Best of the Week
of July 12, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of July 12, 1998, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

THE QUESTION:
R14: Do African Americans generally expect eventual betrayal from white people? Or do they simply see white people as naive about the nature of racism and, therefore, unaware of when they (whites) might be unintentionally offensive? Is it a survival mechanism learned from living with the constant, wearing effect of racism? Can an African-American ever let down his or her guard and trust a white person?
POSTED MARCH 9, 1998
Susan J., Dayton, OH

ANSWER 1:
I trust people who are honest and sincere and whose values are the same as mine, regardless of their color. I think trust is something that should be earned. So I don't get chummy and confide in people who haven't earned my trust. My guard is up no matter what color you are.

Sometimes I meet white people and I instantly know they are racist even though they try to hide it. There's always something - a look, body language, a comment - that gives them away. Sometimes it's very subtle. I also know white people who admit they have racist feelings and want to educate themselves and learn where those feelings come from (stereotypes, from their parents, a bad experience, etc.) It takes patience, but I can work with that.

I do have black friends, though, who don't want anything to do with white people. When they get home from work they don't wat to see them or think about them. They feel tired from having to deal with them all day long. It's like a game or a dance. People tiptoeing around race and differences, not saying what they really mean and not asking what they really want to ask. I understand why they feel that way.
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
M. Johnson, Jacksonville, Fla.

FURTHER NOTICE:
I never thought I would answer one of these questions until I saw this one virtually screaming at me. No, I do not feel I could ever trust a white person again. I have had far too many instances when I have been burned because I have been too trusting of them. I have had many white employers, friends, peers, etc., and all of them are untrustworthy. I treated them the exact same way as all of my black o Latino acquaintances (and usually went out of my way to be nice), but all with the same end result: An inappropriate comment starting something like "Why do you people..." or "Why do blacks..." or "Do all black people..." This leads to an immediate termination of the conversation, trust and the friendship. I cannot see, even in my young age, ever approaching a white person and striking up a conversation without them saying something inappropriate. I think it all stems from the fact that white people (because they have no culture to identify with) have no sense of loyalty and feel that people of different races are disposable. I feel that if there are some black people out there who can trust you, you should be grateful.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
L.W., 24, black female, Detroit, MI
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THE QUESTION:
SO46: I have a friend who says only a lesbian can be a true feminist. Another says it is impossible for a man to be a feminist. Does anyone have an opinion on this?
POSTED JUNE 15, 1998
Hilary, 20, white <
hwisler@eagle.cc.ukans.edu>, Lawrence, KS

ANSWER 1:
It's sometimes true that minority groups come to view alienation from others as a sign of status. Eventually they feel their alienation is a measure of their uniqueness and self-worth, so they try to maintain it by differentiating into splinter groups. Sometimes these groups are valuable and productive, sometimes they aren't. The problem comes if they try to co-opt a larger movement for themselves, instead of creating their own movement. It is one thing to say "only a lesbian can be a lesbian feminist" and something else to say "only lesbians can be feminists." It's like saying that only Baptists can really be Christian. Don't waste your time with these people - they aren't really interested in changing the world. They get their kicks out of trying to put you down and feeling like the "select few" who truly understand the world. They are worse than the most cliquey sororities (and have much worse parties).
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
Will H. <
whuer@hotmail.com>, New York , NY
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THE QUESTION:
R20: Why is it that there seems to be more information on African-Americans' heritage in the classroom than Latinos' heritage?
POSTED MARCH 11, 1998
Courtney M., 22, Lawrence, KS

ANSWER 1:
I would think the appearance is for two reasons: The first is that you hear of Black History Month, those 28 days of February, when the media take some time to recognize blacks in the history of this country and the world. This in contrast to the 30 days celebrating Hispanic-American history from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, which the media has not taken the time to play up.

Also, there was a huge civil rights movement about 30 years ago that was an effort to counter many of the things that were legally in place to hinder the advancement of blacks in America. These hindrances also affected people who were of other minorities, but the most obvious to be affected were blacks. This was a key time in our country's history.

