When an open and autonomous culture of gays and lesbians began to form in America’s urban centers during the late 1960s, there already existed largely integrated within the African-American community an established and visible tradition of homosexuality. The consolidation of an openly gay culture had a direct impact on the ways in which Black gays and lesbians could position themselves within the African-American community, in relation to the emergent gay community, and in relation to American society at large. Given the ways in which European-American society has projected its own anxieties about sexual pathology and conformity onto African-American culture, it is not surprising that issues of sexual diversity would be intimately tied to matters of racial community within the United States. The legitimate theoretical link between racial liberation and sexual liberation immediately became confused by the American tendency to associate sexual license with African-American culture. If racial integration was projected as a threat to social order based on the myth of the African American as a promiscuous, pathological other, then it was a short step to conflating the social transgressions of homosexuality with deepseated anxieties surrounding Black sexuality. As the fear of cross-racial sexuality was intensified by the integration-oriented civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, the fight for racial integration set the stage for viewing gay liberation in a similar light: as a crossover phenomenon that operated by disrupting a social order based on maintaining the nuclear family, proper gender roles, and solid racial boundaries. The open display of
homosexuality in the cities seemed to be but another symptom (and proof) of the breakdown of social order brought on by white America’s impending loss of cultural control over black America.