Where's Aniysah? A Campaign to End Violence Against Women of Color

This week, I am going to feature a blog I wrote for Document the Silence which is a website I co-founded dedicated to ending violence against women of color. Right now, we are in the midst of mounting a national online media campaign todsc_0138 document how domestic violence and the family court system work in tandem to re-victimize women of color survivors. The title of the campaign is “Where’s Aniysah?” It is a campaign about the (in)justice system and how it fails brown women and children daily. Specifically, it is a story about a mother named Angeline and a daughter named Aniysah. The blog I wrote below gives more details about the case.

A Tragic Story of Continual Violence against Women of Color: Anyisah’s Mother’s Story, Angeline

Here at Document the Silence, one of our goals is to break the silence surrounding violence against women of color, particularly those who are poor and working class. Moreover, we want to raise awareness about how this violence informs and intersects with various aspects of our culture, including the media, politics dsc_03711and the legal system.  Thus, we think it’s critical to point out that the “Where’s Aniysah” campaign is not only about the failings of the family court system.  But, it’s also about domestic violence and how it has shaped the legal struggles of Aniysah and her mother, Angeline.  As a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of Anyisah’s father, Angeline’s story is a testament to the “intimate” connections between experiences of abuse among women of color and the mistreatment they experience in the family court system

As word continues to spread about this campaign, we’ve received two important questions about Aniysah’s story that, when considered, illuminate the ways that Anyisah’s father used the legal system to continue to terrorize and harass Angeline and Aniysah.

Many people have emailed us asking, “How did Anyisah end up in family court system?”

Answer:

  • Angeline separated from Aniysah’s father because he was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive.  Angeline has documentation of his abuse and the court orders forcing him to take anti-battering classes. Judge Fernando Camacho issued an Order of Protection for the father to stay away from Angeline and Aniysah, May of 2005.
  • Even though Angeline separated from Aniysah’s father, he continued to harass and terrorize Angeline and Aniysah by fabricating lies to Child Protective Services (CPS) and filing for full custody of Aniysah. June 2005 – October 2006 Judge Morgenstern issued several Orders of Protection for the father to stay from Angeline.
  • Judge Morgenstern granted the father unsupervised visits on the weekend with Aniysah at the father’s mother’s house. However, just as the unsupervised weekend visits begin, Aniysah begins to display unusual behaviors. She told the social worker that someone named “grandpa” touched her inappropriately. Aniysah developed a rash between her legs and Angeline takes her daughter to the doctor and the doctor reports the rash to CPS as a possible issue of child abuse. At this point, the doctor at the emergency room reported on the possibility of Aniysah being abused while in her father’s care.

The second question people have asked us, “How and why was Anyisah taken from her mother, Angeline?”

Answer:

  • The law guardian appointed to the family’s case within the court system continued to make false accusations by suggesting that Angeline is fabricating lies about the father sexually abusing his daughter. However, Angeline has not once reported these accusations and the Child Protective Services’ reports as well as the emergency room reports show that Angeline never once accused the father. These reports were filed independently by the doctor and the social worker.
  • In response to the Law Guardian’s lies, unlawful actions, and inappropriate behaviors, Angeline wrote a letter to Judge Morgenstern explaining how the Law Guardian is fabricating lies as well as not following protocol and proper procedures for reporting on Anyisah’s care when she is with her father. Judge Morgenstern disregarded Angeline’s complaints and maintained that the law guardian was following procedure.
  • Without any legal recourse to protect Aniysah, Angeline moves with Aniysah to Utah, where Angeline’s mother lives, to protect Aniysah and herself. While in Utah, Angeline starts a new and renewed life for Aniysah and herself.
  • While Angeline is in Utah, Judge Morgenstern summons her to court.  However, she was never contacted in Utah. The papers were delivered to her old lawyer who she was no longer a client of. She documented proof that she informed the law guardian that the old lawyer no longer represented her beginning in August of 2006. Because Angeline did not show up to court, Judge Esther Morgenstern granted the father custody of Anyisah even though Judge Morgenstern knew the court file contained the returned notices showing that the mother had never been served.
  • Angeline’s 20 year-old son wanted to see his mother. Angeline came back to New York where she decided to have dinner with her son. While having dinner the cops come to arrest her and take Anyisah because of the warrant that was issued.
  • Because Angeline did not have any family in New York to provide care for Aniysah, the police officers were informed by Child Protective Services that they had to take Aniysah to the paternal grandmother’s home.
  • It has been 122 days since Angeline has seen Aniysah on March 3rd, 2009. She has only seen Aniysah on two occasions each one hour visits each costing of $125.00 each visit.  She has had no physical or phone contact with her daughter at all during the month of August.

