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Sonya: Erasing Stigma 1 Church at a Time

When HIV/AIDS first came out in the public eye, a lot of people of color automatically stigmatized HIV as a gay white disease. So they went around with this notion in their heads that they couldn’t possibly contract HIV.

As time went on, that notion was proven wrong. In the Black community, HIV/AIDS grew and grew and grew. And now we are living in a modern epidemic, in which 46% of Blacks are infected with HIV/AIDS. Every 9 ½ minutes someone in the United States is infected, and if the truth be told, Florida is #3 among the states, along with a waiting list for people who are positive for HIV medication!

Black male residents between the ages of 40 and 49 make up most of the residents that are infected, with nearly a 7 percent rate of infection. Why are we not getting the message to protect ourselves and each other?

Let’s try to start from the beginning. Back in the days of slavery, the church was a place of salvation for Black people; because it was the only place we as Black people could make the rules of our own place of worship. It was a place of sanctity for Black people to let loose life’s stresses and the stresses of working in the fields or homes of their owners.

Even years after slavery has ended, that place of worship still has remained a place to call home, a place to let go of life’s burdens and feel love and acceptance. But being gay quickly changes that love into hatred and that acceptance into rejection in the Black church. Today many Black gays don’t feel that the Black church provides that love and acceptance they so long to have.

If a Black gay person is born and raised in a church and that church rejects him or her, there may be damage that has to be repaired. There may be some self-esteem issues that the individual needs to deal with.

Think about it: The one institution that you held near and dear to your heart, mind and spirit has left you in the cold to suffer and die (spiritually). When that happens, sometimes people like to get their pleasures from other things like drinking, drugs or sex. Having your self-esteem diminished by an institution that you’ve trusted for so long can have powerful consequences — it can obliterate you from the inside out.

Unfortunately homophobic Black churches abound and you hear whispering like “any time somebody got to slap some grease on your behind, and stick something in you, it’s something wrong with that. Your butt is not made for that. [In the background, the church audience voices its approval.] You got blood vessels and membranes in your behind. And if you put something unnatural in there, it breaks them all up. …Lesbianism is about to take over our community. …We live in a time when our brothers and sisters have been so put down, can’t get a job, lot of the sisters making more money than brothers. And it’s creating problems in families. That’s one of the reasons our families’ are breaking up. And that’s one of the reasons many of our women are becoming lesbians.”

What I want to know is how can a church like this receive HIV/AIDS prevention grant money? Instead of spouting this sort of ugly hatred of gay people, what these churches need to do is help gay black men and women stand up and say, “I love myself too much to hurt myself or anyone else.” This is my plea to these churches — please help my brothers and sisters love themselves! And most importantly understand that we will be here to help and LOVE them!

Erasing Stigma One Voice At A Time!

Sonya’s blogs are part of “Voices From our Allies

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