The homosexuality controversy in black faith communities has reached a feverish pitch, especially with Tonéx’s and Donnie McClurkin’s recent admissions. Probably most renowned for the rumors regarding their sexuality, these two black gospel singers have become the centerpiece to the debate of the role homosexuals should play in black faith communities. Unfortunately both men’s livelihood as pastors of their respective church has led them to depend financially on a community that by and large forces/prefers silence on same-sex desires and human rights. Yet, both these men have carved a space in gospel music to openly acknowledge their desires. Tonéx by stating that his preference is for the same sex; Donnie by (abstaining and) persecuting other homosexuals as not being willing to be delivered from “the perversion of homosexuality.”
In September 2009, Tonéx spoke to Lexi, a female gospel recording artist and host for the Word Network about being molested. In his interview with gospel singer Lexi, he said in response to her question about being molested at minute 4:12:
“I just want to put this disclaimer out there. Cause many times you hear people blame their sexual experiences or explorations on molestations or rapes. And, I just wanna say yes I was indeed molested, true. I was exposed to things that obviously at that age you shouldn’t be exposed to which opens up a box of awareness. However, I am not blaming those situations on the choices I made later…”
At one fell swoop, Tonéx discards the cloak of victimhood used by molested (ex-)gays to distance themselves from their actions. This is the critical turning point in the conversation that starts the firestorm with Donnie McClurkin. It is this difference that has Donnie swinging his meaty-paws at Tonéx and black youth in general.
On November 7 2009 in Memphis Tennessee, Donnie McClurkin spoke at the 102nd Holy Convocation International Youth Department Worship Service (COGIC Church). In a tear-filled speech, he invoked what Ann Coulter calls the “infallible victim” cloak that allows someone to-
speak from the authority of being a victim. While cloaked, he offers to the audience at minute 8:24 that his 20 active years of having sex with men were formed (and sustained) by him being raped as an 8 year old child. After being ‘delivered’ from the ‘gay affliction,’ he has been up and down the gay circuit (read: gospel strip) professing the ills of the gay lifestyle even using President Obama’s platform . This famous black ex-gay (read: re-closeted) pastor went after Tonéx for Tonéx’s recent confession of same-sex desires; he, McClurkin, said “we talk about the Tonéx situation…God did not call us to such perversion.”
McClurkin reacted violently to “Tonéx situation,” because Tonéx unintentionally called Donnie’s “infallible victim” status into question. McClurkin calls Tonéx’s conversation regarding his sexuality “a perversion” and told everyone “[Tonéx’s conversation] is only turning [the youths’] hearts further away from God and making them believe that such conversation is real. When it is not real, it is not real.” If you are watching the clip, you see the standing ovation and shouts of the mindless black people screaming, shouting and crying. It is his next few lines that are chilling. He says, “today, I am overwhelmed in this holy convocation, because I see feminine men [and boys].” If you watch the clip, he scans the audience and his crocodile tears continue to fall to ground as he stirs a homophobic frenzy while he predatorily corners the LGBTQ youths in the sea of black faces. The he says it, “We didn’t discern the seed. We didn’t up root it. We failed our boys. We failed our girls. Listen to me every one of you young people in this room. You will be free if you want to be free.”
At this point, I have tears of impotent rage in my eyes. I imagine being in the sea of frenzied homophobes exhorting a re-closeted gay man, who is regurgitating back to them all the things he was force-fed to believe about himself and his desires. I imagine single-household mothers turning to their sons and daughters questioning their children. I see men in the choir looking at each other wondering who among them is of the (un-)discerned seed, which breeds homosexuality. I seethed because as much as I would love to despise this man of God; I shed tears for him. I shed tears for his brokenness and the inner turmoil that leads him to persecute in Christ’s name.
I cry because he says next in clip 2, “Nobody said Donnie you’re clapping wrong. Donnie you’re walking wrong. Nobody told Donnie.” This so clearly articulates his self-disdain for his desires and himself. He sees himself as a malformed thing. A thing so twisted in its formation that it existed wrong and broken. According to a blog-interview by Clay Cane, one of Donnie’s ex-lovers talks about Donnie McClurkin’s struggle with his sexual desire and gender roles. Although I feel sympathy for Donnie’s plight, I still hold him accountable for putting young black LGBTQ youths’ lives in jeopardy. His speech calls for the policing of black youth by parents, pastors, and the larger faith community, and the uprooting (whatever that means) of the seed of homosexuality. I don’t know about you but I am deeply concerned, especially considering the data collected by the Black Youth Project Survey.
According to the findings of the Black Youth Project Survey, 55 percent or “the majority of black youth believe that homosexuality is always wrong.” An even larger majority, 58 percent to be exact, disagree with the statement that “the government should make it legal for same-sex couples to get married”; to add insult to financial injury, 66 percent of black youth, “believe that the government should actively promote marriage by offering special benefits to married couples, such as lowering their taxes or paying for childcare.” As a black gay youth, I am disgusted that the majority of my fellow black youths’ beliefs are so ingrained in homophobia. It is these attitudes that create opportunities for bigoted beliefs to form into hate speech and inevitably hate crimes.
Admittedly, I think of Religion as a central factor in what creates such prevalence of intolerance among black youth and the black community, especially with recent events in the black Christian church. I am curious to know what factors in your, the readers’, opinion cause these kinds of beliefs to be so prevalent among black youth.