Apparently pro-gay billboards aimed at reducing HIV infection in black men and the homophobia that fosters a lack of self-worth in many gay men leading to risky behavior is too much for the town of Schenectady, New York.
The Daily Gazette Reoprts:
The billboards offer three messages, showing gay men with their families, in church and on a basketball court. Each message starts with the announcement “I am gay,” in large letters, and concludes with, “We have always been a part of this community.”
The Rev. Alfred Thompkins, of Calvary Tabernacle, said the “I am gay” billboard message only encourages troubled youth to embrace homosexuality.
“A thirteen-year-old looks at these billboards and says, ‘That must be it, I must be gay,’ ” he said. “That goes directly against God’s purpose. As a resident of Schenectady, a pastor who works with young people, with families, frankly I’m really bothered by the message these send.”
They were designed by In Our Own Voices, a gay advocacy group in Albany. The state Department of Health paid for the billboards as part of an effort to find a more effective way to reduce the HIV infection rate, which has disproportionately hit gay and bisexual black men. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control said the epidemic had reached such a level that new methods must be found to encourage men to use condoms.
But there is no overt mention of HIV on the billboards. In Our Own Voices is instead hoping that greater acceptance of homosexuality could lead men to make healthier choices.
Daycare provider Pamela Spicer told the City Council that the billboards were so vague they were worthless.
She argued that the messages should be limited to adult business zones — mainly industrial areas at the outskirts of the city.
She told the council that her clients read the billboards as she drives them to events in the city. She offers daycare to a 2-year-old, 4-year-old and 8-year-old.
“When I’m driving them to the Schenectady Public Library and they say, ‘What does gay mean?’ how do I answer that question?” she said. “How do I expose them to such content?”
Well if a 2 year old can read these billboards then not only should he be able to skip kindergarten but he should be able to learn the basics about human sexuality.
Blogger Alvin McEwen nails it: What this is about is the deliberate inability of the African-American community to acknowledge the presence of lgbts of color. And that inability leads to the ignorance that we are seeing here. It's really a catch-22 situation because while I am not happy with the nonsense these folks have expressed, I know what will happen when this issue is discussed by some members of the lgbt community.
It's going to be transformed into a back and forth argument on whether lgbts are racist or are African-Americans homophobic.
Meanwhile, lgbts of color - that's us folks in the middle - will be ignored or rather seen as a prize to be won by whichever group can prove that they suffered more than the other group.
Bottom line to me is this - the billboards are an excellent idea and those who agree with this point should not allow themselves to go off on tangents. The issue is about the safety and health of lgbts of color and that's where the issue should stay.