My name is CorNeilius Smith. I’m originally from Alabama but I was raised mostly in Gary, Indiana.
I’ve always been a spiritual person. I grew up in a church. I used to sing in the kids’ choir, then moved to the adult choir. There were roughly 25-30 kids in my generation, around my age. Now at the church I’m the only one left of that group. I’m the only one there under the age of 35 now.
I love singing. I also play the piano, keyboard, organ, all that stuff now. So I sing gospel music and I pray. I think a lot of Christians think that’s all they need to do. But for me, I try to be a good person. I try to be a charitable giver, give whenever I can, help somebody out whenever I can. It’s not just about saying you’re a Christian and you don’t do anything.
I think that God put us on Earth for a reason, and it’s to help people as much as we can, be a giver, not a taker all the time, just listen to people and be there for them.
People should be able to see spirituality in you. If you’re always mean and evil to people and you turn right around and say, “I’m about to go to church,” that’s an oxymoron. How can you say you love God if you’re mean and evil and conceited? I try to be a positive person, optimistic person, and I have always been like that.
I always knew that I was gay. When I was in high school, I really didn’t talk about it then because, to me, being African American and gay was like a double negative. So growing up, I was like, “I’ll just keep it to myself. It’s nobody’s business anyway.” A few of my closest friends I went to high school with knew, but I didn’t really tell anybody else. I was kind of ashamed of it.
So then when I went to Earlham, I just said, “I’m grown now, I’m in college.” I had more things to worry about, more things to think about – like my degree – than what people thought about me.
I get more negative feedback from African American males than any other group of people. Because I'm not straight, they think that I’m promiscuous. Now, I’m 30 years old and I’m still a virgin. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re promiscuous. I’m not going to have sex with just any old body. I go to clubs every now and again, but I want to be in a long-term committed relationship before I think about sex. I don’t mind being by myself. I’m not searching for anyone. Thing like that – love and relationships – that should just happen naturally.
They also assume that I’m weak, but no, actually I’m a member of the Army, and if I can go through basic training then I’m not weak. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about me, personally, in terms of being African American and being gay.
I know that, yes, there are gay Christians. Sexuality should not be a concern, God loves us all. We’re all His children. But I really don’t think that there are a lot of churches that are GLBTQ friendly.
One of my friends, her mother is an overseer at a church in Muncie, Indiana called Rainbow Cathedral. Sometimes I would drive up there to go to those services. It was very enjoyable to be around other people of the GBLT community who were also religious, and we would sing and we would pray and we would hear the sermon. It was really uplifting to be a part of that and to know that communities like that exist. I’m not sure if there are any around here in Gary. I don’t really need a church per se to keep me connected with God, but it is good for me to fellowship with other members of those communities.
A lot of people say, you know, “Gay is wrong” and “God hates gays” and this, that and the other. The Bible says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Don’t judge me. Only God can judge me. So I really don’t care what people think about me. In the end, God is going to be the one to judge me.
I ask God for protection and he protects me. I am from Gary, Indiana, which was the murder capital of the country for ten years straight. I’m safe, I’m sound, I’m healthy, I’m here. That’s all that matters.
I’m happy to say that I’m a gay African American man. I’m happy to say that I love God. Because he loves me. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.
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This text is edited from an interview with CorNeilius recorded on Saturday April 27, 2013 in Merrillville, Indiana.