Being feminine, male, and Black meant being told that little boys did not help their grandmothers take out her micros.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant hiding my sister’s dolls whenever an adult came in the room.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant using my bathing rag as a makeshift skirt, and a my shirt as a makeshift wig.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant being called a “sissy.”
Being feminine, male, and Black meant being told that I “walk like a girl.”
Being feminine, male, and Black meant having my grandmother tell me I don’t hold my hands the right way.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant not minding the company of girls, and preferring their company in many cases.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant having my sister threaten to tell our mom that I played in her high heels.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant having my aunt tell me that only “funny” mean wore tank tops under an unbuttoned shirt.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant having to play football when I really wanted to do gymnastics.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant being told that I “act like a girl.”
Being feminine, male, and Black meant being told that I didn’t carry my books the right way.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant enjoying Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” because I loved her gown and her wig.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant staying inside reading while the “tougher” boys went to play basketball.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant being told that boys who laugh too much are “suspect.”
Being feminine, male, and Black meant patriarchal adult males thinking they had to “toughen me up.”
Being feminine, male, and Black meant female friends calling me “girl” in conversation, and then quickly apologizing for it because in this society we are taught to see femininity as degrading to boys and men.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant seeing the world differently.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant nights hopelessly praying that I was like other boys, “normal.”
Being feminine, male, and Black meant being me. It meant being what this society does not like, and does not care for, and does not encourage. It meant tears of shame. It meant being emotionally and psychologically battered, refusing to be broken.
Being feminine, male, and Black meant a lot of things when I was growing up, and most of those things were negative. I have learned to love the feminine, Black, male that I am, and my self-acceptance remains a work in progress. In a patriarchal society that exalts hyper-masculinity, I will always be sent the message that I am inadequate and inferior. The difference between then and now is that I have the courage and the language to shelter me in a cocoon of self-acceptance. I am feminine, I am male, I am Black, and most importantly, I am me.
Ideas often come to me at the most peculiar times. The idea of this essay came to me while I was sweeping in the den of my house. I’m not sure what that says about the overall idea, but I am very fortunate that it did.
As I went about sweeping my den the nature invisibility, or rather visibility, as it pertains to those in the gay community appeared in my mind. I, and I am sure countless others, have heard the homophobic argument that homophobia isn’t an issue, or a serious issue, because unlike race or gender, it’s something that you can hide. These homophobes believe that because one cannot hide the color of their skin or the fact that they have breasts, homophobia isn’t the same as racism or sexism. The idea being that that gays choose to display their sexuality, and as such those who are victims of homophobia are often asking for it.
On the surface this seems like a somewhat logical belief. There is something to be said about the way skin color or sexual anatomy presents itself in an overt form making it easily identifiable for racism and sexism. But, I would like to suggest that homosexuality, or at least the characteristics that we associate with it, also presents itself in overt ways which make it easy for homophobes to marginalize and oppress homosexuals.
We are trained in this white supremacist patriarchal society to see race and gender. We are taught to associate certain characteristics with race and gender, and to pinpoint those characteristics when they are expressed. The way one walks, or talks, or who the person hangs out with, are all ways that racist and sexist people identify and discriminate against people based on their race or gender. However, this phenomenon is not unique to race or gender oppression.
Homosexuals, whether they choose to or not, are daily assaulted by the expectations and assumptions that we as a society place around sexual orientation. From an early age children have their gender expression policed in this society, and this often results in them being the victims of homophobia. If a little boy walks to feminine or if a little girls voice is too deep these are things used to police their gender, and are also used by homophobes.
As we get older the way homophobia pinpoints us does not change. I can think of countless occasions where I have been the victim of homophobia based on things outside of my control. I do not choose to hold my hands the way that I do, I do not choose to walk the way that I do, I do not choose to talk the way that I do. i also did not choose for these otherwise empty characteristics to be associated with my sexual orientation. In a homophobic society these characteristics of myself render me visible, and thus prevents me from being invisible. Of course, I could possibly do things to render myself invisible, I could try and walk and talk in a different manner as many do. As a gay person my sexuality is just as overt as my race and my gender.
The belief that sexuality isn’t visible the way race or gender is, is a myth homophobes use to diminish the realities that gays face. It is about denying our struggle and the oppression that we face. We live in a homophobic society where gender expression is linked with sexual orientation and that underlies much of the oppression that homosexuals face. As a child I longed to be invisible, and sometimes I still wish to be rendered invisible. I did not choose for my sexual orientation to be linked to my gender expression, but that is the way that homophobia works, and as such the myth that sexual orientation is invisible, unlike race or gender, is one that continues to harm those in the gay community.
The construction of heterosexuality has had many effects on the construction of homosexuality. This construction has meant that homosexuality has been associated with certain characteristics and many stereotypes. Homophobia makes it almost impossible for gays, or anyone for that matter, to be have an invisible sexual orientation. The time has come for us to realize that sexual orientation, like race and gender, is visible. The myth of invisibility must end.