Queer confession: I have little patience for the arrows that (some) masculine black gay men shoot at us feminine black gay men. It usually goes something like this: Masculine guys first state that they are not trying to offend anyone (the presence of this statement is almost always a guarantee that someone will be offended and something horrible will be said, and the speaker is aware of this but does not want to be called on their sh*t), and then he accuses the media of only representing feminine gay bois and perpetuating a stereotype about black gay men. He will lament that white gay men are offered a variety of representations and that the media are not portraying the majority of white gay men as queens. The gag, of course, is that this lament actually occurs in white gay circles as well (hello, "Reddit Gaybros" debate); they just don't have to attach the descriptor "white" before "gay." (Wow, see right there, a little intersectionality and finding a common point! We are all unsatisfied.) The truth is that many of the shows cited -- The New Normal, Glee, Modern Family and others -- do not necessarily have overtly masculine gay characters, so given what masculine gay men, best epitomized by those over at DiscreetCity.com, complain about in these conversations, similar depictions of black gay men would not suffice. Or would it? I don't know, because that would require having conversations about masculinity: What is it? What is queer masculinity? How natural is it? Why do we put such a high premium on it? Why are we dying for its representation? Why does it seem to come at the expense and negation of femininity? But no one, particularly, it seems, masculine men, wants to really have that conversation, so masculinity operates much like obscenity: I can't define what it is, but I know it when I see it. Side-eye.
Lest you think I am just being a screaming queen, within the last few months we (those of us who follow black gay media/consumable culture) have heard an interview between the brilliant creators of the DL Chronicles (seriously, Here TV, shame on you for canceling the series; I have yet to forgive you) and a DiscreetCity.com representative in which they lament the proliferation of femme black gay boys on TV and the absence of masculine black gay guys; we have seen a YouTube video chat between YouTubers DL Briggs and the brilliant Xem Van Adams discussing the "unbalanced imagry of black gay men":
(Granted it felt as if they were having two separate conversations; bias alert: I was more team Xem.)
We have even witnessed this masculine-feminine divide play out with Jason Collins' recent coming out. In the midst of his coming out he stated that he was trying to contest "[t]hat gay stereotype that-- you know what? .... People like me are trying to rewrite that stereotype and trying to let people know that you can't just put people in a box. You can't just say that, 'He's gay. He acts this way.' Or-- and-- so hoping to, you know, start the conversation over again." While I get what he was going for and applaude his coming out, what his words touch upon, the ideology behind it, is problematic.
I know, a lot of setup, but this is a long and tiring debate that has been going on within our community for some time now. And yes, full disclosure: I have engaged in these conversations before, sometimes publicly (I have had a Twitter "conversation" with Discreetcity.com), and I have been hit with a few arrows (when I posted an anti-queer-assimilation article on MUSED, I was labeled "clearly a queen" for being proud of queer culture), but that is not at issue here. What it comes down to for me is this: I am not against the depiction of masculine gay men in the media; I don't think most gay people are against this; I am not against conversations about the paucity of their presence. And here, let me be very clear: I am against the ways the conversations have occurred and devolved.
If one wants to talk about the lack of black gay men in the media, let us first state that there is a lack -- an appalling lack -- of black, Latino, Asian and biracial/multiracial gay men in the media. Then let us also admit this: It is not only about quantity but also quality. Often we femme bois in the media have no lives, loves or stories of our own, and please let's not get started on our trans brothers and sisters. It is not just about who is portrayed but how our lives are portrayed. We don't have one. Let's talk about how you talk about stereotypes. Why focus only on femininity and talk about it with such shame and apprehension? Jolly for you that you have a deep voice, a culturally acceptable walk and all that cisgender privilege, but let's be clear that some of us do not; some of us are feminine, and we switch, and we talk with a lisp, but that does not make us stereotypical. "Clockable," sure, but stereotypical? No. When you label me a stereotype, you are saying that I am symptomatic of some pathology or that I have no interior life. Simply put: I do.
If you see me, I will see you; if you love me as your "brother," I will love you up too; if you pull me up, I will pull you up too. If you fight for me and my performativity and my wholeness, I will certainly fight for you.
And with that, I return to you this arrow from my back.