25 December 2007

Shaming The Brotherhood (Part One)

The Late Joseph F. Beam

Two decades ago, I took part in an historic event. I was one of thirty-five writers who contributed to a book called Brother To Brother: New Writings By Black Gay Men. This book was the follow-up to In The Life, a groundbreaking collection of Black Gay prose and poetry published in 1986. The editor of that first volume, Joseph Fairchild Beam, was laying the groundwork for Brother To Brother when he suddenly, tragically chose to commit suicide. The unfinished project was then taken up by his grieving mother, Dorothy Beam, and by Essex Hemphill, a highly-respected poet and activist.

I submitted my poems "Comfort" and "Jailbait" to Joseph Beam just prior to his death, so I don't know whether it was he or Essex Hemphill who chose them for the final manuscript. Whatever the case, I was altogether thrilled to learn that I'd made the cut. I had the honor of seeing my name listed on the contents page with those of seasoned scholars and artists like Assotto Saint, Melvin Dixon, Ron Simmons, Issac Julien and Marlon Riggs. Brother To Brother was lavishly praised in the Gay press upon its release in 1991, and went on to win a Lambda Literary Award. Its critical and commercial success inspired subsequent anthologies devoted to writings by Asian and Hispanic Gay men.

Fast forward to a year ago. I was contacted by Lisa Moore, the owner of Washington DC-based Redbone Press. Redbone is one of this country's main outlets for LGBT writing by people of color. Lisa recognized Brother To Brother as a milestone publication, and was determined to get it back in print. She painstakingly tracked down the 35 contributors (and in some cases, their survivors; several, including Essex Hemphill, have since died) and got from all but one signed permission to republish their work.

This month, Brother To Brother hit bookstores again in a fresh binding, with 95% of its original contents intact and new contributions by Moore, journalist Chuck Tarver, and Jafari Sinclaire Allen, an instructor from the faculty of the University of Texas. It's a classy reprint and a proud testament to Lisa Moore's persistence and hard work. When you want to get something done, put a Black woman in charge!

The reappearance of this literary triumph should prompt nothing but celebration, and for the most part, it does. Unfortunately, there's a shameful stain on the pages of the refurbished Brother To Brother! The stain didn't have to be there; it could've easily been avoided. It's there as a result of reckless insensitivity and a misguided attempt to appear "cutting-edge". Its presence speaks to how minority groups often allow majority group ignorance to creep into their thought process!

It's especially bothersome when an academician falls prey to ignorance! I'm talking about Dr. Jafari Sinclaire Allen. I'm talking about the adolescent love for the Q-word he displayed in his introduction to the 2007 edition. At the climax of his essay praising the rise of Black Gay literature, his rhetoric suddenly became insulting:

. . . what do we make of the fact that there are now nearly as many Black queer (sic) academics as there are Black queer (sic) writers and artists? . . . it is clear that the new, brilliant work of Black Queer (sic) Studies . . . located in the queer (sic) section of Blackademia, the Colored section of queer (sic) theory, and in small pockets of various disciplines, is still inappropriately and inadequately matched to the task of substaining liberatory Black queer (sic) praxis.

Dr. Allen's usage would be ludicrous if it didn't resonate with such a strong Jim Crow sensibility! "Queer section?" "Colored section?" I couldn't believe my eyes.  I said out loud: Is this dude for real? A wave of nausea overcame me when I finished reading his ill-conceived outburst. It both saddened and enraged me that he had not only called all the Brother To Brother contributors "queers", but also every other Black writer and/or artist who happened to be Gay, Pansexual or Transsexual.

I don't blame Lisa Moore for not editing out his degrading language. Regardless of what she may have thought about it, I know she didn't want to censor anyone. Lisa wanted both old and new contributors to express themselves freely in their own words. Therefore, I place the blame squarely on the one who expressed himself in such an offensive manner! Freedom of speech should never be free of accountability for what's been said. After obtaining Dr. Allen's email address from Lisa, I made my feelings known to him in a message dated 6 December 2007. Here's an abridged version of it:

Sir, when you talk about your same-gender-loving brothers and sisters, please take care what language you employ! I was highly alarmed to see you repeatedly refer to Black Lesbians and Gay men as "queers". To say that I was insulted doesn't even begin to convey the depth of feeling I have about what you did. I regret that you chose to take something positive and turn it into a vehicle for ignorance. If that sounds harsh, I'm sorry, but I want you to realize what harm you're doing.

Words have power; if they didn't, then neither you nor I would be writers, would we? Depending on the context in which they're used, certain words have the power to either educate and uplift, or denigrate and confuse. I often wonder why, when it comes to epithets like "queer" and "d*ke", the sensitivity of LesBiGay scholars like yourself seems to evaporate into thin air? I'm sure you'd never, ever casually refer to Jews as "k*kes", to Latinos as "greasers" or to Black folk as "n*ggers" in an academic context. Yet, you've somehow convinced yourself that it's empowering and progressive to saddle Gay and Transpeople with sexual slurs, and you fling them around like they're going out of style!

"Shaming The Brotherhood" concludes with Part Two.

24 December 2007

Shaming The Brotherhood (Part Two)

The Late Essex Hemphill

My letter continued:

Do you know what "queer" means, sir? It means abnormal, sick, aberrant and wrong. It is not a synonym for "different"! The word has a pronounced negative connotation, and contrary to what you may believe, that connotation hasn't been diminished by casual use. "Queer" is not the kind of name to hang around the necks of people who suffer disproportionately from internalized shame. It reinforces the pariah status we try so hard to shake off, both in the public mind and our own minds.

Also keep in mind that this word is not indigenous to the Black community; it's White idiom. In fact, a 2002 survey of Black Lesbians and Gay men by the NGLTF revealed that we overwhelmingly reject "queer" as an identifier. To try and shove that word down our throats is to engage in a hostile act. Are you a friend or a foe? I think it's safe to assume you're a friend, but given the language you use, it's hard to tell!

We surely don't have to pick up on every trend White Gay folk initiate, and we should purposefully avoid dumb-ass trends like "queering" ourselves. Too many times in the past, I've been called ugly names by Black men. I simply won't tolerate it anymore! Where is a Black Gay man to turn when even his own brothers attack him with insults? Sir, I would appreciate an apology.

