Black & Gay At Historically Black Colleges And Universities
NYPS talks to 20 of its members who attend HBCU’s across the country and put together a series to coincide with Creating Change 2013 and the National Strategy For Black Gay Youth In America. Here is the first installment in the series.
“What is most clear for black gay men is this: We have to do for ourselves now, and for each other now, what no one has done for us. We have to be there for one another and trust less the adhesions of kisses and semen to bind us. Our only sure guarantee of survival is that which we create from our own self- determination” – Essex Hemphill
It’s bittersweet that 2 years after Vibe Magazine’s explosive article, “Mean Girls of Morehouse” hit newsstands nationwide, and I am still speaking about being Black and Same Gender Loving at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Today, I am still living by my mission, whom I refer to as P3 : walking in purpose, living with passion, and being full of power for those that are seemingly invisible and voiceless. I am the true definition of academic success with a social consciousness, a true Renaissance Man and 2011 Cum Laude graduate of Morehouse College Department of Sociology. While a student at Morehouse, I made strides by breaking the mold of society’s definition of a man at the only traditional African American institution for educating Black men in the world; yet still resonating as a well distinguished gentleman.
In October of 2009, the Morehouse College administration announced a new “appropriate attire policy.” The dress code stated that students, referred to as “Renaissance Men,” were not allowed to wear caps, do-rags, sunglasses or sagging pants on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events. But what raised most eyebrows was the rule about women’s clothing: no wearing of dresses, tops, tunics, purses or pumps. The new dress code resulted in a flurry of media coverage, prompting Dr. William Bynum, Jr., vice president for Student Services, to release a statement to several news outlets: “We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.”
This was the turning of the tide for me and I realized that I cannot remain silent, voiceless or invisible. To others surprise, I never experienced homophobia from my heterosexual brothers but from my own community of Same Gender Loving brothers. This is an issue that must be addressed candidly; we are brothers in a fight together and must fight as a community. But we as Same Gender Loving brothers have lost that sense of community. Love, embrace you and I together!
Despite the controversy of the article, I was able to befriend my
Morehouse brothers that I had once considered to be “homophobic.” Homophobia is insecurity about being heterosexual and not being able to determine when someone decided to become straight. I began to notice the change in the culture on campus. A lot more students began wearing their “sexuality” as just another piece of fabric to their story. During New Student Orientation of 2011, I was stopped by a group of incoming freshman and parents who thanked me for being vocal about the experience. It is heartwarming when I get messages from Men of Morehouse speaking about the climate change that began when I walked the sacred grounds and letters from men that are incarcerated seeking help in their fight for equality involving their sexuality. My heart smiles to know that in the first time in the College’s rich history I forced a President to speak openly about issues of masculinity and sexuality. Now almost two years after my matriculation, a group of young men like myself formed the Bayard Rustin Scholar program and that a course on “The History and Culture of Black LGBT.” A shift in institutional and Black culture—a bold step towards conquering old fears and a taboo topic. This is the work of community. We started the movement but it is up to our community to keep the flame burning despite the blood, sweat and tears.
I gained local and national attention for heroic acts and contributions to society but I guess my sexuality plagued my deeds to mankind and the human race. Do not think that my work is to seek attention because it is not; it is to save and empower the lives of other boys and men like myself that look in the mirror each day at potential and power looking back at themselves. There is nothing like forcing The International Headquarters for Black Male Achievement to reevaluate its policies and drawing national attention to an issue that has plagued our community for centuries; that’s power and the power that I hope I instill in others.
I served as a NAESM Creating Responsible Intelligent Black Brothers Fellow and a Directed Studies HIV/AIDS Researcher in the Department of Sociology at Morehouse College until May of 2011. My Morehouse community of brothers considers me as a liaison to FACES of Manhood: Expressions of Masculinity, The Morehouse College Male Initiative, and Center for the Scientific Study of Masculinities. I received an appointment to the Morehouse College Respect & Diversity Committee as a Board Member; a result of me raising hell and changing the world. Keeping calm and carrying on does not make you an instrumental voice in society.
I am proud of the impact we have made as a community, and proud to say that I am the first member to wear the insignia of a Morehouse Man–something that is very sacred to the college. Have hope. We will rise above. My legacy will not be that of a trailblazer but that of an individual that blazed the trail that was half ran.