever participated in any type of non-straight activity—a one-time act, a thought, a recurring dream, anything—he’s gay now, and gay forever. This is homophobic.

3. I think quite a few women are going to read those last couple sentences and tell me that I’m wrong, that they and most of the Black women they know don’t have any homophobic bones in their bodies. I think that before they leave any comments today, they should ask themselves two questions: Would you date a man who had one gay experience fifteen years ago? If no, would your answer change if you were 100% certain he wouldn’t do that again? If the answer is still no, I’d like to know why. What is it about that one-time act that would completely eliminate a man from your consideration?

4. I think I’m anxiously waiting for the day some prominent person just stops the denials, double-talk, and mealymouthedness and just comes out and says “Yes, I’m homophobic.” I think I’ll be waiting a while for that to happen. I don’t mind that, though. I’ve been waiting a couple decades now for a public figure to just say “Yes, I’m racist. Can you stop asking me whether or not I’m racist now?” so if anything it proves I’m patient.

5. I think I don’t like it when certain people (and by “certain people” I mean “certain Black Christians”) are asked about their views concerning homosexuality, and are criticized for responding honestly. But, I also think that socially abhorrent views are meant to be criticized. I think my problem isn’t necessarily with the criticism but with the ambush tactics—ask someone a question even though you already know how they’re going to answer just so you can make an example out of them—especially from other “progressive” Black Christians.

6. I think you can ask a million Christians about the Bible and what they take from it and get a million different variations. I mean, we (Christians) all believe that, to paraphrase Bill Maher, there’s a “magic genie in the sky that’ll grant our wishes if we ask really hard,” so is it really that bad when one of us also believes homosexuality is a sin or that you can legitimately pray your gay away?

7. Speaking of progressive people and homosexuality, I think there’s a bit of a disconnect when it comes to what people are willing to admit. To wit, many people (myself included) believe that human sexuality exists on a continuum. Basically, there’s a sexuality scale that we all fit somewhere on. Most of us are gathered either at the gay end or the straight end, but the rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

But, if a scale exists, I think it also stands to reason that a person in the middle can consciously choose to be gay or straight. Yet, I think you’re unlikely to find a liberal/progressive person publicly admit that people who can actually make that type of choice exist because it opens a Pandora’s Box for “less enlightened” people to say “See, I told you that all gay people are only gay because they chose to be.”

8. I know I’m far from the first person to say this, but I think someone needs to invent another word to use to describe someone being uneasy around, unaccepting of, or hateful towards homosexuals. “Homophobic” just doesn’t seem comprehensive enough to capture all of that. Feel free to list any suggestions.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

On How To Play A Woman And Have Everyone Ok With It (Hint: Be Gay And Be “First”)

jason collins

A little over two weeks ago, as my entire family was gathered at Sunday dinner, discussing the plans and preparations for my sister’s upcoming (June) wedding, she (my sister) unexpectantly broke down in tears and rushed out of the room, running upstairs. My parents and I looked at each other baffled, each of our faces simultaneously stuck on “Was it something I said?” mode. After the shock wore off, my mom went after my still hysterical sister, whose cries could be heard downstairs.

After a few minutes, my mom returned to the dinner table, alone.

“The wedding is off”

“Wait! What? What happened?”

“Rick broke up with her this morning. Said he didn’t want to marry her. Apparently didn’t give any reason for it.”

This news, while shocking, wasn’t necessarily surprising. They (Rick and my sister) met in college, and dated for eight years, and eight years is a hell of a long relationship gestation period. I know there are exceptions to every rule, but it’s been my experience that “eight years of dating” = “yeah, he doesn’t really want to marry your ass.”

I think my sister sensed this as well, but she still tried her damnedest to believe in their future together. She’d invested so much energy, so much time, sweat, love, and tears into this relationship she wouldn’t allow herself to think otherwise. Also, she wanted to have children—multiple children—and she was aware that as she got older (she’s 33), she honestly didn’t have much more time to be able to do that. Quite frankly, she needed this relationship with Rick to work.

As I mentioned earlier, I had an idea that this was coming. But, there was no urge to remind her or anyone of this. Instead, I was filled with rage. I thought about all the pre and post-wedding preparations my parents made, and the stress that put them through. My dad even developed an ulcer. I thought of all the people—friends and family—who’d saved up and altered their schedules to attend the June wedding. I thought about all the awkward conversations my sister was going to have to have for the next several months when co-workers and acquaintances who haven’t heard the news yet will ask her about Rick and the wedding. I thought of how she always wanted to be a wife and a mother. Even as a kid, she’d joke about wanting to have enough kids to field her own basketball team. Yes, she can still get married and yes, she can still have kids—despite what the media might tell you, a 30-something woman breaking up with a man isn’t a death sentence—but realistically, the chances of that happening are much lower now than they were even five years ago.