I'm still waiting for that apology. Dr. Allen hasn't yet seen fit to contact me, and I doubt that he ever will. Looks like I was wrong about him being a friend! Well, It's not the first time I've given someone the benefit of doubt only to be disappointed later.

Well, there's going to be an apology today, even if Jafari Sinclaire Allen won't be the one who offers it!. I'm going to apologize on his behalf. I apologize to my fellow Brother To Brother contributors. I apologize to the Black LGBT community. I apologize to all of us who aren't enlightened enough to realize we deserve an apology. And I'm not being sarcastic, either!

I truly am sorry that Dr. Allen thinks it's clever to insult Gay identity. I'm sorry that he has such a strong need to identify with his oppressors. I'm sorry that he wants to give our oppressors more power over us. I'm sorry that he wants to give them control over our language. I'm sorry that he chooses to reinforce prejudice instead of disable it. I'm sorry that he thinks LGBT folk should claim the filthy trash our enemies fling at us! I'm sorry that he wants to shove every Lesbian, Gay, Pansexual and Transsexual person of color into a lavender box labeled "queer" and slam down the lid!

Please forgive him, Lord, because the man doesn't know what he's doing. And while you're at it, please forgive me for being so naive! I thought everybody involved with Brother To Brother was interested in uplifting Black Gay men. I thought we were united in a desire to break the shackles of ignorance, validate our life experiences, express our shared pain, and speak truth to power. I didn't anticipate that some of us would want to perpetuate the lies of the powerful. I didn't realize that some Black Gay men would see themselves through heterosexist eyes, and talk about themselves with hetero-fascist tongues!

Why didn't I realize that? Wasn't the evidence right there in 1991, on the pages of Brother To Brother? I ask myself today, had I ever really read Reginald T. Jackson's heartbreaking essay "The Absence Of Fear" before? Jackson wrote:

We must disarm the word "f*ggot" in order to move closer to our true selves. Whether we like it or not, we are the f*ggots we were cruelly called in grammar school . . . we have to endow "f*ggot" with alternative meanings that empower us . . . I'm willing to be judged and called names because I am, at the very least, a f*ggot, and that's all right. In fact, it's the way I want it . . .

As I said before . . . heartbreaking! Given such a twisted notion of empowerment, why should I be surprised now when Jafari Sinclaire Allen denigrates Gay identity so gleefully? Why should I be surprised when I turn on Pacifica Radio as I did yesterday morning, and hear a young Gay activist of color attacking "queers" who want to do mainstream things like marry and serve openly in the US military? Why should I be surprised when prominent Black Lesbians like Pam Spaulding and Irene Monroe refuse to even consider the possibility that their routine use of sexual slurs might have a corrosive effect on the psyche? I should know by now that the oppressor has programmed us to marginalize ourselves and undermine our own equality struggle. I should know by now how successful that programming has been!

Well, I may be naïve, but I'm not suicidal! Anybody expecting me to bond with other Black Gay folk over derogatory names is one brick short of a load!  Stuffed Animal don't roll that way!  Wicked epithets like "n*gger," "b*tch", "hoe", "f*ggot", "bulldagger", "d*ke" and "queer" are murder weapons! They target the intellect, the self-image and the soul. What "alternative meaning" can you give to an instrument of death? How does it "empower" you to aim it at yourself? It's impossible! You can place a murder weapon in a vase, spray it with perfume and stick blossoms down the barrel, but it's still a murder weapon, dammit!

When will we ever wake up to the fact that we're playing with lethal force when we toss these slurs around? We act like thugs who terrorize their own communities with illegal firearms; just like they do, we subject one another to drive-by shootings! The only difference is that we kill with insults instead of with bullets. Insults filled with internalized shame!

A brotherhood based on shame does not make for strong family ties. On the contrary, it destroys a family. If you doubt that statement, just remember the recent ENDA debacle, where Transfolk, the ones we felt most ashamed of, got kicked to the curb like yesterday's garbage!

Shame on the peddlers of stigma! Shame on the monkey-see-monkey-do mentality that facilitates sale of their disgraceful product! Shame on Jafari Sinclaire Allen and all Gay people of color who try to impose abnormality their brethren! Shame on academics of any orientation or ethnicity who serve up intellectually-sanctioned marginalization to Gay people! As Pete Seeger so mournfully sang in his lyric to "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" . . . when will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

05 December 2007

Gay Pride: A Place We've Never Been?

In a January 2007 essay titled "Doin' Time In Gay Man's Hell, Parts One and Two", I described how centuries of criminalization and ostracism had infected Gay people with a deep sense of shame. I wrote:

Thirty years ago, there was nothing like the affirmation of LGBT identity that we see today. Society taught us that our love was illegitimate and perverse, and like impressionable children, we accepted that teaching. The Stonewall rebellion notwithstanding, we had very little self-esteem. Closeted or not, we were willing to perpetuate a clandestine culture born of oppression and shame.

It was a separate culture centered around disreputable dive bars, dangerous wooded areas, reeking public restrooms and sleazy Adult book/video shops. Unfortunately, there are a lot of LGBT folk who still think of these venues as being the center of "Gay culture"! Worse, they think Lesbians, Gay men and Transfolk should confine their leisure activities to such venues.

I got a painful reminder of this when I recently picked up a booklet called Out In Canada; distributed to Gay businesses in the United States, this handout is aimed at promoting LGBT tourism north of the border. Of course, you'd expect such a publication to highlight places of potential interest to Gay tourists. What I didn't expect is how limited and narrow that interest was perceived to be by the Out In Canada editorial staff!

As an example of what I mean, here's an excerpt from the booklet, directed at American Lesbians who plan to visit the Canadian province of Québec:

To make sure I was up-to-date, I asked friends what "d*ke places" I should (go to) . . . it seems that Toronto d*kes tend to patronize Straight bars and restaurants; comfort, cost and quality seem to be more important than queerness (sic).

