LAMBDA Volume 28: Issues 3 & 4
share their stories and experiences both within the LGBTIQ community
and with regard to other communities to which they identify
Gay & Black
by Bernard Haynes
I am black. I use the
less politically correct form of classification because it
doesn’t imply that all of my ancestry goes back to Africa like
African-American does. I also prefer the former label, because
my more recent ancestry as a first-generation American comes
from the Caribbean, not the United States. There are
similarities beyond having slaves as ancestors between those
identifying as black in the Caribbean and those in the United
States; however, the differences are also substantial. Growing
up, I had to accept that my life and upbringing would differ
from what my white and black American friends would experience.
There is another
major identity category to which I belong: gay. This category is
much less visible than my race, unless you subscribe to various
stereotypes about how gay men act, walk, talk or dress. When I
understood and finally began to accept my sexuality around age
14 or 15, I began to understand that like my Afro-Caribbean
heritage, this part of me would cause my life to be different
than the majority of Americans.
There is not a day
that passes that I am unaware of my sexuality or my race. I
often find myself debating which facet of my identity will cause
me the most difficulty over the course of my life.
Some days, I feel
that it is my race because of its visibility. Others, I concede
that many of the Americans who view discrimination based on race
as wrong do not extend that consideration to sexuality; however,
sexuality is something that one can mask if necessary or
desired. I do feel more of a connection to my racial identity,
but I feel that this comes about because I have accepted this
facet of myself since birth whereas I have only accepted my
sexuality during the past seven years.
how my race and sexuality can both hinder my progress because of
others’ prejudices, I never dream about being different. I am
the type of person who enjoys being different from those around
me. A friend of mine once remarked, “Bernard, I can tell you
like being that rare mix of things – it makes you unique.” He
was correct – I do relish having these two varied identities.
They are different from “normal” in America (white and
heterosexual), and often there is a rift even between my own
identities. Afro-Caribbean culture is very macho like Latino
culture and similarly homophobic. However, I make my best
efforts to reconcile any conflict present because I refuse to
ignore either portion of my identity.
|Gay & Southern
Twenty years is a long time to keep any secret.
But it seems so much longer when that secret is one that
threatens to tear apart your family.
From the day of my birth, the church was the
center of my life. It was the representation of everything good.
In my mind, my church was infallible and its lessons could not
be questioned. Of course, this was not just any church; it was
the Southern Baptist Church. The implications of that name among
LGBTIQ circles are obviously never positive. So what do you do
if you find yourself caught in the middle of the battle between
these two groups?
I have been aware of my same-gender attraction
since I was in elementary school. For years, I forced these
thoughts to the back of my mind, convinced that they could not
coexist with the faith on which my life rested. The church
rarely broached the subject of homosexuality, and when it did, I
got the sense that it was taboo. No one really wanted to talk
about it, but there was no doubt that it was a sin. We were
never taught that there were levels of sins, but homosexuality
seemed to rank above most others. In this setting, it is no
wonder that I suppressed my feelings until I left home for
Since I “came out,” I have struggled to
reconcile my faith, my roots and my sexual orientation. I say
“came out” because I’m only out to my friends at school – I’m
worried that coming out to my family will lead to my disownment.
Most of my friends urge me to drop any affiliation with the
Southern Baptist religion, but I have not been able to do that.
Some of the people in my church are the kindest, most selfless
people I have ever met. They simply have not had the exposure to
homosexuality that is needed to comprehend it. Most of them have
preconceived notions of a gay and lesbian “filthy lifestyle,”
and until proven wrong, they will continue in this same line of
The institution of the church and its members
are, like the rest of us, not perfect. As frustrated as I
sometimes become with Southern Baptists, I cannot tear them out
of my life. Maybe it is a case of refusing to throw out the baby
with the bathwater. Or maybe I am just being overly optimistic.
Whichever is the case, I stand by my faith and hold onto the
hope that people’s eyes can be opened through the example of
those who are willing to break the perceived stereotypes of the
Gay & Deaf
by Alex McLin
Although I have been
labeled deaf all my life – being born profoundly deaf can do
that to you – the gay label didn’t arrive until much later. As I
grew older, I realized that I was somehow different from other
people, both hearing and deaf, but I didn’t know exactly what
that difference could be.
