Monroe Howard-Shackelford, a D.C.-based licensed psychotherapist, is reframing the way Black queer men view their sexuality through a series of “Sacred Sexuality” virtual workshops and a recent in-person presentation at the 2022 NAESM Conference.
Howard-Shackelford says he never heard anti-gay sermons in the church he grew up in, but the message was clear about how society and the traditional Black church felt about LGBTQ+ people. Any romantic relationship or sexual desire that dared to exist outside of the heterosexual binary of traditional marriage was to be demonized. For many Black queer men, the messages received from the pulpit are often in direct conflict with their truth, making it nearly impossible to experience organized religion without harm being inflicted.
For some LGBTQ+ people who are deeply entrenched in the Black church experience, the concept of queer sexuality as sacred can be jarring, if not completely foreign. Sexuality is sacred on its own, and that includes Black queer sexuality, says Howard-Shackelford.
“I think that it is essential to live this liberating experience, to see yourself as not a mistake, because that is fundamentally how we are orientated—this is a sinful nature that must be taken out of you,” he said. “And if it is not taken out of you or away from you, you are not trying hard enough. You are not praying hard enough and you will live a life of shame and you will live a life of discomfort.”
Howard-Shackelford tells The Reckoning that part of his work in aligning the sacredness of Black queer sexuality is through encouraging men to see themselves foremost from a divine perspective.
“You were created on purpose. And it seems so fundamental, but it's very profound for a person to not see themselves through the lens of sin,” he said.
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