By J.W. Richard – Mandrake Society Radio
The celebrity buzz during the first week of June was about worldwide pop music artist, Ricky Martin, being placed on the cover of People Magazine en espanol with his two kids. Ricky recently came out as homosexual about a month ago. For People en Espanol to honor him in this way is historic.
As Father’s Day 2010 draws nearer, my question is what major black lifestyle magazine would make such a bold move to place an openly gay celebrity father on their cover with their kids? And who would that black gay father would be?
There is still an unfortunate stigma against homosexual men that they are all predatory toward children. One would think that with the amount of actual child abuse statistics stating that heterosexual males comprised at least 96% of accused child sexual abusers are heterosexual (2000 by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault), one would think that this idea would finally be debunked.
However, folklore expressed between barbershops and church pulpits throughout Dallas and elsewhere continue to keep the fear alive. Notice, however, the source of the fear spurned on by the male privileged areas of the barbershops and the pulpits and the discussion could include much more than just the inequities against gay men.
I posed my question to a few men that I knew who are black fathers and are also gay and raising sons, and their responses were enlightening. I will use pseudonyms to protect the families of both men, though they are both openly gay to friends and family. One of the gentleman I’ll refer to here as Jerrald.
Jerrald has an MBA and works as an adjunct professor for a couple of for-profit colleges. His partner is in education and clergy. Together, they raise Jerrald’s biological four-year old son. “I think it was overall a good thing what People [Magazine] did by publishing the article,”Jarrell said. “I think it was a decent gesture on Ricky’s part to agree and to come out publicly. Ricky’s future is secure enough to take the risk.” Jerrald replied.
“But neither Ricky nor the editor has walked in the hard bottom shoes of the African American Gay Male when it comes to being socially accepted or exalted. Because the greater judgement against us comes from our own community, comprising the audience for prominent black media, it will take a very brave magazine and a celebrity willing to lose everything to make this happen. Besides a celebrity, I would be very happy to read about the everyday same gender male couples raising healthy and balanced kids.”
The other gentleman I spoke with is Ronald, who is a grant writer and playwright. Together with his partner of 14 years, they have two sons from a former marriage. When talking with Ronald about the stigma of fear in the black community around gays in general, he replied that “if [black political leadership] would put forth the same intensity of energy working on the root causes of the breakdown of the black family, perhaps they would be less likely to use homosexuals and lesbians as the community ‘scape goats’ for all that is wrong with the black community,” Ronald said. “They should look at the absence of heterosexual fathers in the home, the over abundance of heterosexual fathers in the penal system, the over abundance of heterosexual mothers raising their children as single parents (well over 70%), the under-education of these children because the heterosexual mother has to work to provide, the over abundance of these children of heterosexual parents in the juvenile justice system as a result, as well as the overabundance of black children in the foster care system as a result of heterosexual parents.”
On a personal note, I asked Jerrald and Ronald about their main challenges with in-laws as they raise their families. Jerrald replied, “The greatest challenge [with his family] was getting past the stereotype that all gay relationships are short lived, and as gay men we should not raise a son. The thought, as ignorant as it may be, was obviously that homosexuality is taught or learned behavior.”
Ronald added, “My biological family has not really been involved in my home or family life, beyond phone calls and the occasional card or visit, which is fine. My spouse and I are very integrated into his family and have always been. His relatives don’t hide the nature of our relationship with their friends and associates and the consider me ‘family’ without question or explanation. His family has been extremely supportive of our relationship, which is really ‘odd’ for two black men. We demand respect and that’s what we get. We consider their support a blessing.” ”
So while we may not see a major black lifestyle magazine running a cover of a black and openly gay celebrity, let alone one with kids, in the near future, I believe that these dads I spoke with and other like them deserve our community’s support and respect for accepting the hard task of fatherhood. Have a blessed Father’s Day!
JW Richard makes audio recordings and shares stories about Dallas Black gay life at MandrakeSocietyRadio.com and is also the managing director of Fahari Arts Institute. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org