Sharla Benson: “The Shower”

The online literary journal Gemini Magazine has just released its February issue. Their short fiction contest, with a top prize of $1,000, will be accepting entries through May 1, for the ridiculously cheap fee of $4 per story, any length. So far my favorite piece in this issue is Sharla Benson’s “The Shower”, in which a young African-American woman pays the price of estrangement from her childhood friends when she tries to assimilate into white middle-class society:

“What you mean you ain’t going? You betta go!”

Diane paced back and forth while squeezing the phone so
tight her palm began to sweat. If only she had the ability
to hang up on her mother she would have pushed end that
very second. But she knew better.

“Now you known Cora all your life, and you’ll get to see
Madison,” her mother added with a softer tone. “I’m sure
she’ll be there too.”

Diane sighed. If that point was supposed to persuade her
to go, then she was still trying to find a valid excuse as to
why she shouldn’t. She loved Cora and Madison. As little
girls and teenagers they’d spent many Saturday hours in
Mrs. Mary’s beauty shop reading old Jet, Ebony and Black
Hair magazines, laughing and gossiping under the harsh
heat of the dryers while waiting to have their kinks
straightened with a steaming hot comb.

“Ahh! You burned my ear!” Diane would always yell when it
was her turn.

“Dat’s just the heat,” Mrs. Mary would reply sharply. “Keep

The three of them shared their dreams of the perfect man,
the number of children and the type of house they wanted,
believing that they would be best friends forever to see it
all happen for one another. But, people change and one
day playing a good game of hide and seek or house with
your baby dolls isn’t the only thing friends argue about.

“Ya’ll grew up on the same street,” Diane heard her mother
continue. “And that poor chile—it’s been Cora’s cross to
bear to have her womb strong enough to hold babies. But
now the good Lord has finally blessed her with one. So,
you will be goin’ to her baby shower. You hear me girl?”

She heard her loud and clear. But she also heard the even
louder voice in her head telling her that she did not want
to see Madison. What had transpired between the three of
them the last time they were together had not been pretty.

“Danisha! Are you listen’ to me?”

“Huh? Yes ma’am.” The call of the name she had laid to
rest a long time ago brought her back to the present. Very
few people still called her by her given name and that was
the way she preferred it.

Read the rest here. I also recommend xTx’s flash fiction “(Not) My Fairy Self“.

Racelle Rosett: “Levi”

This unique and memorable short story by Racelle Rosett won the 2008 Moment-Karma Short Fiction Contest. Now open for entries, this contest
offers a top prize of $1,000 for unpublished short fiction with Jewish
content. The 2010 deadline is December 31.

Rosett’s brilliantly offbeat young narrator, who sounds like he has an autism spectrum disorder (though it’s never spelled out), finds unexpected connections between Jewish tradition, yoga practice, and popular culture, as he tries to orient himself in a violent and overstimulating world.

There are 72 disturbing images on the way to my school. Saw I, Saw II, Two and Half Men. There is a billboard for jeans in which no one is wearing clothes. I don’t know why there isn’t a law about this. In another billboard there was a picture of a woman with a plastic tube up her nose. Her eyes were red and bruised underneath. My mother gasped and called the billboard company, CBS Outdoor, right from her car. My friend Gabriel’s mother called, too, and I guess about a hundred or so other mothers, because the next day in the LA Times there was an article saying the billboards were coming down. On Highland, they had the tube-in-the-nose billboard three times, so that even if I were very fast and looked down at my shoes, when I looked up again it was there three more times and another hundred or so times in my mind the rest of the day. Good morning tube-in-her-nose take out your pencils tube-in-her-nose today we’re going to learn tube-in-her-nose, tube-in-her-nose, tube-in-her-nose. Underneath the picture was the word torture, like what they did at Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq, because George Bush told them to. I hate George Bush most of all. My doctor, who is a cognitive therapist, who is six feet six inches tall and looks like Jon Heder, but more handsome (my mother says), told me to use thought-stopping techniques when this happens. He told me to imagine a stop sign crashing down into my brain, which is a disturbing image all by itself. I am identified highly gifted. My mother says that being gifted doesn’t mean that the gift is yours, it means that the gift is for the world and it is given through you, that you are chosen to carry the gift. Sometimes I feel like I have a giant chicken on my back.

Read the rest here.

