Over 80 people from Atlanta's LGBT community gathered last night at Tabernacle Baptist Church, an LGBT affirming house of worship led by Rev. Dennis Meredith to discuss the impact of stigma as it relates to HIV, homophobia, and religion in the Black LGBT community.
The panel consisted of Dr. Edith Biggers (Fulton County Health Department), Pastor Paris Ealey (The Vision Church of Atlanta), Pastor Will Horn(The Power Center) and community activist and artist Anye Elite.
Panelists reiterated the need for prevention but drove home the need to eradicate internalized homophobia and stigma that often leads to destructive behaviors.
One audience member rose to urge people within our community to "get a little nosey". "As individuals we need to start getting a little nosey. We've got to stop having these surface relationships with people," he said. "When was the last time you pulled a friend to the side and asked him if he's had an HIV test?"
Ealey seized the opportunity to highlight the need for mentorship between older and younger LGBT's and the hypocrisy of the black church and it's effect on the self-esteem of gays and lesbians.
"Very intelligent people suspend their thinking processes when they come into church. Church is the only place where there is socially sanctioned retardation," says Ealey.
"You can come in here and spend forty-years and know no more when they roll you out of here than you knew when you walked in...and we're okay with that. So the church can start by telling the truth."
Watch footage from the town hall below: