Gay Scandal: Nigerian Style

I just hosted a Nigerian gay activist on his stay in NYC recently, and it was really instructive to hear how queer politics are playing out in the country. Contrary to popular belief that the only discussion about non-normative gender or sexuality in Africa is one that results in violence. But in the public sphere of mass pop culture driven by tabloid and “reality” scandals, there  seems to be, according to my new friend, an obsession with gay identity in Nigeria at the current moment.

Case in point, Derenle Edun and Charly Boy. Edun is a Nigerian TV personality and Charly Boy is a popular musician. Tabloid Entertainment 24/7 (E247) published some scandalous photos of the two in a range of poses that apparently is a recent talk of the town. Nigerian entertainment website Under Da Rock also blogged about the article with the title

Derenle Edun gets erotic with Charly Boy for a mag!

This is currently a major story in many Nigerian newspapers based on my google search. But rumors have swirled around the two for years, and Denrele was asked by Naija Rules.com flat out if he was gay:

Q: There was this rumour sometime ago that Denrele is a homosexual?
A: I think the truth is that no matter how good you are, people will want to look for a loophole somewhere and penetrate you, but when they don’t find one, they will just say something. I am not bothered about the rumour at all, because if I am gay or homosexual, I will come and say it because I don’t lie, but what the allegation has done to my person is that it has put me in trouble with some people because they started to torment me. I am a kind of person that when they call me and say you are a gay, I don’t shout at them because I am one of the people that affect people positively. I don’t care who you are, your status, age, standing in the society or your sexual preference, I have a lot of gay friends and lesbians, but I don’t mind because it is part of life and life has to be lived. When they started to peddle the rumour, the first one I heard was that I went to a gay party and some people came to me, disturbing me. You know people just make fabrications. My family was not even bothered because they know me very well. What I will say is that when I am getting married, I will invite all of you to come and be part the of occasion.

While he clearly denies being gay, he does emphatically defends people’s right to their own sexuality and identity. So people, it is important to try to find ways to help LGBT folks in Africa defend themselves against unjust laws and violence (like what’s happening in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo), but it’s important not to support certain discourses that paint Africa as forever and always socially “backward” or anti-queer.

THANK GOD!: Pilot Refuses Body Scan and Questions TSA Surveillance Policies In General

I have been hoping, wishing and praying someone would finally stand up to this, because the Transportation Security Administration is out of control.

I was watching CNN just moments ago, when ExpressJet pilot Michael Roberts was interviewed by Kiran Chetry, about his refusal to go thru the new body scan machines at airport he was flying through, and then was subjected to the invasive body pat-down. I hope CNN posts the video because he said a lot of interesting things.

What I liked most about his interview was that he didn’t make this about his personal issue to be free from the increased surveillance as a pilot. Chetry tried to suggest in her questioning that “Isn’t the security there to protect the safety of the passengers?” He framed his response about the TSA surveillance system as an abuse of power by the state, and as an issue of protecting interests that have nothing to do with travelers, not as an issue of “security for passengers.” Roberts went so far as to compare TSA security to bank security guards: They’re there to protect the bank’s interest, not your safety.

He was kind of dismissed by Chetry and co-anchor (whom I despise) John Roberts in the post interview banter (Which is what I pay close attention to–this chatter between stories to fill time or build transitions is where the political views and comittments of so-called objective journalists often is the most exposed.).

I usually find it hard to find a place to support issues like this as they are often framed in the media from a libertarian “the state should leave people alone, but by people we mean white men” perspective. With all of the anti-Washington, anti-government spending, anti-government intrusion in personal liberties rhetoric of the Tea Party movement, that the issue of the increased militarism and police state practices now ubiquitous in American society has not been taken up by this movement, is interesting. I guess it speaks to the centrality of racialized notions of “crime prevention,” “security,” and “war on terror” for maintaining the military and prison industrial complexes in such a way that keeps most people invested in these things you’d assume would be the first thing they’d protest, even in there narrow and often obnoxious worldview. Anyhoo, here’s a link to a much more boring story about this from the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Brazilian Men Sex Trafficked in Spain

Over the last year I have heard straight men who are very prominent in the intimate partner domestic violence movement state in public forums, before hundreds of people, that “men don’t have to get up and think about what ind of clothes they put on that say, and is it going to invite some kind of violence or assault,” or some form of the message “men don’t have to worry about sexual violence.”

