This post comes after watching the movie Dear White People and the gay character Lionel Higgins (played by Tyler James Williams) was asked why he wasn’t in the gay housing on campus, and why he stayed away from the black housing. His answer echoed my own in the early years of my life; and if I’m being honest, has some residual discomfort left in my current life. Simply put, I always felt being gay made me less welcomed in the black community. I wasn’t into Hip Hop as much as I was into Pop, or dress in a stereotypical black male manner. I thought I would find myself in gay community, where the message was always about inclusion, until I was in the circle and realized I still wasn’t black enough for the black gays, or the white gays, looking for their Mandingo, overly thug and sexed black trophy. So I’m black but not black enough for either group, what the hell?
I have talked about the difficult nature of being black in the gay community before, but with a focus on how race shined a light of difference that made existing more challenging (see here). The interesting thing is while I love being both gay and black (neither of which I could change if I wanted to) it doesn’t make it less awkward in certain situations. I remember going to the black fraternity functions and not feeling like I could hang with the fellas, opting to socialize with the females around and the friends I came with. I felt all eyes on me because I was dressed in my own style of fashions that weren’t commercialized as being the look for black men. I wasn’t adopting the stereotypical black male habits that so many were; and didn’t see myself but in a few people I had already latched onto as friends. It made me fearful to even go to the barbershop, as that is nothing more than the black man’s church, sports bar, card playing shop, and safe haven from the world; yet I felt un-welcomed due to my insecurities. I had no one to embrace or reassure me I was with my people because the stigma in the black community of gay men was, and I believe still is deeply homophobic. It’s not just one reason, from the church, to being emasculated from slavery through Jim Crow, and into affirmative action; they all make us as a people inferior, and being gay was one more addition the black community just doesn’t want to allow in.
Now after coming out and embracing my sexuality I just knew our shared gay struggle would ingratiate me into the community; I was wrong. It seemed like all I was good for sex with my big black dick. If it wasn’t that it was I needed my black male ‘pussy’ to be worked on, and trust me the sexually explicit and abusive words got even worst. I was either the one black friend( a mirror of hetero world norms), the Vogue queen( we don’t all know how to do to the death drop),the thug( I barely even like Hip Hop after the early 2000s), or I still was some kind of fetish but I wasn’t a friend. I just figured in the gay community I could just be me. I was already feeling my sexuality was holding my back in the black community, and now I was feeling my race was holding my back in the gay community. So I was determined to find the answer, and I did.
I just can’t be worried about your opinions of me. Through all of that I found my voice and confidence that your issues didn’t have to become mine. There are way too many wonderful, open-minded people in both communities that do not see a gay black man but a man. They see what I display which is strength, love, intelligence and integrity. They don’t allow the shell to define the man, and in truth I was allowing my shell to be the story. With all the wonderful words now, I was still pretty beat up and broken for much of my developing youth, but I might not have been able to see the damaging ways of both communities if I hadn’t experienced it for myself.
The image of the black man is on the black community to continue to shape. The image of the gay man is on the gay community to continue us to shape. The image of the black gay man is mine to command and shape for myself. And I do it well.