It wasn’t until after
high school that I officially came out to everyone. It was a
liberating rush in many ways. On the whole, people were
accepting and not surprised at all – which was kind of an
anticlimax. It’s a bit disappointing when you realize that
everybody else had gotten the memo a long time before you.
The deaf community is
accepting of LGBTIQ people because many members know what it’s
like to experience alienation. Historically, the deaf community
has rallied around people who need support. Every group has its
bad apples, of course, and the deaf community is no exception.
We have our own gay bashers and overzealous people who try to
“convert” members of the LGBTIQ community to heterosexuality.
Deaf people as a whole tend to be very accepting. Many of us are
also very blunt and will tell you exactly what we think. It’s
almost a given that nobody stays in the closet for long in the
My experience as
being deaf in the hearing gay culture has been quite
interesting. Some people think deafness is such a novelty –
sometimes I feel like I’m a zoo animal. I would make jokes with
my friends about how I’m quite safe to pet, I’ve had my shots
and I don’t bite. Usually it’s just, “Oh cool, so you’re deaf.”
Most of the time, people outside the deaf community are
friendly, but there is sometimes a sense of a barrier between
myself and them. They perceive that since I can’t hear like they
do, I must be missing some crucial component required for
communication. I don’t always take it personally, but it is
sometimes hard not to.
It’s really important
to have a sense of humor – it does an amazing job of making
things easier. If I strike up a friendship online and haven’t
yet met him or her in person, I inform them in advance that I’m
deaf because, well, that’s the truth. I can’t change that part
of me and if hearing people have issues about it – it’s not my
I feel very welcome
in the gay community and I love it here. I’ve never felt
ostracized for being gay. I’m fortunate to have wonderful
parents and many great friends.
I Have LGBTIQ Parents
as told to Daniel
after my parents had their third child that they thought they
might be bisexual. When I was about six years old, my dad
divorced my mom. He moved into an apartment where he later
introduced me to “C.” A year later, my dad bought a house and C
moved in with him – it was done. This was just the way things
were, and it was all right. Like my dad, my mom never told me
outright that she was a lesbian until I was in high school.
In second grade, I
experienced the first and only major ridicule that I would ever
experience because of my parents’ sexuality. At that time, I
played on a recreational soccer team. One afternoon I invited my
teammate into my dad’s house. My dad’s then-partner, “J,” had
hung pictures of himself wearing only a tool belt and standing
next to my dad. My teammate saw the pictures and said, “I’m
going to tell everyone at school your dad is gay!” After that, I
was uncomfortable telling anyone my parents were LGBTIQ until I
began my high school career, when I became more confident.
I’ve always felt more
comfortable with my mother’s sexuality than my father’s. He’s
much more open and fiery, with a huge gay pride flag hanging
from the house and bumper stickers involving bears (gay males,
often older and hairy). Hanging on the wall of his bedroom was a
picture of a full-bearded, hairy man, spread-eagle. He also had
a Greek statue of two brawny men grappling naked – one gripping
the other’s penis. Graphic would be an understatement. They were
both really inappropriate to have in a house with children. When
I was twelve, I became so uncomfortable that I stopped going
there entirely for about four months.
Even talking about
partners, though, I’ve always felt more at ease at my mom’s
house. My dad’s partner, C, was an alcoholic and later had
problems with cocaine (though this happened after they broke
up). My mother’s former partner, “L.A.,” was one of the greatest
people I’ve ever known – loving, respectful, intelligent and
deep. She connected to my mother on a profound level. Sadly,
L.A. passed away in late 2001.
I think there are
definite advantages to having untraditional parents. For one,
I’m especially comfortable around LGBTIQ couples and very
tolerant in general. Having LGBTIQ parents has also moved me to
scrutinize myself, both because my horizon concerning sexual
orientation was broadened and because some people believe that a
genetic link exists between LGBTIQ parents and their children.
What I’ve found is that I have no reservations about being
straight myself, but I would have them about being gay. This
could be because I’m straight, although I do sometimes wonder,
because it was 35 years before my parents knew of their own
sexual identities. The difference is that they were raised in
households where being LGBTIQ wasn’t an option; in mine, it
definitely is. I think the luckiest thing is that I know that
because of my parents’ experiences, they’ll be happy for me no
matter what life path I choose – a very comforting thought.
Gay & Catholic
by John Hairston
Early in my life I
developed a stringent hate for the person I feared myself to be.