OK, let's imagine that I'm a Lesbian reading this. (I look like a butch Lesbian, so that shouldn't be hard to do!) This writer assumes that I only want to visit places in Québec where Lesbians are known to congregate. The writer also implies that there's something odd about Lesbians patronizing mainstream bars and restaurants popular with Straight people, and that as a rule, Lesbians shouldn't spend their leisure time in establishments that are comfortable, affordable and pleasant. Why not? Evidently because Lesbians are "d*kes", and "d*kes" don't rate such luxuries! A patently offensive idea, don't you think? In this next excerpt, the writer solicits perspective on the local scene from a Gay Québecoise:

Alison Kemper, a Lesbian activist, says . . . "we don't go to queer places, but cheap ones . . . restaurants that are used to families with kids are used to queer (families) . . . . my personal favorite, Golden Thai, is on Church Street, the main queer drag . . . it's rare to go there without seeing other d*kes . . .

Reading this quote, you'd think it was unusual for restaurants to let Lesbians dine within their walls! I know there've been isolated cases of restaurants refusing service to Gay people, but that certainly isn't the norm. Yet Ms. Kemper makes it sound like I'm risking discrimination by going to popular cafés! She stresses that it's safe to patronize Golden Thai because it's located on the "queer drag", and that I'll feel comfortable because "other d*kes" will be there with their "queer" families. She also characterizes Canadian Lesbians as unique in their preference for inexpensive eateries, thus playing into the myth about Gay people being an élite, well-to-do class. Excuse me, but when have LGBT folk not patronized cheap restaurants? Most of us aren't rich!

I live in the midwest, the so-called Bible belt, and I often see women and children eating at chain restaurants like Red Lobster and Denny's . . . no men in the group. Sometimes it's pretty obvious that the women are Lesbian couples, but nobody ever raises a fuss over it. If it's no big deal in Independence, Missouri, why would it be an issue in Canada, where Gay weddings are legal? And who makes a habit of announcing their sexual orientation when the hostess shows them to their table? Nobody I know!

There's no reason why a Lesbian couple and their children shouldn't feel free to dine anywhere in Québec they want to. Why does the writer seem uncomfortable with the concept of Gay and Straight folk eating together in public? If the objective is to have a good meal, what difference does it make if you're the only Gay couple in the dining room? These excerpts leave the distinct impression that Lesbians should avoid mainstream venues; I wonder, was there a valid reason for leaving that impression, or is it just Out In Canada's editorial position that Lesbians belong in "d*ke places"?

Farther along, the writer talks about a venue in Toronto where same-gender couple dancing is welcome:

. . . not a queer-only location, the Gladstone Hotel functions as a hotel, bar, meeting place and entertainment venue . . . the Gladstone also holds . . . a queer midweek dance night.

Once again, there's a distinct odor of separatism in the air! Granted, LGBT folk should feel free to go to the Gladstone Hotel if they like . . . but for "queer midweek dance night"? Doesn't that remind you of John Waters' movie Hairspray, and "Colored People Day" on the Corny Collins show?

Why would any self-respecting Lesbian want to attend an event like this? To show how badly she wants to dance at the Gladstone? To make the hotel's activity staff think they're doing Gay people a favor? Why isn't same-gender couple dancing allowed every night? What's wrong with LesBiGay couples sharing the dance floor with Straight couples? It's been happening for years at Gay dance clubs, and the world hasn't come to an end!

Later for this kind of incremental liberalism! It's insulting. When LGBT folk go out on the town for a good time, there shouldn't be any Jim Crow stigma attached to it!

Another supposed mecca for Lesbians (evidently a "queer-only location" this time) is a club known as Goodhandy's:

Goodhandy's bills itself as Toronto's first truly Pansexual playground . . . (it) provides an often sexualized party atmosphere. Fridays are the night for . . . queer women . . . it can get downright sexy and dirty, so be prepared!

Why would the writer assume that, as a Lesbian, I would want to go dancing at a club where people act out sexually? And am I correct to assume that Lesbian dance partners aren't welcome at Goodhandy's on any night other than Friday? Gender-segregated dancing on designated nights is no better than what the Gladstone Hotel does! If a venue doesn't welcome me and my kind all the time, then I don't consider myself welcome there anytime. I'd much rather go someplace where the gender of couples on the dance floor isn't an issue. I'd also rather dance where club patrons don't feel free to paw me!

Evidently, the writer of this piece thinks Lesbians should be satisfied with crumbs flung at them from a sexist table. She (he?) also seems to think what Lesbians traveling in Canada most want to do is buy sex toys!  I didn't know a woman had to leave the USA in order to find them!

Out On The Street is your one-stop destination for rainbow paraphernalia . . . a large variety of lube and dildos are all available here . . . those looking for a more sexual shopping adventure should head to one of my two favorite sex stores . . . Good For Her (offers) toys, videos and books (and) is focused on women's sexual pleasure.

Can you think of any legitimate mainstream travel magazine that would single out a lube and dildo shop as an essential sightseeing destination???!!! As if that weren't bad enough, read this excerpt from another Out In Canada article called "Seven Reasons To Say 'Oui' To Québec City":

To say Le Drague is Québec's only Gay bar is true and false . . . it's more like four bars in one . . . Base Three (is) their butch guy/leather zone. It's a cool space utilizing sexy mannequins in very creative ways. The 'pees de résistance' is the upstairs washroom, where six naked mannequins surround a bathtub . . . you pee into a hole in the mannequin's back, and, well, use your imagination . . . this spot sees plenty of cruise 'n' grope!

As they say in France . . . dégoutant! If you still haven't got the message as to what kind of tourism this booklet encourages, elsewhere in the handout the editors provide a few language tips to help you navigate through French Canadian territory:

A few key French terms: Penis = bout. F*ck/Have sex = bourrer. Underwear = calbombe. F*cked-up/Messed-up = f*cké.

Rude French Canadian slang for tourists whose purpose in visiting the country is sexual cruising, fetish play and getting stoned out of their minds! And who else but the Gay tourist would want to prioritize such activities?

Call me "politically correct" if you like, but I found the tone of this booklet extremely heterosexist!  If an uninformed Straight person (i. e. most Straight people) were reading this copy, he would have his anti-Gay prejudices reinforced big-time! The words "queer", "homo" and "d*ke" are peppered liberally throughout the text. The writers portray Lesbians and Gay men as deviant human beings whose families are "queer", who know they shouldn't go where normal folks go, who are predisposed to depravity, and who are bent on sex tourism. Segregated dancing . . . a tourist draw? A bar bathroom, cited as a must-visit locale? Essential French phrases, all sex-related? I don't know about you, but this kind of travel writing doesn't exactly make me want to buy a plane ticket and pack my luggage!

