When the Dudes Have Their Say

Everyone is all a buzz with all the public visibility that the Black Gay Community has gotten over the summer. I do think it’s high time in many ways, and I am glad to be, in some way, a part of this movement of Black queer folks pushing conversations around homophobia in the Black community.

I recently wrote two essays that were published and widely circulated (if I do say so myself!), about Reverend Willie Wilson’s homophobic nonsense and about Kanye West’s denouncing homophobia.

Today I saw a new piece in this week’s Village Voice entitled A Darker Shade Of Pink, which disucsses the all of the dudes – Farrakhan, Sharpton, & Kanye – who have made some gesture (some greater than others) towards dealing with homophobia in the Black community.

I had been aware of some all too familiar tendencies when I wrote the Willie Wilson piece, and was questioned by a woman-friend recently, and finally, The Voice piece really brought home for me: How are we, as Black gay men, contributing to the invisibility of Black queer women in the definition, disussion, and ultimately the revolution of ending homophobia and transphobia in our communities?

So much of the discussion has revolved around how men define, view, and respond to homophobia as straight men, and as gay men. I am equally to blame for this. In my piece about Willie Wilson (you can find the link on this site), I focused on homophobia as it related to Black gay men, even though we were not the main target of his assault. He began his tirade talking about how his son couldn’t get a date to the prom because his high school was full of lesbians save two girls who were “ugly.” He went further by saying that Black women are making more money than Black men, and that’s why many of them are turning to lesbianism, which is about to take over the community.

That was the majority of his homophobic rant. Which included a hefty amount of lesbian-bashing and woman-bashing, as he put forth that age old notion of Black women being castrating, dominant b*****s, who won’t let Black men rule. And when a woman gets too strong so as though she don’t even need a man (and his penis, by extension), they “become” lesbians. So, lesbianism is the destruction of the Black family unit.

That’s his argument. But I (and many others) chose to focus on what that meant for us, as Black gay men, without thinking thru (or at least writing about) what the real focus of his rant was: Black women. And I know, Black queer brothas reading this, that we are definitely impacted by homophobia and the target of violence that ensues as a result, but what does it mean when we aren’t even thinking or talking about (or with) Black queer women about the implications of these issues in their lives? Or that our concerns (when finally fucking recognized by the media and the community), are the one’s that dominate the discussion and the framework?

So, I am trying to think through what this means as a Black Gay man who is a writer, and someone who thinks about these things. I know for myself, I am also for the first time working in a Black gay organization. And working in the Black Gay nonprofit realm, in communications to boot, there is a way in which I have been able to not have to think through a more comprehensive analysis where Black women are concerned. This is no shade on my organization per se, but it is something about the collective community (which the orgs are the result of) that fosters this kind of misogyny.

Most of my working and organizing relationships have not been in Black gay male specific spaces, and have actually not been in organizing around what we think of as Black queer issues, per se. In any case, doing alot of the multi-issue organizing I have been more involved in over the last several years (prison/policing issues, for instance), I have worked closely with, and been mentored by Black queer women in those spaces. And I feel like I felt more accountable to them in my work and writing when I worked more closely with them. But in the Black gay HIV/AIDS nonprofit world, one does not have to think about Black women at all, unless dealing with the whole men on the “DL” issue. That’s a real problem we need to confront, even while Black gay men make up the majority of HIV/AIDS cases in the Black community, some analysis around homophobia and Black queer women has to be a part of our work. And how do we dispel the myths about “DL” men being the reason for high rates of HIV among Black women, deal with their homophobia, but also take into account the real and devastating toll HIV is having on Black women in the community?

I know that there are some people out there thinking “but Black lesbians have it easier in the community. Straght brothas think that’s cute. But they want to (and do!) beat faggots up.” Well, in my estimation (and I welcome any sista readers to check me on this if I’m wrong or incomplete), many straight men only “like” the idea of lesbian sex (which is different from lesbian-ism per se), insofar as they can see themselves as the center of the sexual act. So, as long as they can imagine that women are performing for them, and yet they still “want” dick, that’s cool. But when women actually create physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or geographical space that does not include men, they become the threat that Willie Wilson concocted in his mind. And violence is often the result when men feel that women are not “available” to them (i.e., they cannot control or dominate women). And that is homophobia.

