I am an expert in my own black, gay experience. I have lived this reality for 31 years now and the sad truth is that I feel just as hated now as I did when I was an adolescent sitting in a Pentecostal church listening to the pastor damn me to hell. It's actually quite sobering to think about it upon reflection. Judgement is reserved for God, yet the congregation, also comprised of my own flesh and blood, erupted in cheers whenever the Bishop, in his mixed-fabric garments, made the executive decision that the Old Testament still applied to me. Every time I sat in those pews, I was painstakingly aware that at any moment, he could speak death over my life and that God would nod in agreement. It took a lot to undo the paranoia and insecurity that those Sunday mornings caused.
Homophobia, for the greater portion of my life, heavily impacted the way I navigated my day-to-day. I didn't feel safe in churches or with "church folk". I was cautious of how I dressed and mindful of my mannerisms. No flick of the wrists over here! The truth is that out of fear of being judged, harmed or disowned, I conceded to homophobia. I allowed the dark cloud of irrational prejudice to police my life. Those days are over, but as we all now know, homophobia still sits in the pulpit, in legislation, and in the hearts of the heartless as so well demonstrated by the Orlando Massacre.
A few weeks ago, before the horrific hate crime in the Orlando club, Pulse, I spoke on a panel on the talk-show, The Grapevine. On this particular episode, we discussed whether or not one could agree or disagree with homosexuality. I can think of only a few times that I have been a part of a more intense public discussion. It was an emotional conversation, but something George Arnett said really resonated with me.
Words are violent. It allows other people to be violent. If you say, "I don't agree with your lifestyle," you're reducing me to something that I do rather than something that I am. Then you can other me. You can dehumanize me and you can dispose of me." -- George Arnett
How eerily timely and powerful was that? The Orlando Massacre was sparked by an infantile religious understanding that homosexuality is an abomination. This message, which is taught all over the world, has been a catalyst for countless, senseless acts of violence and will continue to be unless people are willing to think more critically about what they believe. There is no polite or respectful way to disagree with someone's humanity. It is a foolish argument, but even as I write this article, while monitoring the comment section under The Grapevine's video, people offer their opinions, trying to justify their homophobia. In this regard, they have more in common with Omar Mateen than they do with me. Remarkable.
My hope, just like with every episode, is to inspire people to broaden their perspective enough to provide positive actions that lead to unity. People may not believe that changing your thinking is an action, but actions become habits which often determine your character. I want people to ask themselves how can they do more, and make the conscious choice to lead by example. -- Amanda Scott, Producer of The Grapevine
Let's think about this, Homophobia is the fear of love that is unlike your own. It's the fear of difference. It's a celebration of privilege. It cannot be defended by God or Allah or Buddha. Intolerance of differences is not benign; it's cancerous. It's an easily traveled road to hate. It's a tool of mass destruction for false prophets and evil, just like the machine gun used to massacre the sacred temples that housed "God" and the souls the creator took the time to purposely manifest.
Yes, to be clear, I attend church almost every Sunday. I found a church called FCBC here in Harlem, NY, where I am accepted and respected as a gay man. The Pastor, Michael A, Walrond, has always preached love and I commend him for that as it is not always the popular thing to do. Religion is meant to bridge the gap between our small minds and The Greatness that has brought us all together. Religion is the avenue to spirituality. Some people never make the connection because they worship the anecdotes without ever fully opening their minds to the call to love and the commandment to find the creator within. On the other side of this though, as we have seen, is that religion can be weaponized. We must hold the perpetuators of this type of hateful rhetoric accountable for the way they influence their followers to see the LGBTQ community as deviants who are deserving of death. Omar Mateen may have physically taken the lives of 49 people and injured countless more, but he didn't act alone.
To all of the homophobes out there -- you were raised by the doctrines of the same hate group that birthed this massacre. You share sentiments that have resulted in death. You may not have pulled the trigger here, but your words and beliefs were his inspiration and will surely embolden others to do the same. For those who do not subscribe to homophobia or violence, but remain silent, you are also a part of the problem. Your silence is synonymous with condonation; I assure you.
There is a disconnect in the black community in terms of the LGBT community. Homophobia is still alive and well and it's often swept under the rug. We have to talk about our differences and why certain things scare us. Most of the countries that ban homosexuality are black and brown. -- Ashley Akunna, Creator of The Grapevine
There is no time for excuse making. To my fellow black and brown people, there is no room for homophobia within this already marginalized community. Unity is needed more now than ever and we need to hold each other accountable. There is no longer space for the "I don't agree with the lifestyle" bull shit. It's the premise that lights the fire to what has gotten us here. Let it go and let love in.
To all the families and friends of those we all have lost, I pray for your peaceful transition into a new normal. I pray that you reach a higher level of consciousness as a result of this senseless act. I pray for the soul of the man that unjustly changed the diverse landscape of this world. I pray the souls of those taken will find power and peace in the way their lives have now impacted the world. I pray that we learn better and that when we know better, we will do better. Now that we have prayed, let's get to work.
I LOVE YOU.