Because of this, it may seem that you get less Hispanic history, but if you would ask your school board to make note of who your children are learning about who reflect the different racial/ethnic groups, you'll likely see that many of the people mentioned come from more than one background.
POSTED MARCH 20, 1998
Apryl P., black, Oak Park, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
There has been some effort recently to fill the void caused by lack of educational materials in Latino history. The Chicago Metro History Education Center, 60 W. Walton St., Chicago, IL, has created a curriculum in Chicago Latino History. It is believed to be the first of its kind. Requests for information on this project have come from all over the country, so it is evident a real need has been addressed.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
R. Stewart, board member, CMHEC <
rostew@aol.com>, Chicago, IL
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THE QUESTION:
R363: What are black people's opinions about why eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are not very prominent in their culture? It seems to me that even in two middle-class families, one black and one white, the girls in the white family are much more concerned about their weight and are into dieting than are the girls in the black family.
POSTED JUNE 28, 1998
Charlotte, 16, white, <
fleure_@hotmail.com>, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

ANSWER 1:
Throughout my life, I have watched many of the women in my family jump from diet to diet (and spending quite a few dollars) with little or no success. Some women in my family are just naturally thin, just like any other. I have heard studies that conclude that black people are on average heavier than others, which I believe is a cultural thing - much of traditional "soul food" is very fattening. You will find a lot of pork and fried foods, which may have a lot to do with the high incidence of heart disease and the like within the race. Furthermore, sitting down to a big meal with family always had a significant value, and as a child, we were always encouraged to eat plenty.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
A. Moore, 29, African-American <
Moore29@aol.com>, Orlando, FL
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THE QUESTION:
A20: Why is so much youth fashion so aggressively visually unappealing, sexually unappealing or unflattering to the wearer, such as grunge or baggy styles? What is the first impression the wearers of such clothing wish to convey ?
POSTED JUNE 30, 1998
Greg C., 35, male <
gregc@NewZealand.Sun.COM>, Wellington, New Zealand

ANSWER 1:
A lot of people wear clothes that don't suit them because they want to pronounce their individuality and reject the expectations placed on them by society, such as those that state what they should wear. This is how both the grunge and homey fashions began, just like in the '60s, when teenagers wore brightly colored, flamboyant clothes to rebel against the conservative uniforms of the '50s. What some teenagers don't realize is that if they wear these clothes, they are conforming in another sense.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
Frances S., 16 <
novacaine@rocketmail.com>, Sydney, Australia
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THE QUESTION:
R110: I am a 23-year-old white female graduate student who was recently visiting a friend living in Mexico. I have very fair skin and was often referred to in Spanish as "little white girl" or simply "whitey." My question is: How are these comments meant? I generally associate them with catcalls in the United States. Do people not understand they are offensive? Or should they be considered flattering?
POSTED MARCH 28, 1998
Travis, Carbondale, IL

ANSWER 1:
As a white woman with a Mexican husband and in-laws, I have also struggled with this question. My husband insists that when his father calls me "huera" (white girl), it is not meant to be offensive, but is merely a descriptive term. He says that anyone (including other Mexicans) who has particularly white or dark skin is referred to as "whitey" or "darky," respectively. It seems to be customary in the Spanish language to refer to people by distinguishing characteristics (skin color, hair type, body type, etc., i.e. "skinny") rather than always by their name.
POSTED JUNE 22, 1998
Chris, 24, white female, Long Beach, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am assuming the word you are talking about is "guerra." If so, do not take offense. I have noticed from my upbringing that Mexicans often refer to individuals by their characteristics. For exampe, blacks = "Negros," Asians = "Chinos," thin = "Flaco/a," and even in my case, fat = "Gordo." I have an aunt who is 100 percent Hispanic with light hair and skin who is known to us only as "La Guerra." There is absolutely nothing derogatory intended
POSTED JUNE 26, 1998
Oscar T., Mexican <
oztel@gte.net>, Kailua, HI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Chris's husband (Answer 1) is telling the truth. Most of the time, Mexicans won't use the name of a person, but a nickname, and many nicknames come from the person's physical appearance. This is true even if the two involved don't know each other (as long as it is an informal situation). My father, for example, will call anyone shorter than he "chaparrito" (shorty), and he has always referred to me as "flaco" (skinny) even though I am not anymore! And once at a gas station, the attendant called me "guerito" (whitey or blondy) even though his skin was fairer than mine. So you aren't being name-called or cat-called. It's just the usual way we talk, and it's not meant to be offensive at all.
POSTED JULY 16, 1998
Francisco, 23, Mexican <
fjortiz@usa.net>, Guadalajara, México
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THE QUESTION:
GE53: Why do otherwise professionally dressed women (i.e. wearing a nice skirt and blouse or pants suit with matching jewelry) walk around wearing jogging shoes all day long? I seem to remember women started wearing jogging shoes during a transit strike in New York more than a decade ago, but back then, when they arrived at work, they would change into shoes appropriate for an office environment. Do women not think this is silly-looking (at least as silly as guys who walk around with suits and jogging shoes on)?
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
C. Bruce, male <
cbruce@charm.net>, Baltimore, MD
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THE QUESTION:
SO57: If a gay man can be aroused by a woman, is he still gay, or is he bisexual?
POSTED JUNE 30, 1998
A.W., Fremont, CA

