The Black Queer Factor

Aug 16, 2010 @ 7:27 am | By TheFeministGriote | 5 Comments

In 1993 the military introduced a policy called “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” This policy prohibits the military from inquiring about the sexual orientation of servicemen and women. Gay servicemen and women can serve as long as they did not disclose their homosexuality and if they were not outed by another person. In 1993 the country was still very conservative. America did not deny that gays and lesbians existed they just did not want gays and lesbians to exist too loudly. Fast forward to 2010 where we are on the cusp of great political change, America has become a bit more tolerant and accepting of gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. On May 27, 2010 the House passed a bill to repeal DADT. The bill would allow the defense department the ability to end the ban of DADT the ban can be lifted only 60 days after when military leaders received the reports that would reveal how service men and women feel about gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. It is safe to say that DADT will be a thing of the past hopefully, sooner than later. On August 4, 2010 a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the ban against same sex marriage in California should be overturned. The ban has been ordered to be lifted on 8/18/2010. Ultimately, this case will be heard before the Supreme Court. Therefore, same sex marriage will probably become law in all 50 states. There will be great opposition every step of the way, but with America becoming more liberal and tolerant its impossible to continue to rob gays and lesbians of their rights.

It appears with all this change that is at the American front door that this means that America as a whole is very loving and accepting of all its citizens. In a Utopian society we could say that, but we 21st century citizens of this United States know that is a farce. We do not live in a post-racial society. Gender still matters, orientation still matters, and classicism rules supreme. My ultimate question is what role does sexuality play within the Black community and will Blacks embrace the paradigm shift? Sexuality within the Black community is still a very taboo subject for us no matter the orientation. Marriage is the sacred calf within the Black community. So many books, articles, forums, and blogs have been dedicated to why Black women are not yet  married, but in all this sensationalized public conversation never once is the gay Black man or woman ever discussed. Its as if they do not exist and therefore do not qualify to be interjected within the conversation.

White gays and lesbians are very well represented within mass media. Whites do not have to look far to find a character in which to identify with. There was Will and Grace, The L-Word, Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Also, there are numerous out and proud white actors, actresses, and musicians. The one Black gay show that was devoted to Black gays was Noah’s Ark, which was mainly targeted to Black gay males. The show perpetuated negative stereotypes that heterosexuals have of Black gay men. Stereotypes such as all Black gay men are promiscuous, feminine acting, and  all gay men are fashion elites. Although, I found the show comical it did more harm than good it did not seek to educate Black heterosexuals on the issue of Black homosexuality. Most of our gay entertainers are rumored to be gay and have not ever come out. The only time we find out about the sexualities of our Black entertainers is when they die e.g. Zora Neale Hurston,but being outed posthumously is problematic because it is all speculator information and it invades the persons right to privacy that they worked so hard to preserve in life. Our most famous rumored lesbians are: Missy Elliot, Da Brat, Nikki Minaj, and the infamous Queen Latifah. Although, while she was hosting the BET music awards this summer Queen Latifah did open the closet door a little bit and flirt with us in a tongue-and cheek way in regards to her sexuality, but she never truly opened the closet door completely. This past week pictures of Queen Latifah and her rumored partner have surfaced, but once again no real definitive yes or no has ever come out the mouth of Queen Latifah. I for one respect her privacy and I don’t believe that its always necessary to make a public spectacle of your private life no matter the subject. I also understand that some gays and lesbians may never come out the closet, but I don’t think it makes them less proud of who they are. In thinking about Queen Latifah, I can’t help but to wonder would Latifah be this reluctant of coming out if the Black community was more accepting.

Queen Latifah is part of the pioneers of hip-hop and hip-hop is far from being gay friendly. Hip-Hop barely respects its female listeners and female MC’s in the game. I can understand the reluctance of Queen Latifah to remain silent on her sexuality. In no way am I trying to say that Blacks are far more homophobic than any other group, but we cannot ignore the collective silence on the gay and lesbian issue within the Black community. We go to church every Sunday where homosexuality is openly preached against and demonized, but you look into the choir and see that the backbone of the music ministry is usually queer. There are gay and lesbian couples who come to the church pay their tithe regularly, but must exist in the shadows of our righteousness. Then there is the HBCU campus where you  find young gays and lesbians passing for straight in order to pledge and be part of the illustrious “Black greekdom”.

Homosexuality is tolerated within the Black community, but its not truly respected. Black gay men and women are treated like caricatures then like real people with needs, wants, and expectations. The fault lies on both gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians should not easily fall into heterosexual stereotypes and then it would force heterosexuals to see gays and lesbians as individuals and not demonize them as a group. It may be time for Blacks to redefine what it means to be a Black man and Black woman and start to make allotments for gays and lesbians. An institution that is not founded in patriarchy or heterosexuality does not make it less important or a threat to “traditional relationships.” As minorities we must not divide ourselves because if “they” come for us “they’re” coming for all of us who are not white, male, and privileged!

Categories: Mind Over Chatter

5 Responses to “ The Black Queer Factor ”

  1. I think that people need to stop seeing being gay or lesbian as if it were like a racial designation. If a person is attracted to someone of the same sex that is their own business and does not effect how well they can do their job. So I’m all for banning Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. If a person is willing to put their life on the line to defend this country why should they be denied that just because they so happen to like people of the same sex. & i hope the supreme court upholds the Ban on Prop 8. A country can’t really scream “equality for all” if they are blatantly refusing a segment of the population the right to join in a union of marriage.

