Category Archives: Homophobia
People often assume that I became an atheist because of the homophobia present in many churches. In my own experience, however, it was the sexism that drove me away–the homophobia was just a secondary thing. The churches that I attended focused primarily on adultery which usually damned women for being tempting harlots out to ruin good church men. I grew up hearing a lot of sermons about women’s proper role in the church, a woman’s place, the head of the household, blah blah blah. I remember being infuriated when women in the church were told that they could not preach or “bring the word” because it was not “their place”. So, in terms of my own journey, it was biblical sexism that pushed me further and further away from the church more so than homophobia. The “You’re only atheist because you’re gay” argument that so many people want to tack onto me doesn’t hold. My feminist consciousness and Black liberation politics have had more to do with my atheism than anything else.
I used to hate myself for liking boys. I cried and cried. Prayed. And cried some more. Feelings wouldn’t budge though. Long story short. I made it. Homophobia couldn’t hold me down. I rather be a real gay man than a fake straight one. Can I get an amen?
Patriarchal men are not usually thought to be proponents of homosexuality. We often think that patriarchal men are primarily interested in strict gender roles that forbid any recognition of homosexuality. However, there are exceptions to patriarchal males disdain for homosexuality. Lil Boosie, a rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, provides an interesting case for the examination of the patriarchal male endorsement of homosexuality. In his popular song “They Dykin” he “celebrates” same-sexual sexual relationships among women. I put celebrates in quotes because it is clear from listening to the song, with a critical ear, that Lil Boosie leaves much to be desired when it comes to his “celebration” of same-sex sexual relationships among women.
In the world of “They Dykin,” female sexuality exists only in terms of its usefulness to male sexuality. The song does not promote same-sex sexual relationships among women on their own terms, but rather by how those women can satisfy patriarchal straight men. The song begins with a rather sad foray into colorism in the Black community, stating “two red bones kissing in the back seat.” It’s clear from these opening lines that in Boosie’s imagination, two Black women being sexual with each other isn’t enough to turn him on, the women also have to be light skinned. This sentiment is unfortunately too common in a Black community that has internalized white supremacist thinking about its worth and value, and believe itself to be “better” and “more beautiful” when lighter skinned. Boosie continues with “girl don’t stop keep going relax me.” Here the emphasis is not on the women’s pleasuring of themselves, but on how they can relax the heterosexual male who is encouraging the activity. Boosie continues, “I like girls who like girls that attract me.” Once again, Boosie positions himself as the agent in the sexual situation by foregrounding his own sexual interests over that of the women who he sees as only secondary. It is his attraction that matters, primarily, not the same-sex sexual relationship of the women. They are there to please him.
The song also sheds light on an often repeated sentiment among patriarchal straight men. There have been many instances where I have witnessed a patriarchal straight man harass a Black gay woman by suggesting that her homosexuality is a result of her not having a man, particularly one that can “put the dick on her right.” Boosie echoes this sentiment when he raps, “her and her friend got drunk, went to an after party, couldn’t find no nigga, so they both got retarded.” Here we see how the patriarchal straight man assumes that same-sex relationships among women are the result of an inability to find a man, the idea being that women settle for each other only when they can’t find a suitable man to be with first. Homophobic people are quick to assume that a woman is a lesbian only because she failed to find a man, seeing her sexuality as a defeat.
The song finishes with Boosie further “celebrating” same-sex sexual relationships among women. He raps, “but I ain’t got no problem I’ll savage y’all, I’m a real ass nigga, I ain’t mad at y’all.” It would be great if Boosie meant what he said, but tucked behind his tolerance for same-sex sexual relationships among women is the truth that he only gives it a pass when it is useful to him. Many patriarchal straight men are accepting of same-sex sexual relationships among women when they can benefit from the situation, but the moment the woman is not interested in performing for him she becomes the enemy. Many patriarchal straight men are fine with Katy Perry brand of lesbian relationships wherein the women perform sexually for the enjoyment of straight men, but they are not so kind to lesbians who are only interested in sexually gratifying themselves and their female partner. These women become useless as they are no longer sexual objects in patriarchal straight male fantasies.