Overall, Angeline’s story shows how domestic violence and being a woman of color in the family court system are “intimately” tied to the injustices women of color endure when trying to protect their children and themselves. In order to advocate for Angeline and Anyisah, we must see the complexities of her case and how Anyisah’s father could continue to harass and abuse Angeline and Anyisah through the court system. A court system that ignores black and brown women because it fundamentally sees poor and working class women of color as women who are incapable of making sound decisions about their lives and the lives of their children. This is a systemic problem.

With respect to Angeline’s case, the two judges who have chosen to ignore the facts of Angeline’s case and the law guardian who has been unethical in her testimonies are equally complicit in the abuse of Anyisah and Angeline. They, like Aniysah’s father, must be held accountable because they represent a legally sanctioned system of abuse. “Where’s Aniysah?” is a cry countless numbers of women of color cry daily when having to negotiate the terrains of domestic violence and terrains of the family court system. Where’s Aniysah . . . Where’s Aniysah . . . and how do we protect her and her mother from continual abuse.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AybEcaiR_DI

It’s time to hold the legal system accountable. Document the Silence asks that you join them in the “Where’s Aniysah?” campaign by posting information about this case on your blogs, online social networks and throughout your community. You can find out more about this campaign to stand against injustices against our children in the legal system by visiting the Document the Silence. There are additional facts and information about Anyisah’s case, and suggestions for what you can do to demand that justice is served on August 24.  We especially encourage you to leave comments on the site expressing your support for Aniysah and any details about what you plan to do to help.

Blacks and BAD HAIR

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0KHbK81QxI

I am looking forward to the theatre release of this comic documentary Good Hair about black folks’ obsession with ‘good’ hair. Chris Rock’s drive to start this project came when his daughter asked him why she didn’t have good hair. My best friend feels that “most people don’t think about [hair] in terms [of self-hate] as much these days.  It’s almost viewed as good grooming, particularly for Black women…like brushing one’s teeth.” I want to expand the discussion to include black men as well because we too process our “nappy” hair.  So for me honestly, it is not about self-hate it is mostly about good grooming and appeal.  

A Gay Man's Struggle: Original Poetry…"Why DL"(Cont.)

They tried to debate…which man is more of a man…

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“Girrl you let him get yo boogina?!? No shade girl, but imma need you to not be looking at me like that, cuz how I is, is how I was and how I will always be… OOKKKK!!!”

Vs

“naw JO, I don get down lik dat… naw dude, I don hug dudes cuz our stuff might touch and dat stuff is gay, no homo.”

Effeminacy in men vs behavior of the down-low male “trapped in the closet” …. BOOK-OnTheDownLow

Two forms greeting difference at life’s doorstep. Stepping to the beat of that fem boy that tries to walk through life like he is walking down the catwalk, yearning to be a cheerleader, while he played with little kenboy dolls, not liking to get his hands dirty and hated playing kickball. That katkatkatkatkatkat oooowww vougining queen with a twist of extra sugar

they tried to debate who is more of a man. Because there is a very different style of male that has the very same thoughts and sexual preference, but he’s straight? right?