Really? Because as a black gay man, I worry about that every day. The possibility of rape or sexual assault is not out of the realm of possibility for me.  In fact, there are statistics that show gay men have a disproportionate rate of child sexual abuse histories. And I think for a lot of men who are even straight, so much of the violence men perpetrate against each other has very gendered aspects of those interactions.

Today, the Associated Press reported on a story showing that in Spain, police have busted up a sex trafficking ring where Brazilian men (keep in mind Brazil has the largest number of Black people outside the continent of Africa–just to help provide some racial context for who may in fact constitute “Brazilian.”) were being forced to do sex work with other men. The AP writes:

The victims, men in their 20s and estimated to number between 60 and 80, were mainly recruited in northern Brazil and saddled with debts of up to euro4,000 ($5,000) as the cost of bringing them to Spain.

Some were duped into thinking legitimate jobs awaited them as go-go dancers or models; others knew they would be working in the sex industry, but not that they had to be prepared for sex around the clock and would be moved from one province to another depending on demand for their services, Nieto told a news conference.

The men had to give half their earnings to the gang, and pay for rent and food in the apartments where they worked.

To show the total racism of the Spanish authorities, the article also notes that on top of busting up this ring, 17 of the “prostitutes” were then also arrested for being in Spain illegally. Despite being held against their will.

I want to be clear that trafficking and coercive sex is different from people who willingly participate in sex work, even if the conditions are often dangerous or less than desirable, or the reasons which they chose it have to do with other structural problems.

I also don’t point this out to usurp any discussion about the impact of sex trafficking on women identified people, or sexual violence and rape against women. But it is to say, that I wish that the men who have made their careers and mission to educate other men about violence against women, don’t continue to make false assumptions about the “safety” that all men are supposed to have, when clearly many of us, because of our gender or sexual orientation, race and/or class,  may not in fact be so safe.

(Note: I put a lot of thought into what image to post with this piece. I didn’t want to find a picture of “Brazilian men” that further hypersexualizes them (They are hypersexualized enough), and that would further perpetuate a strange desire to consume their bodies, while trying to take seriously the situation of these men being forced to have sex and financially exploited precisely because of the way their bodies are desired. The Advocate.com, for instance, went in the other direction of their stock image choice.)

Queen Latifah: Sexuality a “Private” Matter or Protecting a Corporate Brand?

There has been lots of speculation about Queen Latifah’s sexuality for many years. Most recently rumors were almost totally confirmed by photos of Queen and Jeanette Jenkins (thought to be her longtime partner) in clearly romantic embraces while at a boat party for the marriage of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz.

Latifah is the latest of a string of celebrities that have been known (allegedly) to be queer, and were all but outed by tabloids, gossip mags and radio, etc. But is Queen Latifah’s sexuality up for debate? Is it any of our business, or is it a “private” matter?

This week, writer Jamilah King opined at Colorlines.com about whether or not people, in this case Queen Latifah, have to come out in the political way that we think about it, or if outing people is an effective strategy. She writes:

She may not be leading next year’s Gay Pride parade down San Francisco’s Market Street, but she’s telling the world that she’s living her life and not particularly concerned with hiding it. The photos, which she clearly didn’t hide from, may say the rest.Queen Latifah may not have a particularly political queer identity, and if she wants to remain silent about her personal life, then so be it. But forcing someone into becoming a role model of any sort has never been a good strategy. If anything, it creates an atmosphere of shame and guilt. And love is always about much more than that.

While I recognize that many straight people (including homophobes, including black ones) and queers (including a lot of self-interested white LGBT organizations and activists) want people to come out for many reasons that are about their own shit. But I think  we need to ask some serious questions when we say that someone’s sexuality is simply a private, personal issue that is off the table for discussion, especially a multi-millioniare like Queen Latifah.

