The Los Angeles Times publishes an excellent article on black gay students and homophobia at the well-respected, historically black men's college located in Atlanta. It's difficult to believe that in 2008, during the same week Morehouse College graduates its first white valedictorian, many alumni still question whether the vaunted "Morehouse Man" can be both black and gay. Openly gay senior Michael Brewer says "yes" and leads a candlelight vigil at Morehouse College honoring victims of homophobia.
"Morehouse is like this enclave where Stonewall never happened," Brewer said, referring to the 1969 New York protest that galvanized the gay rights movement. "It just doesn't exist in this realm of reality."
Brewer, 22, didn't come to Morehouse with the intent of changing it. But he found that he had no choice. He had arrived here from Oklahoma City pretty comfortable with himself: outspoken, proudly smart and, at 5 foot 9 and 300 pounds, hard to miss.
Early on, he decided he wouldn't water down his gay identity.
And that, historically, has been a problematic strategy at Morehouse. The 141-year-old college has played a key role in defining black manhood in America. But with a past steeped in religion, tradition and machismo, it has struggled to determine how homosexuality fits within that definition.
Michael Brewer says when he arrived on campus, he discovered Morehouse "had lived with a schizophrenic reputation." The school was always rumored to house many gays and apparently many students acted out to perpetuate a violent and homophobic culture to pushback against the reputation. Karsh, who blogs at Black Gay Blogger, is also a Morehouse graduate and discussed this in his Men of Morehouse series.
"Students of Brewer's generation were showing up at Morehouse more comfortable with being openly gay," The Times reports, noting "a small groundswell of activity" on campus, including the president of Brewer's freshman class coming out, the formation of a gay student group, and, a documentary produced at neighboring Spelman that profiled gay and lesbian life at the two colleges. But not everyone welcomes the few openly gay students: "Isaiah Wilson, 21, a gay senior, said that someone slipped a death threat under his door during his freshman year. But he believes the school has benefited because he and others refused to conceal their sexual orientation. 'You're going to have the idea of the Morehouse man evolve over the years,,' he said."
Many HBCUs do not have a good track record with gay and lesbian students and the college prep school at LeMoyne Owen was recently accused of anti-gay harassment. Most experts say the problem is more severe at Morehouse, which has been routinely listed as one of nation's most homophobic campuses by the Princeton Review. The campus has seen numerous well-publicized cases of homophobia, including accusations of anti-gay hiring bias at the College of Medicine and harassment of gay students. In November 2002, one former Morehouse nearly killed another student with a baseball bat because he believed the student was gay and made a pass at him.
Some Background ....
Principal Was "Appropriate" to "Out" Black Gay HBCU Prep Students [R20]
Principal Outs Students at HBCU Prep [The Daily Voice]
Principal Outs Students at HBCU Prep [R20]
Homophobia at Hampton? [R20]
"Brother Outsider" Screenings [R20]
Judge Reduces Morehouse Sentence [R20]
Morehouse Anti-Gay Firing [R20]
Black and Gay at Morehouse [Keith Boykin]
A Tale of Two Campuses [Keith Boykin]
Man of Morehouse Part 3[Black Gay Bloger]
Black Museums Should Celebrate Gays[R20]
The (Very Very Gay) Men of Morehouse[R20]