New Poem by Conway: “Comfort-ward”

My prison pen pal “Conway”, who is serving 25-to-life for receiving stolen goods under California’s three-strikes law, has been reading Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings. He sent me these quotes to help me as I struggle to sort out true faith from legalistic obedience:

“A task becomes a duty from the moment you suspect it to be an essential part of that integrity which alone entitles a person to assume responsibility. While performing the part which is truly ours, how exhausting it is to be obliged to play a role which is not ours. The person you must be, or appear to others not to be, in order to be allowed by them to fulfill it. How exhausting but unavoidable, since mankind has laid down once and for all the organized rules for social behavior….

“How am I to find the strength to live as a free man, detached from all that was unjust in my past and all that is petty in my present, and so, daily, to forgive myself? Life will judge me by the measure of the love I myself am capable of, and with patience according to the measure of my honesty in attempting to meet its demands, and with an equity before which the feeble explanations and excuses of self-importance carry no weight whatsoever.”

also enclosed the poem below, “Comfort-ward”. It was written on the back of a document titled “Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation INFORMATIONAL BULLETIN”. Conway re-titled it “Fractured Form o’ Bull” and extracted a found-poem from it by underlining selected words and fragments of words. For instance, part of the original text (with Conway’s emphasis added) read:

…An inmate who is deemed a program failure by a classification committee is subject to having his/her personal property/appliances disposed of in accordance with Departmental procedure.

3315(f)(5)(P) Violation of subsection 3323(f)(6) shall result in:
1. Loss of visits for 90 days, to be followed by non-contact visits for 90 days for the first offense.
2. Loss of visits for 90 days, to be followed by non-contact visits for 180 days for the second offense.
3. Loss of visits for 180 days, to be followed by non-contact visits permanently for the third offense.

No text was deleted or changed, only misplaced by the publisher…

Thus, this section of the found-poem would read something like this:

…who is deemed a failure
subject his/her person
disposed in a dance with mental Violation
Loss followed first Loss
followed by offense
followed by non-contact
permanently misplaced…

I sent Conway some writing prompts and resources about Oulipo. Experiments with found texts may seem like a parlor game for academics, but when texts are generated by the oppressor and used to shore up a dehumanizing system, these literary methods reveal their politically subversive potential. I look forward to seeing what he does with these exercises. Meanwhile, enjoy his latest poem:


Timelines encircle this prisoner’s eyes
   mirroring shelves of eroded bone
      while arrest was left unexpressed.

This stone tongues talk has become useless.
   I would shave my head, if that
      could convey, all the words left unsaid.

This struggle has deposited scars
   but awakened me cleared by stars-n-gripes
      though my world may appear to be fallen stripes;

These verse’ feel somehow protective…

Thursday Non-Random Song: Steve Taylor, “This Disco (Used to Be a Cute Cathedral)”

According to the liner notes for this satirical 1980s Christian rock song, Steve Taylor was inspired by a visit to New York City’s legendary Limelight nightclub, which was housed in a deconsecrated church:

“…I started to imagine it was Sunday night, and that the church elders had devised all this as a way to attract new members.

Most of us, myself included, are guilty of wishing Christianity was more fashionable. But the Apostle Paul’s example of becoming ‘all things to all men’ in order to reach across cultural barriers can sometimes be used as an excuse to dilute the Gospel message, and hopefully draw a trendier, more affluent flock.”

Sunday needs a pick-me-up?
Here’s your chance
Do you get tired of the same old square dance?

Allemande right now
All join hands
Do-si-do to the promised boogieland

Got no need for altar calls
Sold the altar for the mirror balls
Do you shuffle? Do you twist?
‘Cause with a hot hits playlist, now we say

This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the year
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where we only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear

Mickey does the two-step
One, Two, Swing
All the little church mice doing their thing

Boppin’ in the belltower
Rumba to the right
Knock knock, who’s there? Get me out of this limelight

So, you want to defect?
Officer, what did you expect?
Got no rhythm, got no dough
He said, “Listen, Bozo, don’t you know”

This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the week
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
But we got no room if you ain’t gonna be chic

Sell your holy habitats
This ship’s been deserted by sinking rats
The exclusive place to go
It’s where the pious pogo, don’t you know

This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the year
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where we only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear

This disco used to be a cute cathedral
Where the chosen cha-cha every day of the week
This disco used to be a cute cathedral
But we got no room if you ain’t gonna be chic

(Lyrics and liner notes courtesy of YouTube.)

