February 21, 2017
I remember several years back when I went back to the county jail to give back some time, I was placed in a situation to where I feel I totally failed this little brother, who was gay and being "verbally lynched" by a number of brothas in a holding cell we were all in. Now, none of us in that holding cell knew each other, so there weren't any clear groupings or existing factions of any sort which could be readily assessed, except that a number of us were from the joint and being sent back to our separate facilities. Sometimes stuff as superficial as that can be a type of "unifying principle" amongst dudes, establishing a sort of quasi-group within a group. Well... this particular situation that wasn't even present, so we're all nothing more than a group of individuals for the most part, until something happened that immediately divided everything into two, superficially.
The c.o.'s had brought in a slim light-skinned brother who had stuff scrawled all over his Nikes in permanent marker or pen in numerous places that read stuff like "Dick Sucker!" and other homophobic and bigoted phrases. After one of the guys noticed it, he immediately spoke up and provocatively inquired about it in front of everybody. Come to find out while he was asleep somebody in the cellblock he was in had gotten ahold of his shoes and written those phrases all over his tennis shoes.
It seemed like as soon as this became "the breaking news" amongst everybody, it took upon a life of its own. I could tell by the light-skinned brotha's responses that he was more than likely gay or bisexual; and I think everybody else began to infer the same, even though he continually denied he was. At one point the inquiries ended and the group divided superficially into two. You had those who openly began showing their bigotry towards him by verbally attacking him directly and indirectly (homosexuality in general); and then you had those like me, who chose to stay out of it for the most part, even though I personally had already reached that point in my life where I no longer viewed homosexuality as being a "choice." I believed people were born gay.
Instead of showing solidarity with him though—no matter if he was gay or not—I actually implicitly did the complete opposite, since the only comment I made throughout that whole ordeal was to ask him an ambiguous question, which could be read into in multiple ways. At one point I interjected by asking him, "Are you gay?" His answer back to me was "NO!" Even though I felt he was lying, the answer he gave me afforded me the justification I was looking for, so I didn't feel so bad inwardly for not standing up for him.
I never quite convinced myself about the validity of my rationalization of that day because I know deep down that my ambiguous question had very little to do about finding out his true sexual orientation, so I could stand in solidarity with him if he was gay; it had more to do with me justifying why I didn't vocalize my convictions on that subject, not only as it related to that brotha in particular, but also when it came to that whole subject PERIOD. I chose to stay on the sidelines because I didn't want to become marginalized by my stand. That was the REAL REASON why I failed to divide everything into two MORE SHARPLY, forcing people to either stand with all that bigotry being tossed around or side with me in support of the LGBT community's FULL EQUALITY and HUMANITY. I'm not sure if I would've been able to convince ones to take the type of stand I was fully capable of asserting that day, but I'm sure my adamant stance would've put all that bigotry on the defensive and forced everyone to at least challenge and question the bigoted positions which were being flung around.
To this day I look back at that situation as the day that I failed that brotha and the whole LGBT movement. Anytime I think back to it, I feel like one of those so-called white liberals, who were supportive of the Black Liberation Movement of the '60s and '70s, but occasionally when they were around some of their bigoted family and friends they were always "lukewarm" or silent whenever they heard a bigoted remark in their presence—and in some cases, even laughed at the racist remarks. We all know about "those types" and how "lukewarm" liberals can be when it comes to their convictions, but how many of us do the same damn thing when it comes to LGBT issues?
How many of us have stood in silence or taken half-ass positions or even laughed whenever one of our family members, friends, or acquaintances were clearly on some homophobic, bigoted bullshit? Are we not acting like those liberal whites in the '60s and '70s, who did the same when it came to our struggle back then? How is that not betrayal? How is that being a true communist?
Ever since that situation, though, I've made it a point to divide things SHARPLY into two, anytime that subject has came up—no matter if there's been LGBT guys present or not. There's been plenty of times over the years I could name that my family, friends, or even complete strangers have either made a homophobic or bigoted comment in my presence, and I did what I was supposed to do as a human being and a communist. I stood firmly with the LGBT movement UNAMBIGUOUSLY. By the time most of those discussions ended, many of those individuals (not all though) either stopped using bigoted comments around me, agreed to disagree with me without displaying their bigotry around me again, or even questioned the basis of their own reactionary arguments and positions on the subject.
I remember one situation in particular, where a group of my own dudes were going in on this white dude on our range (tier), who was bisexual and openly so. I ended up jumping out there in support of him, even calling my guys bigots and everything, while arguing valid points of why they were wrong and being unscientific in their approach to the subject. To skip over most of what transpired that particular day, that particular situation created an overall atmosphere on the range, where everyone knew they couldn't just pick on him without me coming to his aid and assistance. That guy, himself, even became more assertive about being gay and proud of it due to my stance with him. A few made joking remarks about our gay/straight alliance, but ah... we were both cool with that. I never could get my guys to reassess their own views on the subject, though, but what I did gain throughout my stay on that range was that guy's respect, while gaining mines back for not standing up for that light-skinned brother years ago.
For me, that was a redeeming moment, but also something I realized I would have to do for the rest of my life, if I want to be true to my communist convictions and stand on these 4 ALLs at all times—in prison and when I get back on the outside. If not, I'll be nothing more than a "lukewarm" liberal on this issue, if I allowed my silence or whatnot to perpetuate what is clearly no different than racism in effect; they both deny or delegitimize one's humanity to one extent or another. It's not about civil rights to me. For me, it's a bigger human rights issue.