In addition, there is also clear evidence that Black queer women are more severely impacted by institutional racism and sexism. If you read the National Black Justice Coaltion & National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Report onBlack Same Sex Households in the U.S., you’ll see that Black women in same sex couple make less money, own homes at a lower rate, and have fewer years at their residence (which could be interpreted as economic instbility)than their Black gay counterparts. These statistics show an additional burden that Black lesbians face at the hands of the state, and makes me wonder, why are all the boys taking up all the space?

Why is it that the straight-identified men get all the accolades when women like Coretta Scott King have already made the point? Why is that the Black gay glitterati (which i am definitely a growing part of) get to speak publicly on the issue when there are Black lesbians also doing the work and bearing the brunt of some of the homophobia as well? I wrote a piece on Willie Wilson, yet no one has called me with with any death threats, nor thrown a brick through my window (not that it can’t or won’t happen, but this does speak to the ways in which people feel empowered to do such things to a Black lesbian like Rev. Dyan Abena McCray, who had this happen to after writing a piece in the Washington Blade critiquing Rev. Willie Wilson).

So, I offer as an apology to my Black lesbian friends, mentors, and activists (like Rev. McCray and Carlene Cheatam, co-chair of the D.C. Coalition) who are doing this work, but whose contributions and voices get drowned out by the litany of men who, when the spotlight is on, are running like hell (with MAC faces beat up and down!) to be up in it.

My bad.

Prayer for New Orleans!

Today Mayor Ray Nagin called for an evacuation of New Orleans, as category 5 hurricane Katrina threatens cover the Crescent City in water. Literally.

The city is about 7 feet below sea level. It is also bordered on both sides by water. Lake Ponchartrain sits to the north of the city, and the Mississippi River snakes around it, creating the crescent shape. In essence, New Orleans is a bowl. The city has never (in recorded history) been hit by a hurricane this powerful, and if the water breaks through the city’s levee system, it will be a bowl full of water. It may take 10-14 days to drain.

Why am I concerned? I lived in New Orleans for a year working as the Southern Regional Coordinator for
Critical Resistance, and I have a few people that live there that I have grown to love personally. I also know that the city’s Black population will be the hardest hit. Watching the evening news tonight, I saw that they have made the Superdome the emergency shelter for people unable to leave. They interviewed a few non-Black tourists, and then thousands of Black people, who couldn’t afford to leave the city, seeking shelter in the Superdome.

It’s easy for visitors to New Orleans to get caught up in the decadence, the French architecture, Creole cuisine, the the jazz and blues and zydeco, and the lessez-faire attitude towards all vices. But don’t let the smooth taste fool you. The legacy of slavery is ever present in New Orleans – the former slave-owning class still runs the affairs of the city and state. The former Creole/free Black population generally are emplyed in government gigs (the last three mayors have all been very light-skinned Black folks), and then there are poor Black people, who have few options. Black unemployment is around 50%. The economy solely reliant on tourism – which means lots of low-wage service industry gigs with no benefits, the drug trade (which means selling drugs or sex work are two of the few means of gainful employment for young poor Black folks), and high policing/imprisonment of Black communitites (a national issue, but I find is particularly intense in cities/states heavily reliant on tourism, one reason why LA, FL & CA have the highest rates of incarceration in the nation). Most Black folks got some kinda hustle goin’ on to survive. So if you can sing, dance, tap, read tarot cards or are a Voodoo priest or Priestess, you have a means to make a living in New Orleans. If not, God be with you. So I am concerned about New Orleans becuase in the short time I was there, I saw how hard it is to live there there if you’re Black and poor on a given day. With a natural disaster impending, more misery will be heaped on misery.

But given all that, I love Black New Orleanians!!! Despite all of the institutional racism and sexism that is the state of Louisiana, Black folks in New Orleans are very genuine, and not the sacchrine-sweet you typically get in the rest of the Deep South. I love New Orleanians, and pray for the safety of folks I know (Sharon, Shana, Brice, Tamika, KJ, Paul, Mel, Joey, Curtis, Jane, Courtney, Darrell, Ms. G, Althea, Pat and all the rest of y’all.), you made me feel at home while I was there. To the New Orleanians I don’t know – my prayers are with you all. May you make it through this hurricane safely!!!

Lookin forward to seein’ y’all soon!

Kanye West – MY Official Statement

Hey readers, so I blogged a little about Kanye West’s denouncing homophobia twice already. I wrote a piece for Black AIDS Institute – which got re-printed by Pop And Politics that goes a little more in depth about why I think this announcement is important.Read Story Here

Donald interviewed me for his podcast on my thoughts on Kanye, and the state of hip-hop in general.

