The United States is a big country hosting on its territory people from nations all over the world. American society is varied and enriched with various cultures and social groups. People are extremely different in their race, color of skin, political views, sexual orientation, lifestyle, and social background. Unfortunately, discrimination has been present in the society over centuries. One group of people discriminate another one against color of skin, religion, political views, etc. Since people are born equal and have equal rights in the society, discriminated groups are arranging themselves in the social movements to fight for freedom and social justice. Recently, in the Unites States, social movements to fight discrimination against sexual orientation have become stronger and more widespread (Kirsch, 2000). Existence of all-embracing discrimination, crimes, violence, and oppression against homosexuals in the society are among the major indicators of how social justice is violated in the society (Pierce, 2001).
What is even worse is how homosexuals are discriminated in the black communities. There is an evidence in the literature and research of how homosexuals suffer from various forms of discrimination and oppression in the black communities compared to white homosexuals (Brandt, 1999). Black gays, lesbians as well as bisexuals are expressing stronger need for changes in the legislation to secure their rights, freedoms and equal perception in the society (Herek, 1988).
Research study of Gregory Lewis (2003) was focused on measuring differences among black and white people in their attitude towards homosexuality and rights of gays and lesbians. Sample in his study covered around 7,000 black people and 43,000 white people. Findings are consistent with results present in the literature. Black people are more likely (by around 11 percentage points more) to criticize homosexualism compared to while people. At the same time, around 14% more blacks compared to whites perceive AIDS as a “punishment” of involvement into homosexual relationships (Lewis, 2003).
Behavior and lifestyle of black homosexuals is extremely oppressed and limited compared to those of white homosexuals. White homosexual people have more opportunities to socialize in public places such as parks, beaches, etc. This is not the case for African American homosexuals, as society condemns them more and they are forced to have their social interaction in more private settings like small apartment gatherings. This is another factor limiting rights and freedoms of black homosexuals in the society and thus resulting in deepening of social injustice.
I think that the topic of social injustice with respect to homosexuals, as well as homosexuals in the black communities, should be the central focus of the research so that it could attract more attention of legislative authorities and bring changes and justice to society. I am a native African born in the West Africa. In my daily life, I am involved in communication with gays both white and black. Some of them are my friends. Being liberal and just with respect to sexual orientation, I observe how my friends are discriminated and oppressed by the society, especially if you are a black homosexual. I consider it to be unjust to abandon freedom of a person based on the gender of the person with whom he/she is involved in the sexual intercourse. Racial discrimination as well as discrimination against sexual orientation should be eliminated in the society so as to renew social justice.
Cultural and Social Implications of Homosexuality in the Black Community
Homosexualism in the black community has numerous social and cultural implications, e.g. social constructionism, prevalence of stereotypes, and prejudices in the society against homosexuals.
According to Greenberg (1990), social constructionism of homosexuality is a behavior shaped and perceived in different ways by various communities and groups of people. He considers that homosexuality is not a fundamental nature or disease that some people have and others do not. Homosexualism is not a minority sexual orientation. Application of Durkheim and Mary Douglas' sociological theories of sexuality, Greenberg states that homosexual identity is a social tag. Using social classification, it stimulates creation of the homosexualism as a common practice in the society. It also includes framework for evaluation with the help of which it is reviewed, whether it is abnormal, acceptable, approvable or commendable kind of behavior.
At the same time, since homosexualism in the black community is not acceptable, gays and lesbians find it complicated to get involved in the sexual and/or romantic relationships with other black gays or lesbians in order not to suffer from community pressure. Therefore, a lot of black homosexuals maintain sexual contact solely with white homosexuals in order to avoid uncovering of their sexual orientation in their community (Adams & Kimmel, 1997).
Another social implication that black gays are facing in the black communities is a burden of double consciousness problem. It has been found in the research that black men are often forced to make a choice between black community and gay social group. Study of Wise (2005) has found that once a person makes a decision about self identification of belonging either to one community or another, then it remains constant over time.
One of the most common and widespread stereotypes in the black community is that being gay reduces their masculinity. The value of masculinity in the black communities is very high and, therefore, creates conditions for spreading stereotypes about how black gays are feminine. Again, this stereotype forces a lot of black homosexuals hide their sexual orientation in order not to suffer from any kind of oppression (Wise, 2005).