ANSWER 1:
It's been my experience (both as a gay guy and as someone who has had friends of all sorts of sexual preferences/orientations) that sexuality tends to be fluid. For example, I consider myself exclusively gay, but from time to time I catch myself looking at women "in that way." And many of my straight friends have 'fessed up to the same behavior: Men looking at men, women looking at women, everyone looking at everyone. Just because one choses to describe him/herself as "gay," "bi" or "straight" doesn't necessarily mean his/her behavior is going to adhere strictly to those adjectives. They're just words, after all, and human behavior is a lot more complex and rich than any English textbook I've ever picked up.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
Matthew, 23, gay <
van_vlakten@yahoo.com>, Minneapolis, MN

FURTHER NOTICE:
It depends largely on how that guy sees himself. Most of us are comfortable with identifying as one sexuality. I am occasionally attracted to women - OK, the ones I like tend to be very boyish-looking (usually lesbian), but basically I see myself as a fag by default, because mostly I'm attracted to men. Some gay people are very intolerant of bisexuals or gay people who admit to heterosexual attraction - despite their calls for acceptance of "sexual diversity." They are very protective of their sexual identity; it may mean a lot to them in a world where gays are a minority. Hopefully, as barriers break down, that sort of "siege mentality" will fade away.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
Ben S., gay male <
bscaro@hotmail.com>, Hobart , Tasmania, Australia
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THE QUESTION:
R119: As a white male living in the South, the often-times ugly racial history of my region is constantly brought up. I honestly feel that relations between blacks and whites are better in this part of the country than anywhere else. I hope this is because the races have had to work and coexist together here longer - even though not always in the right way. What do black Southerners think who have traveled around, and what do other folks from other parts of the country think?
POSTED MARCH 31, 1998
Wallace, Southern-American
Atlanta, GA

ANSWER 1:
I am originally from the North, but have lived in the South nearly 10 years. I think the way things are in the South, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking race relations are good. They may be a little better, but good they are not. In the South, blacks have to stay within a certain range for whites to accept them, unless they are very educated. Then they have a better range. It seems as though there is an invisible line separating communities by race. More blacks and whites where I am from in Ohio live in the same neighborhoods, there are more interracial couples and I had more white friends there than I do here. I met more whites there, too. Don't get me wrong: The South is great, and I like it here, but race is still a very real issue. Until you are suffering from the conditions of race, it is hard to understand the issue. It is somewhat like men and women not understanding each other, only it is more than that.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Carmela <
pecola@hotmail.com>
Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I lived in the South for 30 of my 38 years, and felt similar to the way you (Wallace above) feel for much of that time. However, after moving out of the South to California and having traveled throughout the United States on business in the last few years, I have changed my opinion. It seems to me that many individuals in the South may feel as you do, but that the overwhelming culture and history of the South makes for a rather distinct yet subtle form of racial separation. Noticing color is a constant thing, and you are always aware of what you can and cannot not say to whom, especially when speaking to other white people, especially older ones. "Not being racist" seems to require a "stand" or commitment in the South, and when living there, that seems normal, yet it's particulary ... relaxing.

