Category Archives: Keep It Focused!
Whose responsibility is it to validate your existence? Whose job is it to pay attention to you? These two questions were on my mind as I thought about the role, if any; the White media should play in the lives of Black gay people. I also want explore the Gay Rights Movement, and the various groups that make up this collective movement.
I have noticed that some people, often Black, but not always, expect the White media, and White gays, to tell the stories of Black gay people. However, this is not a sentiment that I share. I do not need the White media, or the White gay community, to validate my existence as a Black gay person. I do not need the White media, or the White gay community, to pay attention to my life as a Black gay person. I believe that it is the responsibility of the Black community to pay attention to our community, and to validate the existence of our community. These are not jobs that can be performed by the White media or White gay community.
I do not want to suggest that the White media and White gay community can’t provide opportunities for the lives of Black gay people to be validated and paid attention, they can, and have many times. I’m thinking particularly of Patrick Ian Polk’s relationship with Logo. Here was an instance where a Black gay person paid attention to the lives of Black gay people, validated the lives of Black gay people, and worked with the White media, and White gay community, to utilize the platform they offered. There will, and has always, been these kind of working relationships.
My issue is with those who think that it is the responsibility of the White media, and White gay community, to create the Noah’s Arcs, to create the Rod 2.0′s, to be the Robert Jones Jr’s, to be the Staceyann Chin’s, that is not their responsibility, it is ours.
Many have argued that the Gay Rights Movement doesn’t focus on the issues and lives of Black gay people, but I think they are doing themselves and their community a disservice. We tend to think that a movement is a specific, tangible location that can be pinpointed to a certain location, but this is not true, or at least not in my mind. I believe that movements are anywhere we are, and that the first place we should look for a movement is among our own people. To suggest that the Gay Rights Movement is only a movement of White people, specifically White men, is to believe that the movement is only about them. Sure, they may have more access to the media, but since when did media attention become the defining marker of any movement? The issues that a movement seeks to address go on even when the cameras stop rolling, and when the websites aren’t receiving traffic.
I never felt like the Gay Rights Movement was only a movement of White people because I never looked to them to validate my existence or pay attention to it. I spend my time reading the writing of Black gay activists; I spend my time talking with passionate and critical Black gay activists. I could never come to the conclusion that the work these people are doing isn’t important simply because TIME Magazine, The Advocate, and Perez Hilton isn’t paying attention to them. I know The Feminist Wire is paying attention to these people, I know Rod McCollum is paying attention to these people, I know numerous publications geared towards the lives of Black gay people are paying attention to those people, to my people.
There needs to be a shift in the way that we look at things. I don’t believe in this White Supremacist notion that without the White gaze things are not taking place. Audre Lorde has as much to do with the development of the Gay Rights Movement as Harvey Milk. It is not up to White gay people to make that statement; it is up to Black gay people to make this statement. As I mentioned in the beginning, we have to validate our existence, we have to pay attention to us.
Black gay people are here, and we have always existed in the Gay Rights Movement. The crucial question now, as it always has been, is whether or not we are willing to see ourselves as being here. I see it, many other Black gay people see it, and I encourage you to see it as well.
“Since the murder of Martin Luther King, new commandments had been sworn, laws introduced bust most of it was decorative: statues, street names, speeches. It was as though something valuable had been pawned and the claim ticket lost… Question was, who pawned it in the first place and why.” – Toni Morrison
I am well read and dangerous.
I come armed with the wisdom of Toni Morrison and bell hooks.
Blacks Americans have a good reason to question myths, since we have so often been the victim of them, but we give Christian myths a pass.
There has been much talk about the decline of the black community, and many have put forth theories in terms of why the black community is experiencing a decline. One of the prominent theories being pushed in the media is the decline of the black nuclear family, and the fact that there are less married black men and women today. I’ve always been wary of attributing the decline of the black community to decreased reliance on traditional marriage, but it wasn’t until tonight that I truly began to think about the black community, it’s supposed decline, and the viewing of increased rates of heterosexual marriage as “the solution.”
In my opinion, it is true that there is something fueling the supposed decline of the black community, but I think we are off target when we attribute it to a decrease in traditional marriage within the black community. I would suggest that the black community has lost its “village mentality.” There’s an old African proverb that says, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and that is the type of village mentality that I think we have lost as a black community. I would suggest that we have lost an “all hands on deck” mentality when it comes to our people, and have it replaced it with an every person for themselves mentality.
What if we put greater emphasis on the “village” (its creation, maintenance, survival) than on marriage? I dont think the black community is declining becuase we’re no longer getting married, but rather becuase we have lost a village mentality. In my opinion, the “us” against the world mentality inherent in many marriages works against the black community. Take the imagined “single woman” crisis we are supposedly in. The solution isn’t finding them husbands, but rather supportive environments. With an emphasis on “villages” rather than marriages, single parents would have a community to turn to rather than a “savior” spouse. ”Those kids need a father” wouldn’t be an issue in a village where multiple male role models existed to offer support and guidance.
I think it’s entirely reasonable for concerned members of the black community to be worried about the direction the black community is going in, but I think we do ourselves a disservice when we look to traditional marriage as our pathway out of a decline in the black community.By returning to the village mentality we will begin the work of reforming our our community.
