By Dr. Wilhelmina Perry
Within the last weeks, there has been quite a bit of discussion on social media in reference to the statements made by gospel singer Kim Burrell. Burrell was heard, on a video, making strong negative remarks about gay people. There are those who spoke in favor of her remarks and those equally opposed to what they judged to be hate speech. I, as an Afro-American lesbian, heard the remarks as hate speech endangering the lives of all members of my community, including the gay children and youth.
Some folks consider that we, same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folk are being overly dramatic and horribly cruel when we push back on the religious singer. We are told that she is a “woman of God” and she is exercising her free speech and religious freedom to call out the “sins” of gay people. We are being accused of defaming her with charges that she is using her public platform to spread hate and harm. For us, our actions are not dramatic or misplaced. This is a matter of life and death for our lives and the lives of the young people of our community.
When I hear of the many Black youth who are homeless, thrown out of their families’ homes because they are gay, it is a matter of life and death. When I hear of the homeless young people who are sleeping on buses and subway cars, in doorways and on friends’ couches because they cannot access the limited number of shelter beds for homeless gay youth, it is life and death. Too often, these young people are ill prepared to function independently. Some are as young as 13 years of age. Clearly, they have insufficient formal education and they have no marketable skills. Frequently, they are literally thrown from their homes with only the clothing on their backs and with no birth certificates or other legal papers. As the record shows, most of them will continue in an adult life of chronic homelessness.
Why is the bible used as a justification for condemning these young people and providing a rationale for this kind of parental neglect and abandonment? Why are these young people said to be excluded from God’s grace and love? We are challenged by some religious people who say that they are not homophobic, that they do not hate us, but they love us and so does God. They claim to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” I say to them, “If yours is not hate and prejudice intended to harm, why is your use of scriptures followed by graphic expressions of what you believe to be our sexual behavior? These descriptions do not come from the bible. These characterizations are from your own minds and mouths.”
Many same-gender-loving people have been raised in religious homes and in spite of the harm caused, we continue to be faithful. We support financially, and we serve as ushers, choir members and directors, cooks, servers and other roles of stewardship. Even so, we have only been allowed to participate with limitations and restrictions. Yet, many of us remain. Others have walked away bearing the hurt in silence.
Over the years, there have been many who have publicly objected, but there has been little or no change in many houses of worship. Time has passed and now, as individuals and organizations, we have joined together to push back and object to what we have experienced. LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent is one of these organizations. We were formed in 2011 to actively advocate and educate for the rights, protections and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Black community. The movement for human rights and LGBT rights cannot be stopped. One day we will see the total rejection of the use of scriptures to justify homophobia, harm and hate.
Dr. Wilhelmina Perry holds a masters in social work and a doctorate in human behavior and leadership. She has been a social work faculty, administrator of not-for-profit institutions and community educator. Dr. Perry currently serves as Administrative Coordinator of LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent.