In the past few weeks and months, it seems as though the campaign for marriage equality in America has hit its stride.
Week after week, news has broken that court system after court system has declared same-sex marriage bans in Colorado, Virginia, Utah, and many more states unconstitutional. Day in and day out, I have seen images of states in the LGBT equality colors with the word “Congratulations” splattered on my Facebook newsfeed. Friends of mine have tweeted and retweeted the news non-stop, with my Instagram newsfeed being the same way.
People are excited. People are encouraged. Especially members of the LGBT community.
But not everyone is celebrating.
“I don’t plan on getting married,” is the declaration a good friend of mine texted me last summer. We were joking around flirtatiously via text when the conversation came up. I had suggested if we both were still single by a certain time in our adult lives, we might as well buckle down and get hitched.
Initially when I saw his response, I thought he was joking; until he responded, “I just cannot see myself laid up with another man for the rest of my life.”
Oh, wait, he is serious. What I came to learn from him in that conversation is that, while he could imagine settling down with a woman, getting married, starting a family, and living the American dream, he could not imagine the possibility with another man. For him to be married to a man, as he put it later, was a foreign idea and as a result, not something he desired.
My initial reaction was to attempt to convince him otherwise, but then I caught myself.
My friend is an attractive, successful, same-gender-loving (SGL) Black American male from the mid-Atlantic region. He is in his 30s, is slightly tall, dark-skinned, and has a killer smile and mesmerizing voice. He is a great guy whom I came to know professionally and quickly developed a great friendship. He has a great heart, loves his family, and is God-fearing.
And he is not alone.
There are several same-gender-loving Black American men who feel this way. And what is unfortunate is that their position, their perspective, and their point-of-view on the same-sex marriage debate is usually overlooked and discredited.
Oftentimes, those who are for same-sex marriage have criticized and abused those who, like my friend, have not jumped on the bandwagon. They are accused of being sellouts, on the downlow, ignored, discredited, uncooperative, and also of lacking vision and imagination.
They have almost been silenced.
I have witnessed those who are pro-same-sex marriage question how one can fully and proudly call their selves same-gender-loving when they refuse to be part of the same-sex marriage movement. And I have wondered to myself, how productive is this debate?
The issues, the perspective, the mindset is much deeper than that for them.
They can’t imagine it—they cannot accept it or wish for it because they have never seen it before. Many Black American men, who happen to be same-gender-loving, cannot fathom happiness with someone of the same sex for an extended period of time because they have no examples of what it looks like. The reality, for some, is an anomaly. And for many, they have never seen a successful, loving partnership with two people at all—whether heterosexual or same-gender-loving. Many of them come from single parent homes.
I consider myself lucky—I was born a dreamer with a conscious.
I knew in order for me to have happiness, I needed to be true to who I am. I believed that in order to fulfill my purpose, I had to embrace all of me and live my truth. Not everyone is given that luxury. And no matter how many times I was told otherwise, I chose to believe there was something better. Everyone is not so lucky.
I think we ought to be careful to not try and force everyone into the same categories, belief systems, and ways of thinking. Just because one is part of a community, does not mean they have to believe, live, and operate from the same mindset as everyone within that community.
Instead, what we should be doing is recognizing that there are those who have differing views from us, who reside within our communities and love and sound like us, and meet them where they are. And do not get me wrong, I am not saying this reality is true for all. Yet there is a subset of SGL men who are in this place and not being considered.
It is partly for this reason why I want do some of the research I am interested in academically. Far too long, Black same-gender-loving men have been overlooked, neglected, and failed to be understood and considered.
Our issues are not the same as yours (non-Blacks), and neither should they be.
Yes, we have had to deal with some of the same religious dogma and attacks as others. And yes, there are other non-Blacks who have also come from single parent homes. But not many Black men have been told they can change the world.
Not many have been given the permission to dream. And in some instances, they are so in the closet because their mothers are more concerned with their soul salvation than their happiness and freedom. Momma rather die knowing her baby has a shot at getting into heaven when he dies than if he is happy living with his lover.
There is so much that people are dealing with day-to-day, yet we are so caught up in our own selves, wants and needs, that we are abusing others as we try to advance.
Where is the love in that?
Photo via flickr user Trent Kelley