LeRon Barton didn’t think of himself as a homophobe, but he had to learn to back that up with his actions.
A long time ago, like 20 years ago (man I am so dating myself here. Don’t try and do the math) I was told by certain relatives, “You better start messing with some girls. You don’t want people to start calling you a faggot do you?” I said, “No. Hell nah.” I had been a young guy not so much interested in chasing women but caught up in hip-hop and X-Men comic books. I would admire women, but at that time, they were not really on my radar. And so because of that, certain relatives started to wonder, “Whats wrong with LeRon?” and “Why does he not talk about girls?”
Growing up in the Black community, the male is often looked at as super-masculine. A hard, tough man who is the provider, he can never show weakness. He is not meant to cry, be soft, or anything other than a John Henry type character. There can be no trace of femininity. So when a man does not fit this very linear profile, he is vilified. Coming up, many folks would disparage and just straight out hate homosexuals. I mean the most angry comments you could imagine would be thrown. It did not matter if that person was gay or not, because if that guy (and sometimes, but rarely women) were not fitting the profile of a straight man, then he was attacked. And because this was the order of the day, monkey see/monkey do, I would hurl my insults and embody that hatred.
Hating something or someone takes a lot of effort. You have to always have on your mind, “You hate this type of person.” It does not matter if you have never met or had interaction with the people you hate, you have to hate them. It is like a job. Wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “Time to hate.” And looking back on that, a lot had to do with how I was raised. I didn’t have my father around and was raised by my mother with my grandmother and aunt. Even though my grandfather was in the household, I was surrounded by women, so naturally I am not gonna be the most masculine cat in the world. I grew up learning how to cook, knowing about fashion designers, and watching soap operas, so I didn’t fit in the mold of the super-masculine black man. To overcompensate for this, I tried (unsuccessfully) to be tough (which got me thrown in jail – not the best place to be) and jumped into the “F Gays” and “Lesbians are worthless” bandwagon. Yeah, that was me. It is sick to even think about it now, but that’s how messed up I was.
I can’t remember the moment when I started to let go of these beliefs, but I just noticed that it was gradual. See the thing about exposure and ignorance is that they cannot coexist. You can be huddled up in your own little space believing what you want to believe, but once you leave that space, you start to see life in a whole different way. And when I left my neighborhood and started to interact with different types of people, the negative beliefs I once held, faded away. I then started realizing, “Darn, I wasted a lot of time thinking that way.”
When I moved back to SD in 2005, I mostly hung around with women because well, if you know me you know I love “Team Woman.” But as much as I loved the opposite sex (and still do), I needed guy friends. The thing about making friends when you get older is that it is not as easy as it was when you were in high school or college. People got families, jobs, girlfriends and wives, so most cats don’t have time to hit up the bars or watch a game. I remember the first guy that I started hanging with was my man Matty. He was a recent transplant and we hit it off. Unbeknownst to me, he was also gay. At this time in my life, it didn’t matter to me. Hey, I didn’t gay bash, I supported gay rights, and accepted everyone for who they were. But I still used the word faggot and said things like, “That is so gay,” and my personal favorite, “No homo.” Now lets think about this: You call yourself non-homophobic, go to gay bars with your homie, and are accepting of all, but still use the slurs? Something ain’t right.
I always said that, “You can call me anything – asshole, bastard, punk, yada yada, yada, but you will not call me a hypocrite.” I always felt that being a hypocrite was the worst thing a person could be, and I was walking around being one. My friend Andrea and I would have these awesome discussions and she woud always cite the “fully evolved male,” and that is something that I have always sought to be. By me using these words, even in a playful way, didn’t aid me in my quest to be that. So I put them down. I realized that they had no place in my life, like Kenny G CDs and voting for Marco Rubio. By saying these slurs, I was doing my friendships with those who are gay a disservice.
Now I can call myself an ally of the LGBT community. I mean if you think about it, many gay people have impacted my life. My fave poet of all time (Langston Hughes) was gay. My fave rock singer of all time (Freddie Mercury) is gay. One of my fave fashion designers (Giorgio Armani) is gay. One of my bestest friends (whats up Jason T) is gay. Heck, my fave Sunday brunch place is gay (Urban Moes, holla!). So many great people in my life are a part of the homosexual community and I would not want to do anything but show them love. So I guess what I am trying to say is that any type of homophobia – from the casual or playful to the vitriolic is wrong. Cut it out, you’re better than that.
This article was originally published at Mainline Publishing.