Homophobia in ethnic minority communities

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Homophobia in ethnic minority communities refers to any negative prejudice or form of discrimination within the ethnic minority communities worldwide towards people who identify as – or are perceived as being – lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT),[1][2][3] known as homophobia. This may be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred, irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs.[4] While religion can have a positive function in many LGB Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, it can also play a role in supporting homophobia.[5]

Many LGBT ethnic minority persons rely on members of their ethnic group for support in terms of racial matters. However, within these communities, homophobia and transphobia often exists within the context of ethnocultural norms on gender and sexual orientation, with one American researcher claiming that "a common fallacy within communities of color is that gay men or lesbians are perceived as 'defective' men or women who want to be a member of the opposite gender".[6]

There is a lot of difficulty regarding how to categorise homosexuality throughout different cultures,[7] In recent times, scholars have argued that Western notions of a gay and/or heterosexual identity only began to emerge in Europe in the mid to late 19th century.[8][9] Behaviors that today would be widely regarded as homosexual, at least in the West, enjoyed a degree of acceptance in around three quarters of the cultures surveyed in Patterns of Sexual Behavior (1951).[10]

Homophobia within ethnic minority communities creates a double bind to those it impacts. Members of these groups experience racial and ethnic discrimination from the larger society that they live in addition to homophobia within their ethnic/racial groups. This discrimination creates the need for a supportive community to undo the psychological damage of discrimination.[11] They find that neither environment tends to their needs as someone who experiences multiple levels of discrimination.

United States[edit]

Attitudes towards a person's sexual orientation vary throughout the United States, and the social and cultural mores surrounding sexuality have a large sociological impact on how individuals behave, especially with regard to the family unit. Many ethnic minority families in the United States do not feel comfortable discussing matters of sexuality, and disclosure of one's sexual orientation or identity often presents challenges, and many feel that their coming out process may force them to be loyal to one community over another.[12]

In the United States, 44% of LGBT students of colour have reported experiencing bullying based on their sexual orientation and/or race; 13% reported physical harassment and 7% reported physical assault due to the same reasons.[13]


The process of examining the ways in which sexuality and race are related draws upon the theoretical framework established by Kimberlé Crenshaw. She developed the framework for intersectionality, it posits the idea that people are not wholly defined a singular identity, but that the ways in which their identities interact with each other and create specific experiences related to multiple intersecting identities is a better way of examining individuals and the discrimination they may deal with.[14]

This also draws upon W.E.B. Du Bois’ work where he explains the double consciousness. In his work he specifically refers to the fragmented understanding of self that comes with being a black American, however, it is applicable to understanding LGB members in racial and ethnic minority groups. In this sense, their multiple identities cause a fragmentation, in which they not only observe themselves as queer individuals but also as racial and ethnic minorities in an American culture.[15]

Homophobia in the Black community[edit]

Homophobia is considered prevalent within the African American community.[16][17] Numerous reasons are given for this, including the image young black males are supposed to convey in the public sphere;[18] that homosexuality is seen as antithetical to being black in the African American community;[19][20][21][22] and the association of the African American community with the church in the United States.[23][24][25][26][27][28]

African Americans in general tend to have more homophobic beliefs than the rest of the country. More black Americans support the idea that queer people should be condemned, or that AIDS is an acceptable punishment for gay people. This can be linked directly to the impact that conservative church has had on African-Americans in making them more socially conservative. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between black religiosity and homophobic attitudes. This follows the trend across the United States, that the strength of religious affiliation directly impacts homophobic attitudes.[29]

However, black people in general are less supportive of homophobic policies being written into law. African Americans support LGB civil liberties more than their white counterparts. Some theorize that this is because of conservative churches' role in advocating for African American civil liberties, and that this advocacy has spilled over onto the LGB population as a result.[30]

Education also has an impact on homophobic attitudes within the black community. The more educated one is, the more liberal they are. This impacts their views towards sexuality. This also follows a nationwide trend, as the more educated a person is the more they are accepting of non-heterosexual sexuality. Also increased education typically means less affiliation to a specific religion, which limits the influence of socially conservative ideas.[29]

Black people tend to express more homophobic attitudes, but, as mentioned above, there is a link between education, religion, and homophobic attitudes.[31]

Homophobia and the Black Church[edit]

The African American church, oftentimes referred to as the black church, is a central part of black culture. The black church is a combination of various protestant Christian denominations of Christianity. This includes the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the National Baptist Convention, and the Church of God in Christ.

This link between the church and black culture formed during slavery, as the church provided spiritual support that the slaves needed at the time. Religiosity helped keep morale high with the slaves and gave them the ability to keep moving forward. When they eventually began to plan their escape, codes were embedded into worship songs, that provided secret messages about plans to escape from their plantations.[32]

This history between the black church and slaves, has created this indelible bond between black American’s and the Black church.[33] The values preached within the black church tend to be socially conservative, with the exclusion of how the church addresses the homeless. However, when it comes to the home, traditional family values prevail. Maintaining a nuclear family, with a man as the main provider, and a woman as the staple of the house, still represent predominant values within the black church. Heterosexuality is seen as the only acceptable standard, while homosexuality is seen as condemnable by God.[31][34]

Homophobia and AIDS in the Black Community[edit]

The disproportionately high incidence of HIV/AIDS amongst African Americans is attributed to homophobic attitudes. Black communities associate the disease almost exclusively with gay (white) men and not their own community.[35] Many still view HIV/AIDS as a gay disease, and homophobia is one of the main barriers preventing better treatment for people with AIDS inside the community. Irene Monroe of the Huffington Post wrote: "while nearly 600,000 African Americans are living with HIV, and as many 30,000 newly infected each year, there is still within the black community one in five living with HIV and unaware of their infection; and, they are disproportionately heterosexuals. As long as we continue to think of HIV/AIDS as a gay disease, we'll not protect ourselves from this epidemic."[36]

There is a direct link between homophobia and AIDS in the black community. The more homophobia that one experiences, as an LGB person, the more likely they are to engage in unprotected anal intercourse. Additionally, studies have found that the more likely one is to engage in risky sex if they more strongly identify with their sexuality and their race.[37][38]

One explanation for unprotected anal intercourse is that it is a mechanism by which some use to cope with homophobic attitudes that they face within their own community and in society. Some have said that unprotected sex increases intimacy with their partner, and they seek this closeness when confronted with discriminatory attitudes. Unprotected sex is used as a defense mechanism through which queer black men can help them deal with the harsh realities of the world.[39]

Barack Obama acknowledged homophobia within the African American community, and made a statement that: "If we are honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to Martin Luther King's vision of a beloved community ... We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them."[40]

Black advocacy groups[which?] disputed that homophobia is more prevalent in the African American community than other groups, and claim that surveys reflect proportionate attitudes to the rest of the population.[41][42][43][44][45]

In a 2012 survey of 120,000 adults, African Americans were more likely to self-identify as LGBT than other racial or ethnic groups in the United States. According to the data, 4.6% of African Americans identify as LGBT, significantly higher than 3.4% of the population overall.[46] In recent years, African American celebrities such as Jason Collins, Michael Sam, and Robin Roberts have come out.[47]

The perceived bias against homosexuality in the African American community has led to the subcultural phenomenon known as "on the down-low", in which black men who identify as heterosexual will secretly have sex with men.[48][49][50][51] The term is also used to refer to a sexual identity.[51][52]

While LGBT African Americans often face homophobia from heterosexual African Americans, they also conflict with LGBT Whites due to racism within LGBT culture.[53] According to Margaret L. Anderson and Patricia Hill Collins, "The linkage between race, class, and gender is revealed within studies of sexuality, just as sexuality is a dimension of each. For example, constructing images about Black sexuality is central to maintaining institutional racism".[54]

Celebrations of U.S. African-American LGBT identity include black gay pride celebrations in heavily black urban areas of the United States. Other endeavors support African-American representation in LGBT media, such as the short-lived television series Noah's Arc.[55][56] Atlanta Black Pride celebrates LGBT African Americans since Atlanta, Georgia has the highest percentage of LGBT African Americans in the United States.

Homophobia in the Latino community[edit]

Homophobia in the Latino community is prevalent within the United States.[57][58] As ethnic minorities and sexual minorities, queer Latinos may navigate contradictory identities which Gloria Anzaldúa calls "mestiza consciousness".[59][60] "Borderland" spaces, composed strictly of queer Latinos, allow them to express their sexuality without consequences.[61][61][62] One such space was magazine Esto no tiene nombre's community for Latina lesbians.[63]

Gay Latino men report ostracism from their friends and peers as "not truly 'men'."[64] Community attitudes treat male homosexuality as "dirty, shameful and abnormal",[64] and Latina lesbians are stereotyped as traitors who have forsaken their roots.[65] Cherríe Moraga explains Chicana lesbians are perceived as Malinche figures corrupted by foreign influences who contribute to the "genocide" of their people, even if they have children.[66] These stigmas are historically ingrained into Latino cultures, and Latina lesbian women who have spoken to their families about their sexuality still feel silenced.[61]