The editors and writers who put Out In Canada together obviously suffer from a Pervert Mentality. It shows in their product! Their best intentions got compromised by their own internalized shame. They sat down at their keyboards meaning to write Gay-friendly articles, but they ended up creating a flyer that drips with barely concealed hetero-bigotry. They didn't think about what harm they were doing!

Without thinking, they habitually referred to Lesbians and Gay men with derogatory names. Without thinking, they sent a message that Lesbians and Gay men don't belong in the mainstream and are better off sticking with their own kind. Without thinking, they directed Lesbian and Gay tourists to segregated venues. Without thinking, they played up the stereotype of Lesbians and Gay men as a promiscuous and depraved people. Without thinking, they told LGBT readers to come to Canada, have a good time, but don't forget, you're still abnormal!

As I surf the Gay blogosphere and sample Gay media, I am disturbed more often than not. I find that a majority of us write and say denigrating things about ourselves and each another without thinking. Isn't it high time we started thinking? Thinking seriously about the poisonous language we love to use. Thinking seriously about the consequences of clinging to stereotypes. Thinking seriously about rising above juvenile obsessions with sex. Thinking seriously about assuming our rightful place in mainstream society!

A person who answers to names like "queer" and "d*ke" is marginalized in his or her own mind, and a person who calls his or her LGBT brethren by such names is identifying with the oppressor! Neither person has liberation as a goal. Both people have shame as an underlying motivator!

If we don't find a way to crawl out from under our collective burden of internalized shame, we'll never progress any farther. We'll never succeed at making this world a good place for LGBT folk to live in! We've got to believe ourselves deserving of mainstream acceptance before we can achieve it.

From my point of view, there isn't much daylight between hetero-fascists' perception of us and the way many of us perceive ourselves! Could it be that Gay Pride is a place we've never been? I'm beginning to think so. I pray that we finally have the courage go there someday.

03 November 2007

The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin (Part One)

Donnie McClurkin

I'm not sure which is worse . . . being educated in the wrong subjects, or being miseducated in the right ones! I'm talking about being propagandized. Brainwashed! That's what goes on in churches, mosques and synagogues all over the world. Self-described ministers of truth, spreading falsehood about Gay people and calling it doctrine! Taking Scriptures out of context, distorting the Gospel of Grace, ignoring the clues to our identity that exist there, encouraging ignorance, and whipping up hatred against us, all in the name of the Lord. I'm convinced that this rampant practice constitutes the Desolating Sacrilege of which Jesus Christ spoke!

In my opinion, there's nothing so sacrilegious as a False Prophet who vilifies God's Gay children. And there is nothing so desolate as the life of a Gay child of God who takes part in that sacrilege! An interview has surfaced on the Web which proves my point beyond the shadow of a doubt. This interview, which extensively quotes the alleged former lover of a closeted Christian preacher, details how such men lead lives fraught with guilt, shame, deception and perverted desire. The interviewer, New York journalist Clay Cane, calls it a story of "sadness, sexual deviance and scandal." Believe me, it's about as strong an argument against living in the closet as you'll ever find!

The closeted Christian preacher in question is Donnie McClurkin, who has recently been in the news. Back when he was running for President, Barack Obama recruited him to head a Gospel music tour in support of his candidacy. Seemingly unaware of McClurkin's reputation in the Black community as an advocate of heterosexual conversion (he himself claims to be "ex-Gay"), Obama got himself embroiled in a firestorm of controversy. In a lame attempt at damage control, he added an openly Gay minister to the tour, which included other militantly heterosexist acts like the duo Mary Mary and Reverend Hezekiah Walker. Reportedly, the Gay minister was so intimidated by the heavy anti-Gay atmosphere, he fled from the event as soon as his time on stage was up! What a joke!

Here's some background on Reverend McClurkin: Born 1959 in Amityville, New York, McClurkin grew up in the Christian church and led Gospel groups in his teens. He entered the ministry and served as associate pastor at a Detroit church headed by Marvin Winans, a member of the Gospel-singing (and very homophobic) Winans Family. His own career as a professional Gospel singer began in 1996. He's since cut several million-selling albums, and won three Grammy awards. He also has an NAACP Image Award.  McClurkin now pastors his own congregation in Freeport, New York; he founded his Perfecting Faith Church in early 2001. Although his ministry and singing career are high-profile, he's most famous in evangelical circles for his claims of having been "delivered" from Gay identity. He made these claims in a 2001 autobiography titled Eternal Victim/Eternal Victor, and in articles he's since penned for Charisma Magazine and other Conservative Christian publications.

An admitted victim of incest and child sexual abuse, McClurkin writes that he was unwillingly drawn into homosexuality by male pedophiles: "The seed of homosexual lust and desire was planted" is the ominous way he describes it. He professes to have overcome same-gender attraction through prayer and guidance from his church elders. Here's a sample of the kind of "guidance" he got:

They would pray with me, talk with me, and a few of them . . . would even teach me how to carry myself like a man. When I wanted to sing soprano, they'd say things like, "Get some bass in your voice!" or "Men don't sing soprano!" (They) even taught me how to walk. If I held my hand up in a feminine way, (they'd) hit it and say: "Put your hands at your side. Men don't hold their hands like that!"

These intensive lessons in masculine swagger may have had something to do with McClurkin fathering a child out of wedlock in 2000. The evangelical community forgave that transgression, of course . . . at least he was fornicating with a woman.

Donnie McClurkin has become prominent among a shamefully large number of hetero-fascists who are active in Black Protestantism. Ever since he performed at the 2004 Republican National Convention, he's been forging links with the White religious Right Wing. He has appeared in support of George W. Bush, and parrots the "family values" rhetoric of the Republican party (begging the question of why Barack Obama would have wanted to be associated with him)!

