January 25, 2011

No Gay Black Males Allowed


[Please let this piece develop before judging.]

There is something to be said about how an individual identifies and as a result where that individual feels the most comfortable. I identify primarily with my race and everything else falls into some order that I don’t care to really enumerate. What is important, however, is that my sexuality just recently became an identity for me and is probably high up on that un-enumerated list. I didn’t venture into the LGBT center until the spring of my junior year. Before then I didn’t feel as though I belonged there. My issue now resides in the fact that even though I accept my sexuality as an important part of my identity, I’m still not sure how much I fit in at the LGBT Center.

Why? Oh, well because I’m black.

*Pause*

Now, no…it’s not just because I’m black and no I’m not saying the LGBT Center isn’t supportive of all ethnicities. Janie/Jess/Peg/and the rest of the crew love us all. What I am saying is that the LGBT Center is not always my go-to place for comfort or security because I don’t necessarily identify with that community first and being a minority of a minority (being both black and gay), understandably, can make it difficult to decide where you fit in.

*Pause*

However, the bigger issue I’m trying to address is the flip side of how black culture doesn’t necessarily accept LGBTQ-identified persons, especially black males/those who identify as black males. Black men in the LGBT community at Duke may not feel comfortable or identify closely with the black community due to this lack of acceptance. I’ve been sitting around complaining to my black, gay female friends about how the overlap of my identities isn’t met at the center while failing to consider how our counterparts feel about their needs being met.

I’ve come to realize that I have the luxury to walk into a predominantly black, straight party without receiving stares or snide remarks. Get this…I can even dance/make-out with another female with minimal backlash (not that I give a frog’s fat ass what someone says—sorry Chris Perry, I couldn’t resist). When I inquired as to why I don’t often see black males from the LGBT community at predominantly black parties, I was informed that it was too much of a hassle. I was told they don’t want to feel the pressure to monitor their actions or the worry of being judged. Some don’t want to deal with the threat of a physical fight or verbal altercation. Now this is not to say that all gay, black males feel this way but no one should have to share those sentiments.

While the club scenario is only one minor example of how the black community has excluded gay, black males it stands to reason that regardless of the specifics—be it a party, organization, or center for black culture—this needs to stop. How you choose to place value on your identities isn’t really important but feeling that you have a community to affirm you in each of your identities is.

It’s like this for me…At one point there were signs outside of establishments that read: No Colored Allowed. Now it seems the black community has placed it’s own sign up: No Black Gay Males Allowed. We could go into a whole discussion on the history of black culture and why this may be but who cares? It's wrong. Does anyone care about the rationale behind the Holocaust or the African slave trade? That question doesn’t even warrant a response.

6 comments:

  1. I am so happy you wrote this, Xan. It pains me to say that I have to agree with you. I wish I could say that it's not like that but it is at least from my experience. I've never felt comfortable hanging around many people in the Black community because of how strong the negative stigma of homosexuality seems to be within the community. I long wondered if it was just me or is it actually a problem. I've also had trouble aligning all of my identities. However, I've never really thought of my race as my main identity. I don't even think I can say that I have a main identity. I'm just me.

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  2. thanks xan and aj for sharing! i think this is a really important and interesting issue that gets overlooked or glossed over without being really delved into. i would love to hear more about other peoples' experiences.

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  3. I do not go to duke but I understand where this post is coming from. I do think it is an interesting topic to discuss who has it "worst" within the black community males or females when it comes to homosexuality. I go to an HBCU and they aren't fond of either males or females being open about their sexuality. With that being said that does not stop us. I have heard many people comment on how comfortable a lot of gay black men are on our campus and how they will wear tight clothes, weave, be effeminate and not care what others think. One thing I don't think many people in the queer community realize unless they are a minority is that you end up picking one to identify with. If you are gay and black or queer and black, you usually fight for the rights for one or the other. Or you only hang out with people who are really passionate about one or the other. I have yet to meet a queer black person who actually hangs out with other queer black people. it seems specifically if you are queer, not gay or lesbian, but queer you end up hanging out with the white queer community. Its something that should def be discussed.

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  4. Xan - I'm so glad you wrote this. I haven't been checking the blog as much since I've been abroad, (following your footsteps with Duke in Madrid!) but reading your piece really stuck out to me. I think we should absolutely talk about intersecting identities in general, and I know WLW has done this a few times which I really appreciate. Hopefully we can keep going in the right direction, and thanks again for writing this here. =)

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  5. Is it because white seems neutral that we default to the white community instead of mainly associating with other POC? I am Asian and I feel that identifying with other Asians is so..."loaded." It means accepting a lot of things that I don't necessarily identify as. So I find it easier to associate myself with predominantly white subcultures. Does that reveal my fundamental biases about fellow Asians, my bias toward white as the neutral community? Or does it just reflect the fact that society boxes you in more and makes you more uncomfortable when you identify with the Asian or black race?

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  6. This is interesting. I've never had any sort of split identity issues. When I look at my identity, I don't see it as parts, I kind of see it as a whole. But for someone who DOES see it in parts, I can understand how there could be discomfort.

    Funnily, while I don't have a conflict with my identity (identities?) I always feel uncomfortable in the center due to the fact that I'm black (amongst other reasons). I can joke about being 1 out of a small number there every now and then, but all joking aside, its not so great. It's not a "Oh no, I don't have anyone here to talk to that's like me" kind of thing though. Race has very little to do with who I talk to or hang out with. I don't really know how to explain this, but I'm comfortable being a racial minority anywhere BUT the center.

    Now I can't say that black gay men have it worse than anyone else within the LGBT community, but they do seem to have a consistently tough time in the black community. I think it's good that you've brought this up. Everyone's case is different and it's important we hear about these different experiences of being gay and see these different viewpoints.

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