By Ricardo Serrano /
Homosexuality among African Americans may no longer be abhorrent, but the social dynamics between members of LGBT and the conservative America is less than desirable. Keith Boykin, author, public speaker and TV commentator, said this during a public presentation at Seminole State College on Feb. 3, 2016.
At the event that was facilitated by the Office of Student Life, The Black Faculty and Staff Association plus Unity Gay Straight Alliance, Boykin also shared with the audience his experience as a black gay American after he came out of the closet.
It was in March 1991, when Keith Boykin first admitted to being gay. “The world was different when I came out 25 years ago,” he said. “People knew there were gay people around when I came out, but the idea there were people of color who [were] gay out there shocked many.”
Homosexuality was considered an extreme taboo in the black community a quarter of a century ago, and the thought of an African American admitting openly to being gay was simply mind blowing. According to him, the existence of black gay people in America “was just something that was not talked about around the time [because] everyone assumed all black people were straight and all gay men were white.” Debunking that line of thought, Boykin said: “I believe that others tried to challenge that [notion] in the 80’s and 90’s since there was black gay literature with books coming out like Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men.”
Twenty-five years after, Boykin stated that there are some arguments that can be made about the prejudice towards the LGBT community that are similar to what he and others in the LGBT community experienced in 1991. “I still believe that the problems back then still have not disappeared. This is exactly how prejudice works: it does not go away forever. It only changes form.” To buttress his argument, Boykin drew an analogy between the plight of the LGBT community and the discriminatory act against black America which culminated in the civil rights movement. “Think back to 1964 when they passed the civil rights act which was supposed to eliminate discrimination towards black people, but there is still discrimination and there is still racism directed toward black people to this very day. The same thing can be applied here.”
Acknowledging that conditions may have improved for those with alternative lifestyle in America, Boykin is very much disturbed about the reality at hand. “The White House may have recently legalized gay marriage, but there are still many out there who struggle from issues on being gay. There are gay people out there who have been fired from their jobs just because they are gay and they can’t do anything about it.” Consequently, Boykin said, “It is important to understand that just because you eliminate one issue does not mean all of the other problems go away.”
When asked about what he thinks can be done to ameliorate society’s attitude towards the LBGT community, Boykin said, “I believe people need to have more exposure to other people in order to ease the tension of prejudice towards blacks or gays or anyone. It is so easy for us to get caught up in our own circles around the world. If you are part of the majority, you can become quite oblivious to everything that is happening around you and the world and that is where I think a good change needs to be.”
Ricardo Serrano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org