A particular attention should be paid to homophobia as a special phenomenon in the black community. Homophobia is a severe disgrace of homosexualism among black people. Major reason for homophobia prevalence in the black society is misconception and misunderstanding of the underlying basics of homosexualism. General black population learns information about homosexualism mostly from means of mass media, television. The way homosexualism is presented there is not always true. Thus, this creates misunderstanding in the society and further disclosures. Homosexuals in the means of mass media are presented as feminine, weak and not masculine enough, revolting, and not natural. Due to those stereotypes and perceptions, black homosexuals are forced in their daily life to constantly explain and defend so as to be accepted in the society.
Another social implication of homosexualism in the black community is existence of prejudices against gays. Attitudes towards other people are found to be transferable from parents to children. O’Bryan, Fishbein, and Ritchey (2004) established that ideas and perceptions of other races or sexual orientation are usually transmitted from parents to children. Thus, this suggests that heterosexual black people are influenced in their perceptions of homosexualism through persuasive intergenerational attitude. Hence, those beliefs are not purely truthful or just and not even reflect true attitude of those people.
Therefore, being a homosexual in the black community brings a set of disadvantages to a person. First of all, gays are not free to express and show in public their affection to partners as it is not acceptable in the society. Black communities are preoccupied with stereotypes and prejudices that, at times, have no rational background. Homosexuals, therefore, may suffer from depression, or, vice versa, become violent in their fight for rights and freedoms.
Another disadvantage of being a black homosexual is living a life with constant restrictions. Homosexual people in the black communities are forced to constantly and persistently hide their sexual orientation. This substantially reduces social justice and freedom of such people.
Socially limited freedom of homosexual people in the black communities brings depression as another implication of homosexualism. There are consistent findings in the literature that African American homosexuals have substantially higher level of depression if they have to deal with conflicts concerning their sexual orientation.
It should be noted that homosexual behavior is risky and dangerous for health. Even though people are free in their rights to have any lifestyle they want, they should be aware about consequences and health implications of it. In particular, homosexualism is highly related to the risk of getting HIV/AIDS. According to the information from the Centers for Disease Control Statistics, in 2005, around 13% of the entire population in the United States were African Americans and accounted for a half of the newly registered HIV/AIDS cases. This rate for African Americans is almost ten times higher compared to Caucasians and three times higher compared to the Hispanic population of the country. Among African American male population with HIV/AIDS, sexual contact with another man was a cause of getting the disease. Vast majority of the African American population is unaware though about their possible HIV status. This statistics does not mean that being black gay is not acceptable. This only shows how black gay people are endangered as they have to hide their real sexual orientation due to popular perceptions in the society. High HIV prevalence among gays is also common among people of other races as well. Therefore, if public change their attitude towards sexual orientation of people and stop its discrimination actions, then homosexual people will get an opportunity to have a free of prejudices life and become open about their lifestyle.
One can hardly find any advantage of living a homosexual life, especially in the black community. This comes as a result of the existent social injustice towards homosexuals and all related consequences and implications. Once the legislative system settles background for existence of homosexualism in the society, then latter will change its attitude. Thus, this will lead to the elimination of all possible disadvantages associated with homosexualism in the black communities.
Institutional Implications of Homosexuality in the Black Community
Homosexuality in the black communities does not only bring social and cultural implications. At the same time, homosexualism brings up a question of institutional implications that are also common for homosexual of any race. Institutional implications of homosexualism in the black communities include administrative violations, bureaucratic complications, legal and political neglecting of homosexuals’ rights and freedoms.
Institutional implications of homosexualism in the back communities as well as in any other include various forms of prohibitions and violations. For example, gay marriages are not allowed in the majority of the states. A lot of people are prohibited from registering legally their relationships that are considered to be normal for heterosexualy oriented people. This prevents them to enjoy social and legal benefits of marriage. At the same time, gay couples or even individuals are not allowed to adopt children and take care of them. This also violates their rights and aspirations to have normal families. Moreover, homosexuals do not have the right to perform military service. This may come as a result of the common prejudice as well as stereotype about gays and their so called femininity.
