On Sept. 8, 2012, Nathanael Gay married Robert Brown in Lexington, Ky. About a month later, on Oct. 4, 2012, Brown uploaded a video of the wedding to YouTube. Their wedding was only slightly remarkable given our society’s changing attitude with respect to marriage equality. Something about their nuptials was striking, however. The wedding’s color scheme (red and white), as well as Gay and some wedding attendees holding aloft the same hand signs (representing a Playboy bunny), bespoke Gay’s fraternal affiliation: Kappa Alpha Psi. Here enters the controversy: The wedding brought unwanted national attention to the fact that some black fraternity members are gay and may be inclined to marry other men.

Given the controversy, Gay participated in a radio interview with Tom Joyner to clear up the misconceptions surrounding the wedding ceremony. Gay noted that the wedding was not meant to be affiliated with Kappa, despite the fraternity’s crimson-and-cream color scheme. To Gay, the wedding colors were intended to represent love and his husband’s favorite color (red), not Kappa. Gay also noted that the image of him photographed with his pledge brothers, performing their signature hand sign, was not intended to convey a “gay Kappa wedding.” Rather, it was a mere show of brotherly solidarity and support.

Gay indicated that he believed the wedding video’s dissemination to have been at the hands of a member from a “rival” black Greek-letter organization (BGLO). While BGLOs are notorious for their intergroup rivalries (see Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and CNN’s Roland Martin’s tweets and Facebook posts about other black fraternities), one should not be too quick to mock another organization. For example, on Oct. 13, 2012, “Shaun T” Thompson, a fitness enthusiast who is famous for his workout videos, including Insanity, Insanity-Asylum and Hip Hop Abs, married his longtime boyfriend. Thompson is an Alpha.

I’ve researched and written about BGLOs for almost 10 years. Therefore, I can say that there is a range of internal issues and dynamics that these organizations either ignore or engage in ways that skirt the data and facts. Chief among these issues is the place of gay members in black fraternities. There have only been two groups of scholars to research issues around gay men in black fraternities. Dr. Alan DeSantis and Marcus Coleman (Kappa) studied the attitudes of members of four black fraternities about gay members, and Drs. Rashawn Ray and Kevin Spragling (both Alphas) studied the experiences of gay Alphas. These researchers found that homosexuality is rarely if ever openly discussed in black fraternities and is only engaged in order to condemn it.

Read more at Black Voices.


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