The DL man, having to prove his masculinity every second of everyday, having to grab his crouch so tight that his 3XL Roca Wear Jeans position themselves twenty inches beneath both butt cheeks. The Internal thoughts of a 35 year old male, 20 years into being DL, married with kids and he hides his true desires, because his daddy told him that all fags go to hell…and he told his son the same.


And some cringe when they hear their high pitched voices speaking out in individuality. In a world invested in apeing heterosexual-identities. Idolizing hyper-masculinity, causing DL to hide the truth from their family, causing feminine dudes to be ostracized within our community. as mothers frown at the thought of tolerance and fathers yell at their sons that its not natural.

SO, Who…is more of a man…

Those who accept who they are, or those who hide in the shadows. Because Shadows KILL…

hiphop

Kill those DL men who were born with the same thoughts, but their voice was deep and their wrist stayed straight, their mannerism were manly, and they could pass for being trade, putting on this facade and on the inside hypocrisy was manifesting in rooms under dimmed lights and closed closet doors shut tight like, those DL men, that spread aids to our women, give claps to dozens but we’re holding the applause.

Because this feminine vs masculine spectrum is only a debate because people looked down on all those who came out the closet…its only a debate because society chose to look down on all those who chose to accept who they were…different religions judging them away, instead of loving them closer, hearing echoes of people yelling obscenities down long hallways, like “fag” and “sissy” like people don’t have feelings…necause whether your a “go-girl” snaping in Z-formation or no-homo-jo attempting to escalate your constipation

Beyond The Down Low

…Feminine men, are still cursed for their mannerism and DL men cursed after creating a new generation of false masculinity…a generation that is living in a reality has been bashed by bigotry…everyone needs freedom to discover themselves and find their own identity…

Tough Enough?

  

   President Barack Obama has a knack for quelling folk’s fears through rhetoric. When his opponents said he was inexperienced, he countered them by characterizing himself as the “fresh air” Washington needed after being pillaged by Beltway insiders. When Black folks questioned his Blackness, he adopted a more homiletic tone in some of his speeches. When the media asked if could he handle the rough and tumble of national politics, he assured everyone that he was tough because he was from the Southside of Chicago. We all knew what Barack meant by this comment. As Congress enters recess I have to give Obama his “props”. Anyone who can deal with Nancy Pelosi, Fox News, “The Birthers”, and all other political hacks and come out composed is a tough person.

   As I sat back and reflected on the political environment Barack Obama has had to work in, it became clear that he was a strong guy. In less than two years he has had his patriotism, nationality, race, and religion put on trial by the court of public opinion.  But thus far he’s come out the victor. That is saying a lot for a country where the criminal justice system favors Blacks about as much as Paris Hilton favors chastity.

   These issues have for the most part been proxies for a referendum on the comfort of Americans with a Black President.  I’m almost happy Obama has endured all this insanity. Although none of these groups that promulgate these bogus theories that Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya are credible, it’s obvious that they got traction. A recent poll released by Kos/Research shows that 28% of Republicans don’t believe President Obama was born in the United States of America and 30% were unsure. Even after the Hawaii Health Department produced his birth certificate, and even after a resolution proclaiming Hawaii to be Obama’s birthplace was unanimously passed by the US House of Representatives detractors still squabbled.  This is a good indicator to the World that race relations have not yet healed in the United States. But in the word’s of Jay-Z “if you feeling like a pimp n**** gone brush ya shoulder’s off”.

Baatin & JD: Rest in Beats

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K71y2xJ9BEE&w=150&h=300

My apologies if I’m stepping on toes by posting on Wednesday, but I couldn’t let the week go by without honoring Baatin of Slum Village, who passed away unexpectedly last Sunday. Zo! (you maybe have seen him on tour with Platinum Pied Pipers and/or The Foreign Exchange or know him from Zo! and Tigallo Love the 80s) posted this tribute to Baatin and Dilla to his youtube page. It’s a great homage. Mad love to Zo! for sharing this with us.

And if you missed Dwele’s tribute to MJ, please check it out:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N1L3YwbLK0

Today in Post-Race History: Hooray, Beer!

