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When I was looking at colleges, HBCU recruiters shared their vision with me. A vision of unity, where I would be accepted in all of my blackness and celebrated for doing just that. I needn’t worry about micro-aggressions from white students or being the only black student in a classroom. I would not be the token minority, I would be the majority.

imageI’d be lying if I said I was immediately swayed by this. It is definitely appealing, but as a gay black man, I knew that hand that was being extended to me concealed a deadly venom, physically and mentally. Growing up as a black boy I know best the pressures black men put upon other black men to be masculine. Who’s the “hardest?” Who’s the “rawest?” Who’s the most “savage?” I chose not to be a slave to the hypermasculine demands of cishet black men.

HBCUs are painted as safe spaces for black youth. Sometimes with a religious aspect, sometimes without. Both of these, however, are just as dangerous to me as a gay black man. It’s disingenuous to try to recruit me to your HBCU when you value cishet black men over everyone else. An HBCU to me is 4 years of homophobia and misogynoir masked in “Brotherhood.”

I don’t seek a brotherhood. I seek a place where I can study and excel in peace, black AND gay. I seek a place where I don’t need to worry about black men shaming me for not being “hard” enough. I can’t say an HBCU is a safe space for me because I’m a gay androgynous man. My words will always be overshadowed by cishet black imagemen because my sexuality and presentation makes me less credible.

I have spent my entire life around cishet black men and they have without a doubt, been some of the most unapologetically abusive people I have ever come into contact with. Black men grow up having to be tough as nails, and my very being threatens that blockade they’ve spent so long crafting. I am automatically drilling into their masculinity by walking near them.

Now this isn’t to say that white men aren’t offended by my black ass, but there is a certain way that cishet black men interact with me that is inherently vile and can not be mimicked. I’m not safe at an HBCU or a PWI, but to pretend like I would be safer at an HBCU is just false advertisement. Nothing bonds straight black men more than homophobia and misogynoir.

By vetting my fears I am constantly reduced to the “sensitive” stereotype. That gay men are too sensitive or complaining over nothing. When I’ve talked to people from HBCUs about these very issues the response was a crystal clear. “Fuck your safety.” By reprimanding imageHBCUs for not being in 1st place when it comes to LGBT I was causing “unnecessary grievances.” I was told my issues were personal issues and that HBCU campuses should not be held accountable for the safety of LGBT students who might attend.

This solidified my choice in not attending, because cishet black people would rather accuse me of making a mountain out of a molehill than listening to my concerns as a gay black man and why I did not feel comfortable attending their university. It’s easy to say “Fuck you.” It’s much harder to sit down and listen to what you don’t want to hear. I understand being defensive over a place you feel is ingrained within you, but silencing me shows where your unity stops. It’s a one-way street, and my gay/androgynous intersection is not included.

Many black HBCU students and alumni I talked to tried to tell me they had gay friends who attended their school so their schools couldn’t possibly be homophobic. This is as bad as the “I can’t be racist I have a black friend!” defense. Yes, you can. I don’t know your gay friends. I don’t know if they meet the gender binary, I don’t know how much of a target they are.

List-of-HBCUsHow you look has a great deal of influence in how people will treat you. I am 5’5 with a small voice and long hair. People do not view me in the same light as a gay man who’s 6’2 with a deep voice and a fade. When I walk into a room people can automatically tell I’m not the same as other black men solely based on my appearance. This is not something I can “turn off” so to speak. It is who I am and I should not have to conform to what straight black men look like to feel safe at an HBCU.

I am all for celebrating blackness and cultivating the minds of young black people. I can not, however, in good faith go to an HBCU with a more optimistic outlook than a PWI because I know I am still a second-class citizen, even in my own community. My identity does not stop at black, my existence is far more detailed than that. Being outside of the “norm” is intrinsic to my being, and I refuse to accept the cup of poison being offered just because it’s hidden behind a fake promise of black unity and brotherhood.

Until you can accept me, my blackness, AND my queerness, you can keep your pseudo-unity. I will ascend to greater heights without it.

 

 

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  1. The Real HU

    April 29, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Um, I understand you’re concerned but HBCUs are very diverse. There are gay, straight, corny, cool, rich, poor, and every kind of black person there. The environment is what you make of it. My undergraduate degree is from an HBCU and my graduate degrees are from “PWIs”. I wouldn’t trade my undergraduate experience for anything. It opened my eyes to the talent, style and diversity of people who look like me. Fitting in at HBCUs is just as hard as it is anywhere else. You just have to find your group and enjoy the experience (step-shows, bomb bands, school rivalries, cabarets, clothing, homecoming). Above all though, enjoy the education.

  2. Demario

    May 1, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I so agree with this article !!! I graduated from a HBCU and I was the most flamboyant thing walking !!! Majority of students did not like it nor the staff . I got discriminated against so bad I mean in my classes I would not sit next to any black guys because if I did I knew they would get up and move to a different chair. I had to get transferred doors because the straight guys did not feel comfortable . I did not get jobs on campus because of my sexuality. But I started to see how the gays at that HBCU got eaten alive and knew it was because everyone thought they were week including me. Well I ended that !!! I began to stand up for myself yes I had a few fights and talked a bunch of shit to people . And that earned my respect people started coming up to me saying what’s up I mean the black gays were more nice to me now they knew I was not week. I can go on and on about my stories because I went to 2 HBCU

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