BUS, PRIDE! come together for homophobia discussion

Aaron Kinney

In an effort to address homophobia, specifically in the black community, students engaged in a dialogue yesterday from 7:30 to 10 p.m. in the Student Center.

The workshop, Homophobia in the Black Community, was a joint effort between Black United Students and People Respecting Individual Diversity Everywhere.

Amoaba Gooden, a professor of gender and sexuality in the department of Pan-African studies, moderated the discussion, which covered homophobia in a broad sense before narrowing the topic to homophobia among African-Americans.

“I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the black community being more homophobic, and that’s counterproductive,” Gooden said.

Discussions on homophobia ranged from individual sexuality and gender identity to derogatory terms. Gooden challenged students to say derogatory terms aloud and write them for the group of more than 30 students to see.

“I was afraid to write some of them,” said Max Harrington, PRIDE!Kent president and junior political science major. “I had to make sure it was okay with everybody that I wrote a few of them. Because some of them, they hurt me.”

Dylan Sellers, BUS president and senior Pan-African studies major, said there are as many homosexual slurs as there are African-American slurs. Sellers said he was satisfied with the event, calling the conversation “long overdue.”

“The interaction on the level of BUS and PRIDE! Kent to talk about such a charged issue is phenomenal, to say the least,” Sellers said.

“We have a lot of discussions, but usually it’s difficult to have a result,” Sellers said. “But a workshop, there’s actually tangible things that you did and said, and that you were a part of that made you better understand the issue.”

The event came about due to a necessity to educate students on homophobia, said Bryan Gadson, BUS treasurer and senior business management and finance major.

“Homophobia in the black community is a very unspoken truth in our community, where people don’t acknowledge it,” Gadson said. “They try to sweep it under the rug, so we just want to bring awareness to it.”

“It just comes to the basis of not understanding,” Harrington said. What he called a “disconnect of education” makes people unprepared to understand and interact with homosexuals.

Harrington also pointed to religious interpretation as a cause for homophobia. “Historical texts might have meant one thing one day, but we still translate it literally,” Harrington said.

“It’s rooted very, very deeply in Christianity and the church,” Gadson said. “If you look at a lot of African-American… homes, a lot of their strength comes from faith, and from the church.”

African-Americans, Gadson said, are often, though not always, reluctant to discuss homosexuality and the Bible.

“I mean, you can go to a lot of churches and they won’t talk about it or acknowledge it,” Gadson said.

Olivia Ryan, BUS programmer and junior fashion design major, said homophobia could also be prevalent in the black community due to a strong emphasis on family.

“I think, in the black home, (parents) feel like some of them have worked so hard to… bring you up to do well and ‘be a man,’” Ryan said, “and maybe they feel like you’re completely disregarding everything they’ve done for you.”

In spite of the difficulties that might come with accepting homosexual friends and family, Ryan said, everyone can come to understand and accept it.

It’s that, Gadson said, that was important to not only the homophobia workshop, but to the broader fight against homophobia. Gadson left students with advice he said is integral to that fight: “Understand it. Accept it. Grow from it.”

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Aaron Kinney at [email protected].