Michael Sam and Me
Russ did a good job of explaining why Michael Sam, a defensive lineman and NFL prospect, came out of the closet. But I want to share how this event is important to another part of society that we rarely talk about or acknowledge: gay African American males.
Being said black gay male, I can tell you that the coming out process is a tad bit more complicated. African American views on homosexuality are changing, but it still isn’t easy for young African American males. Religion, which is such a mainstay in our culture is the source of what can keep us grounded and what causes us pain. I’ve sat through sermons where pastors condemned homosexuality from the pulpit. Then there is the machismo culture that cautions all males to not be “weak.” I think that’s why so many African American gay males live life on the “downlow” keeping their sexuality hidden.
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I endured a lot of taunting from other kids who saw my quiet nature as a sign that I wasn’t normal. I was called “fag” or “faggot” on more than one occasion. As I started to come out as a young adult in the 90s, I was glad that there were books and people who were able to help me come to terms with myself. That said, I did wonder if there was anyone like me. I started making friends with other gay men who were white and while it was nice to be with other gay men, I didn’t see many other black gay men.
The reason that Michael Sam matters is that he tells some young back kid in Texas or Michigan or New Jersey that being gay doesn’t mean you can’t like football. They can see a very public figure who is gay and looks like them. They will see that being gay is not about being “weak.” And when they see Michael being embraced by his colleagues on the Missouri football team, that black gay kid knows that there will be people who love and care for him.
I made it through the taunts okay. I even ended up becoming a pastor, hopefully to show that one can be devoted to God and also be gay. But there are some kids of color who are in the closet, living in fear. Maybe seeing a young man like Michael Sam come out will give them the courage to know that it really does get better.