    And honestly I don’t even think the Black Community (as a whole) even tolerates homosexuality. I think part of us are highly opposed to it, hence the rampant homophobia. Many simply sweep it under the rug & ignore it in an attempt at if I don’t see it then it doesn’t exist. & the others are practicing it whether out in the open or in the closet. But there is a small fraction of the black community who tolerate and respect an individual’s right to love whomever regardless of gender.

  2. Well I’m a fan of DADT, simply because I don’t believe that a person’s sexuality should be put on the forefront. My sexuality or anyone’s for that matter, has nothing to do with serving my country, applying for job, or album sales. For goodness sakes, the orientation of most porn stars, doesn’t even reflect what work they do, so why should it matter in activities that doesn’t even correspond with sex?
    And as a black man I could honestly say that plenty of us African Americans fall victim to stereotypes. Either we’re portraying or subscribing to them; stereotypes create structure for our personas depending on our class, gender, sexuality, and even location. To many of us, exemplifying pride equates to becoming a caricature. And if you fall short of that, then you’re ashamed of being black, you’re hiding in the closet, you’re not man enough, or you think that you’re better than everyone else. Essentially my blackness is permanent and here for the world to see, my gender is as well, and as for my sexuality, unless you’re pursuing me my preference is MY perference.

  3. Wow! Let me start off by saying I love the line “Gender still matters, orientation still matters, and classicism rules supreme.” I definitely agree with that. I also agree with what you are saying about queen Latifah. I do believe if society was more accepting of homosexuality, she would be more susceptible to “come out.” Personally, it believe it would take for someone like Queen Latifah or someone with an equivalent or colossal stature for others to reveal themselves to society.

    As far as Noah’s Ark, i didn’t necessarily perceive it that way. I looked at the show in a positive way. We have to face reality. They live the way that a lot of homosexuals live. They are not creating a facade; they’re living a normal/average life. If the TV show only shows positive things with nothing remotely “negative”, some would question the authenticity of that AND how urban homosexuals live. I believe its important to show its viewers what typically happens in that lifestyle.

    Overall, GREAT blog. I’m not a fan of reading but i’m definitely enraptured by your posts. Keep it up the consummate work. :)

  4. The DADT seemed to be a protection to gay’s and lesbians within the military, because of the hatred among others that may kill them and potentially get away with it. I feel that we have leaped into a new era where being your true self is ok, but the question is: Are they really safe? There are people who have been taught to hate.

    Being an African-American in the gay world is hard. Especially being a male. Throughout time people that hold high religious office have twisted the Word of God to fuel their hatred towards homosexuals. While doing a little research on my own I took a closer look at these so called scriptures that they were giving against homosexuals. What preachers and teachers of His word forget is that the bible was giving in Greek, and then translated over to English. With-in the English language there are a lot of words that were taken away and also added to make sense. So what are these verses really saying? Gays and Lesbians have endured this hatred thought out their lives, because of the lies that they have been taught they will never truly feel comfortable being who they are. I thank the Lord that I was set free and that I was able to move past these “lies” being who you are comes at a cost. It’s sad to say not everyone will pay it.

  5. Excellent post. As someone who came out of the closet the day after high school way back in 1993, I have no real idea of what it’s like to be in the closet. Also, growing up in the Bay Area, where there is no define Black community (at least from my perspective), I’ve never experience that kind of homophobia and rejection that many other black LGBT may experience. I also, didn’t attend church much growing up (except for a few times with some older cousins) so a religious upbringing didn’t weigh me down with any alleged guilt regarding my sexuality. It always boggles the mind as to why so many Black LGBT continue to attend and tithe to churches that deem them abominations when there are so many affirming churches who welcome of all folks including the LGBT community.

    I have mixed feelings about the whole DADT and a am little puzzled as to why this has become such a big deal for the LGBT community over that past couple of years. Granted, the policy was wrong and discriminatory from the get go, but I’m wondering if there would be such a rush to lift the ban if the country wasn’t in the middle of war. Every poll I see says that the majority of Americans think the ban should be lifted. What this tells me is queer people are good enough to die for this country, but not good enough to be granted all the rights afforded them as citizens of the United States. I do believe that eventually marriage equality will reign supreme in all 50 states. Like with most civil rights of the past 100 years, it will ultimately be the courts that decide the law. I read somewhere recently where the author basically said that when it came to civil rights it wasn’t that people changed, but that the courts enacted laws and over time the rest of the country just evolved.

    While Noah’s Arc had its flaws, I think it was a really important show. I loved that show! It was the first time, that I can remember, where I saw out of the closet black gay men engaging with each other in romantic and platonic relationships. Yes some of the men were effeminate (Noah, Alex), but then you had their partners (Wade and Trey) who were masculine. You had Ricky who was promiscuous (I really hate that word), but you also had Chance who was happily married monogamous guy. More importantly, we saw black out of the closet queer folk loving each other and not being ashamed. I do long for the day when we can have black gay/lesbian/bisexual/queer/same gender loving celebrities who are out of the closet and don’t feel that they have to pretend to be heterosexual in order to have successful careers or be accepted by the larger Black population.

    As far as Ms. Queen Latifah…maybe now I have a shot. Haha!

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