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RaceSex & Gender

I crashed a ‘Straight Black Pride’ meeting, here is what they get wrong about Black Pride

September 26, 2017
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By Arielle Gray, AFROPUNK contributor 

When I heard that the Straight Black Pride Movement was meeting in Boston, conflicted emotions ran through me. I previously heard murmurings in the wind of the movement but still wasn’t too sure what their actual mission statement was. Myself and my videographer went to the Boston flagship meeting to see just what SBPM was truly about. Turns out, they’re everything we thought they were and maybe even worse. Listening to their dialogue rattled me to my core.

As a queer black woman, I’m always wary of knowingly entering homophobic spaces- the SBPM meeting was just that. In the short time we were able to document the meeting, the lecturers managed to espouse some of the most problematic statements I’ve ever heard on sexuality, including asserting homosexuals are pedophiles along with claims that the Black LGBTQ community acts as an agent of white supremacy to decimate Black culture.

We asked to speak with one of the lecturers who agreed and we stepped outside where we asked him a few questions. Upon finishing, we noticed that we were surrounded by SBPM members and shortly after, a woman wearing a Straight Black Pride shirt asked us what we were doing at the event and why we were there if we weren’t straight & black & proud. The group then proceeded to “school” us about homosexuality, how Black people cannot be born gay and how being gay makes you un-African. Two members admitted on record to disowning their children if they did not follow the SBPM lifestyle. Other members of the group immediately began filming the confrontation and later, we learned they posted the video on the movement’s Facebook page and labeled us as “Gay Lives Matter” members, though we’ve never been associated with Black Lives Matter.

The Straight Black Pride Movement is a dangerous one that operates under the false pretense of being a group that celebrates heterosexual black love. Their message however, is much more insidious than that and if you look at their Facebook page and watch their YouTube videos and read their literature, it’s quite clear that their foundation is built on harmful rhetoric towards the LGBTQ community. What shocked me (though it shouldn’t have) is their unwavering pride in their homophobia and their justifications that they “don’t hate gay people” even though their dialogue proves differently. Even when surrounded by them, I could feel how unapologetic they were about their prejudice.

According to a documentary released by the Straight Black Pride Movement, the organization was founded in late 2014/ early 2015 with the intention of  being “a platform, an identity for African people”. The current spokesperson for SPBM, Ayo Kimathi whose amassed a following of almost 50,000 on his Facebook page under the name Irritated Genie, states about their mission, “What can we do…to bridge together all of the gaps between African people…to repair our family structure and our culture? …the first thing we said was straight…a consenting man with a consenting woman is the only sexual construct we’re interested in”.

He elucidates on their ideology which includes viewing homosexuality as a European construct and juxtaposing homosexuality with pedophilia and rape. The organization also views homosexuality as a “social and political plan” to decimate and diminish the black community. They also reject the notion that there are black LGBTQ individuals- “If you look at the actual definition of an African,” Irritated Genie tells his interviewer, “It’s impossible to be born gay…And if you look at the homosexual movement, it’s really driven by pedophiles…by those who are molesting children”. SPBM uses the term “homophile”,a conjunction of homosexual and pedophile, to describe those who support or are a part of the LGBTQ community.

From the Hausa Tribes of West Africa to the Bafia people of Cameroon, sexual fluidity has always been a part of Africa, even before colonial days. Africa is a huge and multi-ethnic continent housing thousands of different tribes with a myriad of cultures, familial structures and languages. To label any behavior or sexuality as “un-African” is not only historically and culturally inaccurate, it homogenizes Africa in the process. Furthermore, the assumption that homosexuality encourages pedophilia and vice versa is a perpetuation of the oldest trick of the book- stereotyping members of a “disliked minority group” as representing a danger to the majority’s most vulnerable members”. We’ve heard this similar logic when white supremacists pose black men as a sexual threat to white women in order to justify their persecution . Studies have proven that sexual orientation does not increase or decrease the chances of pedophilic behavior.

Black heterosexual love has always been accepted and revered, especially in our communities. When you search #BlackLove, the majority of the results showcase heterosexual black couples. #CoupleGoals are almost always straight couples. We’ve very rarely and have only recently seen more varied representations of what black love looks like in reality. Nobody is persecuting black heterosexuals for their sexuality. Meanwhile Black LGBTQ folks face some of the highest rates of violence in the US.

In it’s two years of operation, SBPM has amassed over 25,000 followers on Facebook and has chapters that span the nation. Their ideals are dangerous ones, especially in a nation where POC are steadily identifying more and more as members of the LGBTQ community. According to recent statistics, there are over 1 million Black Americans who identify as LGBTQ, though the actual number is likely much higher. In a society where black LGBTQ folks have to battle white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, colorism and all the other ways we’re disenfranchised at various intersections, we now have to do deal with a growing hate movement led by our own people?

We need to re-open conversations about why homophobia and transphobia run so rampant in our communities when the common goal is Black liberation. And if your movement is contingent on someone’s sexual preference or gender identity, then it’s no movement at all. Black LGBTQ people have always been here and we will always be here, working towards the larger picture of Black liberation.