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.

13 thoughts on “When the Dudes Have Their Say

  1. this is the first time in a long time that i have read a critique of the patriarcy that exists in the gay black community without the author having had to be called out first. i should have known it would have been you to do so after reading your article entitled “is gay marriage racist?” thanks for putting this out there on the blogsphere for people to read and contemplate. this is just a reminder that patriarchy can flourish in so-called progressive communities. it is a reminder that the homosocial power structure still exists even where it really shouldn’t. let’s hope that the gay black boys who i KNOW you were thinking about when you wrote this are reading and digesting.
    thanks, kristen

  2. you took the words right out of my mouth…

    The LA Times recently published a feature on WNBA survivor Latasha Byears, and I think it’s interesting that this sista’s struggle hasn’t gotten as much support and attention from us…

    It’s also a shame how these “gender essential” arguments further marginalize trans/genderqueer/intersexed folks…

  3. When I lived upstate in Albany, New York, all of our Black LGBT organizing was done in jointly run male and female organizations. It was partly because we were open-minded and partly out of need. Separately, we didn’t have the numbers to do things by ourselves.

    When I moved to NYC, and got involved with Black gay community groups, it was years before I ever encountered a lesbian. Men went one way, women another, and rarely did they have any reason to meet. It was odd and seemingly unprogressive to me.

    Having been a participant at the 1999 initial gathering in Buffalo that led to formation of the New York State Black Gay Network, I kept wondering, where were Black lesbians from across the state and why weren’t they invited?

  4. it was always been my experience that if it were for black lesibians there won’t be a womanist movement or a black gay movement. Many women were wholly responsible for laying the very foundations of both. And its funny the point you made about lesbianism, or rather what makes a woman lesbian, is when a woman decides or discovers that she doesn’t need a penis in her life, I thought that was independence not lesbianism?

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