After moving away, I've found that this previously "normal" need to be consistently aware of the potential (probable?) racial bias of a given person has disappeared. The races mix much more transparently and comfortably, and I don't see nearly the stratification of social and work-related groups. Color? It never comes up, and I never think about it anymore. I treat everyone the same now out of habit and out of comfort, where before it was something I had to remind myself about, as I was bucking hundreds of years of history, and many people in the South worked very hard to make sure I didn't forget it.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Craig, white, Foster City, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I disagree with these two answers. I think it's better in the South. I'm in an interracial relationship, and here in the South, most people don't look twice. I lived in California (Fremont) for 10 years, and was subject to much more overt prejudice. For example, I would go into a store with my young son, and the clerk would look at me, look at my son, look back at me, look back at my son, at which point I would say something like "I know what you're thinking" and they'd get all embarrassed. I had police stop me on the street several times to see if my son was actually mine, despite him riding on my shoulders having a good time! Here in Georgia, nobody says anything about it - they understand what the deal is, and pretty much could care less.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
Alex, 39, white <
aleavens@mindspring.com>
Lawrenceville, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
When I was in high school in Houston in the early '80s, many of my classmates were quite open and unashamed about their racism. I recall one incident when a cross was burned on the lawn of a black family who had moved into our 99.9 percent white suburb. I also discovered that the local Realtor, who was the mother of a friend, refused to show houses in our area to black families. My friend matter-of-factly stated that her higher obligation was to the property values of her neighbors. As an adult, I have heard many racist gibes and jeers from other whites who assume that all whites privately share their "we're all in this together" attitude. Racism is alive and well in the South. I can't speak for the North, but I expect it's still flourishing there as well.
POSTED APRIL 24, 1998
A. Morgan, 33, Houston

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I grew up in California and moved to the South when I was 20. I was used to people treating each other equally. I grew up in a small town and went to a small college. When I made the decision to make the move to Alabama (my parents had moved there the previous year) I asked one of my college friends to visit me over the summer break. She was a young black woman and refused to make the trip. Her response to me was: "No! Down there they kill folks like me." I was dumbfounded. Yeah, I'd read the history, but thought we'd progressed further than that. Unfortunately, this friend and I have lost touch over the last 18 years.

When I did make the move and began to make friends, I developed a close friendship with a black man. We would go to movies, dinner, hang out. We were good friends. My mother worried about me, not because of my choices but because of the "Southern mentality." She would not forbid me to see him (or my other black friends) because this was not consistent with the values she and my father raised us kids on.

I finally understood the depth of the racial barriers in the South when Bobby and I were headed to a movie one evening and, while driving through a residential neighborhood, a group of young men started chasing us in a car and began shooting at us. Luckily, they were not good shots, and I ended up with only a few bullet holes in my car and very shaky knees. I lived in that same part of the country for almost nine years and saw no significant change in the attitudes. There is still a great deal of separation between the black and white communities (as well as other ethnic groups). I have never seen any evidence that blacks and whites get along better in the South. I saw less tension and fewer racial problems (between all races) in the 20 years I lived in California. Granted, I lived in a small town and then a small city, but we seemed to get along much better than anything I have observed while living in the South. I have since left the city where Bobby and I were shot at and still live in the South. I still see the definite lines that have been drawn. Although they are not quite as sharp here in Texas as they were in Alabama, they still exist.
POSTED JULY 16, 1998
Chole, 38, white female <
cirra@usa.net>, Rowlett, TX
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THE QUESTION:
GD2: Have the diversity classes currently required in college had any noticeable effect on reducing racism?
POSTED MARCH 11, 1998
N.C., Lawrence, KS

