Weekly, I have a conversation with my friend about the sociological dynamics of black SGL men, food, and trash television. One day through discussing the crazy antics of Kenya Moore on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” and me bashing Sandra Lee and her post-racial recipes of struggle and strife, we found ourselves discussing a future panel on UCLA’s campus discussing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the community and how we need to combat the stigma, as well as keeping our young men and women healthy. A question was posed to a group of young, black SGL men asking how and what ways would be effective to stop the spread of the virus. A whole list of statistics and data was presented to the group demonstrating that, by and large, the African-American community was hit the hardest in terms of HIV/AIDS rates in the country, and more specifically in Los Angeles County. To answer the question, a young gentleman responded, “It seems like the only way to stop the virus is to stop dating black men.” Have we given up on our own so much that in order to save ourselves, we have to date outside of our race?
In an effort to unpack this all, I tried to figure out where the young man was coming from. How did he even get to this point of thinking such a thing? I began to think about the dating profiles I’ve seen that advertise raw sex. Often disguised by “anything goes,” there seems to be a haphazard approach when it comes to how we take care of ourselves. There are plenty “positive4positive” profiles out there who like to engage in unprotected sex, and I guess in their world that if both parties are infected then it wouldn’t really matter. Research, however, has taught us that is not the correct way about going and leading a healthy lifestyle (and if you’re unsure, Google it.).
Too, in struggling with our sexuality as black SGL men, a lot of us don’t consider ourselves to be homosexual; and, by using a condom while engaging in sexual relations, it would provide a greater verisimilitude than one would like to realize. In other words, having to put on a condom makes us realize that we are accepting the idea and notion that same-gender sex is happening…and that’s a lot for some of us to handle. Even the government recognizes the struggle with implementing the “men who have sex with men” identifier when going to donate blood. The verbiage is inclusive to recognize the idea that there are men who don’t acknowledge their sexuality. Furthermore, there’s also an element of apathy in the way we try to de-stigmatize HIV/AIDS in our community.
Often, health is the primary tier of action when it comes to the black gay agenda. We focus our community centers and support groups around sexual safety and awareness. It almost seems the organizations are cramming this down our throats with no room to breathe or process. This can, or may have had, an adverse effect on fighting or lowering the community viral load. Essentially, if someone keeps telling you something is bad for you, one’s natural desire will be to rebel; in this particular case, we see a lot of young men subscribing to this “YOLO,” or “I’m going to die anyway, so fuck it” mentality and behavior while risking their lives and others’. The focus on advertising safe sex and proper health is also a possible contributing factor. In essence, if modern science is allowing us to believe that HIV/AIDS isn’t a death sentence as it once was and can be treated and contained with a couple of pills a day, we can see that taking the risk of having unprotected sex would be lowered because “we can (seemingly) be cured anyhow.”
There are so many layers and complexities associated with unpacking this idea and what modern scientists have been trying to figure out for decades. However, I refuse to allow us to demonize our own people. I disagree with that young man’s statement, and while I understand from where their outcry derived, it seems that there is a racial superiority/inferiority dichotomy that I’m uncomfortable with. A statement that reads “We should just stop dating black men because they’re essentially bad to our health” implies that white or any other race or ethnicity is right, and we all know…