Latifah has partly made a career off of promoted heteronormativity in some pretty conservative films–not just as an actress but as an executive producer. The extremely racist and sexist Bringin Down The House was a film where her character , a black “ghetto” ex-con at first causes havoc to the life and family of Steve Martin, but in the end assists him in correcting his white middle-class, heteronormative family.  Latifah was executive producer. Beauty Shop is a film that has one mammy character after another, and even Last Holiday, while critiquing the ways in which Black women are forced into roles of servitude to their own detriment, still follows a traditional path that ends in her union with LL Cool J.

Since Queen is one of the very few black women in Hollywood who can really finance their own projects, don’t we have an obligation to ask how these very images not only contradict her personal life, but more importantly, promote hetero-normativity to the detriment of black queers, and even straight black people who choose non-normative lifestyles? At this point, I believe we are absolutely allowed to raise these questions, insofar as they speak to political choices that implicitly or explicitly promote homo/queer phobia.

But celebrities somehow have access to privacy, as a way to not only silence any gossip about who they’re fucking, but actually to silence others critiques to protect their privacy insomuch as it threatens their capitalist enterprises.

Not only does Queen have a rap and acting career, but has:

  1. a movie production company that has a DVD distribution  deal with Paramount
  2. a record label
  3. a perfume line
  4. is a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, Pizza Hut, and Cover Girl
  5. a Cover Girl make-up line for women of color, and
  6. owns at least one FatBurger restaurant.

I found one internet site saying her net worth was $50Million.

I understand that she may pay a higher price (as a Black woman) for coming out that Ellen DeGeneres did not pay, but protecting her fortune or corporate brand is not a reason for us to shut up about it.

Antoine Dodson: Internet Star or Homophobic Joke?

I kinda love Antoine Dodson. The Huntsville, Alabama black gay (I mean he hasn’t said that, but can we just go with it?) man who has become an internet sensation because of a widely circulated local news story about an attempted rape made upon his sister with whom he lives in a housing project. The attempted rapist apparently climbed through the sister’s window and Antoine awakened to the sound of the ensuing scuffle, and helped chase the assailant out of their home.

So far there have been two news stories, and several remixes done by internet geeks of Antoine. I love that he’s so queer, clearly from a poor and /or working class community, and so visible–as someone who’s clearly somewhat femme in presentation if not identity, and not a victim. I have been, for the last several days, watched a lot of these videos and remixes with varying levels of pride, dismay, amusement, etc.

But some things are being lost here.  In my first viewing of this news story, I was less amused as the rest of America seems to be. A Black woman was nearly raped. And what disturbed me about the original video was that while Antoine and Kelly were angry, there was a way that it also seemed so normalized.  Maybe it was Kelly’s stoic way of dealing with it–I don’t want to tell anyone they need to perform their trauma  for the American media or public to feel they’re “properly hysterical”–but I hope that she has access to some support to deal with this. Is anyone helping her there or offering support? I totally commend her for being willing to come forward, which must not be easy, and could open her, and Antoine, up for retaliation. Maybe it was the way the story was produced that gave it a “this is what happens in the projects everyday” kind of tone.

Also, the news station intentionally included more footage of Antoine than Kelly, who was the actual survivor–were they going for ratings here? Did they stick this on Youtube? This just feels like exploitation of her situation by the press. You can tell the news station is responding to critism they received about the original story in the follow-up piece (no doubt some of the critique from bourgie black people who don’t think poor black people should ever be in public view at all, but that’s another blog post).

Secondly, like reality television, I am afraid that the joke is really on Antoine. Who, despite doing the right thing in this situation, is being made a mockery of, I think. If you really look at this phenomenon, this is really America making fun of this poor, black, and presumably gay man in a moment where he was clearly pissed off and angry about his home being invaded and his sister being subjected to violence. When I look at most reality TV shows like I Love New York/Flavor of Love, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of ATL/NJ, etc, I really see how much the reality TV culture exploits poor and working class people, our struggles, and or culture, especially people of color. The (often black) gay sidekicks on these shows adds to the circus-like atmosphere of it all, but at after 20 years of being invisible in American visiual culture (including black visual culture), one can’t help but be glad we’re even visible.

