Thoughts on a bus stop, Lake Merritt, Oakland: … Dean aims and fires.
… sympathy with the cause it carries, annoyance at the stereotypes though which it communicates its message, curiosity about where i can get that shirt. …
And I feel sympathy for the cause, too. I worry that no one is looking at the ad, that no one riding the bus day in and day out is getting off their sit-upon and dialing the toll-free number. I wish the sign could flash, strobe or dispense leaflets. I wish a phone booth with a hot line was there, with operators standing by to make appointments.
Annoyance? I felt a sense of recognition, not just because of the skin color of the three kinds of folks who are shown (gay/bi men who sleep with men; the straight-acting men who sleep with the aforementioned men — or actual, real live Kinsey-zero specimens — and the women who sleep with the straight-actors/K.Z.’s.) but because it’s a pretty tight snapshot of HIV’s spread within the African-American community.
A recent survey of young adults in six U.S. cities found that while an astonishing 30 percent of gay black men aged 23 to 29 were HIV-positive, less than one third of them knew it. “We believe that 60 percent of new HIV infections are occurring in black communities,” A. Cornelius Baker said last month when the Atlanta, Georgia-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study was released.
While reasons vary, societal and cultural norms within the black community play a part, explained Baker, who is executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington. Church and family have a strong pull, and much of what they teach make a gay man’s lifestyle taboo.
“There are a lot of people who do have girlfriends — who do have wives — and then have a secretive sexual life beyond that,” he said.
The CDC has estimated that 1 in 50 black men and 1 in 160 black women is infected with HIV, making them 10 times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with AIDS and 10 times more likely to die from it.
New AIDS infections also are increasing among drug users and women over the age of 50, said Frasier-Howe
But I could see it as maybe trite, possibly reinforcing stereotypes and perceptions … and swiftly making eyeballs glaze over with a sense of disconnection from the particular portrayed situation.
Roger Adamson … says these stories are too common in the black community, where many families and community leaders still won’t embrace gay men and women. “They don’t want to hear that,” Adamson says of black leaders. “So [they say], ‘We don’t want this around here,’ or ‘We don’t want to hear about this issue. That’s y’all’s issue. Take it down there to the white area, don’t bring it here with us.’ ”
Benston notes that while such homophobia is not more common in the black community, it is felt more acutely because of the “dual identities” it creates for black gay men, who need identification with the black community to counter racism in the larger society. It is one thing to be rejected by society at large; it is another to be cast out by the community in which you take refuge from that rejection.
Others trace the roots of the black community’s rejection of homosexuality to early discourse about black power. As black gay activist and author Keith Boykin has written, the most virulent antigay sentiments have come from those who see black homosexuality as a white trait, passed on by the same racist forces that have ripped the black family apart and robbed the male of his masculinity.
Many argue that this association of the gay lifestyle with white people, coupled with an association of AIDS with gay people, has hindered the black community’s response to AIDS. At the least, it has pushed black men who have sex with men to the community’s margins. As a result, an already at-risk group becomes more difficult to reach with HIV prevention messages.