ANSWER 1:
I think some multicultural education classes have done the job when they include two major things that are still not requirements under the current public school system: The acknowledgement of white privilege in America and the oneness of humanity. Too often, these classes do more damage than good because they teach the differences and don't expand on the oneness and the history that has led to the power struggle of white superiority in America. This is usually because the teachers (through no fault of their own) don't have the support or knowledge on how to address the feelings that result from such discussions.
POSTED MARCH 16, 1998
B.J. Winchester, 33, white, Cultural Diversity Trainer, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
In college I was required to take a cultural diversity class. It turned out to be a class about all the bad things whites have done to blacks throughout history. I resented this because the professor blamed all black problems on whites and I was paying for it! In this case, the cultural diversity class did more harm than good.
POSTED APRIL 3, 1998
P.B., white, male, Rochester Hills, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Having sat through several of these courses in college, many of which were required, I can say they were a big pain in the ***. Not only are all problems characterized as the fault of white males, but they're my personal fault, too. There was no "discussion," only one big lecture about our problems. Also, it irked me when college professors, whose children go to school for free, would expound on how minorities should get more scholarship money than whites. I couldn't help but remember that my tuition money was paying for their kids' education. A lot of "us white folks" are poor, too, and I can assure you that wealthy whites know us from them and have no trouble reminding us. The diversity classes, in the end, made me a much less tolerant person, and every day I have to remind myself why I won't hate everyone: Whites, blacks, women, men, gays, straights, Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc..
POSTED JULY 16, 1998
B., 22, straight white male, Kokomo, IN
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THE QUESTION:
GE52: What makes some men feel the need to tell their significant other that they think so-and-so is a babe? Women have a hard enough time with self-esteem issues. Is this type of comment ever meant as a veiled insult, or is it usually just an innocent comment? Also, is there a good way to deal with this?
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Laurie L., female, Sunnyvale, CA

ANSWER 1:
For me, it's often just an innocent comment. When my wife and I are talking, we sometimes discuss attributes of men and women. When I was younger, I made comments that hurt my girlfriend's feelings because I was ignorant of her insecurities. I don't make that mistake now, but know that many of my friends do. Saying someone is attractive is one thing, but leering at someone is another. I think, too, that men are just simple at times; we don't think of others as often as we should.
POSTED JULY 16, 1998
Karl M., 34, male <
karlm@skylink.net>, Henderson, NV
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THE QUESTION:
R88: Why does it seem that when black people are in groups, they tend to be very outspoken, i.e. laughing, shouting, dancing, etc.?
POSTED MARCH 24, 1998
Michael S., 21, white <
Mdsmith@online.emich.edu>
Highland, MI

ANSWER 1:
I don't think it has anything to do with race. I believe it is more of a question of age and the self-esteem issues you deal with as a teenager. I have yet to notice a group of older black men (or men of any race) carrying on in such a manner.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1998
Tracy R., 20, white <
H0LE@aol.com>
Flint, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
Some excellent research I have read on various cultural issues addressed this question. American whites tend to have the "Puritan" ideal of propriety - meaning soft voices and modulated tones. To do otherwise indicated ignorance and courseness. If you look at other, non-Anglo cultures (German, Italian, Spanish) as well as at those of people of color, you will normally see a robustness or loudness. So, in actuality, the question could be "Why are white people so quiet?"
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Anita W. <
anita@wdg.dreamhost.com>, Denver, CO
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THE QUESTION:
RE72: I would like to better understand the Catholic faith. It's curious to me that Catholics pray to statues representing saints. Isn't this a form of idolatry that the Bible speaks against? What is the reason for this practice?
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Nancy H., 31, white <
hahnel@wrightwood.net>, Inland Empire, CA

ANSWER 1:
Catholics (at least Roman Catholics) do not really pray to saints. We pray that the saints (who are supposed to be closer to God) will intercede for us. We ask the saints to talk to God on our behalf and relate our prayers to God. I don't think this is considered idolism or polytheism because we don't believe the saints are gods, nor do we believe the statues have any magical power.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Nicole, 21, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
Catholics do not pray to statues. They view saints as intercessors between humans and God. Each saint represents a very particular aspect of the sacred. For example, if a Catholic feels the need in his/her life for the courage to stand up for his/her convictions, one may pray directly to God for courage. Additionally, one may study St. Joan of Arc. Her story is an example of human behavior that elevates courage to the highest degree. Church leaders have agreed that her actions in some way have glorified God, and deserve to be held up as exemplary Catholic behavior. Therefore, Catholics can reflect on her life to help them find ways of being more courageous in a way that would please God. The statue or picture simply serves as a visual reminder to help focus one's thoughts, much as the cross does to Protestants.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
Gypsy, Eclectic Pagan <
gypc@accessus.net>, St. Louis, MO
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THE QUESTION:
R370: I work for an older, wealthy, Jewish woman. She is very bright and enthusiastic. I am taken aback, however, when she walks into our office and begins by criticizing everything, often before knowing what she's looking at. I've been told this trait is typical of Jewish women. If there's any truth to this, what might be helpful for me to know in order to work better with her? Is this a culture issue? I assumed it was a personality trait. I'd really like some more positive interaction from the get-go, vs. having to work backwards toward it.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Thirty-Year-Old, Southern Protestant Liberal, St. Louis, MO
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THE QUESTION:
GD21: Why, specifically, isn't it against the law to have an extramarital affair that results in the dissolution of a marriage, and why is this looked upon by the legal establishment with such indifference?
POSTED JUNE 25, 1998
Joe <
jmill@dialnet.net>, Missouri

