Speak Out : Depression’s Peculiar Grip on Black LGBTQs – Part 3

Welcome to the final part of “Depression’s Peculiar Grip on Black LGBTQs.” As I’ve stated, I’m writing this multi-part series to shine a bright light on how depression can have a more pronounced and peculiar effect and impact on black LGBTQ persons. And as an African-American gay man, one who’s suffered from this illness throughout periods of his life, I can attest to its near-crippling effects.

As one might imagine, if you’re black, LGBTQ and depressed, you’re stumbling around with an even heavier, crushing burden on your shoulders than if you’re (simply) black, straight and depressed.  

After reading the first two installments of “Depression’s Peculiar Grip on Black LGBTQs,”(1st here, 2nd here) Louis Graham, DrPH (Doctor of Public Health) and an assistant professor for the School of Public Health and Health Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was good enough to send me research articles he’s penned on depression and black MSM (men who have sex with men). Dr. Graham is African-American.

“Exploring the Mental Health of Black Men Who Have Sex with Men,” which Graham co-authored with Kisha Braithwaite, Pilgrim Spikes, Charles F. Stephens and Ugo F. Edu, states, “Current research indicates that black men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately burdened by depressive distress and anxiety disorders as compared to their white gay and heterosexual counterparts.”

Adding to that, “Factors Influencing Depression and Anxiety among Black Sexual Minority Men,” which he co-authored with Robert E. Aronson, Tracy Nichols, Charles F. Stephens and Scott D. Rhodes, states:

Racial and sexual components are core for BSMM (Black Sexual Minority Men, or Black MSM). Graham et al. explored the psychological health of BSMM and found that BSMM were challenged in developing a healthy identity.

They concluded that struggles related to the unique experience of being BSMM such as negative attitudes and beliefs concerning their race and sexuality as well as gender conformity pressure contributed to depression and anxiety.


In the previous installment of this series, I outlined how misconceptions, denial and stigma exact a heavy toll on the psyches of far too many blacks of every gender and sexual orientation. These factors, coupled with the lack of access to medical care, prevent them from seeking treatment.

Fortunately for me, whenever I’ve had episodes of depression, I was open to and sought help. My first major bout began in 1975, when I was a freshman majoring in journalism and political science at the George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. I’d won a four-year scholarship.

At that time, very few African-Americans were part of the student body. For me, this was a significant change because I’d attended public schools that were overwhelmingly black. The GWU experience became my first confrontation with full-throated discrimination and racism.

Additionally, I was seriously grappling with being gay — and desiring to express those feelings openly, without guilt. Now, keep in mind that this was the ’70’s: Being “out and proud” simply wasn’t an option. Particularly if you were black.

I was confused, conflicted, constrained. I felt like I’d been pronounced dead, shoved into a coffin and buried underground. But the fact of the matter was that I was still alive, struggling to break free from this rather peculiar confinement.

As a result, I was deeply and chronically depressed.

So, I entered group therapy. As I began to open up, some of the feelings that poured out of me were more than a little uncomfortable. And as I continued to dig deeper, I really became unnerved.

As a result, I shut down.

And suddenly, out of the blue, the white male in our group committed suicide. He’d jumped off a building.

I was thrown into a complete tailspin!

After driving home in an emotional and mental haze, I barricaded myself in my room. Sobbing uncontrollably, I kept thinking, “I’m just so tired… I just wanna sleep and not wake up.”

Immediately, something clicked in my head.

That’s when I scrambled about for the sleeping pills.

After emptying them on my bed, I reached for the large glass of water. Next, I scooped up most of the pills, poised and ready to shove them into my mouth.

And swallow.

Suddenly, though, I froze! “Wyatt, how was your day? I made banana pudding for you!” That was my mom’s voice.

Next, the following thoughts hit me like a jackhammer. “I can’t do this to my mother! She’d be the one to find me… it would destroy her! Besides, if I give up, I won’t realize my hopes and dreams…”

Sweating profusely, I gathered the pills. Dashing to the bathroom, I flushed them down the toilet. Pulling myself together, I checked in on mom.

And when I ambled back to my room, this odd wave of tiredness washed over me! I didn’t wake up until late the next morning.

The suicide attempt scared the hell out of me! Abruptly, I left group and entered one-on-one therapy. After months of successful treatment, I was able to accept my sexual orientation and developed coping skills.

After being “released from my coffin,” I was able to breathe like never before.

Remember: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there for you 24/7 — in both English and Spanish.

Call: 1-800-273-8255. 

Wyatt O’Brian Evans

(Mr. Evans is a regularly featured columnist for The Huffington Post, reporting and writing on a variety of issues and topics which strongly resonate with the LGBTQ Community. He is also a new collaborator at A4A)


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    • David

      The denial of black people’s struggles as a unique experience is part of what drive black msm into depression. Black lives matter bc someone has to say it matters. White lives mattering in this country is the norm.

  1. Pat

    Whites don’t get it. Blacks have additional layers of cultural stuff within the black community that most white gays today simply never have to deal with.

    That doesn’t diminish issues white gays have to deal with…but, if you’re white, add more stuff to your own issues and you may comprehend it.

    I’m white, have lived in black communities, and once dated a black man in my youth. My issues with coming to terms with being gay when it meant ostracism by acquaintances, neighbors and family were nothing compared to his. They were more intensified.

    The culture of the time saw me as a totally bad person…and I was raised to think of myself with that perspective. In the black culture, it’s still pretty much that way.

