DC Health conducted a three-part listening session with nearly 60 young Black gay men recruited from the DC metropolitan area using a social network approach. Because young Black gay culture often includes a Sunday brunch, the three-part listening sessions were held at a well-known restaurant that is conducive to intimate conversations.
The concerns of young Black gay men included self-presentation, dynamics between locals versus transplants (“Where do I belong?”), and lack of community and safe spaces. In terms of self-presentation, there is desire to “fit in” and significant concern about how the community views them. Those who don’t fit in see themselves “on the outside looking in.”
This results in some members of the community feeling isolated. Because the DC area is so transient, it has created a rift between native Washingtonians and transplants. According to participants, this disconnect has led to a fracture in the young Black gay community. For those who move to the Washington, DC, area alone with no support system, this dynamic further exacerbates the feeling of isolation.
The number of safe spaces that support the gathering of young Black gay men has continued to decline over the years — currently there is only one. The lack of meeting spaces adds to a lack of sense of community. There is a strong desire for intimacy and community connection.
Young Black gay men can adapt to most environments and are resourceful even while lacking community connections. They want intimacy and connections with others. Young Black gay men can be very supportive of other communities.
Young Black gay men are interested in creating or maintaining safe spaces. These safe spaces can become information hubs where people can learn from each other while building a sense of community. Optimizing safe spaces can both support needs of community and address public health issues.