Black, Gay, At-Risk

Homophobia, Racism, and Rejection Fuel Rising Infections

Benston notes that while such homophobia is not more common in the black community, it is felt more acutely because of the "dual identities" it creates for black gay men, who need identification with the black community to counter racism in the larger society. It is one thing to be rejected by society at large; it is another to be cast out by the community in which you take refuge from that rejection.

Others trace the roots of the black community's rejection of homosexuality to early discourse about black power. As black gay activist and author Keith Boykin has written, the most virulent antigaysentiments have come from those who see black homosexuality as a white trait, passed on by the same racist forces that have ripped the black family apart and robbed the male of his masculinity.

Many argue that this association of the gay lifestyle with white people, coupled with an association of AIDS with gay people, has hindered the black community's response to AIDS. At the least, it has pushed black men who have sex with men to the community's margins. As a result, an already at-risk group becomes more difficult to reach with HIV prevention messages.

The goal for both Soulfood and GMAD is to bring men in for sessions such as Adamson's Thursday-night sex and sexuality group. In one recent session, as Adamson playfully urged the 20 or so participants to reveal the maximum number of times they've jacked off in one day, it was not immediately clear where the HIV prevention work came in. But the point, Adamson explains, is to make the men more comfortable expressing their sexuality. Many have hidden that sexuality for years. Others, McGruder notes, have turned to the larger gay community only to have their sexuality objectified by white men looking for mythic black sexual monsters. One of the most frustrating parts of his job, McGruder says, is weeding through e-mails hereceives from such men, who mistake GMAD for a dating service.

But the larger point to these sessions is to build community among black gay men. Through that community, black gay men can give each other the support they haven't found in the larger black or gay communities. "Do brothers feel entitled to be healthy? Do brothers feel entitled to a community that speaks to them?" asks Benston. That sense of entitlement, he concludes, is the only way to truly defeat HIV.


HIV prevention and support programs for black gay men:

Gay Men of African Descent
248 West 14th Street, 2nd floor, NY
(212) 414-9344

Gay Men's Health Crisis
SoulFood Program
119 West 24th Street, NY
(212) 367-1000

The Audre Lorde Project
85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY
(718) 596-1328

Harlem United
LGBT Peer Prevention Program run by Bali White
123-125 West 124th Street, NY
(212) 531-1300

People of Color in Crisis
468 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY
(718) 230-0770


AIDS AND BLACK NEW YORKERS, A SIX-PART SERIES:

Part I: Emergency Call by Kai Wright
How AIDS Is Hurting Black Communities

Part II: Black, Gay, At-Risk by Kai Wright
Homophobia, Racism, and Rejection Fuel Rising Infections

Part III: The Tuskegee Effect by Kemba Johnson
For Blacks, a 28-Year-Old Study Is One of Many Barriers to HIV Prevention

Part IV: Double Jeopardy by Kai Wright
In NY State Blacks Rank Highest Among HIV-Positive Inmates

Part V: Black Women and HIV by Sharon Lerner
Rising Infection Rate Reflects an Age-Old Gender Imbalance

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