Ain’t I A Man: Being Black and Gay in a World that Honors Neither

By | August 31, 2014

About a week ago, an acquaintance invited me to a party with this preface: It’s just for women and we will have a male stripper but you can come since your gay”.

I politely and shockingly declined.

It was clear to me that this person like many others is confused about a definition of maleness that does not include sex with women.

We are being seduced into thinking that as a result of constant assault by social media and images, we have moved beyond thinking that is homophobic, racist and just plain dumb.

Patriarchy and all of its resident offshoots and tools of oppression lull us into not thinking which often leads us into not acting.

In a culture where every and any image or desire is just a click away, it is hard to critically engage people because of the assumption that everyone has “made it”.

Most people design their lives to ensure that none of their decisions are questioned or challenged.

bell hooks constantly reminds us that in American Culture, we are taught/trained to see in parts.

Our devotion to myopic and inappropriate ways of seeing black gay men is disturbing.

Many folks get mad when you can claim more than one identity.

As a result of most people’s intellectual laziness, the message gets sent: stay in your lane and let me define you.

This is a problem when trying to make friendships and relationships work across boundaries.

Boundary crossing has become very chic.

Changing our thinking or allowing ourselves to be fundamentally changed as a direct result of crossing boundaries is not chic.

While there are many folks who are seduced and cajoled into worshiping the black male body, there are few who can do so without moving into fetishizing, making it(black male body) sexual and having the desire to control and contain it.

My banker, who is Persian, refers to himself as Mike.

When I attempted to pronounce the birth name given to him by his parents, we began to discuss the decision to refer to himself as Mike.

It was explained to me that as a huge Michael Jordan fan he was teased as a young boy and this was a way to have both protection (by taking on another identity) and idol worship.

When we are not “seen” and revered and honored for being men all sorts of weird problems arise.

My sweet six year old grandson, much like my sweet sixteen year old Nephew are beginning to feel the pangs and undeserved scrutiny that gets handed to all black males simply because of their skin color.

These gentle souls began being referred to as a problem almost from birth.

Between the cultures fear, demonization and lust for black male bodies, there is little space to create healthy and self esteem increasing interactions and patterns.

I am often saddened and sometimes weep when I witness the change in our young boys that have nothing to do with who they are but seem required if they want to survive.

When I here the nonsense of racism regarding scary black men and then get immediately assured that I am not one of “them”, I often wonder when is my time coming ?

I wonder about not being one of “them” when my opinion is solicited and then dismissed.

As black men it is assumed that our thinking is muddled, insignificant or flawed at worse and limited and shallow at best.

We are not expected or encouraged to think about anything too deeply.

Keeping things “light” prevents the possibility of mayhem. Truly understanding and challenging the forces that seek to deny our humanity and limit our self actualization would require a radical reworking of the social order.

This is not a problem and doesn’t scare me nor should it frighten any thinking, rational, effectively decolonized person.

A bit of anger and upset or outrage over a system that fucks you over and has designated you as the target would actually be something wonderful.

Designating men who are black and happen to be gay as sub men is convenient.

In many ways, it allows for us(those of us obsessed with safety) to feel safe .

It also places the desire and impetus to change on the shoulders of those whose identity we can not be bothered with seriously “seeing”.

bell hooks in quoting Sojourna Truth(who bore her breasts to prove she was indeed female) reminds that to revere, honor and respect the black male body is to hold it to the same other worldly status of that as white females.

When people comment that my gayness allows me a pass to all women spaces(I firmly believe that there needs to be all women spaces as well as all men spaces), I cringe at the insensitivity, thoughtlessness and collusion with dominator culture this supports.

It is no different when my blackness is negotiated or given an ok by folks who feel that one less dark person will harm them even as they seek to emulate my stance in the world and how I navigate things.

However, the most troubling part of this ordeal is resisting the perceived rewards that are offered.

There is the belief and some truth to the concept that when you “stay in your lane”and play the good darky or faggot, you will somehow escape persecution. And if you’re really “good,” you might actually be invited into mainstream, racist-free and heterosexist communities.

About a year ago, I reviewed a wonderful book about kinky relationships (Partners in Power). This book was eye-opening for me in that it highlighted the extent of all relationships.

The negotiation of power occurs in all human interaction. Sometimes it’s shared. Sometimes the amount granted and distributed is silently agreed upon. When someone assigns you a role based on a limited and privileged viewpoint, this can cause serious problems.

In my review, I stated the following:

Partners in Power is a critical examination of what is required to be a part of a community that is still ill-represented, misunderstood, and in no way viewed as an organism that has figured out how to sustain itself by consistently adapting itself to new “players” who are interested in experimenting, testing all types of personal limits, and being honest about the results that get discovered once the nuts are empty.

Relationships based in play and trust can allow for all sorts of mistakes and negotiations. Assumptions designed to make the assumer feel okay with another’s form of love and sexual expression limit honesty and prevent full psychological visibility.

A better approach might include silence and/or giving up the belief that one’s identity is given validity once it has been heterosexually sanctioned.

Black, gay, and recently married are just a few of my identities.

Identities are constantly changing and are largely self-created.

Allies who insist we live fully understand, respect, and encourage this belief.

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