How I Fixed My Shocking Ignorance of the LGBTQ Community

The World’s Most Courageous Group Deserves My Apology

lgbtq
Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

“Real Knowledge is to Know The Extent of One’s Ignorance.” — Confucius

The gay community is verbally assaulted every day and it’s bullshit. You wanna know what’s even worse? Check this out:

  • I repeatedly mocked a male bisexual Emo during filming of a 2009 episode of my web series.
  • The following year, I pretended to be surprised to find out that he was a guy because he wore makeup and his hair in a ponytail.
  • The same year, I subjected a homosexual to my relentless mocking and a horribly disrespectful round of homophobic insults on camera.

Both men deserved my sincerest apologies then, but they will get it now. I was wrong and I do apologize.

Expressing Remorse

I’ve always considered myself a people person. Much of that is attributed to the simple fact that I am fascinated by the uniqueness of people and what makes them think and behave the way they do.

To me, the only things that actually define people and make them who they are, is their personality and life experiences.

It wasn’t until this year that I realized how awful I behaved and spoke about homosexuals for years. This was purely ignorant and needlessly cruel.

I apologize to not only homosexuals, but the entire LGBTQ community.

This past summer, I began delving deeper into my mind to make sense of the disrespect and abuse. I’m ashamed of the discriminatory fashion in which I have spoken in the past.

More importantly, I’ve never been against gay people at all.

What Caused My Gay Ignorance?

Here’s what the excavation of my mind produced on this topic: I had allowed the culture of my upbringing and community to influence my thoughts on this.

Growing up in inner city Cleveland, Ohio, especially as a black kid, homosexuality was always seen and portrayed as a negative. It was framed as a source of embarrassment and ridicule and people typically made fun of guys who happened to be gay, or exhibited feminine traits. This happened on television and in real life.

I was a gigantic fan of Eddie Murphy throughout his mega popular prime in the 1980s. I also happened to be a Pre-K, kindergarten and elementary school student for nearly the entire decade. His stand-up was pure genius and a huge inspiration to me.

I Felt Unaffected By Eddie Murphy’s Homophobia

The comedy special, Eddie Murphy: Delirious premiered in 1983 and featured many homophobic digs that had the audience howling with laughter.

None of that would fly today. The Murphy project that most caught my attention was his more ambitious concert film; 1987’s Eddie Murphy Raw.

In that 90 minute laugh fest, the 26-year old superstar went deeper with his trashing of gay men. It’s shocking now, 33 years later to listen to those jokes and to see the audience finding them to be acceptable and even funny.

I’m not suggesting that Eddie made me wanna speak the same cruelty about gay people. But I am saying that watching and hearing that type of thing always felt normal to me because that’s how my environment trained me.

In my neighborhood, if you wanted to insult or embarrass a guy, you called him a fag or a sissy. It was even grounds for staying away from someone who was said to be gay.

When I insulted those guys on my show, I didn’t necessarily take my cues from Eddie. But I did play it for comedy and it wasn’t right. When I watch those clips today, or even think about them, I’m very disappointed in myself.

Hatred of Gay People is Something I Never Felt

One of the biggest reasons that I’m pissed at that version of myself is because I hurled those insults when I never actually felt that way. My words were purely for shock value and in the process, I violated the civil rights of these people.

In trying to be a provocateur, I incorrectly portrayed myself as a gay bashing homophobe.

I’ll say it again: I’ve never had any issue with gays.

Like I said, it took me all these damn years to realize that I was following the unwritten rules of my environment as a child, that continued into my teens and adulthood.

The Ugliness of Toxic Masculinity

Straight guys, especially straight black guys always viewed gayness as a weakness.

These days, something like that would be referred to as toxic masculinity. I was behaving the same as white folks who discriminates against black folks simply because they’re black.

Admittedly, societies’ increased acceptance of the entire LGBTQ community has helped me to understand my errors. I like people too much to dislike them because of their race, religion, gender or even, their sexual orientation.

I have also looked at my own life, and how I have greatly benefited from my mom always allowing me to be who I was becoming at any given moment. She supported me in all of my “weirdness” as the other kids called it. That is when a key turning point took place for me:

The value of being yourself.

LGBTQ: The Mentally Strongest People In The World

I thought about how being yourself is the strongest thing that you can do when other people take issue with who you are. In that respect, anyone who is a part of the LGBTQ community are some of the bravest and strongest people in the entire world.

I am now a supporter of that community. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be at every rally or that I will go out of my way to find a gay friend. To me, that is far too artificial and not authentic.

Photo of Deante Young.
Author photo.

But, I am certainly a lot more mindful of my words and thoughts because quite frankly, there’s nothing wrong with liking or loving who you like or love. I asked myself, “how does another man being gay affect my life at all?

The answer was stunning in its simplicity; a resounding “not in any way.”

Asking Myself A Tough Question Was Very Revealing

When former basketball superstar Dwyane Wade announced that his then 12 year old son Zion wanted to publicly identify as a female, I was caught off guard.

Zion was known shortly thereafter as Zaya, Wade’s then 12-year old daughter. Of course, tons of negative responses came their way and many were outraged that Wade “allowed” that from his kid.

I then asked myself a very real question. How would I react if I had a son who felt that he identified as a girl? My answer needed to be very honest. I realized that I would be upset and frustrated, but when I asked myself why, the answer was quite simply, because I would have made his choice all about me.

I would’ve wanted him to be a studly ladies man, like Sam Malone on Cheers or Charlie Harper on Two and a Half Men.

I wouldn’t want to deal with people making fun of me for having a son that felt as though he was actually a girl. And so forth and so on. The common theme in all of that is, it was only ME, ME and ME. No thoughts on what or how the child was feeling.

That’s when I had yet another moment of clarity because I realized that even though that child is a child, they are still a human with their own feelings, thoughts and perspectives.

Our children have our DNA, but their mind is all theirs and if they can’t get an advocate in their own parent to be understanding and selfless, that could destroy their sense of self confidence and obliterate their view of their own self worth.

So, I have put my ignorance out of its misery and have instead chosen to just love people and respect them in all of their uniqueness.

Just like me.

Personal Development Writer | Deante Unlimited podcast, Host | Deante: Under Construction web series, Star | Deante Young Enterprises, Chief Creative Architect

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