Let’s face it, no one wants to sit around with the President, Joe Biden, Skip Gates, and some random police officer–with “diversity” training–drinking beer and pretending to talk about race. Sure, it’s a (free?) trip to the White House and all, but I don’t want to explain to Joe Biden what I mean by calling him the Pras of this Obama outfit with a bubbling belly full of Bud Light. (Buy American.)  I’d be sitting in my chair, staring at the filth, counting Secret Service dudes, and trying not to hum Stevie and Sir Paul’s “Ebony and Ivory” too loudly. Besides, I’d rather drink Hawaiian Punch and ask BHO how many times they’ve had Harold’s flown in. But who can end racism when a black person brings up chicken? Personally, I believe we might perfect this union more expediently over a 4-piece wing dinner (fried hard, salt, pepper, & mild sauce), but that’s probably just me. Besides, I don’t want to be blamed for getting the Bill of Rights all greasy. Either way, let this be a lesson to you (white) police officers out there: if you arrest the right black guy, you’ll get invited to the White House. Don’t shoot him, though, because that’s not cool.

Obama, You Are Doomed to Fail, Unless You're Jesus!

Like most black children growing up in Houston’s Fifth Ward, I spent most of my life medically uninsured. If you got sick, you stayed home and endured the experimental ministering of your grandmother whose medical knowledge consisted of a spoonful of Castor Oil, two drops of sweet oil in each ear, and effectual prayer to “dah” Lord. To say the least, being sick and uninsured was not fun—and not because Castor Oil tasted like day old paint—but because it leaves you, the infirmed and uninsured, wondering if you’re healed. This is not to say that medical school is the only way you learn how to heal the human body. Clearly, I’m still alive today because of my grandmother’s medicinal concoctions and faith in God. However, having access to medical insurance can make life easier and long-lived.  Just ask the countless numbers of people who discover through a doctor’s visit that they have Cancer or Diabetes and have caught it right in the nick of time.

Yes, having access to a doctor can save your life. It can also reduce the stress of having to lie, steal, kill, and cheat in order to get the medical treatments you need. I can recall the many lies my mother had to fabricate to update my sisters’ and I’s shot records and the unlawful amounts of money clinic’s doctors charged to give my older sister and me annual physicals so that we could play school sports. We could not afford to be sick. Sickness was a privilege of the wealthy (i.e. white people) and a curse for us, the working class, because sickness meant a loss of work hours, possible job termination, increased consumption of alcohol by my father because he could not pay the medical bills, bellies filled to the brim with the quintessential cure-alls—cod liver oil and castor oil—and the possibility of an unknown death. Being sick was a curse.

Because of all of this I am a huge proponent of universal health care. Therefore, I’m very upset with how President Barack Obama is handling the “government run” health care debate. Simply hosting town hall meetings and press conferences do not get at the root of why so many Americans are anti-universal health care or anti-government run health care. This issue is not simply about framing or reframing a message of why people should support government run health care as seen in the Harry and Louise’s commercials. It’s about radically altering people’s ideas about whose deserving and who’s undeserving primarily based upon this allegedly neutral idea of hard work. An idea that says, “Hey, I work hard so I receive health insurance through my job. Okay. Others don’t work hard so they don’t get health insurance and shouldn’t receive it free through the government . . . Shoot, government always trying to spend my hard earned money on lazy ass people.”

Yes, many Americans are sounding like Oscar the Grouch (Please click on the link) when it comes to extending medical coverage to the uninsured because they assume that the reasons why people are not covered is because they are not working hard enough or have made bad choices to make coverage an unlikely possibility. To see evidence of this, just randomly click through news channels reporting on the health care debate. All in all, people don’t want to sign on to Obama’s plan because in their minds they unequivocally believe they are suffering for a few lazy poor decision-making Americans . . . as if 45.7 million uninsured people were a small number of people. And of course, conservatives are profiting from blatantly touting this rhetoric in commercials and in press conferences.