Do I believe that Lil Boosie–or any of the patriarchal straight men like him– supports homosexuality? No. I feel that these men support their own sexual fantasies, and use same-sex sexual relationships among women to that extent. The problem is not unique to Boosie or Hip Hop. This sentiment is communicated all throughout the culture from the TV shows to movies. The patriarchal straight male does not endorse homosexuality because he respects homosexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation, but rather sees it as a prop to be used for his own enjoyment and gratification. It’s not uncommon to hear straight men speak positively about a threesome with two women, but scoff at the idea of being in a threesome that involves two men and one woman, especially if the two men are expected to perform together sexually for the enjoyment of the woman.
There are cases where straight men support homosexuality, but it isn’t the case with patriarchal straight men, and certainly not the case with Lil Boosie. His song, while catchy, is about seeing women, particularly women who have same-sex attractions, as sexual objects. The sexual agents in Boosie’s world are not women, but rather men who can find pleasure in watching them perform for him. Patriarchal straight men need to understand that female sexuality exists independent of them.
Update: The elephant in the room of the song and my essay is bisexuality. The song suggests that the women involved are “dykes” or lesbians, but it could also be true that they are bisexual. Our tendency to jump quickly from heterosexuality to homosexuality has rendered the lives of bisexuals almost invisible in our imaginations. We should work to overcome binary thinking that suggests that sexuality must be either/or.
The homophobe’s first problem was thinking that another person’s sexual orientation is something that you need to “understand” or “agree with.” I don’t fully understand or agree with heterosexuality. A lot of it baffles my mind. Do I think heterosexuals should be stoned? No. Why are so many heterosexual relationships miserable? It’s not like they don’t have an entire society cheering them on. I remain confused. Does my failure to understand miserable heterosexuals, in spite of society privileging them, mean that I hate them? No. There are many things that I don’t understand about heterosexuality, but I don’t use that as an excuse to hate them. Maybe I should? Why do so many heterosexual men abandon their children? I ask these questions. Lack of understanding only equates to hatred when you are a hateful person. Stop using that as an excuse to be hateful.
“I’m not homophobic or anything, but…”
“So, which one of you is the girl?”
“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
“Why would you choose to be gay?”
“You were molested weren’t you?”
“Every body turning gay!”
“You dance better than a girl!”
“You too fine to be gay!”
“Man, I ain’t with that gay sh*t!”
“I just want some head!”
“I’m not homophobic, but I wouldn’t leave my son around a gay man.”
“Homosexuality is an evil spirit!”
“The White man introduced homosexuality to Africa.”
“_______ is gay isn’t he?”
“Do you wanna be a girl?”
“You got AIDS?”
“I don’t agree with homosexuality.”
“Why are all the good men gay?”
“Two men having sex? That’s nasty!”
“Why would you want a man with all these fine women around?”
“Homosexuality is unnatural!”
“The wages of sin is death!”
“I’m not a homophobe, my best friend is gay.”
I can’t hold my man’s hand in the mall without people gawking, but this Ultimate Fighting shit get an entire channel? Damn you homophobia!
I strongly believe in the act of asking questions. Questions are one of the primary ways by which new knowledge is yielded. But, I also know that the way we frame questions, and the implications of that framing, are also important aspects of the act of asking questions. Recently, I was involved in two situations that centered around the act of asking questions, and the implications that come from these questions. In this essay, I will explore the act of questioning, the way questions are framed, and the implications, if any, of asking questions.
Thinkers, intellects, scholars, and academics all ask questions. I would be hard pressed to find a person who did not expect anyone to not ask questions. However, I will continue to assert that the questions we ask, and the way that they are framed, are just as important as the answers we seek. There absolutely exists a need to ask questions, but there is also a need, or rather, a responsibility to be aware of the way in which we frame questions, and the implications, many times negative, that come along from poorly framed questions.
