For the gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GBTQ) Men of Morehouse College, Spirit Day is a day of serenity. There is a very limited definition of masculinity embraced by many members of African American community; Black men who deviate from these heterosexual norms suffer a unique plight. The makeup of Morehouse—all male, majority African American, and geographically diverse—makes the college an excellent lens through which one can examine the lives of sexually marginalized, gender queer men of color.
Morehouse College Safe Space—Morehouse’s Gay Straight Alliance and Student Advocacy Organization—has been exposed to many stories of discomfort, deceit, distress, and denial. Many of our brothers are afraid. They are afraid of isolation or rejection from their friends, their families, their communities, and their God(s). They are afraid of condemnation from their clergymen and others in their lives who police their sexuality and gender. They are afraid of physical punishments from those who are strictly opposed to their personal modes of expression. And, most of all, they are afraid to admit that they are afraid.
Unfortunately, bullying only amplifies these fears. For many of us, the words “fa**ot,” “sissy,” “bitch,” and any other demeaning and/or feminizing descriptors are not very foreign. These words attempt to remove us from the “man-box” and to strip away the illusory blanket of security that it provides. Once removed from this box, we are easily ridiculed, excluded, and forgotten. But, there is something else that sparks the division between brothers on this campus and within the African American community. The culprit here is not an inherent disdain; nor is it a basic divergence of values. Rather, it is simply—misunderstanding.
In the microwaved, Twitter-driven generation we live in, the power of the personal narrative has been completely undermined. Instead of intimate face-to-face convo, being a friend with someone on Facebook is understood as sufficient justification to say that you know that person. Many of the heterosexual men on this campus and within our communities do not know the personal narratives of the GBTQ men in their lives. They have no idea of what it means to exist in a sexually marginalized community; consequently, they are ignorant to the implications of their actions and the power that they have to affect change.
Spirit Day is important for GBTQ students of color because it helps to spark the much-needed conversation surrounding the effects of policingsexuality and gender. It is a chance for campus administrators, faculty, and staff to teach students how to be secure in their sexuality and gender—to embrace their differences and to see the value in plurality. The ‘clouds of purple’ that will cover campuses are invitations to discussions of our discomfort, deceit, distress, and denial. Morehouse College Safe Space finds that it is through the sharing of personal narratives and open dialogue that the bridge is built between gender queer, sexually marginalized men and their heterosexual, cisgendered counterparts.
Once a connection is made at the heart level, transcending any disconnection at the head level, and GBTQ students are fully understood and accepted by society, sexually marginal and gender queer men of color will be able to fully appreciate themselves. Until then, the bravery of GBTQ men of color and our allies is what is essential to continue the push towards acceptance and inclusion. So, lock arms with the men of Morehouse College Safe Space, stand proud, and wear purple!
Marcus Lee is the Special Events and Programming Coordinator for Morehouse Safe Space