Activists Work To Improve Acceptance Of The Black LGBT Community

By Monet’ Jones | Urban Agenda

Pittsburgh artist Vanessa German said she lives in a Pittsburgh neighborhood where people are accepting of each other’s lifestyles.

“There are a couple gay bars, gays that are couples, and some are couples that actually have kids,” said German, 40, who is gay.

While German lives in a neighborhood where many people are supportive, some other black Pittsburgh residents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender say that they don’t find support. A study published in 2013 suggests that black men in particular may struggle to find acceptance when they “come out.” Black men are often called upon to be “hypermasculine,” said Michael LaSala, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. When they don’t fit that stereotype, the 2013 study found, they often develop a sense of alienation.

Dalen Hooks, 26, a local advocate for gay and lesbian youth, said he’d like to see more programs that support gay black youth in the region. People need more than just a place to stay – they seek a network of people who understand the challenges of being black and gay.

“There should be more programs for the LGBT community, but there’s not enough caring and support,” he said.

Hooks said he meets many young people whose parents have kicked them out of the house – because they’re gay.

Many homeless youth in Pittsburgh identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, said Christine Bryan, marketing and development director for the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit group that has programs to help improve quality of life for the LGBT community.

“The most frequently-cited factor was rejection by family members based on sexual identity,” Bryan said.

Nationwide, there are more than 9 million LGBT adults nationwide, according to 2015 figures from the Williams Institute, a think tank at University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.

German, for her part, said she was lucky in that her family was accepting when she told them she was gay. She said her mother responded by saying, “‘Vanessa, there are some things a man can’t give that a woman actually can give, so if you’re happy, I’m happy.”’

Hooks said he also had family support.

“My mother was a preacher, so when I came out to her, it took some time for her to adjust,” he said. “It took sometime for my father to adjust, but my brother was very supportive. After coming out to my brother, our relationship actually became closer.”

There are few studies that focus only on black people who identify as LGBT, however a Pew Research Center survey of 1,100 LGBT adults shows that most think society’s attitudes have become more accepting of them in the past decade.

The survey also showed that most – 92 percent – said they thought society’s attitudes would shift to become more accepting in the future.

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