I have just finished reading a really telling article called "Black Parents, Gay Sons and Redefining Masculinity" by Edward Wyckoff Williams, that was published in The Root magazine. Williams is a noted columnist and political analyst, having appeared on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio, and has a voice that truly represents the progressive age we live in.
The article details the struggle of something called "intersectionality," a word I learned about in a Multiculturalism and Education class that I took last semester. Intersectionality is the relationship between all aspects of a person's identity-how those aspects interact to make an individual who they are, and how they serve to help or hurt them. This includes components such as gender, race, sexuality, class, culture, socioeconomic background, and more. Through this lens, someone with a certain combination of characteristics is considered to be more advantaged than someone under a different set of circumstances.
Two of these characteristics that I studied at length were race and sexuality. We asked how different combinations of these two aspects can work for a person or against them. A finding from Williams' article, which agrees with my work from school, concludes that gay black men are particularly disadvantaged when compared to the rest of the population. Williams describes how many black men view being both black and gay as added burdens "in a world that is unkind to both."
It is known that bullying occurs for several reasons and simultaneously for no reason at all. However, anti-LGBT slurs are prevalent in the bullying language of American schools, regardless of who they're directed it. It is also true that students who do identify as LGBT receive the brunt of the brutality, a topic which GLAAD has covered extensively and works hard to bring awareness to. Of these LGBT students, the black population faces the worst treatment.
The Black Youth Project has discovered that 43% of African-American gay youths have thought about or attempted suicide, and 26% reported being the target of anti-gay bullying. A staggering amount were subjects of homophobic remarks from their peers, and over half said that teachers or other school staff used similar anti-gay slurs. The effects include lower attendance rates and lower GPAs among LGBT black youth.
Michael LaSala, a professor in clinical psychology at Rutgers University, says that this behavior stems from the environmental pressure on young black boys to become strong black men. They are expected to be hypermasculine, tough, controlled, and devoid of emotion. Gay black boys and men often feel guilty when they can't live up to these expecations, as fathers and other relatives express disappointment and disapproval. Additionally, Christianity strictly defines social and gender norms, which African-American parents use as the mold their children are "supposed to" fit into.
As you can see, there is a lot working against gay black youths. A lot of the pressure faced by these people comes from expectations of parents and family members. And so, once again, we come to the same conclusion: parental support makes all the difference for youths who are struggling, and the case is no different here. A gay black boy can certainly grow up to be happy, successful, and loving of himself and others, but only if the parents allow it to happen.
Read more about LGBT families and how to help your LGBT child if you're not sure how: