I remember sitting in church not long after Michael Jackson died. A young woman stood up to give her testimony that morning, and at the end of it, she made a joke about God being the only thing bigger than Michael Jackson. The congregation laughed. I didn’t really think anything of her comment but apparently, my pastor took some offense.
Then he stood for his sermon.
When he reached the podium, he loudly christened Michael Jackson both a false idol and a “flaming faggot”. He then proceeded to preach a sermon about how “sissies” and “dykes” are destroying the black community. Not the prison complex, or police brutality, or deadbeat fathers. Nope. The gays. He ranted and raved about how parents need to protect the eyes and ears of their children from the depravity of homosexuals. The pastor pressed through his abusive tirade for nearly 2 hours, encouraged by adlibs of “Amen!” and “Tell the truth!”
And I just watched.
I watched the first lady nod and smile in eager agreement with her husband’s words. I watched the deacons laugh and whoop as the man of God ruthlessly ripped into the “sissies.” I watched my mother, the most devout woman that I know, egg on a man that was comparing living, breathing people to dogs without an ounce of regret. I watched everyone, trying to put a finger on the reason for the anger swelling inside of me.
None of this was new to me; this wasn’t the first time I’d heard this sermon and sadly, it wouldn’t be the last. But at thirteen (and as an avid Michael Jackson fan), it was getting harder and harder to bite my tongue whenever these vicious tirades started.
I knew what went on in church that day was wrong. I knew that they were spouting nothing but pure indefensible hate, and I knew that it was no different from the hate that racists feel towards black people. I knew I didn’t agree with what was going on. I knew these things that day.
And as I got older, I realized that knowing isn’t enough.
In an era where black people in the LGBT community continue to be targeted and attacked for no reason other than who they are, it’s no longer enough to just be silent while your friends and family members spew hate-speech.
The black community still has a long way to go in terms of dealing with its inherent homophobia; so it’s not enough to sit there quietly while your friends mock and disparage gay and transgender people. Either check them or remove yourself from their presence. Otherwise, you are a part of the problem. A silent participant is still a participant.
Whenever I go home to visit, I always make sure my mom checks her homophobia at the door. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, I would prefer not to have these conversations with her. But I check her every time. Because at the end of the day, I want her to know that I’m not cool with the slurs. I don’t want there to be a question from her or anyone else, about where I stand.
It doesn’t matter how woke you think you are when you don’t stand up to your parents, grandparents, friends, church members, or whomever when they’re making homophobic comments, then you are just as wrong as they are. You may not be making a verbal statement, but your silence speaks just as loudly.
To claim that you aren’t homophobic while condoning homophobia would liken you to people whose parents and grandparents voted for Donald Trump. Even though you don’t share the opinion of the bigots, you indirectly support them when you refuse to speak up.