A Gentleman's Guide

OCTOBER | 2018

FRONT PAGE | OCTOBER | 2018

OUT AND PROUD

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October 11th is National Coming Out Day- a day dedicated to marking the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights. Since its inception, the day has been marked by some (with “some being a very key word) by participating in events designed to remind our heterosexual cousins that we are here. We considered this when crafting October’s round of updates and thought about the ways that we, as same gender loving men of color, are able to exist in spaces where living open and honestly is possible.

This is normally the part where we attempt to mince our words, but that’s not going to work this month, because while we’re sure that National Coming Out Day was created with everyone in mind, there are just some things that we, as SGL gentlemen of color, have to do differently than our non-POC counterparts. To say that there are challenges to coming out as gay for men of color would be an understatement of the grandest kind as our sexuality is, more times than not, entangled in ideals of masculinity, race and religion. These things are problematic at best, and are factors that either make or break our ability to exist as out and proud. That’s why this month we’re focusing on ways in which we can overcome these challenges.

Unfortunate as it may be to have to do so in this day in age, the first thing we advise our younger Beauxs to consider before coming out is their personal safety. We know the hold that toxic masculinity, religion and homophobia have on communities of color and advise anyone who is reliant upon another to provide them with food and shelter to be cautious with coming out. There are thousands upon thousands of stories of SGL youth being cast upon the street because their sexual orientation was the one thing that took their parent’s love from being unconditional to conditional and while we do our best to remain optimistic, this reality speaks for itself.

As a result of this many of our Beaux brothers resort to putting distance between themselves and their families. Although social media serves as a work around for this distance we can navigate around it by remembering that you don’t have to post everything you do on social media and that you can always create accounts specifically for your nosy ass family. Distance gives those who are anxious about how their families will perceive them the opportunity to explore their new found existences. There’s really no perfect solution here outside of doing anything that will expose you to emotional or physical harm, so whatever you feel will do the opposite of that, do it. In any instance where you’re not certain that your family will be accepting and supportive of your sexuality, the safest bet is to wait until you’re able to turn the key to your own lock.

While the anxiety and fear of coming out may begin during youth, they are not age specific as there are (still) those who just can’t muster up the courage to do it. The challenge here is that many people within communities of color still don’t connect being same gender loving to blackness, “of-colorness” or masculinity. Being black or of color comes with expectations. For African Americans our LatinX Beauxs, masculinity is the perception, expectation and representation of  privilege, respect, power and influence while being SGL is seen as being the antithesis of privilege, respect, power and influence.

Nobody wants to be otherized, to be made to feel as if they don’t belong or exist as the butt of someone’s joke. It's easy to understand why some people decide against coming out, because again-- safety. Now, please don’t get it twisted because not coming out and living on the down low are two different things entirely, however, the latter finds itself rooted in the almost ritualistic homophobia found within communities of color while the former can be found holding court in the very gray area of personal preference.  The solution is to first find comfort in yourself and to go where you’re celebrated and not tolerated. Its taking baby steps and accepting the fact that some people just aren’t evolved enough to not be bothered by things that don’t impact them and preparing yourself for the sting of rejection and ostracization. Its finding a way to exist outside of your comfort zone and is not only accepting who you are, but owning it as well.

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Of course we understand that homophobia isn’t a race specific problem, but we can only talk about the things we see in our communities. We don’t know how homophobia affects our Caucasian counterparts. What we do know is the irony of experiencing any type of discrimination or hate based on factors we can’t control from any member of any community of color is as real as it is laughable However all hope is not lost as it appears as if the homophobic tides are turning.

The Public Religion Research Institute,  a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy, released their Emerging Consensus on LGBT Issues: Findings From the 2017 American Values Atlas. The surveillance results illustrated a double digit increase in the support for same-sex marriage among those polled from 2013 to 2017 where the increase in support among the African Americans who were surveyed rose from forty one to fifty one percent and where the support among Hispanic identified participants rose from an already amazing fifty one percent to sixty one percent. Additionally the report indicates that respondents, when asked about whether or not they supported nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans, revealed that sixty six percent of the African American respondents and sixty nine percent of Hispanic respondents favored nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT Americans. So there is, if nothing else, a silver lining in the cloud of sexual intolerance.

So are there still challenges for the same gender loving gentleman of color? Yes. But the numbers show that while intolerance is still present, it's not necessarily here to stay. Coming out is, or at least can be, one of the most difficult things we “have to” do in our lives and while we will always advise our Beauxs to exercise caution (because it won’t always go well), we’ll never encourage them to assume that the louder homophobic minority existing at the bottom of the barrel within communities of color constitute the values and beliefs of the majority.  

Not every Beaux desires to walk around with his sexuality on his sleeve, but his safety should be guaranteed in the event that he does. Your “out and proud” might look differently than that of another- and that just is what it is. What’s important is that we are able to live our best lives regardless of our sexual orientation and that in the event we decide to openly acknowledge and celebrate ourselves outside of and within the context of National Coming Out day, that we may do so in the absence of toxic masculinity, outside of secrecy and in spaces where we are celebrated and affirmed.

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Jeremy Carter