Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gay Black Men and Straight Black Women

So I heard about this film, Soulmate: Black Women, Relationships, and Marriage, recently when one of my students shared some startling statistics for a research project she's doing.

Regarding the marriage rates of black women, statistically most are not, have not, and will not get married. She quoted some statistics from 2004 U.S. Census Bureau (I haven't had a chance to check stats, but if you have, please school us...)

Soulmate is a groundbreaking documentary exploring the hopes and fears of black women in the U.S. who want to partner with or marry someone with similar cultural, economic, religious, and educational experiences, but find themselves facing a myriad of challenges in this pursuit. The film focuses on straight black womens' desires and hopes.

It's a very good film, and though there are some opinions voiced in it that the critical thinker in me would challenge, I still think it's must-see viewing.

But the film got me thinking about something else I've always thought about.

I've always thought that culturally-empowered out gay black men and culturally-empowered out straight black women have more in common than the differences that tend to be highlighted in pop culture.

Both groups are looking for a long-term partner with similar goals, values, and ambitions. Both groups like potential partners who are proud of who they are and how they define themselves. Both groups like men who are open and honest about their sexual orientation and experiences. Both have (or can have) similar tastes in a number of fun areas too -- pop culture, men, types of men, music, keeping fit, hobbies, style, etc...

Both, however, struggle with finding partners with similar goals, values, ambitions, and levels of pride in their backgrounds and experiences. I've been in the room when these discussions take place! I'm sure you have too!

I think both groups can and should be powerful allies in combating homophobia in society.

Because it is homophobia in society that makes it difficult for some LGBT folks to come out and be proud of who they are. When they are unable to come out, this is when people lead double and secretive lives when it comes to their sexual orientation. And that's when both groups get played, so to speak.

It's not open and proud gay men who are the enemy, as many would have (and still try) to lead us to believe. It's homophobia, which causes people to not be open or proud of who they are.

I've heard from many straight friends and relatives who struggle with the reality that there are LGBT people in their midst. They don't like being called homophobic, even though their statements, behaviors, and actions clearly are. They don't like to take responsibility for their own personal statements, behaviours, and actions... they put it on some third party. I'm sure you can guess the third party. I respond, if it fits for racism, logically it fits for homophobia (or heterosexism.)

So as we begin the summer pride, wedding, and vacation season, I think this would be a great time for bridges to be built, commonalities sought, and a time for open gay black men and open straight black women to work on a social justice issue that benefits all of us... combating homophobia.

Maybe then, we can all find our true "soulmate."

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