The media is a powerful resource for the marginalized and the oppressed. For many in this world who feel alienated and isolated because they do not measure up to the status quo, the media can represent a way off the island for them. The media also can be problematic or rather people’s interpretation of media images can be stifling to them. So just how is the media both powerful and problematic particularly to gay men and women.
In small towns all over the world marginalized young men and women find in the media that they are not alone and that there are others like them in this world. The media has a calming way of making you feel like you’re not a freak born to simply be different than everyone else. I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when I first saw the character Marco on Degrassi or Karamo on The Real World. Seeing these men who looked and acted like me gave me a sense of comfort that I may not have otherwise felt without the media. In this sense the media is a powerful resource for the young and marginalized or misunderstood.
But to paraphrase something my new friend poppyh tweeted, “The dominant media can get to you before more holistic depictions can.” And this is something I have long felt but never quite articulated. I talk to a lot of gay men who associate being out of the closet or being proud of who they are with the rainbow and pride parades. They feel that living their lives authentically and openly means doing certain things. I try to point out to these men that releasing yourself from the shackles of mental slavery and self hate does not mean that you have to march in a pride parade or wear rainbow paraphernalia. Even some of the leaders in the gay rights community are guilty of promoting this fallacy. I don’t think there is a person more pro gay than I am and yet I do not own any rainbow paraphernalia. It’s not that I don’t respect the imagery and symbolism behind the rainbow but I find the Pride Flag to be too cluttered.
My gay pride rests on the acceptance of my sexual orientation and the refusal to live or act as if it there is something wrong with me being gay. I don’t have to wear anything and I don’t have to march in anything to be a proud gay man who lives my life authentically and open. The media however can show narrow images of the gay community that makes it appear that in order to accept yourself as a proud gay man you have to do certain things but this is untrue.
I thank the media for allowing the marginalized to see beyond their current loneliness but I do know that there are aspects of the media that are problematic particularly its narrow depiction of gay men and women who are living their lives authentically and open.
I am here to tell young gay men that being proud of whom you are and living your life authentically and openly isn’t about what you wear or what parades you attend. While it’s great to support the rainbow and march in parades that’s not what the movement is ultimately about. My goal is to free you from the shackles of mental slavery and self hate that so often keeps the LGBT community in hiding. Afford yourself the same dignity and privilege of sexual orientation as your heterosexual counterparts.
“A people without knowledge of their history… Is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey
Somewhere along the line African Americans and the greater African diaspora decided that teaching our children the Judeo-Christian history would be sufficient enough in terms of understanding our place in the world. I am here to tell you that this has had disastrous affects on the African community.
I want to yell, shout, and scream as loud as possible.
The history of the Judeo-Christian faith is not BLACK HISTORY. It is not the end all and be all of our history on this planet.
So many African Americans and Blacks seem to think that we as a people begin and end with our faith in the Judeo-Christian belief system and as long as we teach our children about Jesus, Moses, Noah, and other biblical characters we have sufficiently equipped our children.
I am here to say that is simple not enough and it simply won’t do.
We must demand that the history of Africans from the ancient world to the contemporary world be told. That our history be told without the oppressive shadow of the Judeo-Christian faith looming down on us and clouting out our respect for our African heritage.
There is more to being black than worshiping Jesus. Subverting an appreciation of ancient Africans like Mansa Musa, Emperor Menelik II, Ann Nzinga “Queen of Ndongo”, Sundiata of Mali, and many others.
Our children can tell you all about Noah and his accomplishments, Moses and his accomplishments, but they draw blank when it comes to any of the aforementioned African King and Queens.
This has got to change.
Enough is enough.
The history of the Judeo-Christian faith is not the history of Black people or the African diaspora.
Some people would like you to believe that raw sex is bad. Now on the surface you would take that to mean that raw sex is in and of itself is bad. But upon listening to and processing the many responses of gay men you come to realize that their are conditions upon which raw sex becomes bad, at least in their opinion.
So let’s take a lot at some of the bad types of raw sex.
Raw sex involving gay men.
Raw sex involving gay men who know they are HIV+
Raw sex involving groups of gay men.
Raw sex involving gay men that takes place at a “party.”
Raw sex that that involves more than one man ejaculating into another man.
Raw sex involving people with “dead” looks in their eyes.
From the men I talked to these were all examples of bad raw sex. Now I was under the impression that raw sex is in and of itself is bad but I guess thats not the case.
Apparently their are types of raw sex that aren’t bad. At least thats what I learned from speaking to other gay men.
Heterosexuals who have raw sex are perfectly fine.
Gay men who have raw sex but are in committed relationships are fine.
Raw sex by a duo as opposed to a group is fine.
Raw sex that does not take place at quote on quote parties is fine.
Raw sex that takes place by people who have “alive” looks in their eyes is also fine.
Now anyone who is interested in effective HIV/AIDS awareness knows that making that making the case against unprotected sex about conditions as opposed to the act itself is very poor HIV advocacy. Telling people that unprotected sex becomes “more” bad or “more” worse when its done by groups or at parties or on Sunday or at a night club as opposed to at home in your own bed involving only one other person is very problematic.
I would hope that people are opposed to unprotected sex because its a known way of spreading HIV/AIDS and not only when that unprotected sex takes place in an environment in which they disagree with or look down on.