Taylor’s line “Where we only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear” sticks in my mind. We’re all familiar with the pressure on pastors to please their congregations with easy, flattering messages. Liberals pride themselves on being inclusive, conservatives on walking the straight and narrow. Both attitudes are uncomfortably similar to the exclusivity that’s the chief pleasure of club-going. Are you hot enough to get into the Kingdom?

Some serious Christians, therefore, are instinctively skeptical of any religious message that doesn’t increase our pain and self-sacrifice. When Rev. Peter Gomes, the openly gay Harvard University chaplain, gave a Bible lecture here at Smith College last year, he described the core of Jesus’ message as change that leads to liberation. Afterward an evangelical acquaintance of mine disparaged the lecture by quoting 2 Tim 4:3-4: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Christianity Today cited the same verse to dismiss the legitimacy of the Human Rights Campaign’s Out In Scripture series of GLBT-inclusive reflections on the weekly lectionary.

But if the Word we’re hearing is not something we can “receive with joy” (Mt 4:16), is it really the gospel? Yes, we are eager to hear that the love we feel for one another in our bodies and souls is not a sin. We are also, all of us, too happy to be told that we’re better than someone else, especially if we don’t have to do anything to gain this privileged status. Whose ears are really itching for flattery here?

I’m tired of Grape-Nuts theology. Sacrifice for the sake of proving your toughness is merely pride. Wherever people feel joy, connection, integration of body and spirit, freedom and fellowship, Jesus is present. Maybe the cathedral can learn something from the disco.

Ted Olson Makes the Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

Prominent trial lawyers David Boies and Theodore Olson are arguing the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 in California federal court this week, in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Day-by-day trial coverage is available on the Firedoglake blog and the Courage Campaign website. Meanwhile, Newsweek recently interviewed both the liberal Boies and the conservative Olson to explain why their support for gays’ civil rights transcends left-right politics. Olson’s comments represent the best of that libertarian tradition that has sadly been drowned out by theocratic social conservatives during the past decade of GOP ascendancy. An excerpt:

…The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that marriage is one of the most fundamental rights that we have as Americans under our Constitution. It is an expression of our desire to create a social partnership, to live and share life’s joys and burdens with the person we love, and to form a lasting bond and a social identity. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a part of the Constitution’s protections of liberty, privacy, freedom of association, and spiritual identification. In short, the right to marry helps us to define ourselves and our place in a community. Without it, there can be no true equality under the law.

It is true that marriage in this nation traditionally has been regarded as a relationship exclusively between a man and a woman, and many of our nation’s multiple religions define marriage in precisely those terms. But while the Supreme Court has always previously considered marriage in that context, the underlying rights and liberties that marriage embodies are not in any way confined to heterosexuals.

Marriage is a civil bond in this country as well as, in some (but hardly all) cases, a religious sacrament. It is a relationship recognized by governments as providing a privileged and respected status, entitled to the state’s support and benefits. The California Supreme Court described marriage as a “union unreservedly approved and favored by the community.” Where the state has accorded official sanction to a relationship and provided special benefits to those who enter into that relationship, our courts have insisted that withholding that status requires powerful justifications and may not be arbitrarily denied.

What, then, are the justifications for California’s decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive.

The explanation mentioned most often is tradition. But simply because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must always remain that way. Otherwise we would still have segregated schools and debtors’ prisons. Gays and lesbians have always been among us, forming a part of our society, and they have lived as couples in our neighborhoods and communities. For a long time, they have experienced discrimination and even persecution; but we, as a society, are starting to become more tolerant, accepting, and understanding. California and many other states have allowed gays and lesbians to form domestic partnerships (or civil unions) with most of the rights of married heterosexuals. Thus, gay and lesbian individuals are now permitted to live together in state-sanctioned relationships. It therefore seems anomalous to cite “tradition” as a justification for withholding the status of marriage and thus to continue to label those relationships as less worthy, less sanctioned, or less legitimate.

The second argument I often hear is that traditional marriage furthers the state’s interest in procreation—and that opening marriage to same-sex couples would dilute, diminish, and devalue this goal. But that is plainly not the case. Preventing lesbians and gays from marrying does not cause more heterosexuals to marry and conceive more children. Likewise, allowing gays and lesbians to marry someone of the same sex will not discourage heterosexuals from marrying a person of the opposite sex. How, then, would allowing same-sex marriages reduce the number of children that heterosexual couples conceive?

This procreation argument cannot be taken seriously. We do not inquire whether heterosexual couples intend to bear children, or have the capacity to have children, before we allow them to marry. We permit marriage by the elderly, by prison inmates, and by persons who have no intention of having children. What’s more, it is pernicious to think marriage should be limited to heterosexuals because of the state’s desire to promote procreation. We would surely not accept as constitutional a ban on marriage if a state were to decide, as China has done, to discourage procreation.

