Racism in the gay community is something that more people are beginning to recognize as a problem, with an ongoing dialogue about how to address the issue. Michael Sam made headlines when he said in an interview with Attitude that he sees more racism in the gay community than he sees homophobia in the black community.
Spenser Clark has penned a piece for Outsports which adds another strong, first-person narrative to the discussion.
“Growing up as a young black man — and later, once I realized it, a gay black man — meant that I always had to prove I was good enough,” he writes.
He shares a story of wanting to play with his friend when he was five years old, only to be told no because the father didn’t want his white son playing with someone that “wasn’t familiar to them.” He recalls the letdown of prom, because he was the only gay kid he knew and he just wanted to go with a date and have fun like his friends.
In many ways, things have not gotten easier since then. He continues:
Yet the most sobering moments in my life have occurred over the past two months, with the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando and the deaths of two more African-American men who didn’t deserve to die. It has been a sobering two months, but months that have changed my perspective on the world I live in.
I woke up the morning after the Pulse shooting with my heart having sunk down to my feet. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t comprehend how people who were simply enjoying life and love could so suddenly be gone.
Love is supposed to win. Love is supposed to be the strongest force in the world. But on that night it wasn’t. Our community was devastated and hurting. We felt under attack in our safe space. We were faced with two choices: live in fear or embrace love.
— Spenser Clark (@spenser_clark) June 26, 2016
“I made a decision to live my truth every day,” he says. But he knows firsthand how difficult letting love win can be and how much bigotry there is left to defeat.
Being a black man is something that I am proud of, yet I know it is something that takes a little more work and requires more patience, as people doubt you and expect you to fail. Their deaths make me embrace my skin, not run from it.
Black lives matter because for so long they didn’t. The movement is about getting respect as human beings and being treated as such. We are not asking for revenge. We are asking simply for equality.
Being a double minority has its great moments, but also its drawbacks when the two groups don’t see eye to eye.
After the Pulse shooting I saw many in the black community silent, while after the police shootings I saw many in the gay community silent. We have to support each other and lean on one another in the tough times. We are stronger together.
Clark points out that it often seems as if “the only voices that get heard in the LGBT community are those of cisgender white men.”
“Their voices are important,” he says, “but people of color have experiences and stories to tell that are just as strong. Make the community whole by giving everyone a voice and respecting all races and not just the majority.”
Clark was previously featured by the publication for his role as an openly gay batboy for the Washington Nationals.
At first, Clark was closeted while working with the team, fearing he would not be accepted.
— Ty McCubbin (@ty_mccubbin) June 25, 2016
He was still fresh off the battle of self-acceptance, explaining that “from elementary school through high school” he hid his true identity and struggled with feelings of self-hatred. He started coming out during the summer leading up to his senior year. By the end of college he had come out to everyone in his life.
Next was having the courage to come out to the team, which felt like a whole other level of coming out.
Coming out to my Nationals coworkers was a completely different experience than any of the others. At work I was tired of trying to fit into conversations about women and having nothing to say. I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted. I didn’t want to hide anymore. I was unsure about how “sports people” would feel about having a gay co-worker. I was worried about getting fired or ostracized, all because of who I am.
None of that happened. I told everyone individually and everyone had similar reactions. They were proud of me and congratulated me for feeling comfortable enough with myself to be myself. They told me that nothing would change – and nothing did.
Clark ends his essay, the first for him as a contributor to Outsports with some advice:
Love goes a long way. It’s important to take time to love yourself in the hard times because your feelings are valid and it’s okay to process them. Lean on members of your communities and use them to lift you up and continue to fight the good fight. Take care of yourself and each other.