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Faith Matters: With son’s sex arrest queries resurface about Bishop T. D. Jakes’ sexuality

By Rev. Irene Monroe
When preachers pontificate too much from on High about the sins of homosexual sex, the cautionary tale is to be careful of what you say, because your words invariable will come back to bite you, as we have seen with fallen evangelical star pastor Ted Haggard.

For Bishop T. D. Jakes, the internationally known African American evangelical star dubbed the black Billy Graham, his rantings against homosexuality have come back to bite him in the form of his oldest son’s recent arrest.

On Jan. 3, Jermaine Jakes was arrested in a sex sting for openly soliciting gay sex from an undercover vice detective in a public park just a few blocks from his father’s church, The Potter’s House, a 30,000 member megachurch in Dallas, Texas.

The arrest warrant affidavit filed by Dallas Police detectives on Jermaine Jakes stated the following:

“Suspect Jakes walked directly over to where Detective X was, and stood next to Detective X with his penis exposed through his unzipped pants… Suspect Jakes committed the offense of indecent exposure by exposing his erect penis in a public place with his intent to gratify or arouse the sexual desire of himself. Suspect Jakes was reckless about whether another was present who would be offended or alarmed by his actions.”

While Bishop Jakes is tight-lipped on the topic of his son’s homosexuality, the African American LGBTQ community isn’t. As a matter of fact, the son’s arrest has the African American LGBTQ community abuzz with rumors resurfacing about Bishop Jake’s sexuality.

In September 2005, activists Keith Boykin and Jasmyne Cannick kicked off a five-part series, “Outing Black Pastors,” on their respective websites, querying publicly whether prominent pastors in the black community, like Bishops T.D. Jakes and Eddie Long, who constantly rail against LGBTQ people, were actually struggling with their own sexual orientation.

But black ministers living on the down low (DL) is not a new phenomenon in the African-American community. Naming it publicly, however, is.

J.L. King, who became the country’s poster boy by exposing the behavior in his best-seller On The Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep with Men, stated, not surprisingly, that many of his partners were churchmen.

“There are gospel conventions throughout the nation for churches. There is one for ushers, Sunday school departments, music departments and ministers… These events allow men to meet men and to have sex while away from their hometowns. Many midnight concerts turn into affairs where brothers are cruising each other. I’ve been there, seen it and done it,” King states in his book.

Many African-American men on the DL say there are two salient features that contribute to this subculture — white gay culture and the Black Church. DL men deliberately segregate themselves from both black and white gay cultures as an alternative black masculinity that only wants to have sex and socialize with other black men. But class is a factor here, too. While many gay African-American men have the economic mobility to reside outside of the black community and are likely to intermingle with the dominant gay culture, most DL men don’t.

“They’ve created a community of their own, a cultural party where whites aren’t invited. Labeling yourself as DL is a way to disassociate from everything white and upper class… And that is a way for DL men to assert some power,” George Ayala, director of education for AIDS Project Los Angeles, told the Times in the 2003 article.

But the Black Church’s conservative gender roles and anti-gay theology also contribute to this subculture. Bishop T. D Jakes defines homosexuality in men as a spiritual “brokenness, “due to long-term imprisonment, absentee fathers, having been sexually abused or not knowing how to have healthy social relationships with men.

Poster boy for African-American ex-gay ministries, gospel mega-star Pastor Donnie McClurkin, feels similarly to Jakes, stating he was once sexually abused by an uncle and that brought about his proclivity to same-sex attraction.

“There’s a group that says, ‘God made us this way,’ but then there’s another group that knows God didn’t make them that way. Love is pulling you one way and lust is pulling you another, and your relationship with Jesus is tearing you.”

Bishop T. D. Jakes told the Dallas Voice he would never hire a sexually active gay person to his ministry, but that’s hard to believe. Why? Because there are two types of gay masculinities in the Black church. One expresses itself fairly openly in the choir, with the choirmaster not surprisingly gay. Bishop Jakes is a former choirmaster.

The other conceals itself within a homosocial community of DL male clerics that finds camaraderie at black pastors’ conferences, or at all-male conferences like T.D. Jakes’s upcoming March 6-8 “Manifest.” These clerics intentionally exploit their ecclesiastical authority by using anti-gay rhetoric and the Bible as their cover-up.

“To date, I have not seen scriptural authority that allows me to stand on behalf of God and say I now pronounce you husband and husband, and wife and wife. This is an issue the government is undecided about. The Bible is not,” Bishop Jakes told USA Today.

Many African American brothers have said that T.D. Jakes is a little too “swishy and sweet” to not question his sexuality. But Jermaine Jakes is unapologetically and unabashedly gay. Some in the African American community say Jakes is intentionally flamboyant and sexually reckless to publicly deride and embarrass his homophobic dad.

But there are others in the community who say Jermaine is just like his dad, but he is not hiding behind a stained-glass closet

Conundrums: Michael Steele and missed opportunities

By Ove Overmyer
When newly elected Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Michael Steele spoke about gay people and relationship recognition in a way that no previous party chair has done before, I thought, wow– this will not sit very well with conservatives in his party.

The interview in GQ magazine (The Reconstructionist, March 11, 2209) marked the first time the leader of the Republican Party has gone on record in such an honest way, staking out mainstream positions about equality that probably put him at odds with the far right of the GOP.

Granted, Mr. Steele is off to a very rocky start, being more of a talking head press hound rather than doing the behind-the scenes rebuilding and organizing of his wounded Party. Because of some hugely embarrassing foibles, Steele has become a punching bag of sorts, the fodder for pundits of MSNBC and the blogosphere wannabees waiting to pounce on his every word.

