The issue of homophobic lyrics by certain reggae artists is being hotly debated in the media in the run-up to the MOBO awards in late September. Many in the black gay community support the MOBOs and the principles which underpin them, but are concerned that the debate around homophobic lyrics is ignoring some of the wider issues faced by black gay people.

Simon Nelson, Sector Development Officer for BME communities at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Whilst homophobia is by no means exclusive to black communities, there is evidence to suggest that homophobic lyrics used by certain artists which incite violence towards gay people have a detrimental effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of black lesbian, gay and bisexual people, particularly gay men.

He continued: “Black gay men are far less likely to be out to friends and family, are more likely to face homophobia from within their own families and may find themselves with no option other than to lead a double life, often feeling that they should remain silent on such issues. This can increase the likelihood of black gay men engaging in risky sexual behaviour, while also not seeking out sexual health information, putting them at increased risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.”

Dennis Carney, chair of the Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group added: “As black people, we want to celebrate our culture, and the MOBOs are an excellent opportunity to do this, but homophobic lyrics in music normalise hatred towards black gay men. We’re keen to work with the MOBOs to resolve this issue by removing all homophobic artists from the awards process and furthering the debate within the wider music industry.”

Simon Nelson continued: “We need to widen the debate on the whole issue of tolerance towards gay people within black communities – this must include the issue of homophobic lyrics and the “normalisation” of homophobia, both of which damage our efforts to promote good sexual health and well being. Black gay men experience racism and homophobia on a daily basis and many will only feel further isolated as a result.”

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