LINUS “BUSTER” SPILLER
With the recent allegations of sexual coercion and abuse by Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, toward four young men in his congregation, I have found myself dealing with a plethora of emotions, including a deep-seeded dislike of the Black church, along with my own history of childhood sexual abuse.
I know my Christian faith calls for forgiveness but this one is too close to home, in ways I won’t even discuss in this column.
The one thing that BOILS my blood is the responses of people in the Black church, who act like this thing doesn’t happen, that if we concentrate hard enough or attempt to pray it out of our consciousness, it will somehow go away. And it does go away.
The problem is, for the victims, it doesn’t go away. You go to your grave with the scars. You may learn to cope, adapt, and move on but everything you do as an adult is shaped by that abuse. It affects how you interact with males (or females, if your abuse came from them). It affects how you interact in intimate relationships with friends and family. Its affects how you function within a committed relationship or marriage. It affects how you interact with others on your job. The abuse shapes everything.
My own abuse, which happened over two years with one adult, and then happened AGAIN as a teenager the same age as these boys were by ANOTHER adult, makes me angry because as the man that I am today, I understand the emotional fallout.
Many people are not aware of this but I am also a three-time suicide survivor, the first attempt coming because I was successful as a child at suppressing the abuse memories and erasing them. But as a developing young college student, those memories returned and I couldn’t handle them, with a 1st suicide attempt as a result.
Then another suicide attempt occurred 5 years later when my growing same-sex attraction started to hover over me with a vengeance. And it happened once more, three years later. With three stints in therapy, I was finally able to make peace with it and with my parents for not protecting me. They didn’t know about the abuse but I still blamed them, common with child abuse victims.
I had the unfortunate pleasure of running into my first abuser completely by accident when visiting Detroit when I was 33 years old. I had always said if I ever ran into him, I would kill him. But guess what happened? I reverted back mentally to that young boy who was abused and all I could say to him was “you’re not as tall as I thought you were” (we were the same height by that time). He said “I’ve always been this tall” and I replied back “but when you’re a little boy looking up, you seemed like a giant.”
I also had the misfortune of being in the same predicament as the four young men as a teenager with a significantly older community advisor/chaperone like Mr. Long, who I attended oratorical contests with out of the city and state. He was also a predator who used to park outside of my house when we weren’t at these events. And I told no one out of fear.
Hopefully this situation sparks a dialogue in the Black community about sex in general, healthy sexuality, and how to discuss and address touchy issues like rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual assault. The Black community seems to function within the paradigm that sex is this “great power” we have no control over. We do. And we have to be responsible for use of that sexuality. God gave it to us as a gift and we have to stop treating it as “voodoo” that we’re completely powerless over.
My greatest wish is that black gay men will place themselves in the forefront of this dialogue because our lives are at stake. No longer can we sit in these churches silently, pay tithes, and have verbal whipping after verbal whipping heaped upon us as though we are not worthy of basic human decency, even if we have deep family ties within that church community. No longer can we freely give our time and talents in support of religious institutions that don’t extend respect in return. And no longer should we tolerate hypocritical biblical teachings by those like Long, who feel comfortable leading efforts such as his infamous 2006 march against gay marriage, yet allegedly violated the marriage covenant with his own wife according to Christian doctrine.
No more. Black gay man, are you willing to stand? Or will you be a willing participant in your own demise? The choice is yours.
Linus “Buster” Spiller is a community activist and former president of The Men’s Gathering-Dallas, a social/support organization for LBGTQ men.