THE BLOG

Dear Black Gay Men, Don't Get Comfortable

07/16/2014 06:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

To Ms. Sierra Mannie, whose "***flawless" piece implicates gay white men in misogynoir: I stand with your rhetoric, your diction, and your argument. You have, in the canon of black women, carved out a space demanding your visibility and affirmation in the face of erasure. In the space you have carved out, some queer black men have had questions. I have had questions, and I hope to offer my interaction with your work. The conversation you created is needed and urgent, and my desire is to stand with you in the ways that I can.

I have previously written on the violences against women that only queer men can produce: the assumed access to women's bodies, the slut shaming, and the patriarchal dichotomy of "top" and "bottom." Queer, and specifically gay, men have our own set of privileges that allow us systemic, cultural and interpersonal powers. For the women we interact with, our relationships are different and nuanced, but we are still obliged as men to offer solidarity. As I've said before and will reiterate here, homophobia is misogyny in a feathered boa. Women's resistance and survival are central to ours. With this understanding, we cannot speak about identity in isolation; even intersections can fall short. The erasure of cultural appropriation can manifest itself in racist and sexist tropes, yet as queer black men we have seen similar violences.

From Scissor Sisters' "Let's Have a Kiki" to the "original" appropriator Madonna's
"Vogue," culturally gay experiences that code as black/Latino have been stripped and reproduced through mainstream queer productions. These safer-spaced colloquialisms are losing their resistance and power through Top 40 hits and pretty white girls. We have seen many aspects of black queer male culture stolen from us. The violence is different. Many gay black men are still trying to reconcile their sexual performances outside white sexuality standards. And with that we have some of the access that white gay men have, especially if we perform as masculine.

There is a difference, however, when black men perform black femininity. When not using garish mammie drag personas, many gay black men have found a comfort and strength in modeling the black femininity to which they have access. To cite Ms. Mannie's argument, we have tasted the sour of racism and can find strength in the sweetness of black womanhood. That is not to say we are not implicated in appropriations. When performing black femininity at the request of white or non-black spaces, we are continuing the violence. Without reconciling the privilege of masculinity, we are continuing the violence. Letting our white gay counterparts parade black femininity only reproduces the problems of the original article. Giving them a pass sets yourself in the line of fire of racist statements and interactions.

In the ways queer men of all races should be invested in women's equity, black men
(queer and otherwise) need to be invested in black women's equity, not simply because they are our sisters, friends, aunties, and mommas but because our respective survivals are inextricably linked. I personally owe a wealth of my well-being and self-awareness to the words, conversation, and gifts of black women, and we as black men need to be ready to stand with them and complicate our violence against them. While Ms. Mannie may not have been speaking to black gays directly, we have our own implications in appropriation and need to do some work.