Recently, DeFarra Gaymon, the Black CEO of Credit Union of Atlanta, was shot and killed by an undercover cop in a known gay cruising area in what appears to be a botched sex-sting operation. While the police report is vague and the details sketchy, what is crystal clear to me is that a husband and father has just died due to the unchecked homophobia within the black community and the pressures of the closet that it brings. I'm an out gay black man, and while I don't believe that blacks are any more homophobic than any other group (we're not exactly funding propositions to prevent gay marriage), I do know that talking about the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members of the community remains a taboo in our society. It is simply not discussed openly, and when it is, it's reduced to "down-low" memes that do nothing more than spread myths and demonize gay sexuality.
From the "no homo" in hip-hop culture to the gay hate preached from the pulpits, African-Americans teach each other and our young people that being gay isn't only a bad thing, it's the worst thing. By doing so, Black culture shoves men like Defarra Gaymon deeper into the closet every day. It's why many LGBT African-Americans live in fear of coming out. It's why an 11-year-old black boy named Carl Joseph Walker Hoover committed suicide last year after enduring months of anti-gay bullying at his school. Before we turn Mr. Gaymon into yet another tired DL boogeyman, perhaps we should take a hard look at the kind of environment that has been created that could lead to this tragic event.
I am not an apologist for closeted men. If we are to believe that Mr. Gaymon was soliciting sex in that park (and I do), his actions were reckless and harmful not only to himself, but to his unsuspecting family. Having been lucky enough not to be raised in a church that preached homophobic messages or with family members that were vocally opposed to gays, I wonder what kind of messages Mr. Gaymon was exposed to during his upbringing. I wonder what his friends, family, and church thought about gay people. I wonder what ideas or thoughts he internalized during what I can only assume to be the many years spent struggling with his sexuality.
Mainstream African-American culture continues to teach the LGBT members of it that we are not worthy of love or respect, that we are to be feared, mocked, or pitied, that we are the reasons behind HIV rates and that being LGBT is antithetical to being an upstanding member of the Black Community. It is wrong, it is dangerous, and as we see with the case of Mr. DeFarra Gaymon, it's deadly. This week's events present a unique time to start a conversation about homophobia in the black community, and what can be done to move above and beyond it.
It's time to speak now, or forever hold your peace.