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Steven-Emmanuel Martinez

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Black Gay Men on their Relationship to Feminism

Posted: 12/23/2013 9:41 am

I've always believed that feminism is an important function of a modern queer diaspora. Moreover, active feminism is important for gay men because gay men can benefit from patriarchy. We have a glass ceiling of our own that mirrors the women's glass ceiling, and yet we often comfortably play footsie with hetero-normative discourses.

So, when gay men badger other gay men because of socially constructed ideals about how a man is supposed to act, when our position in the bedroom becomes a foundation for establishing gender roles, when we touch a woman at the club without her consent, or decry them with derogatory words, what we're doing is protecting and promoting misogyny and sexism. If classism, sexism, and racism are inextricably linked through a thread of oppression, then the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality are bound together through a thread of equality, anchored in waves of feminism.

It is this premise that compelled me to ask Black gay/queer/same gender loving men to share with me what their relationship to feminism is. Their voices are a form of resistance against patriarchy; and a form of solidarity with the women whose struggles we share.

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  • Mickyel Bradford, co-founder, Queer Up! ATL

    <strong><em>Mickyel Bradford, co-founder, Queer Up! ATL </em></strong> Neither family, nor absent of color episodes of “Queer As Folk” could help this Black queer boy. Lost and angry, Feminism gave me tools to dismantle the world: a map, books, and a lighter. The map outlined structures and systems of oppression, giving me a path to justice by finally naming my oppositions. Those books of poetry and theory spoke OUT about sex & gender, struggle & radical love, almost as if from a once forgotten tribe of Black queer griots. The lighter, a reminder that our authenticity, though a small flame at first, can start wildfires! ...I was always lost and angry; Feminism just gave me options to focus anger into passion, internalized hate into love, confusion into conviction.

  • Damone Williams, ARTivist (Actor, Writer, Filmmaker)

    <em><strong>Damone Williams, ARTivist (Actor, Writer, Filmmaker)</strong></em> Feminism is important to me because it is the necessary active participation in making sure my sisters are afforded the same rights, politically, socially, and economically, that I am afforded. I come from a family of beautiful Black women, and the opportunity to fight for them is an honor I hold dearly. While I may not refer to myself as a "feminist," I make certain my actions ring true to and in accordance with Feminist/Womanist thought. Through my work as an artist, it is important that the female characters I create are fully realized, capable, and empowered by their own hands. And sometimes my feminism looks like me stepping out of the equation, silencing myself, and allowing my sisters to speak for themselves. That is the feminism I offer to the world.

  • Zach Stafford, Writer and Co-Editor of BOYS, An Anthology

    <em><strong>Zach Stafford, Writer and Co-Editor of <a href="" target="_hplink">BOYS, An Anthology</a></strong> </em> I’m a feminist because I don’t really know of any other way to be anymore. I grew up hearing from my parents that if you see something wrong in the world you can’t just ignore it. And during my 1st feminist classes back in college, I remember feminism showing me a whole lot wrong in this world I’d never truly saw before and I haven’t ignored it since. I believe feminism is important to all people, but it’s especially important to black gay men because black gay men probably need some of the most love right now in the world. And feminism, at least the kind I prescribe to, does not only love on us, but it’s also shows us how to love on others in ways that are truly radical.

  • Tabias Wilson, Scholar-Activist, Blogger & HIV Advocate

    <strong><em>Tabias Wilson, Scholar-Activist, Blogger & HIV Advocate</em></strong> For me, my body and my soul, (black) feminism is not a choice, but a necessary commitment to a meaningful existence. It is a political and ethical ethos that has united my blackness, my queerness and my maleness as one compounded human being worthy of living. Feminism, as exemplified by Ida B. Wells and her anti-lynching campaign, demands bodily autonomy and liberation from racial-sexual terrors that have long been exacted on the bodies and psyches of black (wo)men historically (lynching) and contemporarily (stop & frisk, hiv criminalization, prison industrial complex). In short, I am a feminist and I need feminism because I believe in living and my life has only been made visible and safe(r) from violence due to feminist organizing, ethics and politics led and articulated by/through women of color. The journeys I've survived and the life I live have been bridged by the backs of feminist womyn of color known and unknown.

  • Noël Gordon, Foundation Coordinator, Human Rights Campaign

    <strong><em>Noël Gordon, Foundation Coordinator, Human Rights Campaign</em></strong> Feminism is a core part of who I am and what I believe. I am a feminist because my two younger sisters should be able to say “Black Girls Rock” without fear or trepidation. I am a feminist because my mother is entitled to equal pay for equal work. I am a feminist because it is still far too difficult for my transgender friends and colleagues to lead open and authentic lives. I am a feminist because I learned to be a (better) man from women like Melissa Harris-Perry, bell hooks, and Janet Mock. I am a feminist because I recognize my future as a Black, gay man is intimately wrapped up in theirs.

