Last month, at the Church God in Christ's Holy Convocation Youth Service, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin said in a sermon (published on YouTube), "I see feminine men, feminine boys, everywhere I go. These young girls are just as bad as the boys in homosexuality, you don't see it. They can hide ... but there are some evil young hard butch girls." He also spoke negatively about openly-gay gospel singer Tonex, calling him a “perversion” and referred to gay youth as “vampires.” To counter McClurkin’s homophobic rants, a full- page article titled “Black & Gay is Beautiful” was published on Friday, December 4th in the Metro New York.
The article written by Pastor Joseph Tolton of Rehoboth Temple ―which features actor Cornelius Jones; activist Sheldon DeSouza; Michael Whittaker; HIV activists Gaynel Sheffield and Pei Desrosiers; and openly gay R&B singer Nhoji― affirms LGBT black people while calling out the "hypocrisy in the pulpit" and "spiritual" violence that occurs in churches that express anti-gay rhetoric.
As gay black people―brothers and sisters alike―we are building strong families, strong churches, strong businesses and strong communities in ways we never dreamed possible. Be encouraged and again we say LIVE! There is no need to live disconnected and in isolation. There is a LIFE for us and it begins by US loving and supporting US.
Tolton also wrote:
For those of us in faith who have always loved the black church, the defining issue of our lives has been the churches damning stance on [being gay and lesbian]. As children, the condemnation broke our spirit. As adolescents, this ridicule broke our hearts. As young adults, this disdain has attempted to drive us to the brink. Spiritual violence is wrong and it kills the spirit. The black church must find new ways to talk about sex and sexuality.
In addition, the article personally addresses McClurkin and offers a few kind words:
We love you brother in ways that the traditional church cannot because we understand your pain…There is so much love in our community for you. We want to see you healed and whole. Whenever you are ready, come home and we will love you until it doesn’t hurt anymore.
Others in the black LGBT community have spoken out as well. Blogger Rod McCullom wrote on his blog rod 2.0:Beta that Bishop Yvette Flunder, the founder of the LGBT affirming City of Refuge Church, used her Facebook page to share her opinion:
Pastor Donnie knows like I know that Tonex’ is more the ‘rule’ than the exception to the rule. What makes Tonex’ unique is not that he is a Gay gospel music artist and Pastor but that he told the truth about his sexuality, while not claiming to be delivered. I believe that these public hateful words directed to the Same Gender Loving community come from the need to instill fear of public ridicule in the hearts of those who may be considering coming out and come from folks who felt they were denied the opportunity to be authentic in their sexuality AND remain successful in the mainline church. I am not worried about Tonex’. He will feel the pain of rejection for a time but he will rise up and answer the prophetic call to be a liberator to his generation. My deep concern is for those young people who are part of the COGIC and for their families who have now been driven deeper into the closet by experiences like this. The closet is a dangerous place, where theological, and physical self-abuse runs rampant.
These young people love the church and feel the only place they can go is underground. I am encouraging these young people to find their voices and not run to the shadows to live in fear like my generation has. Watch the signs, change is possible. God is greater than any denomination and bigger than the narrow theologies that seek to hold us hostage. I am excited about our future and I am determined to let folks know that there are safe places to land.
For The Grio, Kenyon Farrow, the executive director for Queers for Economic Justice, wrote that while McClurkin’s rants should be taken seriously, we must be as equally upset about the harms these attitudes have on our LGBT youth:
It's not that I think McClurkin is a joke and shouldn't be taken seriously, or that what he says doesn't have real-life consequences. I know that the McClurkins of the world, and the families that are listening, are completely implicated in the thirty to forty percent of homeless youth - many of whom are made homeless by parents who kick them out and most of whom are black - who identify as LGBT. We know that black gay youth who come from supportive and affirming families and communities are less likely to contract HIV.
We know that due to employment discrimination, twenty five percent of LGBT youth do not have health insurance, and yet many LGBT organizations were slow to move on advocating for health care reform. It's like the NAACP holding a symbolic funeral for the N word, but doing nothing for the prison system, AIDS, or many other problems which ensure that black people of whatever persuasion are still treated like the N word.
In the end, self-hating homophobes like McClurkin will be around for a long time. And he will sell snake oil promises in the guise of redemption as long as there are fools who will buy it. But his words would have a lot less power if we organized around the conditions that drive the disparities that black LGBT youth face.
This week, GLAAD met with Pastor Tolton to discuss working together to do outreach in African-American faith communities. GLAAD also worked with The Grio to bring McClurkin’s homophobic sermon to their attention, which prompted Farrow’s opinion piece. We will continue to monitor this story and provide any updates.