“For Colored Boys”: Suicidal Young Gay Men of Color

In 1974, playwright Ntozake Shange published For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. The book would go on to inspire legions of women for decades and would later become the subject and title of a hugely popular movie in the fall of 2010. While the film was selling out movie theaters, young black gay men were literally committing suicide in the silence of their own communities. Magnus Books, publisher of For Colored Boys

One response to this tragedy of widely neglected and/or ignored proportions is a new book, For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home, edited by Keith Boykin.

The publisher states the following about the book:

addresses longstanding issues of sexual abuse, suicide, HIV/AIDS, racism, and homophobia in the African American and Latino communities, and more specifically among young gay men of color. The book tells stories of real people coming of age, coming out, dealing with religion and spirituality, seeking love and relationships, finding their own identity in or out of the LGBT community, and creating their own sense of political empowerment. For Colored Boys is designed to educate and inspire those seeking to overcome their own obstacles in their own lives.

Boykin tells Ebony that several young men inspired the creation of this anthology: Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, Jaheem Herrera, Raymond Chase, and Joseph Jefferson. As Rod McCullom further relates:

Those names are probably not familiar to most readers. The first two were 11-year-old boys who took their own lives after relentless anti-gay bullying in 2009. The latter two were openly gay college students who committed suicide in late 2010.  Chase and Jefferson’s deaths happened around the same time as the tragic case of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old gay college student who jumped to his death in September 2010. Clementi’s case received international attention and sparked the ‘It Gets Better’ project…

‘The implication was that the lives of Black men were not worthy of news coverage,’ said Boykin, a former aide to President Clinton. ‘Not to take anything away from Tyler but our society often ignores the pain and suffering experienced by Black men.’

Clay Cane, The Huffington Post, who’s a contributor to the book:

The voices in For Colored Boys represent empowerment, which isn’t always beautiful and sometimes laced with grit. We colored boys are slapping flesh onto a monolithic image of black LGBT people, who are usually regulated to being accessories for heterosexual women in campy reality shows. With President Barack Obama stating his support for same-sex marriage and Frank Ocean making pop-culture history as the first mainstream R&B/hip-hop artist to come out, For Colored Boys is relevant, regardless of the reader’s gender, race, or sexual orientation.

Few reviews are available at this time, reminding me of Sarah Schulman‘s complaint about the mainstream media, noted in a recent post (“Familial Homophobia“).

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