DETROIT – About 50 people came out July 23 for a town hall meeting called The Ultimate Gay Male: Mind, Body and Soul. The event was sponsored by Young Brothers United, Mpowerment Detroit and the Michigan AIDS Coalition, and took place in Mpowerment Detroit’s Greek Town loft headquarters.
Discussed were a variety of subjects such as coming out and the best time and way to do so.
“Whenever you do decide to tell your story, make sure you have somewhere to go,” said local media personality and Detroit City Council candidate Charles Pugh. “When you do it, make sure that you have the right support system in place.”
Panelist Shawn Odom said that only you can know when the time is right to come out. “I think the best time to tell your parents is when you’re ready, and when you’re secure in who you are,” he said.
“If you’re proud of yourself, then other people around you can sense that,” said Ferndale Mayor and Michigan AIDS Coalition Chief Operating Officer Craig Covey. “So the first step is you need to get right with yourself.”
Finding a spiritual home accepting of your sexual orientation was also a topic of discussion.
“I visited the church first and spoke to the pastor after the service about what he thought about gay people,” said Pugh. “Pastor Adams at Hartford (Memorial Baptist Church) gave the best answer of the six churches I visited, so that’s the church we joined.”
Jonathan Davis, executive director of Mpowerment Detroit, said that knowledge was power when it came to standing up for himself in his church community.
“If you know the word, then you can go toe-to-toe with anyone who tries to throw the word at you,” he said.
The need for a vibrant gay community in the city of Detroit – a specific gay friendly area of town – was also discussed at length.
“At the Woodward (Bar) we enter through the back door, and the Tangent (Gallery) is located on a street with no streetlights and broken glass on the ground,” said panelist Kevin Johnson. “We need a space for ourselves in Detroit that is better than that.”
Royale Theus, program director for the Michigan AIDS Coalition, said there was much work to be done before the building of such a community could be accomplished.
“I don’t think we can have a place in Detroit where we can be comfortable until we become comfortable with each other,” Theus said.
The sentiment was echoed by Marcus Wilson of Tibotec Therapeutics.
“We still have to learn to get along – white gay men, black gay men, Asian and Latino,” he said. “To me, that’s the problem and we need to get that figured out.”