As I mentioned earlier, I have recently been involved with two situations regarding questions, framing, and implications. The first situation revolved around a question asked by Dr. Steve Perry. Perry, most known for his Capital Preparatory Magnet School, asked a question that left some feeling uneasy. Perry asked, “Given the recent FAMU tragedy, do Black groups, colleges & high schools foster brutality?” On the surface, Perry’s question looked to many to be an opportunity to start dialogue on hazing in American schools, but looking deeper we can see that the question is also problematic. The way in which the question is framed, its placing of an HBCU next to a question invoking Black brutality, has certain racist implications, in my opinion. Perry has the right to ask his question, but there also exists a right to consider the framing and implications. Would a similar question ever be leveled at White America? Would the sexual assault that took place at Penn State constitute an examination of the brutality of White America? I think not. There tends to be a need to associate individual Black acts with collective Black pathology. Perry’s question could have been framed in any number of ways, and it still would have sparked the conversation that Perry had in mind.
The second incident revolved around a question asked by “Dr. Goddess,” a well known Twitter personality. After reading an article about Kobe Bryant’s alleged sexual activities, Dr. Goddess posed a question the following question to Twitter, “If you’re a heterosexual man and you just LOVE anal sex, like, it’s your preference… are you really gay? #curious #sorry.” In my mind, this question immediately ran as homophobic, but others had different opinions, particularly Dr. Goddess. In her mind, the question wasn’t problematic because, in her own words, “I really DON’T know “gay life,” “I HONESTLY do not know. Is that okay? I mean… I am so confused right now…” Like unintended bigots before her, Dr. Goddess hid behind her heterosexual privilege, as opposed to accounting for the way she framed her question, and the implications of that question. Many people came to the aid of Dr. Goddess, and they were well within their right to do so. In their mind, questions are incapable of harboring bigotry, after all, questions are the way that new knowledge is yielded. I would disagree, however. I think it was possible for Dr. Goddess to examine heterosexuality without using homosexual as “sexual other” on which heterosexuality is examined. The question need not to have invoked homosexuality at all. For example, “If you are a straight man, and you really enjoy anal, why don’t you prefer vaginal?” Or, “What are our thoughts on anal sex as practiced among heterosexuals?” These all could have sparked a conversation on anal sex, and they would have done so without using homosexuality as a sexuality stepping stone. “I think questions, particularly those poorly framed, have a long history of racist, sexist, and homophobic implications, and this was just a continuation of that history.
There exists a very real stereotype, underlying homophobia, that insists that anal sex is a thing that gay people do. This homophobic stereotype assumes that heterosexuals do not consistently engage in anal sex, and that it is one of the hallmarks of homosexuality. Both stereotypes are untrue. I don’t know all the statistics on anal sex, but anyone who has watched a heterosexual porn knows that anal sex place, and often. Also, as someone who is gay, I know that there are a variety of sexual activities engaged in by members of the gay community. The assumption that anal sex is “gay,” also, rests upon the phallocentric assumption that lesbians do not count as gay.
In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, we get a clear picture of the very real implications that arise from our poorly framed questions. In the novel, the protagonist Sethe recounts her experience with a White racist man named Schoolteacher, who used questions to support and explore his racist thinking. Schoolteacher, “measures the body of the enslaved and asks incessant, probing questions in order to control them through his knowledge of them.” I highlight this, to bring light to the fact that questions are quite capable of carrying bigoted associations and implications. Bigotry– in Dr. Goddess’ case homophobia–is often enshrined in the act of questioning.
I do not believe that Dr. Steve Perry or Dr. Goddess are horrible people, but I do think they are, both, individuals who had lapses in judgment. They asked poorly framed questions, and were unwilling to accept that their questions had negative implications. No one, not even respected thinkers, is above criticism. We all have a responsibility to exercise care and consideration when we ask questions.
Update: Here is a collection of the tweets that transpired that night. I don’t feel that it’s very cohesive, but it’s better than nothing. Judge for yourselves. chirpstory.com/li/3601