Ask him what he thinks about Gay identity, and he's liable to call it "a matter of choice" as well as a "curse". He's gone on record with such opinions in the past. In addition, McClurkin has characterized Gay Christian men as "vultures" who populate a "deceptive underworld" within the church (holy religious McCarthyism, Batman)! According to The New York Times, he offers "therapy" to young boys who feel homosexual desire. "I've been through this, and have experienced God's power to change my lifestyle," he asserts. "I am delivered, and I know God can deliver others, too." Doesn't reading about this development make chills run up and down your spine? It certainly has that effect on me.

The aforementioned exposé had an equally potent effect on me when I read it. There is, of course, a possibility that the anonymous man's claims are bogus; he could be a jealous rival trying to settle a score with McClurkin by making up lies about him. However, I seriously doubt that's the case: From what I know about closeted men, the story rings uncomfortably true! You can judge for yourself, though. Here are excerpts, taken from the website claycane.net. They've been edited for clarity and objectionable content.

Clay Cane: (This) interview with someone who claims to be Donnie McClurkin’s ex-lover (describes) his relationship with the millionaire pastor . . . he demands to remain anonymous (because) he is tied to the Gospel music industry and explains, “I can be blackballed by him.” For his professional and personal protection, he will only go by the name of “Rob”. In this revealing interview, "Rob" details his relationship, or as he described, "roller coaster ride", with the “We Fall Down” hitmaker from 2001 to 2004, which (was) ironically during the height of McClurkin's anti-Gay rants and calls for (heterosexual) conversion . . . the full interview cannot be made public. Some things I had to leave out, such as other artists in Gospel (music) who are Gay . . . I only wanted to focus on the relationship with McClurkin and no one else. I am presenting (this) story for people to make up their own minds.

"The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin" continues with Part Two.

02 November 2007

The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin (Part Two)

Donnie McClurkin

The interview begins:

Clay Cane: Tell me how you first met Donnie McClurkin.

"Rob": I was at a Gospel event backstage. We were introduced . . . I guess it was just, you looked across the room, this person looked at you, and you just knew there was something . . . you look up throughout the evening, and you keep seeing this person staring at you. Email (addresses) were exchanged, and cell phones numbers were exchanged, so that was the beginning. But, it was strictly . . . music, things in common, that type of thing. But for some reason, I felt there was an attraction.

Clay Cane: Did you instantly know that it was Donnie McClurkin?

"Rob": I knew . . . because of his prior success with the song "Stand". Oprah Winfrey used to always talk about it. "Stand" came out (in the late) '90's, so he was already starting to rise . . . so, I already knew who he was.

Clay Cane: This may sound like a dumb question, but what made you know he wasn't Straight? Was he around other Gay people? Was it just blatantly obvious? What made you know that he wasn't heterosexual?

"Rob": Well, in Gospel music, everyone knows who messes around, and who is Straight. I've always known it . . . someone once told me the same thing, many years ago. In church.

Clay Cane: What were your first conversations like?

"Rob": He'd explain how it is on the road, (how) it's lonely. How sometimes he'd just (go to) his room and cry. He said, "And you're single?" It came out of nowhere, (and) I said, "Yeah, I am." He said, "Wow, the person that would have you would be lucky . . ."

Clay Cane: This already doesn’t sound like the "ex-Gay" (preacher) we see in the media. Were you aware that he was an "ex-Gay" at this point?

"Rob": I wasn't aware then.  (His song) "We Fall Down" was (just) starting to catch everyone's ear. There was talk he was going to start a church out on Long Island.

Clay Cane: Was there any talk in your conversations (that) being Gay is wrong, (that) this is an abomination . . .?

"Rob": Early on, no. He would relate it to being lonely, not being able to be who you really . . . are, and that was a little later. I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, I'm in Gospel, I have fans, I'm about to start this church, and the church has a lot of promise" . . . he said, "I have a position to uphold, and I have an image, but the thing is . . . I have some things to work on." I said, "Is it that simple?"

Clay Cane: When was the first time you were intimate?

"Rob": Like I said, we met (in the) winter. The first time was in May.

Clay Cane: What was that like, the first time you guys were intimate?

"Rob": It was uncomfortable because . . . he gets into role-playing . . . he's the "bottom", and he wants you to treat him rough. He wants (you) to talk rough, and that's not my demeanor, that's not in me. I can play a role and I did it, but I didn’t feel comfortable . . . I felt stupid, actually. Like, what did I just do? It was just strange.

To those of you who aren't versed in Gay street lingo, a "bottom" is the passive partner in penetrative sexual intercourse. Gay and Pansexual men who are heavily into role-playing (especially closeted ones) sometimes refer to the passive partner as the "woman"(or they use a derogatory term for women that I won't repeat here). It's revealing that McClurkin would (allegedly) approach sex with another man in this way, as if it were some kind of punishment! That's certainly not the norm in Gay relationships.

Clay Cane: Where did this happen?

"Rob": This was at a hotel. That was the first experience, but each time I always had to play the role. You get tired of it. He'd often say, "I don't want the lovey-dovey stuff!" Those were (his) exact words. "I don’t want the lovey-dovey stuff, the hugging, the cuddling . . . I just want sex."

This is also very revealing. To Gay men who approach their sexuality with shame, same-gender intimacy must be devoid of tenderness! It's gotta be rough and quick, the way wild animals copulate! They don't dare consider the possiblity of falling in love with a male partner, and they strongly resist becoming emotionally attached to one. In their minds, love can only be expressed in the context of heterosexual intimacy. Of course, they've convinced themselves of a lie!

"Rob": That's how it was, and so I sort of knew (that) this (was) not going to be anything (intense) . . . I knew this was going to be an occasional thing when time permitted.

Clay Cane: But it (kept) going, right?

"Rob": It did, it was off and on, but sometimes when he'd . . . go "in remission”, when he didn't want to take (my) calls, or when he didn’t want to get together . . . he'd (have these) moments, (saying) "this is wrong, I can’t do this, blah, blah, blah" (and) it was because (his record) "We Fall Down" was becoming so popular. (His) church had just started in the summer of 2001, and (was) growing. (It) started with 350 (members, and) by the next month, it was another 100 . . . then another 100 . . . it was the church, and the celebrity. He was becoming a celebrity, he was everywhere, he was on TV, and his song had crossed over into the mainstream.

