There’s No Shame in Love

by Jose de Marco

From PHN Issue 19, Winter 2014

I’m Jose de Marco. My father was Latino, my mother was African-American. I’m a man that loves other men.

   I believe if people were more accepting of who they are, they would not care when other people criticize them about who they love. But you have to get to the point where outside influences—whether it’s church, your teacher, your mother, or your brother—your happiness cannot depend on the permission of other people.

   If you grow up in certain neighborhoods, like the neighborhood I live in, you don’t want to be perceived as a rainbow-colored flag, because you’ll have constant arguments. And it’s society that thinks up labels, like “faggot,” “punk”—nobody wants to be labeled with those terms.

   Because of having been enslaved, poverty and racism have decimated the Black community, more or less. I think as people of color that have been oppressed, we have a tendency to want to imitate our oppressors. So we’ve gotten caught up in finger-pointing and name-calling, because people need someone else to oppress. Black and Latino men who show affection for other men aren’t seen as strong figures in their community. But nobody wants to be seen as being weak just because of who they love.

   In communities of color, most people are deeply religious, whether Muslim or Christian. I think that’s where a lot of the stigma is generated. I really think people should keep their noses out of other people’s bedrooms and be kinder to each other. Jesus taught that you treat your neighbors as you’d have them treat you. In fact, Jesus had nothing at all to say about homosexuality. God made us all, and I’m told God has never made a mistake.

   Love does not need to be stereotyped or labeled. Human beings love each other all the time, whether they’re a man and a woman, two women, or men. Sometimes people simply need human touch and affection from another person. And this happens when folks are incarcerated too.

   These labels and stigma are some of the reasons some people turn to drugs. Some people hide. A lot of people are so ashamed of their own sexuality that they have secret sex lives. When you’re living a secret life, you don’t want to be associated with the word “gay.”

   For many of us, we’re taught sex is a bad thing to begin with. I think sex should be enjoyed, and you should never feel ashamed for enjoying sex or wanting to have sex.

   If people are having same-sex relationships, you may consider yourself open or you may consider who you sleep with your own personal business and no one else’s. You don’t have to embrace a name, you don’t have to embrace a label. You don’t have to be gay, you don’t have to be bisexual. You can just be a human being who chooses to have sex with the same sex or love someone of the same sex. But you must always be safe and get tested.

   If you’ve had unprotected sex in prison, seek an HIV test immediately when you come home. Confidential tests are available outside prison. And please use condoms. For those in a monogamous relationship, I wouldn’t advise people to engage in unprotected sex until they have had an HIV test. Protect yourself and those you love. It’s really simple, whether you’re sleeping with men or women.

   There’s no shame in having sex or in who it is that you love. Only the world and society wants you to feel bad for who you are. The sooner we learn and understand that, the sooner we can address HIV and AIDS issues in communities of color.

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