But now that I think about it, perhaps, I am giving conservatives too much credit they are simply harnessing a belief system that has been hanging around since the first enactment of the 18th century Poor Laws which only provided welfare for those who could not work—young children, widows, the disabled, and non able bodied people.

If President Obama hopes to save some semblance of his government-run health care plan, he needs to do something that will literally and figuratively eject people out of their staunch individualistic beliefs. But what would it take to do that? Is it even possible? Is it possible to change people’s beliefs about whose deserving and who is undeserving when people are taught from birth that only people who “work hard” receive help? Of course, this idea of whose deserving is further complicated by the issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality where often African Americans and Latino Americans are stereotyped as people who are undeserving because they are caricatured as lazy people who fleece Uncle Sam by collecting numerous welfare checks from having children by different “daddies.”

Given this notion of the deserving public and the undeserving public, it appears as if President Obama’s government run health care plan is doomed to fail.  That is, unless he is able to perform a miracle of changing people’s minds. Unless he is able to show them that using an idea of “hard work” that is framed and defined by the middle and upper class to determine who “deserves” to be healthy is deeply problematic and antithetical to community building. If Obama is unable to change public opinion then he will be as Jesus was healing the uninsured sick, himself.

The Profiling of a Prolific Pedagogue

It has been nearly two weeks since the arrest of leading black scholar, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and a number of articles have been published interrogating police practice as it relates to minority communities, with particular focus on black men. Actors Boris Kodjoe and Jeffrey Wright both contributed commentary detailing their experiences navigating a prejudice white world and abusive law enforcement. President Obama himself made an off-script remark as well about the long embattled relationship between blacks, Latinos, and the police.

In the incident report submitted by Officer James Figueroa, he accuses Gates of screaming, “You don’t know who your [sic] messing with.” While Gates has called the report a fabrication, the implication of the comment is clear in most of the rhetoric swirling since his arrest.  Gates is either too old, too educated, or too well-known to be arrested.  Jelani Cobb, a contributing author to The Root, referred to the arrest as “unfathomable” and Jimi Izrael defined Gates as “mild-mannered” and thought it sad that a “prominent black scholar with reams of scholarship on bookshelves” couldn’t be distinguished from “Cousin Pookie.”  To my surprise, not many people covering the “Gates Incident” have commented on more than his stature, his race, the place of the police, and their pride in Obama addressing an issue so common to the black male species.  Profiling, or to be more specific racial-profiling, is not simply limited to the caustic relationship between black men and police officers.

While racial-profiling has unfortunately become synonymous with contentious relationships between black men and police officers, the term can and should be discussed more broadly.  It should signify the many ways in which, “the summary or analysis of the history, status, etc., of a process of activity, relationship, or set of characteristics” is used to seek out individuals for harassment, unprovoked questioning, prosecution, etc.” contributes to the unfair treatment of all individuals, not simply the black male, not simply the “innocent.”  Unfortunately, Dr. Gates’ arrest has garnered so much attention because he is an elite and because he was found “innocent” of the charge.  Too frequently the catalyst for investigating profiling or pursuing any injustice is the discovery of or the presumption of innocence.  There are countless stories of black men found innocent of rape after serving lengthy sentences, people saved from death row due to faulty testimony and planted evidence, but there is little focus on the ways in which racial-profiling and gender-profiling collide to affect women of color.

What is most clearly missing from this weeks-long debate are the ways in which race, gender, and class collide to create prison systems filled with minorities, in particular women.  To his credit, Michael Eric Dyson’s CNN commentary provided a more nuanced look at race relations in the black community as a whole (class included), but he still manages to miss the gender argument.  Even Melissa Harris-Lacewell who appeared on Rachel Maddow and who wrote commentary on the Nation missed the gender angle.  Is it just not important, or has racial-profiling just become the “black male” problem?  In this instance, it appears to be even less about all black men, and more about specific types–the well-educated types like Colin Powell, Dr. Gates, and President Obama.  The pedagogues, the President’s friend, and the President himself.  The “clean” men.