This is surely an example of what my friend, the Reverend Jerry Maneker always tells me . . . that profit is what fuels ultra-conservatism in the organized church! Maintaining the right public image can be very lucrative for a preacher and/or Gospel singer; but you've got to be heard talking the right talk, and you've got to be seen walking the right walk! It makes sense that McClurkin would (allegedly) be more cautious about his secret sex life at this time. As his star was rising, he certainly wouldn't have wanted anybody to suspect him of being less than the straight arrow he claimed to be!

Clay Cane: Did he ever tell you about his relationships with other men?

"Rob": No, he just told me that he used to be . . . active. I know even one time when we were walking somewhere (and) he said, “That used to be my hang-out.” Remember (The) Show Palace on 42nd and 8th Avenue?

Clay Cane: No.

"Rob": It's a porn place. You know, booths, glory holes, whatever.

Clay Cane: He was into glory holes?

"Rob": No, he was into The Show Palace, and all those things are in The Show Palace. I've actually never been in The Show Palace, but I asked him what was in there, and he said, "Just everything you wanted to find."

At one time in my past, I patronized a place like The Show Palace; it was an adult video and bookstore with viewing booths inside. Historically, closeted Gay and Pansexual men have frequented these establishments. They enter the booths on the premise of wanting to watch an adult video, but they're really having oral sex with each other. They do it through holes (AKA glory holes) cut into the booth walls.

It's every bit as disgusting as it sounds! It's also dangerous, degrading and unsanitary; no doubt a lot of venereal disease has been spread that way. I knew better than to do what I was doing, but at the time I didn't care; my internalized shame told me I belonged in those video booths. The men I encountered there no doubt felt the same way. Apparently, Donnie McClurkin may have felt that way, too! Now that home video is the preferred medium of adult video enthusiasts, the Show Palaces of the world are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Not a minute too soon, in my opinion!

In the next excerpt, McClurkin's alleged ex-lover talks about trysting with the singing preacher while he was out on Gospel tours:

"Rob": There was a hotel . . . in Garden City (New Jersey) that I went to. I caught the Long Island Railroad, and waited on the platform for awhile 'til he came . . . he was very nervous, because that was (our) first Long Island meeting. That's his home, his territory, (and the) people all know him. Sometimes if he was singing in Atlanta, I'd be in Atlanta. If he was singing in Detroit, I would be there. I would go, and he would help me get there.

Clay Cane: Did people in his circle know you were seeing each other?

"Rob": No, because I agreed to play by the rules.

Clay Cane: What did he explain the rules to be?

"Rob": Just discretion . . . (but) the church was getting so huge . . . he started to change. I noticed a change in his personality. He would be short-tempered, (he) would get (angry) with me. Something was bothering him, (he was) very troubled and (he'd say) “Why is this happening to me? . . . I've always wanted to be a pastor. I’ve always wanted my music out there, but still I'm not happy. I want to have somebody to love, I want to be in love with somebody, but I know what's . . . inside of me."

What a sad state of affairs! The tragedy of shame-based faith goes well beyond Donnie McClurkin's situation. How many preachers out there share this inner turmoil? This awful, tortured feeling that they can't serve God and be true to their nature at the same time? How many clergymen have been scarred by the organized Church's insistence on demonizing Gay identity? How many have taken part in such demonization, to the detriment of their own self-esteem? Lord, deliver me . . . they must number in the millions!

"The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin" continues with Part Three.

01 November 2007

The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin (Part Three)

Donnie McClurkin

The interview continues:

Clay Cane: How long were you guys being sexual?

"Rob": Off and on for three years, 2001 to 2004. During this time (was) really the height of his anti-Gay rants. (His) book came out, he made comments, (and) he told The New York Times (that) he’s counseling adolescent boys to convert them from homosexuality.

Clay Cane: Would you hear about these rants?

"Rob": Every time I’d read an article in Ebony or Jet (magazines), or whatever, I’d . . . get upset, and we’d always have an argument about it . . . I said, “It’s crazy! What you’re doing is crazy. You’re writing this stuff, but yet you’re still doing it!” I said, “I have a problem with that. What’s wrong with you?” He said, “I have a problem.”

Clay Cane: What do you think he meant by “I have a problem”?

"Rob": It’s something he just can’t control. He feels that he has to say that to please people. He said, “I don’t want people to believe that I’m still doing it.” Some of the stuff he said (was): “I’m not in the mood to play with those who are trying to kill our children.” This is what he said in 2002 on the Christian Broadcasting Network! Some of the other Gospel artists . . .

Clay Cane: If they’re not homophobic I don’t want to know their (names).

"Rob": They’re not. They are Gay, (and) they would be p*ssed, livid . . . (they'd say) "Did you hear what 'Crazy' said?" It would be widespread. "Did you hear what he said? He’s mentally ill . . . " That was the thing they’d always say: "I love him, he’s a talented man, but he’s crazy, and he’s confused."

I was livid when I read this part of the interview! Anybody who grew up in the Black church knows that there's a sizable presence of Lesbians and Gay men on the Gospel circuit. It's whispered about all the time! The most famous closeted Gospel singer was the late Reverend James Cleveland, whose illness and subsequent death from AIDS in 1991 finally revealed the secret he'd kept for years. So I knew about closeted Gospel singers, but I never thought any of them had pride in themselves as Gay people! I certainly never suspected any of them were upset by the anti-Gay rhetoric that permeates their industry.

What good does it do for these stars to rail privately against hypocrites like Donnie McClurkin and stay hidden in their closets? And how do we advance the struggle for Gay Rights by keeping their secrets? Clay Cane thinks the identities of Gay Gospel artists should be protected because they're "not homophobic." I beg to differ! The definition of "homophobia" is "fear of homosexuality", and that describes their attitude to a tee!

Actually, they're worse than homophobic; they're accomodationists. Nothing but damn Uncle Toms and Aunt Jemimahs, grinning in the face of the slavemaster and disparaging him behind his back, for all the good it does! Their moral cowardice enables heterosexist bigotry, and frankly, so does Clay Cane's willingness to join their conspiracy of silence.

Clay Cane: Was he actively trying to stop having sex with men?

