Organization for gay people of color to kick off outreach to black gay youth at Juneteenth celebration on Saturday
When Joseph Oguntodu was growing up, he was taught that being gay was wrong.
“As a child I would hear that gays are sexual predators and are going to do nothing but spread AIDS,” he said. “At my church they even showed a video to my Sunday school class about how to become an ex-gay. It’s just so sad. But that is how it is in the black community. They just don’t understand it.”
Peter Johnson, a reverend and former member of Martian Luther King Jr.’s staff, agrees with Oguntodu. He says that the black community is the most homophobic group in the nation.
A study in the Journal of Sex Research this spring supports what the two are saying. It showed that out of any race, the black population had the highest percentage of heterosexuals who thought that homosexuality is “just plain wrong,” with 74.1 percent.
For Oguntodu, these anti-gay attitudes of the black community didn’t stop with his church.
“I remember when I came out, my dad told me that I had disgraced the family and would have to change my name,” he said. “He also told me that I should never consider myself a proud black man again because I was not wanted by my race.”
Oguntodu thinks that his community is the most homophobic because they have the lowest educational level, but Johnson feels it is more deeply rooted than that.
“We as a group needed someone who was more disadvantaged than we are to discriminate against and bring us together,” he said. “And when you are poor and living in some of the places we are and have our history, not a lot of people fit that bill.”
Regardless of what this discrimination’s source is, both men say that it is having some disastrous effects on their community.
In 1989 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Task Force on Youth Suicide, first noted the issue among gay, black teens.
“Ethnic minority gay youth are seen as an “’embarrassment’ to their cultural group. There is more concern for daily survival issues than an increase understanding of homosexuality. This leads to an increase in suicide attempts by this group over others,” the Task Force wrote.
They also noted that in that year, black lesbians had a 28 percent suicide attempt rate, compared to 16 percent of whites, the next highest group.
Since this study came out, the black youth suicide rate has raised 105 percent versus an 11 percent raise of the general population.
“This is headed to epidemic proportions if we don’t act fast,” Oguntodu said. “It’s time to do something. We can’t just sit by and let this happen anymore.”
The Legacy of Success Foundation, an organization formed to bring the LGBT community of color together, feels the same way. That’s why at their Juneteenth celebration in Tenison Park on Sunday, June 17, they plan to launch a new youth outreach program call “The Glam Squad.”
“It’s a hard process in black society to accept and be confident in who you are,” Glam Squad co-founder Jai Makokha said. “It’s somewhat an acquired skill, but it can also be taught. We need to teach each other to be happy with who we are, that’s what the Glam Squad is all about.”
The Glam Squad is seeking members ages 18 and up for mentorship on everything from job preparation to how to deal with being black and gay.
Oguntodu is excited that the program is being created.
“I think it is very important that we have our older gay people mentor our younger people because of the fact that they have been there and done that.
“Some of them have been pastors, doctors, lawyers teachers, and many of them use to be married and it took them 20-30 years to figure out who they are,” he said.
“They can help to make that not happen with this generation.
“But better than that, they can help young, black gays be happy with who they are, and that is huge in itself.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.