Political implications of homosexualism include prejudices and misconceptions of homosexualism prevailed not only at the community level, but among politicians as well. Public authorities as well as politicians create additional obstacles for free personality development and, therefore, spread discrimination against gays and lesbians. Government officials oppose legal adoption of gay rights and freedoms that gay organizations are lobbying for (EF, 2002). A lot of public authorities support the idea that state should not be involved in the popularization of homosexual lifestyle. This violates the principles of social justice that require equal and not prejudiced perception of people.
Legal implications of homosexualism in the society are numerous. Currently, the U.S. legislation system does not allow gay marriages. It should be noted that legislation was amended regarding the possibility of the same-gender marriages only at two states: Vermont and California. This allows homosexuals in these areas to enjoy not only legal bond, but also other benefits, e.g. numerous taxation benefits, and health insurance among other (Vermonters for Civil Unions, 2011).
Another institutional implication of homosexualism in the black communities is the lack of security of gays/lesbians rights with respect to crimes and violence. A lot of homosexuals in the black communities suffer from different kind of violence, oppression or physical abuse from non-homosexual individuals due to their prejudices or perceptions of gay people. Currently, there is no legal act that would protect homosexuals against sexual discrimination and create penalties and punishment for acting violently against gays (EF, 2002). This means that homosexual people are not only emotionally oppressed and disrespected, but also physically abused and remain unprotected afterwards.
Suggestions and Recommendations
There is increased evidence in the society of people’s discrimination against sexual orientation. It brings numerous implications and limitations for a large share of the population. Therefore, in order to attain social justice with respect to homosexualism in the black communities, it is important to start with institutional and legislative changes.
First, there is a need in the establishment of a larger number of gay civil society organizations (Christian, 2005). Like any other means of public appeal, civil society organizations is a strong tool of communication among gay people, society and government at the same time. Currently, communication of the homosexuals’ needs is limited. Gay civil society organizations would help to achieve several goals at the same time. They would raise public awareness about equality of legal rights of people irrespective of their sexual orientation. Gay civil society organizations can show local communities that homosexuals have identical needs and wishes as heterosexual people. They can also drive evidence on how gays and lesbians rights are being oppressed. Finally, gay civil society organizations can secure productive communication and delivery of the legislation framework that would provide social justice with respect to sexual orientation.
Another way of overcoming prejudice in the society towards homosexuals is conducting research. There is a need of defining and outlining experience of lesbians and gays in their daily lives, what obstacles they have to face, and what kind of discrimination they have to deal with. Publication of this kind of research about the life and needs of homosexuals as well as homosexuals in the black communities will help to start communication of those people with the society and government. This can improve the environment not only for those that are oppressed, but, at the same time, create comfortable conditions to live in for those who can find homosexualism as inappropriate behavior (Harper, Jernewell & Zea, 2004).
Amendment of the current legislation is a target and key tool of improving life and social justice of homosexuals in the black communities. Setting legal background of the social justice with respect to sexual orientation is important in creating background rules and policies. Changes in the legislation should start from allowing gay and lesbian marriages, as well as adoption of children by homosexuals. These changes will show to the general public that government recognizes homosexuality and creates necessary and sufficient conditions for existent of homosexual families like any other normal families in the society.
A radical action to eliminate prejudices and stereotypes that are common in the society with respect to homosexualism is to involve gay civil society organizations, as well as general gay population in various kinds of manifestations, protests and actions of this kind. This will serve as a signal to the community and government that gay population is in sharp need of changes, and that those changes should be taken as soon as possible.
To sum it up, homosexualism in the black communities is a critical and very important topic for research. There is an increasing evidence of how black people are being discriminated against their sexual orientation. Homophobia, a drastic misperception of the homosexualism in the black communities, is a very common and sharp problem. Homosexuality in the black communities brings numerous cultural, social, and institutional implications. Homosexuals are followed up by a number of stereotypes and prejudices that affect their everyday life. Perceived to be feminine, gays in the black communities are often forced to hide their sexual orientation. They are involved in numerous conflicts, violence acts, and physical abuse as homosexualism is not accepted in the black communities at all. Gays and lesbians are usually not tolerated when they try to find a job or buy a house. At the institutional level, homosexuals are discriminated in their legal rights. They are prohibited to register their marriage officially and to adopt children. At the same time, gays are not allowed to be involved in military services. Therefore, in order to change public perception of homosexualism in the black communities as well as in general, government should make respective changes in the legislation by securing equal rights and eliminating discriminating against racial and sexual orientation.