Tag Archives: black gay men

Stephanie Mills' "Home": So Black and So Gay!

If you’re a Black gay of the Classic Era (meaning you’re over 30, or at least have Classic Black Gay Sensibilities, or CBGS), you’ll know that Stephanie Mills‘ “Home” is really the Black gay anthem. The song, written for the 1975 Broadway play The Wiz for which Mills was cast as Dorothy (and Diana Ross played in the 1978 film version and does a lackluster version of the song. In fact, it is Lena Horne’s “Believe” that becomes the showstopper in the film. But I digress.), is the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” of this black version of the Wizard of OZ.

Why is this song, so Black and so gay, you might ask?

One reason that the Black gays of the classic era love this song, in my opinion, is that it speaks to the pain of feeling cast out of the larger Black community–we have no “home” in a sense. The song is about a stateless person–someone who has dreams of a physical place, but the lesson that they learn is that home has to be made in the family and community we create.

But Mills re-recorded the song for her 1989 album “Home” (with a Capella group Take 6 singing the background vocals). She has said that she recorded the song after the deaths of Kenneth Harper (The Wiz Producer, whose mother told the New York Times he died of cancer at age 48 in 1988)  and Charlie Small, The Wiz Composer who died in 1987 of a burst appendix.  I think that many Black gay men from the Classic Era were in the throes of so much death due to HIV (and sometimes violence) that this song became a song about the losses they were feeling too. I started going to gay clubs when I was 18 or so, and this song was a staple drag performance for about a decade. I think the part that really cinches it for the Black gays, me included, is at the end of the 1989 recording, when she sings “I can hear my friends tellin’ me, Stephanie, please, sing my song.”

Because it so much speaks to the Black gay experience, Stephanie Mills’ Home is So Black and so gay! The video below is a live verson from the Apollo in the 1980s. To see yet another un-embeddable music video from the theives at Universal Music Group, click here.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a5czUgDAMw&feature=related]

Blacks, Gay Men At Highest Risk for HIV

New infections in Men

New infections in Men

The US Conference on AIDS has begun in Fort Lauderdale, unfortunately I couldn’t afford to go, but just as well because I am going to see my southern friends at Southerners on New Ground’s 15th Anniversary. But given the CDC’s recent release of the of the subpopulation data of the new infections for 2006 (called incidence), I thought I’d share some of the data with you. If you click on the link above you’ll find a lot of other tools to help you understand the data including a fact sheet, a Q&A, and a podcast:

CDC’s August 2008 data showed that gay and bisexual men, referred to in CDC’s surveillance systems as men who have sex with men (MSM)2, represented the majority of new infections in 2006 (53%, 28,720).

Now, in the more detailed analysis, CDC further examine new infections among whites, blacks, and

New Infections by Race

New Infections by Race

Hispanics/Latinos. The findings reveal that the ages at which MSM become infected vary by race:

  • Young Black MSM: Among MSM overall, there were more new HIV infections in young black MSM (aged 13–29) than any other age/racial group of MSM. The number of new infections among young, black gay and bisexual men was roughly twice that of whites and of Hispanics/Latinos (5,220 infections in blacks vs. 3,330 among whites and 2,300 among Hispanics/Latinos).
  • White MSM in their 30s and 40s: Among MSM in the analysis, white MSM accounted for close to half (46%) of HIV incidence in 2006. Most new infections among white MSM occurred in those aged 30–39 (4,670), followed by those aged 40–49 (3,740).
  • Hispanic/Latino MSM: Among Hispanic/Latino MSM, most new infections occurred in the youngest (13-29) age group (2,300), though a substantial number of new HIV infections were among those aged 30–39 (1,870)

Walt Senterfitt, in this month’s HHS Watch (a publication of Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP)), writes about what the new data means for gay men in his piece called Where’s Our National Campaign Against Homophobia?

There has also been a consistent tendency over at least the last 15 years within much of the AIDS community itself – and certainly by the media and other institutions of civil society enlisted in the struggle against HIV/AIDS – to “de-gay-ify” HIV/AIDS. For example, messages stress that HIV is an “equal opportunity virus” and that anyone can be at risk, emphasize children and women at risk, and stress that HIV/AIDS is, in its majority, now an epidemic in communities of color (while simultaneously neglecting to stress that those most disproportionately impacted in communities of color are gay and bisexual men).

This direction in messaging was in part well intended, to combat the widespread assumption that if you are not a white gay man, AIDS is not your problem and you are not at risk. It was also meant to get beyond the intensified stigmatization of gay men and focus on the behaviors that put one at risk. This approach has been embraced by many HIV positive and other gay men who fear the added stigmatization of having “gay” remain widely associated with “HIV/AIDS” in public consciousness. Even from the start though, this approach was a capitulation to rather than a confrontation of societal stigma and prejudice against gay people, against transgender people, against all people who are sexually “non-normative.” And it didn’t work. Homophobia still is rampant, dollars have gone elsewhere, and, alone among the exposure categories, HIV infection rates among gay men are rising.

Here’s video from a panel CHAMP sponsored (that I moderated) back in February on the issue:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObFD-VwNFCg]

GMHC Launches New Campaign Targeting Fathers of Black Gay Men

Some people don’t dig social marketing campaigns, but I think that, when done well, they can be a good way to disrupt the many silences around our lives and put them into the public sphere for conversation. When it comes to homophobia and the consistent invisibility of Black queers in the Black community (though that is beginning to change slowly) having posters in subways or wheat-pasted, they can be good ways for us to disrupt the silence and be situated in the geography of the city.

This is the second of a series GMHC has been doing this year, and though I am less giddy about this one as I was the I LOVE MY BOO campaign, this one is damn cool too!

“Families are critically important to young men of color and this campaign builds on the strength and resiliency of those bonds,” stated Dr. Marjorie Hill, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC. “We recognize the complexities in the lives of young men of color who have sex with men. Thus, HIV prevention efforts should speak to the realities faced by these young men on a daily basis. We cannot simply deliver a message of “use condoms” or “be tested for HIV. It is imperative to address the myriad of underlying factors which contribute to the transmission of HIV, including homophobia, racism, poverty, isolation, stigma, poor body image, and inadequate access to health care.”

I Love My Boo!

This is the way to do social marketing for HIV prevention for Black and Latino Gay men.

My friends at the Institute for Gay Men’s Health at GMHC continue to break the mold in terms of how to do effective, interesting, and NON-STIGMATIZING HIV prevention. For Black gay men in particular, we know that number of sex partners, higher rates of drug use or higher rates of unprotected anal sex isn’t what is driving the epidemic among Black gay men (who have the highest HIV rates in the US). One of the things that may be a contributing factor among Black gay youth is “serial monogamy”—Black gay men tend to only date one person at a time, but not having safe sex in those monogamous relationships, which are often (as is generally true with youth) short lived.

Also, when polled about their rates of getting tested, Black gays are generally getting tested regularly, so testing does not equal prevention. So all those “get tested” campaigns are not the issue, and they can actually be more stigmatizing, because the only time Black gays get talked about in public purview is to “protect the public” from disease. I guess we’re not considered part of the public—HIV+ or not.

If we recognize that folks need to have safe sex in their monogamous relationships, this social marketing campaign makes perfect sense as an intervention. I also love the fact that the ads are also all over Black and Latino neighborhoods in NYC.

Kudos, GMHC!