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2— "A Host of Different Men": The Diversity of Gay Black Men in Harlem
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Kinfolk

Family is a very important factor in the lives of black people. There is much social-scientific literature to attest to this. However, much of the data on families of gay black men in Harlem contrasts with the information that social science has produced for black urban families.[10]

Twenty-eight of my fifty-seven respondents were raised by both their parents, and one was raised by his mother and her brother. Donny noted once that he couldn't understand all the "brouhaha" about single-parent families in Harlem, when he and all his friends were raised by both parents: "My daddy only died recently. But most of us have both parents still alive. You'll see. . . . When I was in high school, I remember all the fathers taking part in a father and son softball tournament over in Riverside Park. And everybody's daddy came along." Twenty-seven were raised for at least a few years by their mothers alone, and one by his maternal grandmother. Forty-five have mothers still alive, with whom they interact frequently. Twenty-three fathers also figure prominently in the current social networks of these informants. Seventy-seven percent were raised with between one and four siblings, and only two were raised alone. Maternal grandmothers, maternal aunts and uncles, and paternal aunts figure prominently in their social networks as well.

The levels of frequent interaction with older kin reflect the power and importance of family ties to these residents of Harlem. Even more important, and in contrast to the current discourse on black men, is their involvement with their own children. Nine of my respondents are parents, five of whom raise their children. One raises his three sons and one daughter with his lover, and another raises his


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daughter and son with his ex-wife. Six of these informants are legally divorced, and one is married but separated from his wife. All the rest have never married.


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