ANSWER 1:
I think it really depends on the society you live in. I live in the Philippines, where the population is predominantly Catholic. Here, bigamy is a crime, and one can be sent to jail. There is no divorce here, and one has to go through a lot of legal procedures to get married. I got married at 24, and I still needed my parents' consent to be able to get a license. I think it all lies in the attitude of the sanctity of marriage. In the United States, it is easy to get married and get a divorce. One can re-marry as much as he or she wants, so why pursue an extra-marital affair as a crime when you can undo a marriage easily?
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
I. C., Manila
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THE QUESTION:
R360: Why do African-American leaders make such a spectacle over one black person being killed such as in the dragging death in Jasper, Texas, while they practically ignore that the No. 1 killer of black men is other black men?
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Bryan, 28, white, Doylestown, PA

ANSWER 1:
That is a very good question, and I have been asking it, as a black man, for the last 15 years. It should not be happening. You have to remember that the black leaders you see are the ones picked by the media and by other white people, not by black people. Just as there is not one white leader who speaks for white people, or Asian people, or Latino people, there is no real leader who speaks for black people. In black communities a lot is being done to cut black-on-black crime, but it is not newsworthy unless someone is killed. Every day, more black men are stepping up to the plate to help take the crime out of our communities, but it is a very long process. We have a long way to go, and a short time to get there, so please know that we are working on it every day ... every hour, every minute, every second. It will stop. God is with us.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Tony, 42, black male, <
cinatisoulman@mailexcite.com>, Cincinatti, OH
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THE QUESTION:
SO59: To gay people: How, and when, did you know you were gay?
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Sue A., 38, Wilmington, DE

ANSWER 1:
I've known I was gay since as long as I can remember (i.e. thinking guys were cute and being attracted to them). You also may know you are gay when you are honest with yourself that everything people have told you about homosexuality is "you," and that you aren't evil, lost, cursed, misguided or disgusting for it. Homosexuality is not a learned behavior; otherwise, my brother and sister would be gay because we grew up in the same household. Knowing you are gay is knowing yourself, and it is best to be yourself and accept people for what they are - gay, straight, black, white, etc.
POSTED JULY 13, 1998
Charlie W., 21, Las Vegas, NV