I wasn’t the only one filled with rage, either. Since hearing the news, my parents and I have both struggled to juggle the surreal ambivalence of wanting to be supportive for my sister and wanting to shed Rick’s blood. Some days, I’m so consumed with antipathy that I think about what I’d do to Rick if he ever had the misfortune of crossing paths with me. I know these feelings will eventually pass, but right now it’s all I can think about.

I imagine most people would also feel that strange combination of feelings—anger, confusion, disgust–if their loved one was hurt in a similar way. I’m sure you’d feel even more strange if the man who broke up with your sister so suddenly was being celebrated nationally—hailed everywhere as a hero—for basically the same reason he broke up with your sister so suddenly. Perhaps this reason makes him a pioneer, a vanguard, a spearhead to newer, better, and more progressive America. But, while bravery and a willingness to stand alone, to do what others haven’t done are part of its definition, “heroism” also implies a certain selflessness, a benevolent altruisticness, and knowing what this man did to your sister and your family, you’ll never be able to call him a hero.

I’m sure by now you’ve deduced that my story about my sister was a bit of an allegory. If you hadn’t figured it out, well, my story about my sister was a bit of an allegory. I wrote this from an hypothetical perspective of a hypothetical family member of Carolyn Moos—the woman who Jason Collins dated for eight years, proposed to, and broke up with a month before their wedding.

I didn’t write this to discredit or dismiss the bravery it took for Collins to make his recent admission, nor am I so myopic that I can’t see how an act like that has the potential to make a positive impact on thousands, even millions of lives. I also am fully aware that I have absolutely no idea about the inner workings of Collins’ and Moos’ relationship, and I couldn’t even begin the fathom how it must feel to spend decades trapped inside of a box, forced by societal constraints to live a lie.

I am, though, aware of how much of an influence perspective has on perception, and the Collins’ case—and the prevailing reaction to it—is an perfect example of that. A big part of the reason why Collins is being lauded as a hero is because he told his story first. Think of how much different everything would be if our first news about Collins’ sexuality was told by a scorned ex-fiancee who wanted to set the record straight after being led on for a decade.

There also lies the uncomfortable fact that his “heroism” is predicated on the fact that he very likely deceived and even hurt people—people very close to him—for a very long time. Lemme put it this way: If Collins was “Rick the civil engineer who just broke up with your sister a month before her wedding” instead of a guy who’s really, really, really good at playing basketball, and the story of Rick finally coming out was told from your sister’s perspective, I doubt you’d throw many positive-sounding nouns and adjectives in Rick’s direction.

Yet, Collins’ position as a professional athlete has made us assign a heroism to an act—publicly admitting that you’ve been living a lie—that isn’t really all that heroic. Yes, you cannot discount the role societal expectations played in Collins’ life, as I’m sure he did not set out to delude or hurt anyone. And yes, what Collins’ did—either intentionally or unintentionally lead a woman to believe their relationship was something that it wasn’t—has been done by men everywhere (me included). My eyes are filled with planks. This is exactly my point. If you take away the “firstness” and the homosexuality and just look at it as a “man spends decade deceiving woman who was in love with him” perspective, what separates him from the thousands of men (and women) reading this today? Obviously, being shitty at relationships doesn’t mean that you can’t be a hero. Just not when the heroism is directly linked to the shitty behavior.

You could argue that since Collins himself wasn’t completely sure of his sexuality—in his own words, this realization was “baking” for 33 years—it doesn’t really count as deception. Basically, deception isn’t truly deception if you’re genuinely deluding yourself. This is a valid argument. I don’t agree—a person unsure of their sexual preference telling someone they want to get married sounds like true deception to me—but it is valid. You can also argue that anyone hurt by Collins’ lie is America’s fault for forcing a man to think that he had to live that way, not Collins’. This is also a valid argument. I don’t agree—while America may have made it very difficult to come out as gay, America doesn’t force you to get into long relationships with women (What’s wrong with just not seriously dating anyone?)—but it is valid. But, the argument that context makes Collins a hero, that the impact of his admission supersedes any possible collateral damage caused by him living a lie, isn’t.

I applaud Collins for being real with himself, for having the courage to be free, for being the first active male athlete in one of our major sports to stand up and tell the world that he will no longer pretend to be something he isn’t, for having the balls to be the first member of a club that will likely grow much sooner and much larger than we think, for “outing” himself when he apparently didn’t have to.