Throughout grade school I felt a constant unrest within my mind
and my heart – I believed my soul was tarnished, and I prayed
everyday for God to lead me back to the path of salvation.
Catholicism taught me to repent my evil thoughts so that I could
be forgiven. I found myself in confession so often and for the
same reason that I feared my religious leaders were tiring of
forgiving me for the unrelenting thoughts consuming every facet
of my emotions. My environment had and continued to condition me
to believe my thoughts about other boys to be moral
abominations. It was not until I was released from that
oppressive environment that I was able to begin the long process
of accepting myself and developing the self-confidence that I
had previously lacked.
During my years of
self-hatred so many aspects of my life were affected. I
developed defenses – mistrust for others and a façade of
happiness that allowed me to function in a society that
continued to tell me I was despicable and that I could make
those “horrid feelings” go away if I were diligent enough. To
the outside world I was a bright, athletic, popular, friendly,
happy and all-around good Christian boy. Inside I loathed every
minute in which I had to continue to act as the person I knew
everyone wanted me to be. I was deeply depressed and unable to
feel even a semblance of comfort in social settings. Eventually,
I became a hollow shell of the person I knew was the real me,
not allowing anyone into my heart in any genuine way. My
self-hatred of so many years left me with an anxiety disorder
and difficulties trusting the intentions of my peers. I still
struggle with inner demons, but the first step in overcoming
them was ending the cycle of self-loathing.
Bisexual Male w/a
by Robert Wells
In a culture that
predominately assumes that everyone is straight, being attracted
to someone of the same gender can produce both external and
internal conflicts. However, LGBTIQ culture is not free from
similar presumptuousness. I didn’t truly realize the problem in
others or myself until I started dating my first girlfriend.
When I first confided
to my friends, both gay and straight, that I was dating a girl,
many were perplexed.
“So what are you?”
one friend demanded. Seeing that I had already told her that I
was bisexual, I was surprised by her reaction. “Oh I know, but I
was so sure you were just gay,” she replied when I reminded her
yet again that I was bisexual.
It turns out that she
wasn’t alone – numerous other friends, my therapist and even my
girlfriend thought that I was gay. At the beginning of the fall
semester, I went to the first GLBT-SA meeting with my
girlfriend. After the meeting, a new acquaintance asked of my
girlfriend and me, “So, are you two best friends from high
school or what?”
The next week, I went
to another GLBT-SA function, this time alone. After the first
incident, I was nervous to reveal to anyone that I was dating a
girl. My fears were realized when we started generating ideas
for queer activism on campus. Someone suggested we stand in the
Pit and make fun of straight couples.
“How do you know
they’re both straight?” I thought. I hate when people assume I’m
straight. And just like most heterosexuals, I hate it when
people assume I’m gay. Bottom line: people hate assumptions.
I have been an
extremely active member of the GLBT-SA this year and people that
unintentionally offended me are now wonderful friends of mine,
as are the numerous other people who assumed I was gay for so
long. My friends don’t resent me for being bisexual – it’s just
that the lines between straight and gay are so rigidly drawn
that people have trouble understanding and remembering the
existence of a middle ground.
I never really
understood my own presumptuous attitude until I started dating
my girlfriend. When I was secretly dating other boys during high
school, I recoiled whenever I saw straight people kissing and
holding hands in public. Now that I have the privilege to show
public affection to the one I love without fear of ridicule, not
much has really changed. I still automatically sneer at people I
assume to be heterosexual for their ignorance of this privilige.
But I have no way of knowing if they are actually straight. I
can’t count the times I have seen a cute guy and frowned when he
takes the hand of a girl – I assume he is straight. You’d think
I of all people would know not to assume such things but I’m
just as guilty as the friends who assumed I was gay.
My relationship with
my parents has drastically improved since I started dating my
girlfriend. I can take my girlfriend on family outings and I no
longer have to lie about where I’m going on a Saturday night.
I spent my high
school days hiding my relationships and sexual feelings. I
flinched every time someone assumed I was heterosexual. I hoped
that when I finally got to college that I would no longer have
that problem; yet I am still a victim of compulsive
heterosexuality, in both the LGBTIQ and straight communities. If
you don’t want others to assume your sexual orientation, the
first step is to stop making assumptions of others. I had to
learn the hard way.