"Rob": Yeah, I believe so, because of the tears . . . (I heard) him cry. I believe he was really fighting something . . . he did say one time (that) it’s something that can lie dormant, (and) you don’t have to act upon (being Gay). Even though it’s in you, you don’t have to act upon it. He said, “I’m just hoping that God will just continue to keep me strong.”

Is that what he calls living a lie . . . being strong? The poor man seems to be so mixed-up psychologically, he doesn't even know how to ask God for deliverance from his pain! A word of caution about the following quote: It's of a more explicit nature than I usually allow on this blog. I'm presenting it here because of what it can teach us about the mentality of closeted clergy:

Clay Cane: You’ve kind of touched on this, but in my experiences, people who are sexually repressed (are) very over-the-top sexually, "freaky" . . . would that be fair to say about him?

"Rob": (Sex) was very involved, rough, sweaty and vocal . . . I guess it’s just the talk, “Whose p*ssy is this? Tell me . . ." (He was) yelling it . . . it was . . . almost like he was being raped.

Clay Cane: Was he completely sober and clear-minded during sex?

"Rob": Yes, but he was addicted to sex.

How ironic, if true: The very thing McClurkin speaks out against so vociferously has (allegedly) become a secret addiction for him. The old "forbidden fruit" syndrome! It's classic closet-case behavior.

Clay Cane: There are so many Gay people in the Gospel music industry. Why did he have to be so . . . so like he was?

"Rob": It seems like every time he was attacked in the media, or word was getting around (about him), it just seemed like it made him even madder . . . one lady wrote an article (called) “The Sins of Donnie McClurkin”, (and) I mean, it was scathing . . . every time somebody would do that, he would counter-attack. The articles (and) the hearsay would make him just go crazy, and he was not fun to be around. One time we met, and it was him sitting in a bed Indian-style, and me sitting in the hotel chair looking at TV. No sex, no nothing . . .

Clay Cane: You did care about him to a certain extent?

"Rob": Yeah, and I know he cared about me. (I'd) get calls, you know: “I need someone to talk to. I'm lonely, I’m so lonely.” I felt sorry (for him) . . . it was sincere.

Clay Cane: What made the relationship stop?

"Rob": It was the hot-and-cold (treatment). One day (he'd) send (me) an email or a text message saying "meet me here" or "can I come there". Then (I'd) see (him) at an event, and (he'd) totally ignore (me), walk past (me). . . (he'd) be totally cold . . . on the phone, or (he wouldn't) take (my) messages. Not that I was some scorned person or anything, but it was just so extreme! It all related to (weaning) himself off of men. (His) church had now gotten up to maybe . . . 1,000 (members).

Clay Cane: (How) did it finally stop?

"Rob": We had planned a meeting and he said, “I’m going to stop putting you through this, and I’m going to stop putting myself through this.” (It was) December 2004 . . . he said, “I have to do the right thing, it’s becoming a problem; I have to be all I need to be to my church, my people. I have to be real (about) what I’m saying, to what you’re reading (in Scripture).” He said, “It’s like (I'm) an ex-drug user . . . (I'm) in recovery, in a sense.” He always did look at it like he was in some (kind) of recovery. “As long as I’m not acting upon it, I’m okay. Yes, deep down, I probably am Gay, but as long as I’m not acting on it . . . ”

Do tell! You stop being Gay when you stop having sex with men? Dude's got the "ex-Gay" rhetoric down pat!

Clay Cane: Tell me about the last time you saw him.

"Rob": It was March 2007; I was at a restaurant in Manhattan. I was at a table with a good friend who started a production company. This very effeminate guy came in, cute . . . he was sitting there waiting for his guest. I’m talking to my friend, and he says,  "Somebody is approaching you" . . . someone puts his arm around me, and I stand up . . . it’s him. We hugged, and then he introduced me to the person.

Clay Cane: This is the person who was very effeminate?

"Rob": Very!

Clay Cane: In your mind, obviously Gay?

"Rob": Yeah, obviously, to anyone . . . we went back to eat, but he was uncomfortable. He moved all the way (over) in the corner. The person I was with said, “You two were involved?” He didn’t know anything . . . I never confirmed it.

Clay Cane: Did he tell you why he was there with the guy?

"Rob": Later, we did talk, and he said, “OK, that was someone I’m counseling.”

"Counseling" . . . yeah!  I'm so sure! Horizontal counseling, no doubt! This alleged episode would be amusing if it weren't so pitiful.

Clay Cane: Now, he’s obviously going to know this is you (being interviewed). You don’t think so?

"Rob": You know, the reason why I don’t think so is because . . . I know there are others! I think he’s going to be confused. He’s going to say, "Either it was this one, that one, or that one." You know? There were others.

I don't doubt it! But I wonder if all of McClurkin's sexual encounters were/are safe? If he did have sex with "Rob", did he use protection? Does he ever use protection? Clay Cane doesn't appear to have asked about that. If I had to bet, I'd say no! It sounds like Donnie McClurkin may be acting out suicidal impulses in bed. The behavior described here is nothing if not self-destructive. The man seems to be hurtling toward a very public downfall!

"The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin" concludes with Part Four.

31 October 2007

The Miseducation of Donnie McClurkin (Part Four)

Donnie McClurkin

The interview concludes:

Clay Cane: Would you say that Donnie’s Bisexual or Gay?

"Rob": I think he’s Gay! He’s not Bisexual.

Clay Cane: Do you feel sorry for him?

"Rob": I do. I (felt) sorry on those days when he’d cry. Saying he’s going through this, he’s going through that . . . he’s lonely, he’s horny. I’ve heard he’s had relationships with guys in Atlanta, guys in New York, guys in LA.

If McClurkin really is living this kind of reckless double life, he can't keep it up forever. He's made too many enemies with his high profile anti-Gay pronouncements! I predict there'll be more interviews of this kind in the future. Hopefully, one of his alleged sex partners will have the courage to be named!

Clay Cane: You are not heterosexual, and you’re Christian. Do you think you’re going to go to Hell for not being heterosexual?

"Rob": No, I strongly believe that I am who I am. We’re saved by grace. God can save whoever He wants.

Clay Cane: Do you think being Gay is a sin?

