Poor Black and Hispanic Men, What Are We To Do With Them?

5 Dec

The NY Times on HIV:

Gay black youths are hard to reach, experts say. Few are out to their families. Many live in places where gays are stigmatized and cannot afford to move. Few attend schools with gay pride clubs or gay guidance counselors.

The idea that, again, you need to be out to your family to be reached, or that outreach is hard in “stigmatized” areas (I’m assuming this means “urban” because virtually every area is stigmatized against non-hetero non-cis folks) is the frustrating chicken-and-egg situation of this whole issue.

How can we get to POC youth if they aren’t out? Well perhaps they aren’t out because we haven’t bothered to get to them?

I need to respond to the article because if I am an expert on anything, it is this. I am Hispanic. I was not Out. I went to a school that “stigmatized” gays, could not afford to move until I was 18 (and thereby only with the grace of XY money), and I never encountered a school gay club. I am fortunate enough to be HIV negative.

Alright? Here’s one problem. There is absolutely no model of stability for a gay life under these conditions. Most people have an amateur understanding of what they should be doing, where they should be going, how they should be going about these things. If you’re a POC, gay, poor, then where are the signs to your happy fulfilling life? I thrived on appropriating a number of influences as if it were a grab bag. Here was some catholic monogamy, over there was Queer Radicalism, etc etc. At the core of my not only surviving but thriving was a loving family, and of particular note, a fierce grandma who taught me never to take any guff. It is then a painful irony that my grandma’s advice often conflicted with the unspecified amount of love my family gave to me, but the poor black and Hispanic life is full of ironies.

Another problem. Gay organizations are not in any sort of hurry to hire Black and Hispanic gay men. This is true of gay charities and of national gay media. It’s true that there is very little money for gay content, but when the money is there we are subjected to puff pieces written by vapid personalities like Davey-Wavey and away from more interesting articles that could be written from the Black and Hispanic perspectives. The value of white opinions over any other ones in LGBT spaces simply mirrors the value in hetero spaces, it is overblown to such an outrageous degree that all other lives and experienced are non-existent.

If you find that outreach is hard in stigmatized areas, then reach out and hire people that made it out of those stigmatized areas.

Problema numero tres: Education. Education. Education. This isn’t a big mystery, and the NY Times article touches on this briefly, but sex education and all-around education is abysmal in the places that need it the most. Sex education in America is so bad that I was still taught abstinence like it was the 1950’s. You want to know how I learned about gay sex? The Ryan White story contained the slur “Buttfucker” and our English teacher had to awkwardly explain what that was (probably hoping nobody would report her too).

The final thing: Where is the pressure on heterosexual parents not to abandon their children? It is all but a given that POC parents are just going to ditch their children. I have never in my life seen any sort of campaign mounted against parents who disown their kids over their sexualities. People are just magically considered homeless with absolutely no accountability given to the people who kicked them out of their homes. We also tell kids to be OUT, but we don’t offer them a survival guide for dealing with the possibility of being disowned.

Solutions. Print these out, put them on an index card:

1. Gay organizations, hire more gay black and Hispanic professionals.

2. Let’s talk about the myriad ways a gay person can live their life and not assume said gay person is middle class and white. This involves talking about safe sex, monogamy, non-monogamy, church, the whole deal!

3. More money in Education. Hah! Just kidding. This will never happen. Skip directly to 4.

4. More of this I saw those posters around NY. They’re great.

5. How about some god damn accountability placed on heterosexuals for their LGBT children?

This problem is bigger than one blog post (i haven’t even touched the heath care stuff), but this will have to do for now.

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