I wrote this piece as a freelance reporter for a black magazine six years ago. It was in response to homophobia in the black community and the reaction of the black church. Although this article was aimed at a particular audience, I believe what I found can be applied to any group or ethnicity. I wrote this article in 2008 and much has changed since then, but not that much. Since this is a 14-part series, I will post a section every other day. The sections are not long, but reading it all as once piece might be a bit tedious.

Part 1

Talking About Homosexuality

I chose to take on this controversial assignment as an educational project for myself. They say confession is good for the soul, so, I confess to using ’homosexual’ as a title to draw attention to this article and for that, I apologize to my gay friends and associates. It is a trite trick, but one I deemed necessary to make a point. Because of the length, this article will appear in 14 different sections--one every other day.

In many ways, it is sad to use a word just to bring awareness but it is a term that bears discussion especially for the people that wear the label and those who insist on making general statements about a group they know nothing about. I am writing portions of this piece in the first person to make it clear that I am speaking for myself, about my feelings and my understandings.

Along the way, I will define terms such as homosexual, homophobia, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Other terms like evangelical, homophobic, orientation and religionist will appear in context. Research for this article comes from a larger project concerning the viability of religion in a technological world in which sexual orientation is but a small piece.

I will start with a definition of homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation, demonstrable by a primary attraction to members of the same sex. That is simple and to the point. Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals. Definitions of these two terms set the stage to discuss an issue that is as divisive as it is misunderstood.

Let’s Get Personal

To start this piece, I am going to state that my interest in this entire issue is educational, humane and personal from the standpoint that as a person who grew up during the Civil Rights Era, I saw the "Whites Only" signs, escaped from "sundown towns" and read the Emitt Till story in real-time. In other words, I know the pains of discrimination personally and it bothers me to see anyone suffer the slings and arrows of ignorance.

I am not homophobic and never have been. Over the years, people of every persuasion passed through my life including bisexual men and women, as well homosexual males and females. I’ve been "hit on" by gay men just as I unknowingly "ran game" on lesbian women, as few males or females advertised their sexual orientation in those days.

Extra Personal

I think I had sex with at least two lesbian or bisexual women. I don’t know for sure because during my 20’s gay women hadn’t stepped out of the closet and sometimes hid their sexuality by having sex with a heterosexual. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties I realized that more than likely I pursued some lesbian women and probably took their lack of interest as a sign that they didn’t like me. Not once did it occur to me that my sexual orientation might not match with theirs.

When I became aware of what I might be doing, I started asking. Some women appreciated it and some got pissed off, especially heterosexual women who acted as if I denigrated them by bringing up the question. Years ago, I’d say a pretty woman is a pretty woman, but since then I stumbled upon some character. Today, I am less interested in women as just females; but I am highly interested in them as people.

Because of my early life as a musician and a newspaper reporter, the people I met and worked with comprised a kaleidoscope of characters, personalities and minds. Although I am a typical heterosexual male, that didn’t preclude developing friends in the "not yet" openly gay community. My point in revealing this is simple. I remain heterosexual to this day despite my gay contacts.

The day after tomorrow, I'll look at "who’s who" in the United States. You’ll might be surprised who makes the list of famous LGBTs.

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 24, 2014 at 3:39pm

It is surprising that those infected with racism, white supremacy and other pipe dreams, don't die from cognitive dissonance. Religion distorts everything, but it keep the blinders on with make-believe.

Comment by sk8eycat on November 24, 2014 at 11:44am

The entire white culture (if you can call it that) of the former Confederate states is rife with hypocrisy.  Bloodlines and manners are everything, and they will smile and say things like "Y'all come back now, y'hear?"  And then verbally rip you to shreds as soon as you're out of earshot.  But they don't mind taking your money.

Comment by Lorasaur on November 24, 2014 at 11:18am

Don,The mentality of slaveowners seems to have been rife with hypocrisy. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 24, 2014 at 6:04am

Luara--You have to remember that slave owners often believed that slave were heathens and savages, but not enough so to stop miscegenation. In deed, the largesse of slaveholders was demonstrated in the Great Compromise by allowing blacks to be classified as 3/5 of a person.

Comment by Lorasaur on November 23, 2014 at 4:24pm

Yes, I read some things online saying there are African aspects to black Christian worship.

It's not so simple as "slaves forced to adopt the white religion", apparently.  Many slaveowners didn't want their slaves to be Christian, because Christian slaves might have to be freed.  Which was ultimately hypocritical of the slaveowners, since their Christianity told them to convert people, not refuse conversion to them! 

But more like a simplification and blending of African traditions.  I read that the African religions were actually monotheistic, so they blended easily with Christianity. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 23, 2014 at 3:19pm

Luara--I imagine you are right. Upon entering the military basic training is designed to take away the you and replace it with we. It is a constant physical and mental beat down before they bring you back up. Condoble is just one African religion that combines the two. Santeria ia another. Most of their practitioners are in the Caribbean and South America. In the US there is a small contingent that practice Kemetic religion.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 23, 2014 at 3:15pm

Luara--Some say the slave brought the rhythm and call and response to Christianity. Others says the type of music is a fusion of African and Caribbean. Dr, Anthony Penn has written multiple books on that subject. He here in Texas. He was Humanist of the Year two years ago. Check him out.

Comment by Rich Goss on November 23, 2014 at 2:36pm

Luara--I've always believe that if Christians were in such a hurry to meet their "maker,”

My renowned historian/feminist collaborator, Barbara G. Walker, comments on this in a funny essay in Pot Stories.  Check out “The History of Funerals” by Barbara for some fun stuff.  Why is it bad luck to say anything bad about the deceased even though they might have been real SOBs?  In Mafia funerals thousands attended the funerals even though they hated the bastard.  She’s the most learned person I ever met.  Check her out on Amazon. 

Comment by Lorasaur on November 23, 2014 at 1:37pm

Actually it seems the slaves did preserve some African culture.

They didn't immediately convert to Christianity, they only slowly became Christian.

The slaves in a given place often came from widely different places though, with different African religions.  That would have tended to get in the way of preserving African culture among them. 

Comment by Lorasaur on November 23, 2014 at 10:36am

Probably black slaves would have been severely punished if they were found to be practicing an African religion. 

However, the voodoo religion apparently does combine African paganism with Christianity.  So they were able to appear to be Christian, while also keeping some of their ancestral beliefs. 



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