Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Charlene Cothran

Today, I am going to talk about something I have avoided.

I avoided talking about this issue because I did not want it to seem that I am attacking someone for their personal choice.

But after my post two days ago about black ministers poisoning the African-American community against lgbts, I have been thinking.

There is a lot of unfortunate potential for ignorance in the black community about gays and lesbians. Black folks don't want to acknowledge that gay folks exist in their midst.

Therefore the community is susceptible to believe anyone claiming to be an expert on the "gay agenda." And yes, that includes Paul Cameron.

It also includes someone coming to them claiming to have "lived the gay lifestyle but got deliverance through Jesus."

Many black folks, due to the inability of the community to acknowledge lgbts of color, would actually believe those lies.

And a potential belief that lgbts can change our orientation would work to further dehumanize us in a community that has a problem acknowledging our existence, but one many of us look to for support and love.

It is for this reason that I want to talk a little about Charlene Cothran.

For those who do not know, she is the publisher of Venus Magazine, a publication that once dealt with gay issues from an African-American perspective.

However, Charlene now claims she is no longer gay. Subsequently, the magazine's focus has changed.

This also means that she is referred to by people like Peter LaBarbera as someone who has been "freed from homosexuality:"

Please be a part of the wonderful story of former lesbian Charlene’s Cothran’s rebirth in Christ by subscribing to her magazine VENUS - which has been transformed from a publication that celebrated “gays and lesbians” to one that tells that stories of people like herself who have overcome homosexuality with God’s help.

I have no problem with Cothran's personal decision, but I have a problem with her allowing herself to be used by the anti-gay industry. Especially when it looks like she is not even sure of her choices, as seen by this interview:

I think what many are saying, gay and straight, about your experience is that you are not saying, "I was a practicing lesbian, and now I love men because of Christ." You've said you are celibate. So, what about you now really makes you heterosexual?

Charlene: Nothing. You’ve spoken a piece of truth. Right now I am completely satisfied with my walk, which is me and God. My prayer wasn’t—Lord make me heterosexual. My prayer was not fix me, repair me and make me straight—that was not my prayer. My prayer was God make me whole in every sense of the word, make me whole mentally, make me whole spiritually, make me whole completely! Take this mean tongue out of me, you know; I had this mean spirit where I could just take a person down on a few short comments. That was just as dynamic a change as the gay thing…make me whole financially, you send me plenty of provisions, but why is it that I don’t prioritize things the way I should at this stage in my life? Make me whole in every area. I asked God for complete wholeness. He doesn’t come to save a piece of you.

Are you saying that you are not heterosexual?

Charlene: I am saying that I am celibate right now. I’m not saying there won’t ever be a man in my life. You’re asking me about where I am and that's all I can speak to. Today I am celibate. Again, I don’t say I will never have a man in my life, I’m not saying I will never be married to a man. Who knows what the Lord has in store for me. But…there is one thing I can say and one thing I will go on record and say—I will never be entangled with the bondage of lesbianism again. You can put me on record for that and I know that people are going to be turning over every stone, looking and magnifying and trying to find some dirt. I invite you to continue to look and see if you can find something on me. I will never be entangled with lesbianism again! Right now I’m celibate, now, where the Lord's going to move me, what opportunity he's going to place in my path for me from here on—I don't know.

Are you physically attracted to men?

Charlene: [pauses] I am physically attracted to the spirit of Christ right now. You're trying to take me down a road that I won't go down right now

Charlene's story is more intricate than what has been put out there. The spin has been that she has been "delivered" from homosexuality. But her story is a bit more complicated.

I have a personal opinion of Ms. Cothran's choice, but I will not voice it and I hope that what I am saying will not be considered to be a personal attack because my intent is not to demean her.

But the question has to be asked: will she talk truthfully about her decision publicly or will she go on a tangent about the "gay influence" in public schools?

Will she explain that she considers herself not heterosexual but celibate, or will we see her on press releases criticizing pro-gay laws or on posters gagged and falsely claiming that adding lgbts to hate crime laws will lead to her arrest for "telling her story."

Will Ms. Cothran work try to establish a dialogue about the intricacies of sexual orientation or will she be featured in public campaigns repeating lies about lgbts and promiscuity, child molestation, or life spans?

So my problem does not lie with Ms. Cothran's past choice, but her future choices.

There is a danger in my black community. There is a groundswell of people (i.e Harry Jackson, Ken Hutcherson, Wellington Boone) who think that since they believe homosexuality to be a sin, anything they do or say to hinder pro-gay visibility is a good thing, even if the words coming out of their mouths are lies.

The black community needs education on the lives of lgbts of color, not showcasers or attention grabbing demagogues. We have enough of those.

And I want to know just where does Ms. Cothran stand on this issue?

I don't ask that of myself. I ask that question in the name of the millions of lgbts of color who have to deal with the choices she makes.

Do the right thing, Ms. Cothran.