Both black and gay: Internal rights fight
One man’s battle to break taboos that exist within his community
A black lesbian reverend recounts her journey from married with children to coming out and finding love — and the effect it had on her sense of belonging to the African-American community.
It was already challenging enough for Cornelius Jones Jr. to grow up being black in the racially-tense South.
But facing the prejudices of the people outside the African American community wouldn’t be the hardest struggle of his life. Even from the young age of 5, Jones had a sense of the obstacles he would face on the inside.
“I didn’t want to be associated with the weakness and nastiness that gay people were defined by in my neighborhood,” Jones remembers of his time growing up on a predominantly black street in Richmond, Va. “In my neighborhood, church and school, gays were constantly shunned, ridiculed and picked on.”
When he was 15, Jones moved to Washington, D.C. to stay with family friends and attend a performing arts high school — “and also to get away from the constant bullying I received,” he said. But they soon learned that he was gay and he was kicked out of the house. It was then that he had to confront his parents with his real identity.
His mother gave him one piece of advice: “Do what you do behind closed doors.”
It would be a lifetime of pain and struggle that would teach him that his mother’s advice was no way to awaken a black community deeply rooted in religion to the rights of gays. And it would be events like the passage of Proposition 8 — the anti-gay marriage measure in California that 70 percent of blacks voted for — that would be a platform for him to open the doors.