Note: One of the things that I don’t quite understand is the level of shade coming from Black gay men about Kanye’s story. First, some folks have mentioned being suspicious of his announcement, like, why now?

My answer is, “Do you really fucking care why now as opposed to two months ago, last album or ten years from now? Especially you children in NYC, who have been crying about why our lives don’t matter to the larger Black community. Well, someone risks his street cred and career to, in essence, say, “You matter enough to me to risk this.”

What the fuck more do you want?

The other most common statement is, “Oh, he’s gay and that’s why he’s doing this! Why would a straight man make this announcement?”

I, as much as anyone (except maybe a certain someone) would love for Kanye to be as gay as Liberace at Christmas. But I think to assume (even amidst all the rumors) that he must be gay simply because he chose to make this statement (which every manager, agent and publicist and record label exec must have dreaded), speaks of the highest levels of cynicism (and illustrates the sad point that homophobia is so deep that we cannot even imagine that a straight Black twentysomething rap star would want to speak out against homophobia in his community). I have a nephew who gets picked on in school and is called “faggot” or “gay” often. My nephew is 10. Whether or not he is queer or not is beside the point. The issue is that my nephew is very earnest, sweet, openminded and open hearted. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Homophobia affects his life in a very direct way. I think I am actually going to show him this interview when I go visit him next weekend, so we can talk about it. Kanye’s honesty about how homophobia affected his life and self-esteem (and the fact that he could transcend it) can be used to teach young Black boys who target and are targeting others about the pain caused by that kind of violence, and that one can move forward in a way that breaks the cycle of homophobia.

Lastly, the thing that pissed me off the most, was reading a comment on a listserv by someone saying that they wished he would have been more articulate.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? Because Kanye did not speak in “standard english” (whatever the fuck that is), and used colloquialisms to express himself DOES NOT MEAN HE IS NOT ARTICULATE! Let’s look at the content of what Kanye said as objectively as we can (and y’all know I believe objectivity is bullshit!). He told a personal story about how he was personally impacted by homophobia. Then he talked about internalizing that homophobia, and becoming homophobic himself (as a means of survival, really). Then, upon learning that a cousin (that he was obviously close to) was gay, he began to interrrogate the roots of his own homophobia. BUT HE DOESN’T STOP AT WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN JUST A SAPPY PERSONAL STORY. Kanye then turns to the camera, and challenges hip-hop artists (many of whom are colleagues, friends, or people who would kill for Kanye to produce some records for them) to stop it.

What about that isn’t articulate? To me, that statement represents some class shit about being embarrassed by Black people who aren’t socialized to act, sound, or look like white people. I am not going to get into this discussion just now, I am writing a piece about Being Bobby Brown that will go into more depth on that particular issue.

So, do y’all want some allies or not?

Kanye

OK. So I just watched the Kanye interview. Not only did he talk about his internalized homophobia (though I would have liked to see him interrogate masculinity a little more) and the root causes of it, but he turned to the camera, and put a call out for rappers to “stop it.”

I think that’s kinda big. Merv called me immediately, giggling like a fool. I am now interested in what the fallout will be in hip-hop.

On a sceond note, what was also interesting was that Sway’s interviewing skills were like, so superb. After Kanye’s arrogant rant in the beginning, Sway turned the conversation to Kanye’s break with Damon Dash, who discovered Kanye and convinced Jay-Z and Roc-a-fella to sign him. He asked Kanye, “Do you feel like that was a betrayal?” or something like that. Kanye’s whole demeanor changed. And he sat still for about 10-15 seconds – eons on TV, double eons on MTV. And he answered the question super-honestly.

Now, I SOOOOOO don’t want the white orgs to get to him first. I am making some calls first thing tomorrow.

OK. I am still reeling a little bit. What are your thoughts?

Kanye West Denounces Homophobia

Hey yall? Have you heard that Kanye West Denounced Homopobia in an MTV interview that airs tonight at 10:30pm?

I remember last year Donald siad to me when I wrote “We Real Cool” that he didn’t know why I was bothering to defend hip-hop, cuz he was one step away from thinking the whole thing is just some shit that we should turn loose of. Granted. But I do have to say that I am happy that Kanye decided to make some kinda statement against the rampant homophobia that is hip-hop. It is not so much that i want hip-hop, as a cultural/musical genre to be “redeemed” per se, I just want the homophobes to shut the fuck up!!!!