FURTHER NOTICE:
I knew I was gay before I knew anything about sexuality. I must have been eight or nine. I was always more attracted to men. There were none of the so-called "deviant" influences some people like to blame for homosexuality in my life: I grew up in a rural area with no television and limited access to the popular culture of the '80s, knowing of no one else who liked men. I certainly was not "recruited" or "seduced" - I just knew I was different. It wasn't until I was 14 or 15 that I found the word for what I knew I was (gay), and it wasn't until I was 19 that I met someone else who happened to be gay. But it's different for every person. Some people know at an early age, some come to the realization at a later age.
POSTED JULY 13, 1998
Daniel, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I realized as a teenager that I was not like my friends when it came to guys. I was not interested in dating guys. I was much more interested in the girls. I grew up in a very small town and really didn't put two and two together until I was around 17. When I headed off for college, I started to explore my feelings for other women. I dated men and women for a while before finally admitting to myself I was a lesbian and that this just wasn't going to "change" or "go away." With this realization, I went forward with my life and allowed more long-term friendships and relationships to develop over time.
POSTED JULY 13, 1998
Chole, 38 <
cirra@usa.net>, Rowlett, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I knew I was gay for as long as I can remember. Of course, I didn't know what "gay" meant, but I remember being physically and emotionally attracted to other boys when I was a kid. It was usually an emotional attraction, although I was curious about my friends' bodies, too. Looking back on it now, I recognize the feelings that I had for some of my friends as crushes. Later on, when my peers started becoming attracted to girls, I just thought I was a "late bloomer" and that it would eventually happen to me too, but I was still attracted to guys. By this time I knew what gay was (and what most people thought of it), so I was in deep denial (i.e. the closet) from about 14 to 23, but when I finally came out it was as if a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders.
POSTED JULY 13, 1998
Mike B., 25, gay male <
meb@ukrpack.net>, Washington, DC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I remember having attractions to the same sex as far back as my memory will take me. Some of these attractions could be a part of normal growth, some could have been truly sexual. I don't know. However, at the time, I didn't know I was gay. I began to understand that I was "different." But I can't say whether straight children feel the same emotions through their early years (since we're all different to some extent), and therefore, it wasn't until I learned the definition of gay, what it meant to the community and then experiencing puberty, that I subconsciously, at least, knew I was gay. Even after that, I wouldn't admit it to myself. This was due in large part to the effect on me of my loved ones, my community, my mentors, etc. and not wanting to disappoint them. In a nutshell, it wasn't until I reached within myself and truthfully addressed some things about myself that I knew I was gay. After that, I realized I had been gay all my life. Maybe I knew it, maybe I didn't. The mind is a strange thing.
POSTED JULY 13, 1998
R. Alexander, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Although this simple question seems to require a complicated answer, the reality is that the answer is also simple. A straight person with this question should just ask themselves, "How and when did I discover that I was heterosexual?" Discovering one's sexuality occurs usually during puberty. Although this answer is simple, anyone who has gone through puberty can confirm how complicated the process can be. Now imagine how much more complicated that process is when you have no role models or guidelines, and all you know about what you are discovering about yourself is that everyone will hate you if they also find out (including and especially your family). This is how the "closet" is built, and depending on what kind of support you have at this critical time will determine how tightly the door is shut or whether it is OK to "come out" and be yourself.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Guy H., 43, gay white male <
abearhiway@webtv.net>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
As a bisexual, I knew I had an attraction to men during high school. I tried to figure out what my definition of beauty was, and found that I couldn't rule out men or women. When I really began to have a social life, I found myself most comfortable with gays, lesbians and bisexuals because they tended to be more open about themselves. Also, when I look at people, I can see sex appeal, or attraction, in men or women. I can say Brad Pitt is attractive in the same way I can say Demi Moore, Tyra Banks or Tyson Beckford are beautiful and sexually attractive people. My first sexual encounter with a man came the night of my graduation from high school, and afterward I felt no guilt, pain or shame - much in the same way I felt happy when I had been with women.
POSTED JULY 16, 1998
Eddie M., 21, bisexual African American <
jarmen@hotmail.com>, Chicago, IL

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I've known as long as I can remember that I was different. But then I was poorly coordinated at sports, at an all-boys school and more interested in reading and academic pursuits - so I was used to feeling different. When I was five I had "crushes" on boys at school, and at 12 a "sort of" sexual encounter. From 12 I thought it was "a phase" and I'd grow out of it. This ended at 20, when I had my first proper sexual encounter and a lot of my "hang-ups" vanished in about half an hour. From then on I was more accepting of my homosexuality, but I countered hang-ups about the "effeminate" side of homosexuality by acting more "straight." I had a big falling-out with a friend when all that rage came out and it took until I was 22 or 23 before I was fully accepting of myself. I have to cross-refer to questions raised about gays writing on toilet walls, etc. It is when you are in the closet or in denial that you act in this way - that sort of behavior can be very compulsive until you accept and deal with it. I know very old gay men who have never resolved these problems and moved beyond this type of behavior.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
Ben S., 30, gay male <
bscaro@hotmail.com>, Hobart , Tasmania, Australia
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