Sexuality, Race, & #MyGayPride

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a homophobic and racist man: not because I’m proud of it, but because I understand that my mindset was a result of systemic marginalization and programming. From the aggressive inner city to the ultra-masculine military, I wasn’t given the best environments to cultivate my understanding of my own sexuality, let alone that of others. Homosexuality was treated as an affliction rather than something normal and natural where I grew up. Gay men were freaks and lesbians were marginalized into sex objects for my entertainment. My views were simple and easy to digest at the time. Yet they were totally wrong and I’m glad I’ve learned that.

So for me to be where I am in life now is one part blessing and one part damn miracle. Unfortunately, many in the community where I come from don’t share my current views on and support of LGBT rights. In an effort to spread awareness and show my support for my LGBT friends, family, and colleagues I’ve joined the #MyGayPride campaign as a straight ally.

Here’s a look at my progress from where I was to where I am.

Anti-Racism and Pro Homophobia?
I come from a community that still disrespects and marginalizes homosexuals, despite the fact blacks make up the largest self-identifying percentage of the LGBT community. My family members still frequently use “homo” and “fag.” The deep hatred for homosexuals in the black community, particularly the inner city, is largely based on an antiquated religious model which was forced on us during slavery. Not to mention the effect of a severe lack of education. How is it that we can stand against racism yet not against homophobia?

The deep hatred for homosexuals in the black community, particularly the inner city, is largely based on an antiquated religious model which was forced on us during slavery.

I can tell you this from experience. Most blacks I know don’t believe Civil Rights and Gay Rights are equivalent. The argument usually sounds something like, “Being gay is a choice. I can’t choose not to be black.” A poll in 2012 showed that over 55% of African Americans feel this way, which is understandable but frustrating for me. It’s understandable because I get where the “logic” comes from because I felt exactly the same way. However, it’s frustrating because I would think my people would have evolved beyond supporting oppressive legislation and religious doctrine by now. At some point, we become responsible for our own thoughts and actions and can’t blame our upbringing or environment anymore.

Women needed men in the fight for voting rights. Blacks needed whites during the Civil Rights Movement. And gay people need straight people, especially marginalized straight folks, to ensure they have all the rights of every other citizen. I’m not going to make the comparison between the Civil Rights Movement and Gay Rights Movement that I’ve seen so many others make. I’m making a simple argument. Hard is hard. Oppression is oppression. Stand against the marginalization of all people and you begin to realize the vast similarities of those you stand with regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

When Did I Become Pro Gay Rights?
As I mentioned, I was a huge homophobe. I hated gay men, but sexualized lesbians. I frequently used homophobic language and honestly believed there was something “wrong” with gay men. But it was all a mask: a mask to hide my confusion about my own sexuality. A mask to hide my confusion about my religious confusion. A mask to hide my disgust with our country’s treatment of gay people.

Ever since I was a young man, I’ve been attracted to “plus-sized” women. I love big women. Not really sure why…well, I know exactly why but let’s stay on track here. My friends and family would tease me mercilessly, particularly my uncles, who I idolized. They made me feel like there was something wrong with me for loving me some Angie Stone over Aaliyah. This was what I was naturally attracted to, and I was born that way. As time went on and I stopped giving a damn what people thought of my personal life, I thought, “why the hell do I care what two men are doing in their personal lives?” I was doing the same thing to them as what was done to me. Gay is not a choice. You either choose to act on your natural impulses or not, but having those impulses is not a choice you make. It’s no different than us straights being attracted to certain people. I never decided to be heterosexual. I just am. Although I had this realization, I wasn’t ready to lend my voice to the cause just yet.

As time went on and I stopped giving a damn what people thought of my personal life, I thought, “why the hell do I care what two men are doing in their personal lives?”

While serving in the military, I served with around twenty gay men and women that I knew of. Most people in my units knew they were gay and very few cared. This was before the repealing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These men and women put their lives on the line everyday just like the rest of us. They did the same job yet didn’t have the right to openly love who they wanted, or for their partner to have the same benefits. After having many conversations with gay service members wearing 50 pounds of gear under a hot desert sun with me, I realized this is just wrong.

Why am I joining #MyGayPride?
Auston, from Two Bad Tourists, reached out to me to join this project as a straight ally. I accepted without an ounce of hesitation. I literally rescheduled my entire year of trips to accommodate this campaign. Why? Because it fucking matters. Because no matter how many resorts I cover, countries I visit, or pictures I sell, the LGBT community on a global scale are marginalized and victimized. I have a platform to help them get the equal rights they deserve and a responsibility to use it.

As of today, 79 countries have laws criminalizing homosexuality. In ten of these countries you can be killed for being gay. What kind of world are we living in? For all our advancements, we still stand by and watch this foolishness persist. And I for one won’t sit by and watch my friends and family be treated like animals anymore. So I’m joining 16 LGBTI and straight-allied bloggers covering Gay Pride Events in Barcelona, Ibiza, and Copenhagen beginning with Barcelona Pride on June 24th.

Of course, I’m a bit apprehensive. I still have a lot of growing to do, and things to unlearn. Even though I have many LGBT friends, I still slip back into my old mental space from time to time. I want to fully understand what it is to be an ally beyond the lip service and hashtags, and that’s what I hope to learn.

What About the Consequences? People Might Think You’re Gay!
So? You would be surprised how many messages I’ve received saying something similar since I’ve become vocal about gay rights and attending these Pride events. In November, my position was put to the test at a major travel conference. During the networking session, I was listed as an LGBT blogger, which I’m not. I just tend to write about minority issues and LGBT rights fall under that. It didn’t bother me one bit, and actually put me in touch with some amazing partners.

People thinking I’m gay doesn’t faze me because it’s not a bad thing. It’s not something to be ashamed of. I’m more concerned with people thinking I’m an asshole. Will I lose some of my more “faith-driven” readers? Likely. But I’m not here to placate anyone’s religious beliefs. I respect everyone’s right to worship as they choose but I don’t respect anyone using religion as an excuse to marginalize or oppress someone based on religion, sexual orientation, or sex. If that’s who you are and what you believe in, then my blog isn’t for you.

People thinking I’m gay doesn’t faze me…I’m more concerned with people thinking I’m an asshole.

As many of you know, I’m working to become the first documented African-American to visit every country. It was pointed out to me that my vocal support of the LGBT community may cause some “issues” getting into and possibly out of some countries. Although my project is very close to my heart, I understand that doing the right thing may come at personal sacrifice. Standing up for human rights is the right thing no matter how it’s spun. My support for gay rights is unwavering.

Follow Our Journey
I’m going to say something now that may seem stereotypical, but for me, this is a fact: LGBT people have the best clubs and parties on the planet. And I’m going to party my ass off with this amazing team of international bloggers.

Check out the link below and make sure to follow #mygaypride on all social media channels.

By Erick Prince-Heaggans

Erick Prince-Heaggans is the creative force behind After visiting 77 countries on five continents, he recently launched a campaign to become the first documented African-American to visit every country in the world. Erick focuses primarily on travel access for low income students and cross-cultural exploration. He has written for such publications as Yahoo Travel, US Weekly, and the Daily Texan.