What I hope will eventually find its way into this discussion before it dies is the way women are profiled by police and a culture that condones unfair prosecution and rule-bending in pursuit of criminals.  Despite statistics, black women are paraded as “welfare queens”, they are more likely to be prosecuted for petty offenses, and are less likely to see justice in the event they are victims of crimes.  Too often, minority women are profiled.  They are, as victims of abusive relationships more likely to end up being drug mules or runners, and therefore are more likely sought out by drug enforcement agents and a result now make up one of the largest growing populations in prison.  “Black women are incarcerated at three times the rate for white women and Latina women at almost 1.6 times the rate for white women.”  More than 80% of women incarcerated for drugs in New York are women of color.  A coincidence?  (Information provided by Women’s Prison Project at the Correctional Association in New York)

When Kimberle Crenshaw explored the idea of intersectionality she did so with an eye towards uncovering the ways in which various aspects of who we are impact the way we see the world, but more importantly, the way in which the world sees us.  Unfortunately, our tendency to get bogged down in value politics, whereby some lives are more important and therefore less dispensible complicates our ability to interrogate the practices that shape our society.  Our tendency to engage in debates about the death of  a “good college kid” versus someone “with a police record” highlights the many opportunities we miss to challenge our systems “flexibility”, way before someone like Dr. Gates gets arrested on his porch, even if it is Cousin Pookie.

Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations: Part 2 Leadership

 

barack-obama

There is a problem with leadership in America, particularly black America. From every angle when we think of our leadership there are three main themes (i.e., the problematic, the self-aggrandizer, and the bad).  Leadership is a tricky thing when you think about it. No one is at birth (here in United States of America) destined to be a leader.  Particularly for African Americans, how do our leaders become  ‘our leaders’ and then how do they become viewed by the larger society as leaders of black America?  How does black America come to find a space in which to critique and offer guidance to ‘our leaders’?

Barack Obama is the perfect example of the problematic leader. The problematic leader is one that gains power and position through his/her work in a particular (often times minority) community without being voted to that position.  As a result, he can never be checked by this community in a formal way (i.e., power of the vote).  Yet and because, he gains access through the formal (i.e., power of the vote) to a majority community (read: often times white) he becomes loyal to not upsetting the apple cart of the community that will use the formal process to remove him.  This is particularly, true in Obama’s case. At every turn he uses his race and the fact that there are no formal processes to check him for any transgressions (read: truth telling) against Black America.  As a result he chastise black America (without fear of retribution) while white America goes unscathed (because of fear of retribution). I first became concerned of this problem in 2008 while he was on his presidential campaign trail.

I remember on June 15, 2008 when he, before being president, made the truthful Father’s Day speech.    He rightful said “…too many fathers are MIA,…they have abandon there responsibilities…and the foundation of our families have suffered… no where is this more true that in the African American community.”  It was the Friar Roast heard round the world, and he was praised for it unlike Bill Cosby’s speech. The Apostolic Church of God’s black people clapped for a national (read: mostly white) prime time audience to view. Moreover, His self-help message knows no bounds as it spread over to Accura, Ghana on July 11, 2009 .  In both of his recent speeches (i.e., at the NAACP centennial celebration and press conferences about Professor Gates), President Obama’s panders (read: caters) to white America’s sensitivities and he blatantly disregards black America’s sensitivities.

A Gay Man's Struggle: "Why DL?"

blog pics #1 why DL?

One of my friends came to me this week and told me one of those stories that make you shake you head in disappointment. My eighteen-year-old male friend (For Blog purposes we will call him Timothy) was approached and asked out on a date by an older man (We will call him Bernis). Bernis was in his mid-thirties and initially seemed to be a nice person. After a couple weeks of interaction between the two of them Timothy realized Bernis was DownLow (which he understood to be problematic but Timothy did not mind dealing with that aspect.) Timothy stopped interacting with Bernis when he saw a picture of him at a Vacation spot with a woman and two kids. When Timothy asked him about the picture, Bernis came clean and told him he had a wife and two kids.  

