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During the most recent Gatekeeper’s Collective caucus, reflecting on our relationship to freedom, Brother’s take up a dialogue on the extent to which we are Emerging from Anti-homosexual Terrorism, Triumphant.

The facilitator references an editorial posted on Facebook on MLK Day titled Most of You Have No Idea What Martin Luther King Actually Did in which the writer proposed that the slain leader’s most powerful and enduring contribution to Black people was advancing the protest strategy in which we faced down white supremacist terrorists’ threats, in turn, dissipating the terrorists’ power over us.  

Reading edited text from MLK’s ‘Dream’ speech in which Dr. King challenged participants at the March on Washington to consider the extent to which most African Americans were still not free a hundred years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the facilitator supplants the words ‘Same Gender Loving Black people’ in place of the word, ‘Negro,’ and, ‘heterosexism’ for ‘racism.’  There is consensus among Collective participants that Dr. King’s words still ring true for homosexually-wired Black people in our own communities fifty years later.

In response to the question, “Have we been terrorized?” people respond,

“Just yesterday, while catching the bus, I hear a discussion between a McDonalds’s worker and another person talking about sagging pants and how the trend came from prison and one person says, ‘You wanna’ give up some ass?’…’You want faggots to see your ass?’...That’s [psychological] terrorism…”

“The reason why youth led the [Civil Rights] movement was because older people questioned it…No matter how scary it was [living under terrorism], they were used to it…[which made it harder for them] to try to challenge [the social order]…”

“I grew up in the South Bronx…I had a best friend…We used to play with each other…Our parents split us up…I couldn’t go to my best friend’s house…I ran away…My friend and I were [engaging] sex[play]…My father was the Super…We had the basement…My father said we couldn’t play with each other any more…[That was a form of terrorism]…I ran away…”

“That’s kinda’ like how I discovered my sexuality…Everybody knew I was gay before I did…In college…When I experienced these feelings, I just acted on them…[Where] terrorism [is concerned] these days, it’s more what society does…I’ve probably heard the word gay or faggot on the street…[That] we’re still fighting for gay marriage is terrifying to me…”

Facilitator says, {“Growing up on the streets of the South Bronx, and many years into my adulthood, I lived in mortal terror of the word ‘faggot’ ever be leveled in my presence, let alone at me…More than any other reason, it was in defense against that possibility that I became a fearsome fighter…”}

“We’d sit on the stoops…We didn’t talk about ‘faggot,’ but if a white person said ‘nigger,’ we would have to kill him…I wasn’t even out to myself…The terror was to be called that by someone I couldn’t beat…In that era, it would drive you not to be able to exist…”

Facilitator asks, “What is freedom?

“If you believe that what you’re being called is a bad thing, then [you’ll internalize it]…It took me a long time [to learn that]…One of the reasons I retired is to get out of the terrorism of the homophobia… As a teacher, I was a perceived pedophile…[Likewise, in my private life] I missed relationships with my nieces and nephews [as they were growing up]…I’m in the classroom with gray hair, low testosterone…being teased, not just by the kids, but by younger staff, too…I’ve had to live under the terror of being squeaky clean…24 years…But, it was a great career cause I lived with full disclosure…I told everybody I was gay…Coming out was a defense tactic…I made myself safe by being in relationships…The racism and [hetero]sexism in my field is rampant…”

Facilitator reminds participants that, in the buildup to the Gay Liberation Movement  successes around the legalization of Same Sex marriage in seventeen states and the District of Columbia {“The cameras had to pan hard to find Black faces amid the seas of demonstrators protesting for that citizenship right…Most of us still engage in darting eye games on trains and in other public spaces where we cower in the face of our attraction to each other, lest the objects of our attraction reject, or worse yet, revile us publically…”} The group concurs with this framing of their collective experience.  

Facilitator says, {“A few years ago a group of us began charting a non-violent direct action political strategy called,’ PD,A (Public Displays of] Affection) As A Same Gender Loving Liberation Movement Strategy’ in which we did workshops focusing on challenges around our engagement of each other in public spaces, and discussed the possibility of contracting non-violent direct action trainers to train groups of us in direct action campaigns which we could take up in anti-homosexual Black community strongholds …”}

“Regarding freedom, ‘Nigger,’…you [may not be] not affected by it…[But,] I remember what it did to my ancestors…[So, it affects me]…Freedom [means]…We have choices…without hindrance or constraint…The real question is how do we feel about who we are?...You can make choices based on intimidation…That is what motivates people to be ‘on the down low’…As human beings, we have a natural instinct to love…As a same gender loving person who sees someone attractive looking at him and he thinks, ‘I hope he doesn’t keep looking at me’…That’s fear…That’s [an expression of] terrorism…For participating in these forums, my spirit has changed…I’ve been emboldened…How many of us are emboldened…As a collective, how many of us are willing to [do what we have to, to be free?]…How do we take theory [in]to action?...”

“I have a cousin who’s much younger than me…He was gay, and openly gay…and maybe I and other members of the family treated him with contempt… calling him sissy…So now, he threatens to out me to the family…But, regarding activism [for our right to express our affection for each other] I don‘t draw perfect parallels with the Civil Rights Movement…The idea of training for [challenging] our own community…Dividing the community…We have a right to feel what we feel, and love who we love, but people have a right [to not like it]…Change is [already] happening…As we become [more] important [individually]…and gain power we can influence people by the roles we lead and the contributions we make…”

“Everybody’s not needed [for the direct action strategies]…Everybody who is willing…ready…who has that passion [should be the ones to take this step]…[This work] has allowed me to grow…to speak my truth in a greater context than this room…How are you internalizing what you hear here?...It began to arise in me [a while back]…Now, I’m past the point of just talking…[I’m at the point of] going out into the community…Maybe ‘down low’ Brothers can benefit from what we do, just like we benefit from [the work gay liberationists have done to achieve] marriage equality…”

“I wonder how many of us have adopted the efforts of our enemies…Being called ‘sissies’…I sit here in a room of men…We refer to our families as sissies…Do we have the capacity for being in this room? mend [the damage that has been done to us and that we may have done to each other?]…How many of us will cut and run?...Some will benefit…We can only support [the effort for change]…”

“Sometimes we terrorize each other…I listen to [my Brother] and I understand that fear, being from the Caribbean…Because they have that one strategy, they think [it trumps] all others…A friend [who feels empowered in his sexuality] acts up and out in public, and I think it’s vulgar…There is [such a thing as] a how [one goes about standing up for their rights]…Folks who think they have louder voices or [better] strategies [shouldn’t discount the needs of people who think or feel differently…”]

Facilitator says, {“That’s a vitally important point…As we strategize and implement strategies, we need to be mindful of the fact that, from one to the next of us we occupy different relationships to freedom…to being affirmed and uninhibited in our sexualities…And we need to respect and take care of each other…”}

“I am fighting for the right to acknowledge my attraction to a man the same way heterosexual men do…Change has to start somewhere…”

“I’m with [my Brother]…There are some concerns [though] too…If non-violence is necessary…Given the stereotype of us as sissies…We’re fighting to be on equal footing with straight people…There are certain objectionable facts [we must be aware of]…You may have certain freedoms here, but if your Brother in South Carolina is being lynched, I am not free…There is a danger in not recognizing we should commit ourselves to identifying the [root of the] problem…The reason we don’t have sodomy laws on the books any more is because someone stood up…Someone said, ‘No.’…”

Facilitator affirms, {“You make an excellent point about the need to consider multiple strategies…”} and asks {“How many among us are ready to map out action strategies and take them to the street?”}  A majority of people raise their hands. 


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