"Rob": No, I don’t because . . . why are we here? God saved the criminal. Anyone can be saved.

So Gay people are like criminals? Yet another revealing statement!

Clay Cane: Do you think homosexuality is something people need to be saved from?

"Rob": No! Not at all, and (Donnie and I) had debates about that . . . I said, “I think you’re born this way.” I would tell (him) that.

This is one part of the interview that I don't buy! Judging from his own previous statements, it's obvious that this man thinks same-gender love is sinful, just like Donnie McClurkin does. The only difference is, he's much less conflicted about his "sin". However, if he had no inner conflicts at all, he wouldn't still be in the closet, would he? It all comes down to shame.

Around the time I entered junior high school, I became involved in the Youth For Christ movement. I remember a mantra that our YFC ministers had popularized: Come as you are!  We were encouraged to come to God exactly as we were. In one sense, the slogan meant that you didn't have to dress up in fine clothes to go to church. It had a broader sense, though: That it wasn't necessary to make yourself respectable in the eyes of the world in order to enter God's temple and worship at His throne!

God's concepts of respectability are different from the ones human beings have! The world may think your skin is the wrong color, or shun you because of the social class you come from, or consider you a sexual pariah of some kind. God sees past those superficial concerns! However you were created, and whatever your circumstances, the Lord welcomes you into His presence. You are His child. Not only does He want you to come as you are, He insists on it! You can't present yourself to God wearing masks and disguises! Nor should you try to deceive your sisters and brothers in Christ.

Gay people like Donnie McClurkin (yes, I said it!) believe otherwise. They're deluding themselves, but it's easy to understand why they think as they do. Just like the rest of us, they're victims of miseducation!

What passes for Christian doctrine today is a far cry from what Jesus Christ actually taught! Set upon by Satan's poachers, who disguise themselves in shepherd's clothing, LGBT lambs are tricked into following their corrupt lead. Deceived! Misled! Fooled into believing that penances imposed on the ancient Israelites also apply to us! Blinded to our presence in Scripture (the 14th chapter of Revelations, among other passages)! Pressured to give the directives of prophets and apostles the same authority as the directives Jesus Christ gave us, even when those directives differ! Manipulated into worshiping the Bible, a man-made text, as if it were a substitute for God! We've all been distracted from the message of salvation our Savior preached.

Those of us who come from an ethnic background also have to deal with strong cultural biases that severely regulate gender roles. The appalling behavior modification training that McClurkin got from his church elders mirrors what my own parents told me as a child: Stop acting like a girl!  Be they Christian, Muslim or otherwise, African-Americans demand a strict separation between masculinity and femininity. How easily they forget that the God they worship is simultaneously male and female, and how difficult it is for them to accept that some of His children are, too!

Donnie McClurkin didn't just suffer rape at the hands of his male relatives. He was also raped by his church! In both cases, wicked people sought to impose shame and degradation on him. They perceived his alternate gender identity, targeted him because of it (something I believe pedophiles routinely do to Gay children), violated him, and made him feel as if he deserved punishment. In this diabolical way, they took control of his mind, and programmed him to punish others like himself. They call it "evangelism", but it's really recruitment, combined with a form of sexual harassment that Rev. Jerry Maneker calls "genital theology" . . . not very different, really, from what Fundamentalists accuse Lesbians and Gay men of doing!

This is the method organized religion uses to manufacture Fundie closet cases, a procedure that no doubt goes back many centuries. So effective is this method, it's miraculous that anybody escapes its cruel indoctrination! God, the architect of Gay identity, makes such miracles possible. He inspires us to burst the bonds of self-loathing that Satan's trickery places on our souls. Every day, millions of LGBT Christians are breaking free from shame, challenging lies told from the pulpit, seeking and finding their true identities through prayer and research and therapy (the legitimate kind), and the evidence of their own life experience. Would you believe some of these newly enlightened folks are even preachers?

The various religious communities we belong to may never make peace with Gay identity. That doesn't mean we can't make our own peace with it. We can! We don't have to suffer lifelong victimhood. We don't have to fear Scriptural terrorism. We don't have to be "Bible believers"! As Christian converts, we only need be Gospel believers!

The Gospels are where our salvation lies, and that's where Jesus Christ speaks of us. Yes, He does! Don't believe the Right Wing naysayers. The proof can be found in the 19th chapter of Matthew, verses 9-12: The Savior calls us eunuchs who have been so from birth. (In Biblical times, a "born eunuch" was the equivalent of what we now call Gay men.  For more information, visit the Born Eunuchs website.) He exempts all eunuchs from heterosexual marriage, and links their unique status to the kingdom of Heaven. That sure doesn't sound like condemnation to me!

What's more, in verses 16-19 of that same chapter, Jesus Christ lists the specific commandments that apply to his disciples. Guess how many of those commandments prohibit same-gender love? Absolutely none of them!

What more does the Savior have to do before we stop thinking of ourselves as abominations? Who can vilify us when God does the opposite? Why do we let false prophets come between us and God? It's foolish! Do we enjoy suffering needlessly? Do we think God wants to inflict pain on us? What's the percentage in ending up a guilt-ridden, self-destructive wreck? How does that make us better Christians? It damn sure hasn't brought Donnie McClurkin closer to the Divine! His opportunistic, mask-wearing Gay colleagues in the Gospel music world aren't exactly good spiritual role models, either!

A couple of years back, McClurkin was interviewed on the PBS TV series "Religion And Ethics Newsweekly." He took advantage of the occasion to liken Gay people to serial liars! He also said:

Anybody who has a lying problem, they get to the point where they hate (it), having such a lack of character, (and) they (want to) make a change.

Subconsciously, he was surely talking about himself in regard to lying; could it be that he was also talking about himself in regard to changing? If everything said about him in Clay Cane's interview is true, Donnie McClurkin knows in his heart what kind of change he needs to make: One that involves total honesty with himself and others, renunciation of self-serving bigotry, and freedom from crippling shame. He must walk the difficult path openly Gay Christian artists like Jason and DeMarco, Jennifer Knapp, Ray Boltz and Tonex had the courage to walk.  For his sake as well as our own, let's all pray that God empowers him to follow their examples of integrity!