So while we applaud Antoine, let’s not make a mockery of him, nor lose Kelly Dodson, and the horrific event that made us know who they were in the first place.

Black in Bed-Stuy: Another Kind of Non-Citizen

While all eyes are turned to Arizona for the (now partial) implementation of SB 1070, I found an interesting article in City Limits (a NYC-based public policy and urban affairs news site and magazine, which has gotten really good in the last year!) about a public meeting last night, where residents of Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood voiced their concerns about policing, and the “stop and frisk” policies of the New York Police Department.

What’s interesting about this, or sad perhaps, is the ways in which Black people have to deal with law enforcement every day, and unless you’re shot dead, with very little public outcry. The testimonies from this town hall meeting recounted in the City Limits piece are heartbreaking:

Anger rattled his voice when he came to the microphone to tell a tale that has become all too familiar in his Brooklyn neighborhood, Bedford-Stuyvesant. The police have been harassing him, he told the crowd, because he is a young, black male. In his hand, he held a baseball cap. His hair was cropped close to his head. He wore a long, white t-shirt and oversized jeans. He’s done nothing wrong, he said, but police have issued him 50 tickets he can’t afford to pay, accusing him of loitering, engaging in disorderly conduct and other minor crimes. “I’ve got fifty tickets in my house and I ain’t got fifty dollars,” he said…

…A woman said that she “would never call the police for any reason—if I was assaulted,” she said, “they would be the last people I would call.”…

…An older woman, a grandmother, said that she was beaten by police officers in 2008 when she could not produce identification. Both of her wrists were broken during the incident, she said…

…David Miller, who directs a hip hop TV show, said that his son was arrested on the streets of Bed-Stuy for lack of identification and was sent to central booking for 22 hours. “It’s like the South Africa pass laws,” he said. “We are simply not respected.”

I am not interested in an argument with the Left about all the organizing around SB 1070 because it is a disgusting and indefensible law by the legislature of Arizona, but I am here to suggest that the argument that the Arizona situation is one step towards a police state, is actually one step too late. These kinds of human indignities are already enshrined in law in cities all over the nation (including the half Black and 1/3 of NYC stop and frisks that happen to Latinos–largely of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent), and there are no calls for boycotting  New York City, for example.

John Mayer: The N Word the Least of the Problem

This got me out of retirement, kids.

Recently, the internets have been abuzz with talk of John Mayer, Gen Y’s Billy Joel, about a recent interview he did for Playboy magazine. People have been up in arms because he used the N word during the interview.

“Someone asked me the other day, ‘What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?’ And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass.”

There’s nothing worse than a white dude who is so comfortable with their racism, clearly because they have black friends, to try to let people know how down they are by trying to use the N word just like “the natives” would. This is the thing that he got in trouble for, and why he later issued a litany of apologies via Twitter, about.

But I find his later statements in the interview about actresses Holly Robinson Peete, Karyn Parsons and Kerry Washington, and black women as a whole, much more disturbing.

PLAYBOY: “Do black women throw themselves at you?”

MAYER: “I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.”

PLAYBOY: Let’s put some names out there. Let’s get specific.

MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She’s superhot, and she’s also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she’d be like, “Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever.” And you’d be like, “What? We weren’t talking about that.” That’s what “Heartbreak Warfare” is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.

Now, let me say that he also discusses his sex life with his former girlfriend Jessica Simpson in detail, which is also repulsive, and with no regard for what that might mean for her. But for now, I am talking about the black women who found themselves in this story. It’s clear that he associates all these black actresses as some nearly-white enough in class, hair texture or affect as to be “white enough for his David Duke dick”  to fuck, but clearly also views them, based on his description of his imagined Washington, as sexually as loose and irreverent as the white women he normally fucks. All of this is every kind of wrong.

What’s interesting is that Mayer felt compelled to apologize about the “Nigger Pass” comment, but not at all to the specific black women he demeaned in this article, nor the millions of other who are implicated in his disgusting little brain of his.

Here’s his whack-ass apology the other night from a show in Nashville, where he basically sums up these statements to his need to be clever and witty, and not on some deep-seated racism and white supremacy. Fuck you, John.

Now, I’m back. Anybody else got something to say?