    • bjjj

      My best friend, lover, boy friend, is black and I am white, and yes the racism in this country still exists. The thing is I have a greater respect, relationship, and care for him more than my own family. We both have met and dealt with both families, and most don’t have a problem with us being together, but yes a few do. I say those that don’t think we should be together, well that’s their problem, not ours. Sure we have been brought up in different cultures, but I guess we both understand it. We love each other, and we don’t even think of our racial differences, we just accept it. We help each other out, be it emotionally, physically, or even financially. BTW, Pat, your are a very worth while person. I have found out it’s not any big deal be you white, black, or any other race, nationality or color. This world is full of many nice, beautiful people. Including every one who reads this.

  2. Rob

    To James: Erm I am assuming you are white? It dosent matter. Well Im not speaking for the writers but in my experience services dealing with depression seem to be aimed at white males or in general white folk. You wont see it cos your not blac and things would look easy to get, because advertising and everything is aimed at your type and background. What about people who might not have a home? or grow up properly because daddy or mummy never had a job? Yes the same might happen to poor white people – but at least they know of or can get access and get the help. Poor black LGBTQS are the lowest in the chain when it comes to this kind of help – as it is not physical. Funny when a white man needs a big cock where do they run to? Pick up (black) guys out in the streets or any poor judge of character black guy they can get – because they can! But once used, the black guys end up back on the streets broken used and yes indeed depressed and crazy. This is just one example of how it occurs..and how there is NO help. I even heard of some health professionals abusing their positions by asking for sex in exchange for psychological help…oh, if the patient was white the Dr would be struck off, but as he is black the Dr is “dating” and “helping” his black boyfriend come to terms with sexuality (in some cases the black guys were not even gay but made to in exchange for help)…until the next one comes along. Now theres another series just dying to be made! I say. And so the cycle continues. We get people like James asking why special provision needs to be made! Access. Simple. Hope you get it.

  3. Wyatt O'Brian Evans

    AGS: Thanks for following my series. First and foremost, you need to find a therapist. If you are not comfortable with the first one, don’t give up. Find one who you’re comfortable with. If you don’t have a health plan, there are free clinics available. Bottom line: conduct exhaustive research on resources available in your community.

  4. Locksley

    I should have gotten in this conversation long ago. I tried the sleeping pills, back in 92′ (employment) racism, moved to NYC, that wasn’t the best thing for an emotionally/psychologically injured person, but, I just had to get the hell outta Minnesota! I was told, “because you’re black, you won’t get what you deserve, regardless of how hard you work.” I was a computer operator asst., I started out as a temp, had reached a the criteria, that would by the company’s book make me eligible for full-time/benefits, was denied, hour reduced forcing me to quit. Later my first manager told me,” I don’t know how you’re going to take this, but they just hired someone else, in your place, fulltime!

    Back in Minnesota by Apr 96′ working ANOTHER corp., situation, same thing all over again, damnit! Wound-up classified as a “Severely Clinically Depressed” gay black man, at the government psychiatric Social Security Administration office.

    It was my only way of staying out of the streets, also, I needed to get into my own space away from my alcoholic ex, who was the only alternative (came to say the day, but, you can’t live w/ an alcoholic) after being fired. It was (flat-out racism in your face, you can’t do anything about, no rights) just brazen as all hell. I was 42yrs old then; can’t keep starting over like this losing you credit, emotionally distraught, losing my home( apt) ect., I wound up living (surviving) South Miami Beach (Amistad) the racism again, this time uniquely 18th century like, which is why I call it Amistad, its what it reminded me of because of the Cuban culture.

    I finally made it to Ft. Lauderdale, where its mixed, period, still racists, but I can feel a little better here; however, I’m quite reclusive; I’m ok in my own space, no pills/counseling or anything. I just defused my pain/rage by educating myself about ‘what’ I’ve come through and still going through as history plays out in this country.

    I have to say, when I can back to Minnesota, it bares saying that on (WCCO-Ch-4) in Mpls., had actually mentioned during their 6pm broadcast, “The future for the average Black American looks bleak.” I was struck by this for obvious reasons. I’m absolutely sure, that there’s a group of very powerful people in this country, that knew all of what has unfolded since 00′, was coming; maybe they even planned it all. I always felt deep in the heart of my very soul (911) had marked the beginning of something worse than the usual was coming, I said as much to a psychotherapist, “this marks the beginning of something much worse.”

    The man who happened to be a Jewish psychiatrist, push his recorder away from himself and said to me, “this suicides among America’s gay black males is becoming an epidemic, they’re just not ready for you, you’re intelligent/capable and they know it, but white America, just isn’t ready for you, yet.”

  5. BJ

    It’s not just black guys that get depressed, down and out. I’m white and many times I’ve gone into deep depression. Particularly when you feel no one cares about you, and your self esteem drops to an all time low. So many white people have a tendency to shy away from black guys, and other races. A lot of white people I know seem to think black men are always in trouble with the law, into drugs, stealing, crime, gun violence, etc, which is not true at all. Sure some are, and so is the same with the white and other races. Lets not avoid each other because of our physical differences, looks, age, race, and nationality. Try your best to get a long with everyone. My best friend and lover is black, (I’m white) and I’d even trust him with a million dollars, (if I had that kind of money). If I get down, just talking with him puts me in a lot better mood. If you can just talk and tell someone else your problems, be open with him (or her), and let him (or her) share that persons feelings as well, it helps so much getting out of a depressed mood. We all have our up’s and down’s, we just need to recognize it that it’s just part of life, share it with others, friends, etc, do some things together and know that your not only helping yourself, but him (or her) as well.

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