Another argument, vaguer and even less persuasive, is that gay marriage somehow does harm to heterosexual marriage. I have yet to meet anyone who can explain to me what this means. In what way would allowing same-sex partners to marry diminish the marriages of heterosexual couples? Tellingly, when the judge in our case asked our opponent to identify the ways in which same-sex marriage would harm heterosexual marriage, to his credit he answered honestly: he could not think of any.

The simple fact is that there is no good reason why we should deny marriage to same-sex partners. On the other hand, there are many reasons why we should formally recognize these relationships and embrace the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and become full and equal members of our society.

No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces. They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends. They yearn for acceptance, stable relationships, and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.

Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another. Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable “lifestyle” should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.

When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.

I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural; and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law. Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination
on the basis of sexual orientation.

If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination. The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California’s Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia. It seems inconceivable today that only 40 years ago there were places in this country where a black woman could not legally marry a white man. And it was only 50 years ago that 17 states mandated segregated public education—until the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that practice in Brown v. Board of Education. Most Americans are proud of these decisions and the fact that the discriminatory state laws that spawned them have been discredited. I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society….

I can almost forgive the guy for helping George W. Bush get elected…

Read more of Newsweek’s trial coverage here. Offering another good sign that the Right is splintering on this issue, Cindy and Meghan McCain, the wife and daughter of 2008 Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.), posed for promotional photos for the NO H8 website–despite the fact that the senator himself opposes gay marriage. Score one for feminism.

Thomas Merton on the Strength of God in Us

Thought for the day, from Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, edited by Kathleen Deignan:

Perhaps I am stronger than I think.
Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength,
    and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak.
Making myself secure. Making myself guilty.
Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me.
Perhaps I would rather be guilty and weak in myself,
    than strong in Him whom I cannot understand.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Song: The Boyer Brothers, “Step by Step”

Horace Clarence Boyer (July 28, 1935-July 31, 2009) was a renowned scholar of African-American gospel music who taught at U Mass Amherst. He was the editor of “Lift Every Voice and Sing II“, the African-American hymnal now widely used in Episcopal churches. Before his last illness, he used to come to St. John’s in Northampton once a year and guest-conduct our choir, steering us with gentle humor to break out of the staid rhythms of the 1982 Hymnal and add some swing to tunes like “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit”. This 1952 recording features him and his brother James, who recorded several gospel albums in the 1950s and 1960s.

Our minister yesterday gave a good sermon on the tragedy of the Haitian earthquake. She encouraged us to build a bridge between those who despair of finding God’s presence in a world of suffering, and those who seek meaning by blaming the victims for “God’s wrath”. Where is God in all this? We are God’s hands in the world. God is present when we see different nations and religions working together to give humanitarian aid.

You can help by donating to Partners In Health. PIH has been advocating for economic justice and providing community-based health care in Haiti for over 20 years. Follow their efforts on their Stand With Haiti blog.

“Waiting for the Train to Fort Devens” Now Online at The Rose & Thorn

My flash fiction piece “Waiting for the Train to Fort Devens, June 17, 1943”, is now online in the Winter 2010 issue of The Rose & Thorn, a quarterly journal of literature and art. This story was inspired by an archival photo of young men from Western Massachusetts going off to World War II, republished in the Florence Savings Bank calendar. The photo’s owner, Sharon Matrishon, whose father is featured in the image, kindly allowed us to reprint it on The Rose & Thorn page. Here’s the opener:

This photograph was taken right before forty boys turned into soldiers. In fairy tales, transformations are sudden, painless. Seven brothers lift up their white arms in unison and become swans. Forty comical thieves peek out of fat-bellied oil jars. But these forty men waiting for the train to Fort Devens will have a long way to go before they all become the same.

They line up, as if for a yearbook portrait, beneath the slatted wooden balcony of the old Bay State Hotel, which must have been a cheap hotel because its front porch is only a dozen feet from the railroad tracks. A place for salesmen and card sharps, or girls who thought they needed to make a quick getaway from their parents’ sleepy fireside. Some of these boys might have taken a girl to the Bay State Hotel after a night of confused carousing, hooked up by an elder brother who offered a knowing wink that both annoyed and excited them. Some of these boys have never had the opportunity, and are distracting themselves from thoughts of German bullets by imagining the grateful softness of French girls in a farmhouse where a single candle burns in a wine bottle. These boys kissed Mary Sue or Ethel in the back seat at the drive-in and promised to wait for her, and she might have unhooked her bra even though she knew waiting was powerless against male hormones and the U.S. government.

