Black gay youth face a unique set of challenges in coming out to family and friends, according to a recent study.
The report – authored by Michael C. LaSala, director of the Master of Social Work program at Rutgers University School of Social Work – asserts that these young men face rigid and exaggerated conceptions of masculinity, making it more difficult for them to find acceptance or accept themselves.
Furthermore, black gay men face a myriad of intersecting oppressions (i.e. racism, homophobia, sexism), and elicit a particular kind of disdain and worry from within their communities and families.
“’The world already sees you as less than others. By being gay, you’re further hurting the image of African-American men,’ LaSala said is a common reaction among the male relatives of the black youth when they learn that their relative is gay.
Child-rearing for the parents of a black son can be especially daunting, given the increased risk for poverty, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses and imprisonment faced by black men. Black parents often feel guilty when they learn their child is gay and many black gay youths, before coming out, distance themselves from their parents.”
The report specifically identifies the ways gender role concerns play a part in complicating the black gay experience, as well as the struggle of being both black and gay in a racist, white supremacist society.
Black parents may be less likely than whites to “mourn the loss of a normal life” for their gay sons, perhaps understanding that a normal life was less of a sure thing, according to LaSala, author of the book “Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child.”
“I found that parents of African-American gay youth said, ‘You have everything going against you as a black man. This is one more strike against you.’ Conversely, parents of white gay youth stated, ‘You have everything going for you — and now this!’” LaSala said.
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