Edited By William M. Reynolds
Chapter Sixteen: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The Unspoken Policy of the AfricanAmerican Church in the South
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The Unspoken Policy of the African American Church in the South
DERRICK M. TENNIAL
At the age of 6, I became consciously and acutely aware of my attraction to the same sex. One evening, my aunt’s boyfriend came over to visit, and I recall swinging between his legs and “liking it,” and him…more than I should. Noting my behavior as “queer” for a little boy, and out of genuine concern, my aunt informed my mother, my uncles, and the family matriarch—my grandmother. Standing in my grandmother’s kitchen, an impromptu family meeting was held, and I was made painfully aware that homosexuality would not be celebrated or tolerated in this family—that it was sinful in the eyes of GOD! In fact, it was more than sinful—it was an ABOMINATION! My 6-year-old mind did not know the meaning of that word, but the way my grandmother said it made it sound worse than death. I cried, and that cry was the beginning of internalizing feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and condemnation—feelings that would only be intensified by my religious community. I cried, and that cry was for the fact somewhere inside I knew that I would have to navigate contradictory spaces and liminal places because of the religious mindset of the people. I cried, and that cry was the beginning of the covering of my true self because I understood that when it came...
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