In other writing news, my prose-poem “Possession” won the 2009 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Prize from the journal Quarter After Eight. My poem “What Dora Said to Agnes” (a feminist response to David Copperfield) tied for third place in the 2009 Caesura Poetry Contest. Caesura is the literary journal of the Poetry Center San José.

WSJ Interview With David Boies on Prop 8 Constitutional Challenge

Superstar lawyers David Boies and Theodore Olson, who faced off in Bush v. Gore in 2000, have teamed up to challenge the constitutionality of California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, in federal court. The trial begins today in San Francisco. This Wall Street Journal interview with Boies also includes links to in-depth coverage of the case in the New Yorker, the American Lawyer, and leading national newspapers. An excerpt:

The headline in Margaret Talbot’s New Yorker story out Monday asks: “Is it too soon to petition the Supreme Court on gay marriage?” It’s also a question that’s been asked by others who oppose Prop. 8 — whether you and Ted are rushing into this in a way that’s doomed from the start, that there’s no way you’ll get five votes from the Supreme Court. How do you respond to those critics?

It’s not an uncomplicated issue. My question back is this: How do you decide when the time is right to vindicate one’s constitutional rights?

The polls and the evidence suggest that the the overwhelming majority of young adults support gay marriage. Those that don’t are, for the most part, people in my and Ted’s age bracket. And that’s the age bracket of the judges we’ll be arguing our case in front of. And people say you ought to wait to litigate this until you have judges that have not grown up in an atmosphere of discrimination against gays.

Because those judges have grown up in that type of atmosphere. When Ted and I were in sixth grade and when most of the justices and judges were in sixth and seventh grade, you had President Eisenhower issuing decrees dismissing all homosexuals from military service and dismissing from federal service more generally. You couldn’t be a letter carrier if you were a homosexual. Homoesexuals were described as sexual deviants, homosexual activity was criminalized.

So the argument goes like this: it’s hard for people of my generation to separate themselves from the atmosphere of prejudice in which we grew up. But I have more confidence that judges will be able to separate themselves from that atmosphere. If I’m wrong, I suppose we’ll just have to wait.

It’s interesting. You talk as if you think same-sex marriage is an inevitability. As if it’s just a matter of time before it becomes the law of the land.

I think you’re right. There’s clearly going to be gay marriage in the future, and the attitudes of young people make that clear. It can happen now, or we can lose another generation to discrimination.

In my opinion, the time is right now. But it’s also true that if we win or lose, the issue will be back. Both Ted and I feel we have more than five votes on the Supreme Court, but this issue isn’t going away. Plessy v. Ferguson was not the final word on segregation, nor will a defeat, if that happens, end this battle.

What about critics who say that the issue is playing out the way it should — in the states; that by filing this suit, you guys are circumventing the legislative process and attempting to cut off Democratic debate?

Well, that’s the reason you have a Bill of Rights. You don’t want to place issues involving constitutional importance in the hands of a democracy. If you subscribed to that, you’d hardly need a constitution.

Videos from the Soulforce Anti-Heterosexism Conference

Videos of the keynote speakers from the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference are now available on the Soulforce website. Each segment is about 50 minutes long. I especially recommend Rev. Deborah Johnson’s sermon.

Here’s another clip (10 minutes) of her speaking at the 2007 Black Church Summit sponsored by the National Black Justice Coalition, a group that was also a co-sponsor of the Anti-Heterosexism Conference. She’s calling on the black church to use its moral authority on behalf of sexual minorities.  Too often, she says, the church does the opposite. “There are no words to say what it does to the soul of a person to tell them they are an abomination in the eyes of God…At least as slaves we had a purpose in the universe, but they’re telling us that there’s not even a place for gay people…in God’s universe.” Later she asks, “Why do you have to sacrifice your authenticity, your integrity, the pure integration of your mind, body, and soul…for fear of excommunication from the church?”

That’s right, Rev. Deborah. It’s not just about sex. It’s about truth.

In the second half of this video, Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson talks about the “symbolic queering” of black sexuality by the dominant white culture. The black community ought to be able to identify with sexual minorities because white culture has always taken a fearful and prurient interest in black heterosexuality as “other”. “Hating gay people is hating ourselves as black people.”