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Researcher and social justice practitioner advocates for Baltimore’s Black gay and bisexual community

Durryle Brooks was shocked to learn that roughly one in three Black gay and bisexual young men 15 to 24 years old reported experiencing intimate partner violence. He learned the statistic while managing a five-year clinical research trial for the National Institutes of Drug Abuse on Black and Latinx sexual and reproductive health across Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia starting in 2018.

“It’s a silent epidemic, something that so many of us as Black, gay and bisexual folks experience but never talk about,” said Brooks, a former research associate for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who now works as a research consultant through his firm, Love and Justice Consulting.

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“When a case does rise to the level of making news, it is often coded as simply assault. It’s the undercurrent around homophobia that’s still pervasive in our society,” said Brooks, who earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and studies social justice and sexuality.

Brooks offered the example of early reporting from Houston in 2017 when Devon Wade was allegedly murdered by his boyfriend, who died by suicide while out on bond. The case was originally reported as an assault.

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Durryle Brooks holds a Ph.D. in education and researches the intersection of social justice and sexuality.
Durryle Brooks holds a Ph.D. in education and researches the intersection of social justice and sexuality. (Avelino Amado)

Last year, Brooks spoke virtually at a Maryland-wide Domestic Violence Conference and conducted a workshop during Baltimore Black Pride last month on violence within the Black Queer Community. His talks on love and power have been part of training programs for Maryland prosecutors, attorneys, social workers and case managers who work in the field of abuse intervention.

“The typical story that we always hear about love is steeped in heterosexism,” said Lucane LaFortune, deputy director for the Lanham-based Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.

LaFortune has used Brooks’ work in training sessions for her organization’s staff. Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, bias and discrimination in favor of female–male sexuality and relationships.

“[Brooks] shows you who society generally thinks deserve to be loved and what the impact is to the LGBTQ community,” she said.

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Brooks notes that the Black queer community, gay and bisexual men specifically, is a population that often does not get equal access to domestic violence programs in Baltimore.

“[I’ve heard] everything from providers dismissing the fact that two men can experience intimate partner violence to folks being discriminated against because they’re gay and Black to feeling like service providers are unprepared to ask the types of questions to get to the root issues of them experiencing intimate partner violence,” he said. “If you’re a Black trans person, then you’re dealing with added layers of microaggressions of trying to get services. When people misgender you, that becomes immediately an unsafe space for you.”

LaFortune first met Brooks when she was working at the Baltimore Mayor’s Office as a sexual assault response team coordinator, getting law enforcement, prosecutors, medical professionals, and advocates to work efficiently together when responding to victims.

Over the past five years, the two have worked to incorporate the needs of the LGBTQ community into domestic abuse programs across Maryland. Brooks interviewed organizations, such as the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Turnaround Inc., and Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Abuse, to understand how to help them become more inclusive.

“He’s very approachable; he’s from Baltimore City, and he talks about his work in the field in a way that’s very accessible to people,” LaFortune said. “[Brooks] is down to earth, but a very informed researcher who’s also very passionate and he’s very honest about what his experiences are or have been.”

This article is part of our Newsmaker series that profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at khigh@baltsun.com.

Stephanie Garcia is a 2020-21 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a national service program that places emerging journalists in local newsrooms. She covers issues relevant to Latino communities. Follow her at @HagiaStephia.

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