When situations like this happen, usually both the gay and straight community criticize and judge the DownLow man. In some sense I think those older men should be criticized, but I also think people need to understand why those men have hidden in the closet for so long and why they continue to drown in their infidelity with the same sex.

There are all types of DownLow men. I have talked to men on the DL who were “self-proclaimed” thugs, businessmen, lawyers, drug dealers, educated, non-educated, educators, Black, White, Brown, and everything in between. And I have been DL once upon a time. I tried to hide who I was and pretend to date girls so others would think I was straight. I’m just glad that I was strong and confident enough to break out of my “straight façade.”

So why DL?

blog pics #3 question mark why DL?

It always involves a combination of these three aspects: The American Dream, Religion and/or Homophobia.  

The American Dream is not a reality for many living in impoverished areas across the country. However, there is still a paradigm that consistently leaves remnants of ideas that root from our “countries dream” which causes any young boy (or girl) to not want to be labeled as “deviant.”

Things like growing up and having a wife and kids are programmed into the minds of individuals from the time of their birth. If you are apart of any lifestyle that deviates from what is considered normal, acceptable, or the status quo you will be ostracized and many have even been brutally gay bashed.(Read about Matthew Shepard)blog pics #4 homophob why DL?

People don’t decide to be DL once they reach adulthood. It starts when you’re just a teenager. When I was a young boy in middle school discovering how much discrimination existed towards black people in the past, I did not want to be discriminated against for two things that I could not control—Being Black and Gay. In middle school I decided early that it was best to suppress the thought and feelings I had for other men. And for the next six years of my life (from 12-18) that’s exactly what I did. I lied, had fake relationships, and stressed my masculinity so that I could be considered normal and not have to deal with the ridicule and judgment of society. In the black community, when oppressions develop in society, black people have a history of finding a haven within the church. But with gay oppression, that spiritual haven is non-existent, and the vulnerability of struggling gay men and lesbian women only escalates.

We live in a society where homophobes are displayed on news channels for beating and sometimes killing people for their sexual orientation, where the mentality of a mass amount of people believe it would be best to get married/make 2.5 kids, and where a church says your going to hell if you don’t change your sexual orientation. With all these different aspects going on at once, it would seem smarter and wiser to just stay in the closet for a lifetime in some sense.

The reason we have 35 year old men approaching 19 year olds males after being married with kids, is because we live in a society that ridicules those individuals who are courageous enough to decide to be out and proud. I am not condoning a cheating man’s actions, but I want to explore why a man could live half his life and still be hiding his true self. Bernis is just a product of what society says he should be. We can call him a coward, but the truth still remains, if people come out of the closet, they will have to face more hardships in life.

blog pics #5 comingout why DL?

I decided to come out because I refuse to go through life under the oppression of anyone else’s opinions. I believe for a man (or women) to get to a point where they stop hiding, they have to stop caring what everyone thinks and feels (which is much easier said than done). When I came out, I had to not care what my family thought (the same family who fasted—literally stopped eating—and prayed for me when I told them I was gay), I had to stop caring what my friends thought (some of the same friends who abandoned me once they found out), and I had to re-evaluate my religion (a religion that had been the backbone of my life since I was a three year old in Sunday-school). I cannot blame Bernis for not wanting to deal with the oppression and rejection that gay and lesbian people encounter on a daily basis.

One thing I can take hope in is that things are getting better. The Laws (slowly but surely) are changing to support and protect all people. The first gay minister   blog pics #2 gay minister why DL?was appoint in the last decade, and people are starting to understand you can still achieve success and find acceptance as an out gay man or lesbian women. I suppose it is up to us (Straight and Gay people) to make sure our society stops giving such a negative and unnatural connotation to the word “gay” and everything that comes with it. Maybe then 35-year-old men will finally be able to accept their true identities.