My theory on the two sources of Afrikan-“American” homophobia:
I think there were two developments. One was the attack on Afrikan masculinity within white supremacy. That persistent attack, in the context of a lack of education about Afrikan masculinity among Afrikan people themselves, led to a defensiveness, built around Western stereotypes of masculinity. It’s not our discourse culturally, but is rooted in the kinds of Western hypermasculinity that Hitler pushed. In Eurocentric patriarchy, masculinity is associated with the sexual control of women and with the total externality of feminine from the masculine self-image. Homosexuality is a threat to both, presenting women as being perceived out of their sexual position of being sexually controlled by men and men as donning perceived feminine roles. Since men in this rendering are seen as the only true legitimate source of family, morality, and income, preserving or restoring those things necessitates the most vociferous attack on homosexuals and homosexuality.
The other issue is religion but not actual theology originally. For centuries many African spiritual and religious systems had knowingly homosexual members and thinkers and participants. Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin and so many other men and women were central to the struggle led by the church for desegregation. Most of us, if we are honest know about gay presence in our personal church experience in music, the pastorate, all over. What happened was the white supremacist and economic attack of Reaganism in the 80s, which further decimated African masculinity and our families. The churches as the protectors of family and community sought to respond. But, unlike the climate for the pre-80s churches, it was then politically dangerous and too revolutionary to take the 60s tack of King and social justice because of the newly extreme hostility to the 60s and civil rights in that time. So the communal church latched on instead to the conservative ideology of victimology where community causes rather than systemic causes had to be the focus. They began to critique the community more than help and represent it. Homosexuality was one easy internal target, youth another, African women were another, and so the church essentially moved to defending Eurocentric 1950s images of the family with the patriarchy and the resistance to antiracist and other liberatory discourse, the position that King attacked “white” churches for in the ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The church did not invent homophobia theologically. But many churches signed on to the general Eurocentric homophobia of the time and validated it theologically in the same way “white” Christian churches during slavery and segregation incorporated white supremacy. Just as promoting pride about being European and having European heritage does not mean you have to be a white supremacist, so too promoting “traditional” marriage and family does not mean accepting the philosophy of Eurocentric homophobia, which is bigotry and prejudice which are as sinful as all the moral pronouncements made by those who buy into that ideology aim at others.
And the lies and deception of the Reagan administration that HIV was a sexuality and race specific disease or intentionally directed from God (what kind of God did they have) did not help matters.
Homophobia will not save African familial and economic life. Building collective political economy and a cultural foundation to undergird it will.
If we want to save Afrikan masculinity, we need to start with saving our men from bullets since that is the number one threat, some from crazy cops, but most from themselves and bullets don’t actually check sexual identity or gender before they penetrate.