— Up-and-coming recording artist Caushun (pronounced "caution") has a forthcoming album entitled Proceed With Caushun, but he is not afraid to say what he is: the first openly gay rapper in hip-hop.
The 25-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native, who was born Jason Herndon, hopes he'll be a rap revolutionary with his openness about his sexual identity. "I feel blessed that I'm in a position to be opening doors to other venues for the gay community," he said. "We're already here in hip-hop. We just need to get to the point where we're seen as equals."
But Caushun is just one of several gay groundbreakers trying to tear down barriers and stereotypes in traditionally macho professions.
The nation's only openly gay police chief came out of the closet six months ago in Suisun City, Calif. And former professional baseball and football players have admitted their sexual orientation in recent years, exposing homophobia and intolerance in some of the nation's favorite sports.
But despite some progress for gays in sports and law enforcement — and the promise of a breakthrough in hip-hop — there is still a long road ahead.
Longtime Police Chief Confirms Rumors
Ron Forsythe was aware of gossip surrounding his sexuality during 10 years as Suisun City police chief and 26 years on the force. He knew he could not live a secret life much longer last December when he learned a local paper was planning to "out" him.
That's when Forsythe, 52, decided to he had admit his sexuality to his community on his own terms.
"It was time for me to do it," Forsythe said. "I had made a decision that when I committed to someone in my life, I would do it because I wanted him to share in some of the things that were special to me in my life, whether it be the police chief dinners or various city functions. … I had committed to someone and I wasn't going to let anyone make me feel ashamed of it."
Forsythe said he has received some hate mail since his public outing. But overall, the response from his community — and his peers — has been overwhelmingly positive.
That Forsythe kept his secret for so long may be partially responsible for the acceptance. His community respected him as a good law enforcement official before they knew he was gay — which could have been an obstacle if he had been forthcoming before his tenure as police chief.
"It helped him actually," said Ken Lutz, president of the Golden State Police Officers Association, or GSPOA. "If people had known that he was gay, that would have been just another component that people would have been thinking of."
Debunking Myths and Stereotypes
Gay and lesbian officers are nothing new in law enforcement. Organizations like GSPOA and the Gay Officers Action League have been successful since the 1980s in changing the perception of gays among law enforcement.
"Among the leadership in law enforcement, I have found incredible support," Forsythe said. "To those officers who are in the line of duty who are in the closet and may be pondering whether to let their superiors know about their sexual orientation, I would encourage them to let them know. By staying in the closet, we are actually helping perpetuate the myths and stereotypes surrounding gay police officers."