Really. If you can’t get with it, just keep my name out your mouth and your hand off me. It’s that simple.

I am not one of those people who thinks that hip-hop was once revolutionary and then veered down a wrong path. Hip-hop was a party music. I have a friend who siad to me once about another subject – “That is not revolutionary. That is a creative response to oppression. There’s a difference.”

And the same goes for hip-hop. A creative response to oppression? Yes. Liberatory/ Not so much. I like hip-hop, but I know better than to think it is going to save us. Beside, even if hip-hop artists stop spitting homophobic lyrics, what are they going to do about their misogyny? Can they stop that shit as well?

That said, I do think this is a step in the right direction. Listening to the conversations (backed with organizing)happening in DC, LA, Chicago, and NYC (at least we trying to get it together), I hear a different tone in our voices. Folks seem really done with the bullshit. I just hope that this (dare I say?) movement outlasts the press that celebrity hip-hop stars and ministers are getting. I also hope that the Kanye’s and the Sharpton’s actually speak to and work with Black queer folks and not just the white gay orgs who are bound to be all up in it.

That’s my rant for the moment. Being Bobby Brown is on, so I gotta go. I’m bloggin’ about Bobby and Whitney soon. Be patient…

Letters From Young Activists. Get it Soon!


So, my first book project, entitled Letters From Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out, is on it’s way. The book will be published in November, and we are already gearing up for publicity, launch parties, book events, etc. There are some great letters in the book, one of them written by yours truly, but some other great letters by Tiffany King, Merv Marcano, Not4Profit, Walidah Imarisha and a heap of others.

Bernardine Dohrn, former member of Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground also wrote the preface to the book. That preface was published recently. Check it out in Monthly Review.

If You Don’t See Me Smilin’….

Today I was at Jimbo’s with my two co-workers, orderding a mess of brugers, fries and greasy goodness for lunch. I already looked fierce in my organge bathing suit on Sunday at Black Pride, now it’s Tuesday and she’s back to eating!

Kidding.

Anyhow, we, three fine ass Black gay men, were perched on stools, waiting for our food to come out the grease. I looked out the window onto 125th Street, and I see this brotha, with a busted ass perm, all combed back, looking like who done did it?, as the old people say. My coworker made a comment, and I was co-signing, like, yeah, that’s a mess. I don’t do men with perms, and he’s not even cute. For me, it’s not on some “I only date butch men” shit, but I just like natural hair. As far as I’m concerned, Prince is the only brotha that can keep his perm, the rest of y’all gotta let that shit go!

In any case, this fool comes al up in Jimbo’s, talking all this shit, indirectly of course, about how we betta stop lookin’ at him, cuz he don’t do that homo shit, etc.

Now, my first reaction was to turn around and cuss him the fuck out. But, then I thought about all the crazy shit that’s been happening and choose in that moment to take a deep breath, and let it go – as long as he don’t put his hands on me, I’m cool.

He left, just as ugly as when he came in. And I thought to myself, “If you really only knew what we were talkin’ about.”

Years ago, a straight black male college buddy of mine named Hector and I were talking. THis was my freshman year, and to date myself, the gays in the military debate was all the rage (To clarify, I NEVER made gays and lesbians going into the service my political project. I NEVER gave a fuck!). Hector was saying that he had had a conversation with several other hetero Black male students who were like, “Man I wouldn’t want no faggots starin’ at me in the shower and shit.”

Hector’s response was, “Man, why do y’all always think gay men are tryin’ to get with you rusty ass! He may be staring at you cuz he think you a ugly muthafucka!”

I wish this fool woulda heard that. I wish I didn’t have to fear being bashed (or worse) to say it to him. Sometimes I feel like taking it there, and sometimes I don’t. Today I didn’t feel like it.

So, I just saw some more dumb ass shit about an LA Nation of Islam mosque chose, out of all the damn things to be done in Los Angeles, to protest Noah’s Ark. Now, I have not seen the show. It is still in production in LA for MTV’s LOGO Channel. So, I cannot speak to the politics of the show, but it’s the principle of the thang! It’s just like as much as I am not so keen on gay marriage, I hate the fucking homophobes who are against it for completely different (and disgusting) reasons. So, now that I have cussed you all out, READ THE GODDAM STORY…Full Story

By the way, the title of this entry comes from my favorite Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers song (actually sung by Stephen Marley) called Rebel In Disguise. The lyrics go, “If you didn’t see me smilin’/It ain’t got nothin’ to do with you…”