But, as we rush to praise him for being first, we can’t forget that it came with a very human cost. If this still makes him a “hero” to you, fine. I understand. We all have our own definitions of the word, I guess. For now, though, I’ll be safe and just call him a “man.”


—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

This Is Me Not Writing About Jason Collins

Jason-Collins-is-gay.-Image-via-@SInowBecause I’m not writing about it, you totally didn’t hear about Jason Collins, “active” NBA center being the first major sport – active – player to come out and let the world know that he is gay. Well, it’s possible that you did hear about it, but I’m still not writing about it.

No way no how nuh uh, good bye.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodbye.

So about that thing I’m not writing about…a lot of people will. In fact, I’m fairly certain that over the next few days there will be numerous articles, segments, etc about Jason Collins and his decision to come out via Sports Illustrated. And to be clear, it was a bold move. I’m not sure how “brave” it is anymore, but the act in and of itself often includes both courage and bravery.

Let’s back this truck up for a second. For years, there has been this undercurrent that there would be a big deal when an active athlete in baseball, football, or basketball came out it would be a big deal. Twenty years ago, I think it would. It’s just that its not twenty years ago and conservative strongholds like Chik-fil-a catch hell for not being “tolerant enough.” If ever there was a perfect climate for a gay athlete to come out, its now. Hell, Brittany Griner says that she’s a lesbian in an interview after she gets drafted and it barely moves the needle. I do realize that many people assume most WNBA players are lesbian but that’s an assumption and misguided.

In fact, when the news that Jason Colilns acknowledged he was gay came out (no punt intended), I barely gave it more than two seconds of thought. On ESPN, it was below the news that Tebow got cut from the Jets. It’s just not as big a deal anymore. It is a deal because it’s an athlete, but its also not an athlete that millions of kids look towards either. Not that it matters, but I forgot he was even playing.

AND HE WAS PLAYING FOR THE WIZARDS! IN WASHINGTON!

As an aside, just to make sure you all know that I do respect his decision to do so and realize that it is not easy to do what he did, I have quite a few gay friends. And each time they came out to me I could see a bit of hesitation. I could see that they were concerned at the outcome. I have and had nothing but respect for my boys that gathered the gumption to take the chance to be honest with me about who they were. I appreciated that they thought enough of me to share that part of themselves.

Everybody’s not ready to accept that the whole “gay thing” is here to stay. I’m sure that amidst all of the support Jason Collins got from the Clinton’s and various NBA players – including Kobe who had to have his own come to Jesus sensitivity training moment – there are some players who, while maybe not as uncomfortable as they once would have been, just don’t support that lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be about homophobia either. Some folks just don’t agree with the lifestyle.

And that’s okay. But in terms of societal shifts, the winds of change have come, swept, and painted with all the colors of the wind. More than half of the nation is okay with the idea of gay people being allowed to get married. It’s here. Sometimes you do end up on the wrong side of history.

Back to Jason Collins, who I’m totally not writing about. He will hold the distinction of being the first active roster (though he’s a free agent) player coming out. He’s a “pioneer” so to speak. But the truth is, its a total non-story story. At this point, its like, “okay, he’s gay. Who cares. The Wizards suck! Booooo….who cares if you’re gay. YOUR TEAM SUCKS!!!!”

To some degree I wonder if a more popular player or a football player were to come out if something would be different. But I’m inclined to think that we’ve just moved past the tipping point into ho-hum territory. You know how people tease a secret or something they need to tell you for so long that the hype of it all overshadows the actual event. The moment of impact tends to be completely dull. While you’re waiting for the world to explode somebody hits you in the back of the head with a pebble and yells “boom”. You’re left wondering why they held you in suspense for something that wasn’t that deep and they’re wondering why you don’t care as much as they think you should.

Basically everybody’s disappointed.

And while this news isn’t even remotely disappointing, my point is that there’s no story here. Jason Collins is gay. Congrats to him for feeling the desire and need to get that out. If he is now afforded the ability to feel freer, then I’m both happy for him and wish he’d gotten the chance to experience that sooner.

I wonder how much the media will try to squeeze out of this before it dawns on everybody that times have indeed changed. It’s a story and all. But its really not anymore. I suppose you have to say something though. Acceptance might not be universal, but fighting that battle seems futile now.

Dammit, I talked about Jason Collins.

Don’t be like me, be better than me.

But since we’re talking about him, what do you think about a current athlete coming out as gay? Does it matter? Does it move the conversation? What does it all mean?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. DON’T BLAME ME, I WASN’T EVEN TALKING ABOUT HIM aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3