A GHN news editor stated that homophobia in the Latino community is tied to a value system that finds it difficult to accept overt sexuality. It is also a part of rigid gender roles and machismo. This has influenced many people with HIV/AIDS not to get tested for the disease in the Hispanic community.[67] Covert homophobia in the use of terms such as that's so gay and no homo are also common.[68] Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escabar was banned from playing after writing the phrase tu eres maricón on his eye tape (Spanish for "you are a faggot").[69] Hector Conteras, a DJ, "prompted listeners via Twitter to denounce what they considered "gay behavior" from their peers at work, school, their neighborhood or within their own family".[70]

In the US, Latino/as who identify as LGBTQ face scrutiny not just from their community at home but within their community at school as well, especially within a high school or college preparation experience.[71] While facing scrutiny by family and community to maintain gender normality in order to prosper in the US, they also must face scrutiny from their fellow peers, mentors and administration in the educational environment.[72] One such scrutiny that they face is a lack of acceptance and recognition as a separate educational entity within sexual educational programs, provided by many high school education districts.[73] Latinas are viewed as needing to have less interest in sexual education, while Latinos were told to maintain focus and to take the education seriously.[74] When teachers are prompted to explain more about sexual education for lesbians or gays, the teachers or educators assume the student body to be heterosexual and refuse or regard the questions as immature and outside the scope of their teaching.[75]

LGBT discrimination has a negative impact on the mental health of Latino/as. LGBT Latinas, however, experience less homophobia than their male counterparts. This can be attributed to socialization that condemns LGB male relationships more harshly than female relationships. Men therefore experience more internalized homophobia than Latina women do which impacts their wellbeing.[11][76]

For Latino/as, creating environments that enable LGBT individuals to fully be themselves without the fear of judgement is necessary for overall health. Implementing programs that empower LGBT Latinos have been shown to be an effective measure in the prevention of HIV.[77] Self-identification is also something that needs to be observed. If one identifies as strongly as queer or Latino that impacts their overall feeling of wellbeing.[78] Strong self-identification with marginalized groups can contribute to internalized homophobia that one might experience.[79][74]

Homophobia in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community[edit]

Homophobia in the Asian American community is an ongoing issue.[80][81][82][83][84] One study has found that approximately 90% of Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) who self-identified as LGBT thought homophobia or transphobia to be an issue in the larger API community.[6]

According to Amy Sueyoshi: "Voices from the queer left, though opposed to homophobia in cultural nationalism, have picked up the protest against the feminization of Asian American men in the gay community.[85] While coming from drastically different perspectives both groups find common ground in supporting a phallocentric standard of Asian American male sexuality."[86][87]

United Kingdom[edit]

There is a widespread assumption that being gay is a phenomenon purely of white people in Britain, amongst all racial groups.[88] This means that, in terms of healthcare, many BME people's needs are not being met. This is dangerous as LGBT BME needs may differ to that of white LGBT people.[89]

BME LGB communities are disproportionately affected by homophobic violence, abuse and harassment. In a study conducted in London, BME LGB people were more likely to experience physical abuse, more likely to experience harassment from a stranger and were equally likely to have experienced verbal abuse as their White British LGB counterparts,[90] and due to the pressures of discrimination and victimisation, are more likely to have poorer mental health.[91]

Homophobia in the Black British community[edit]

Homophobia in the Black British community is prevalent in the United Kingdom. Many gay people in the black community get married or have significant others of the opposite sex to hide their sexual orientation.[92] In 1998, Justin Fashanu, a gay black footballer, killed himself after publicly coming out to his brother.[93] There has been hate music written in the black community towards LGBT people; campaigns such as Stop Murder Music have tried to counteract this, although with little if any effect in lessening homophobia within the Black British community specifically.[94][95] Some have regarded this, alongside other anti-homophobia efforts aimed at the Black British community, as racist, which makes many social critics reluctant to criticize homophobia in the Black British community.[96][97]

Some of the Black British community sees homosexuality as a "white disease".[92][98][99] Many Black British gay people face not only being socially isolated from their communities but the possibility of being assaulted or murdered.[100]

Homophobia in the British Asian community[edit]

Those who speak on behalf of BME communities sometimes reinforce conservative attitudes towards sexual orientation; this is experienced as oppressive by many British South Asian LGB people.[5] Patrick McAleenan writes in The Telegraph that "homophobia taints the British Asian community", and that the "opposition to a gay lifestyle [is] still strong amongst the British Asian community",[101] and Balaji Ravichandran writes in The Guardian that, while "in the south Asian diaspora, being gay is often deeply taboo", he also believes that the "gay community should help south Asians", pointing to the perceived racism of White British gay men.[102]

In 2010, the joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Home Office Forced Marriage Unit[103] noted a 65% increase in forced marriages amongst primarily British Asian men. Many in the British Asian community who contacted the FMU were put into forced marriages as their families suspected that they were gay or bisexual.[104]

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