  • Michael A. Turner, Information Systems Technician, US Navy

    <strong><em>Michael A. Turner, Information Systems Technician, US Navy</em></strong> My feminism is centered on many aspects, including economic inequality, but largely social inequality, because I believe that societal views of women are the driving forces behind the lack of equality in every other aspect. I have always shared a special connection with those whose very existence was deemed insignificant. The imbalance of gender "norms" (that are created by men) often frustrate me, but they also compel me to foster a different way of thinking. Feminism isn't about male bashing or "saving" women, because let's face it: assuming that women are weaker beings that need to be "saved" is the very benevolent misogyny that is part of the reason that feminism even exists. I'd always known that women are damned if they did, & damned if they didn't, so I've always encouraged women to simply DO.

  • Yolo Akili, Writer, Artist; & Author

    <em><strong>Yolo Akili, Writer & Artist; Author of <a href="" target="_hplink">Dear Universe: Letters of Affirmation & Empowerment For All Of Us </a></strong></em> I was drawn to black feminism because it reflected the activism I knew as a child. That activism was the everyday examples of my mother, grandmother, aunts, and teachers. Whether it was challenging the men in their lives, schools, social service agencies—or the manager at the grocery store--black feminism was the language of the women who raised me. As a queer black man, it is a language I prioritize and respect- as it is largely the frame through which I came to know the world. I am committed to a black feminist analysis and practice because it has helped make the women who raised me (and myself) more free... and I believe it is the work that will inevitably help free us all.

  • Kenneth Maurice Pass, Student, Morehouse College

    <strong><em>Kenneth Maurice Pass, Student, Morehouse College</em></strong> Feminism is not strictly meant for cis-gendered, white women. Feminism should acknowledge how multiple identities inform our lived experiences. This logic informs my belief that our destinies are linked, therefore, it is important for me to collectively work to uplift my community and begin to unlearn behaviors that are hurtful and violent. Ultimately, I am a feminist because it is has brought me peace and reconciliation. Through feminism, my heart is more hopeful for a better future and it has brought me to a place where I can articulate and help deconstruct oppressive forces. Feminism allows me a space to negotiate, with others, a future that is genuinely and truthfully inclusive of, sustainable and liberating for all beings.

  • Preston Mitchum, Policy Analyst of the FIRE Initiative, Center for American Progress

    <em><strong>Preston Mitchum, Policy Analyst of the FIRE Initiative, Center for American Progress </strong> </em> Feminism means the eradication of social, political, and economic structural inequalities between men and women. bell hooks once said “feminism is a movement to end sexist oppression.” The moment I understood this, the more I began to realize that for me to identify as a feminist – in both public and private spheres – I would need to actively work to ensure that sexist oppression was destroyed. As a gay black man, I recognized early-on that intersectionality was more than a buzzword and that not focusing on it would lead to real world consequences. This analysis also holds true for feminism. I am a feminist because I believe in the power of equality, and not in systems of domination that aligns with patriarchy.

  • Mathew Rodriguez, Editorial Project Manager,

    <em>Mathew Rodriguez, Editorial Project Manager, </em> As a journalist and storyteller, my understanding of feminism is that everybody's story has value -- not just those whose stories society deems worthy. It's less about equality and more about celebration of difference. Often times, marginalized people's experiences are boiled down to simplistic narratives by those in power who do the telling. As a feminist and a journalist, my aim is to complicate the stories told about these groups and offer complex, full-bodied testimonies in their place. The feminism of women of color like bell hooks has taught me the power of storytelling to intervene in misrepresentative narratives and the justice that rises from combating myths with authentic stories of individual truths.

  • Aaron Talley, Graduate Student, UChicago

    <strong><em>Aaron Talley, Graduate Student, UChicago </em></strong> I am a feminist because no other intellectual apparatus has spoken to me so deeply than that which stems from radical queer feminists of color. As a Black gay man, intersectionality is tantamount to my existence. Often times, I find myself in the predominately white gayborhood Boystown, where rainbows blanket the streets triumphantly, and yet Black and Brown queer youth are aggressively policed in the streets. Ultimately, intersectionality is not just a cute buzz word for me, but truly a lens on my reality that helps to carve out my space in this world. Radical queer feminists of color, who are predominately women, and who are marginalized on multiple fronts, are inherently intersectional, and have done the work of showing the world what this idea means. I am a feminist because a radical queer feminist of color politic is expansive and inclusive enough to truly save the lives of those who live in the margins.


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