In his first six weeks in office, Steele has failed to hire a chief of staff and a communications director. He has flip-flopped on civil unions and the abortion issue, made offensive comments about “one-armed midgets,” apologized to Rush Limbaugh, sought to give the hip-hop generation a place in right-wing party politics and has threatened to withhold GOP funds from certain moderate and conservative GOP senators.

The party of “NO” (GOP) has become so irrelevant these days, the Washington press core and Democratic National Committee are hysterically laughing at them over cosmos and apple martinis in every watering hole in the District of Columbia.

When asked in the GQ interview if being gay is a choice, Steele said, “Oh, no. I don’t think I’ve ever really subscribed to that view… ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being gay.’ It’s like saying, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black.’”

Steele also affirmed his opposition to amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage stating, “I don’t like mucking around with the Constitution. I’m sorry, I just don’t.” He even went so far as to voice support for legal protections for gay couples. He stopped short of endorsing gay marriage.

Consequently, Michael Steele might be on his way out. It appears that forces within the GOP are rising up against him. His stance on gay issues just might be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Mr. Steele’s problems are pretty much self-inflicted, too. He holds the world record for the least amount of time between making a public statement on an issue and then publicly apologizing for making the comment. His political spine not only bends, it is now broken and needs traction.

However, I have to give him credit for one thing. He gives much more interesting interviews than GOP leaders of the past. His unpredictability has become a genuine source of info-tainment. I always thought that the political life of a black Republican must be fairly contradictory and difficult, but I never imagined that so many of the black RNC members would turn on him so quickly.

This guy is getting flack from all sides these days. In a way, I have sympathy for him—how ironic this squabble of soft bigotry of lowered expectations is playing itself out with the RNC and GOP.

More importantly, what I found peculiar about the reaction to Steele’s amiable take on gay rights is that the gay leadership of the nation’s top LGBT advocacy organizations has basically said nothing about his comments in GQ. I know these groups raise a risk by praising him—the result may irk the GOP to the breaking point and that’s not what the Democrats want.

Additionally, all the same leading LGBT groups were quick to slam Steele a few weeks ago when, on a talk radio show, he said that the GOP was not likely to officially endorse passing civil unions legislation. That’s not his personal view.

When that hit the press loop, the Log Cabin Republican gay group fired off a news release attacking Steele and Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese penned an opinion piece in Politico forcefully condemning Steele as having “more style than substance.”

HRC’s “attack mode” response to the Steele comment was predictable, and it was six days before the GQ interview. Who knows, next week the RNC Chair might be singing a different tune. Some have said that the HRC’s leadership appears too comfortable in the role as primary servant for the Democratic Party. In some cases, I have to agree. Why not praise Steele’s message as progress and not highlight the messenger?

For as many years as I can remember, the Log Cabin folks and HRC have repeatedly said that the Republican Party must become more inclusive and modernize its positions on gay issues. Neither organization flinches about attacking the GOP when they feel the urge, while at the same time refusing to hold Democratic leaders accountable for their failures to pass any meaningful gay-related legislation. See the conundrum here? Please, someone send up a flare if I am wrong here.

Unfortunately, and more disturbingly, the tactics and language of gay leadership have become way more divisive and punishing. If you aren’t supporting equality efforts all the way, you aren’t just against gay people — you are labeled a bigot and other colorful stuff. Any polished legislator will tell you that enacting bills and getting legislation passed is more nuanced than throwing epitaphs at people who reside on the other side of the political continuum. We should be reaching out to the moveable middle and staying clear of the loud mouth right-winged rhetoric.

While this approach may feel good for the moment, it is destructive to the long-term efforts to build a national community where sexual orientation no longer is a big deal. Some leaders of the gay community are forgetting the hard work of changing hearts and minds. By not doing so, they are missing opportunities to build future allies.

We should be jumping at the chance to praise Steele’s comments in the GQ interview, but it seems that political posturing was more important that speaking out on the bigger ultimate goal of equality for all Americans. After all, it’s much easier and a hell of a lot more fun to trash a Republican.

It is time for the current national political gay leadership to refocus. Now, more than ever, we need to be asking the tough questions about who is speaking for us and who is responsible for staking out the strategy to achieve equality. If any of you self-proclaimed national leaders are reading this, please, let’s have no more missed opportunities. They are too far and few between.

Sen. Schumer announces support for marriage equality

March 23, 2009—Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) today announced his support for marriage equality for same sex couples and for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The announcement followed a meeting on Sunday evening in Manhattan, initiated by Senator Schumer, with a group of New York LGBT elected officials and leaders of the city’s largest LGBT organizations, including Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.

“I want to thank Sen. Schumer for his support of marriage equality and the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act,” said Van Capelle. “Like a majority of New Yorkers, Sen. Schumer recognizes that only marriage equality provides same sex couples the status, protections and rights afforded to all other Americans. We look forward to working with him to win marriage equality in New York State and around the country.”

Van Capelle said that during the meeting, Schumer pledged his support to repeal DOMA and, in the interim, to work to provide federal recognition and portability of benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Sen. Schumer is Vice Chair of the U.S. Senate’s Democratic Conference and the highest ranking member of the Senate to endorse marriage equality.

Among other topics discussed at the meeting were continued HIV and Ryan White Care Act funding, appointment of openly LGBT people to the federal bench, special issues facing LGBT youth and seniors, the U.S. Census, and passage of a trans-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and hate crimes legislation.

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