Opinion

Homelessness and the Death I Fear As a Queer Black Person

"The woes of toxic, patriarchal masculinity continue to plague the Black community in deadly ways."

As a child, my family seldom spoke to me about sex or sexuality. Not in a healthy way, at least. But what I most remember are the comments they would make about outwardly queer people. “That’s just nasty,” they would mutter about the femme gay man sitting at the bus stop. “Is that a man or a woman?” they would ask in disgust about the trans woman they saw walking down the street.

I was sensitive. And as a child who was being socialized as a boy, in a world where sensitivity is believed to be a feminine trait, that meant that I existed with a gender presentation that was antithetical to how little Black boys were expected to behave. That also meant I was subjected to bigoted name-calling from my family. I was a “sissy” for crying, or a “faggot” for being more interested in my books than I was sports.

And what I did not know then, but clearly understand now, is that it was these subtle comments that informed what I internalized about sexuality and gender presentation. It was these statements that aided in my arrival at understanding myself, then, as a heterosexual boy who positioned myself in hypermasculinity to survive.

It was not until earlier this year, in March, that I finally acquired the language — and the gall — to articulate my queerness, both to myself and to my family. However, because of it, I became homeless for several months, couch-hopping and living off of friends who would allow me to share a space with them. I was away at school, yet could not afford to live on campus. At the same time, after experiencing such a vindictive response from my family, I also could not stomach returning home. My family did not understand why I would not return. They thought that their “I love you, but…” and “I love you, I just do not agree with your lifestyle” rhetoric was welcoming and affirming. As many queer folk know, however, it was not.

Instead, I felt the walls of my world crashing in. This home I had created out of the need to survive fell in. I recognized the microaggressive behavior in their response to my queerness that often lead to macroaggressive material violences like homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, harassment, and murder. All things that could have very easily led to my death, as anti-queer violence so often has for queer people.

“It is past time for folks to have honest conversations with themselves, their families, and their religious circles about the material violences queer folk are subjected to simply for existing.”

This unwarranted dance with death and anti-queer violence became a reality for Candace Towns, Julian Miller, and Giovanni Melton: three Black LGBTQ+ people who have suffered the ramification of anti-queer violence. In the last two weeks, these are just three names of Black LGBTQ+ people who have been murdered or injured simply for existing.

Candace Towns was a Black trans woman who went missing and was found by police three days after being reported. She was murdered. And this makes Candace’s death the 25th reported murder of a trans person, according to a count by HRC. In fact, most of these murders have been of Black trans women, specifically.

Julian Miller is a Black gay man living in Atlanta, Georgia. On Friday, November 3, Julian was driving from a store. As he was driving away, he was approached by a man with a gun and was shot at nine times. It is believed that the reason he was targeted is because Julian is visibly gay. He is now recovering in the hospital.

Then there’s Giovanni Melton. A 14-year-old boy murdered by his 53-year-old father for being gay. It was reported that on Thursday, November 2, Giovanni’s father pulled a gun on him and killed him after discovering that Giovanni had a boyfriend. According to Giovanni’s former foster mother, his father would “rather have a dead son than a gay son.” And while many people would attribute these feelings and actions to an individual disposition, Giovanni’s father is not a pariah. The woes of toxic, patriarchal masculinity continue to plague the Black community in deadly ways.

Twitter user @_hoemo led a discussion on his account after Giovanni’s story spread online, asking his followers — and others who engaged his tweet — if any of them had been directly or indirectly threatened by their parents for their queerness. The responses were horrifying. Many responded with stories of terror — parents who chased them out of their home with a knife, or threatened to “beat the gay out of them.” Even more responded with stories about forced homelessness after vocalizing their queerness to their families.

According to True Colors Fund, 40% of the 1.6 million homeless youth in America are queer and/or trans. The general youth population is only 7%. And, just like Giovanni’s father, the majority of the LGBTQ+ youth who are homeless end up in that state because of their families’ disapproval of their sexual or gender identity. In fact, 1 in 4 of all homeless LGBTQ+ youth are kicked out of their homes because of family conflict. Although homelessness does not lead to an immediate death, it does lead to engaging in unhealthy sexual practices, physical abuse, unsafe survival tactics, and a number of mental and physical health issues. All of these things can lead to death. This makes homelessness a potential death sentence of its own that far too many queer folk are forced to meet.

It is past time for folks to have honest conversations with themselves, their families, and their religious circles about the material violences queer folk are subjected to simply for existing. It is time to interrogate those “love the sinner, hate the sin” beliefs. It is time to disrupt those “I have nothing against it, but…” beliefs. Because the reality is that cases like those of Candace Towns, Julian Miller, and Giovanni Melton are not uncommon, and it is those beliefs that lead to Black queer and trans deaths.

In the past two weeks, a Black trans woman has been murdered, a Black gay man was shot and is currently recovering, and a 14 year old Black boy was murdered. All of them were killed solely because of their sexual and gender identities. And if these dehumanizing beliefs persist, more Black queer people will continue to be led to what seems like an inevitable death in a racist and cisheterosexist society.

Da’Shaun L. Harrison serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Queer Black Millennial. He is a 21-year-old sociology student at Morehouse College. Harrison is an abolitionist, organizer, and socialist who operates with a Black Queer Feminist politic. – Original Article

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