I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in #BlackMenDream, a film done by artist Shikeith in which I, along with other Black men, tackled Black male expression through a myriad of questions. I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was walking into when I said I would participate, but ultimately got a lot off my chest. I’m glad I could help make a contribution to another Black man trying to tell our stories.
Speaking of, over the weekend, I saw that a white female documentary director will be helming a project about the “Black Male” crisis, focused primarily about Michael Brown’s shooting death in project. While I have nothing against Amy Berg, I do find it interesting that Nate Parker chose her to work with. Months ago, he complained about the imagery of Black male men in entertainment and went on to cite that as the reason why he would never play a gay male character.
So, he’s fine with a white woman telling our stories, but won’t play a gay character given he feels that would be an affront on the Black man. You know, as if gay Black men are not, too, men. I say that for two reasons. One, it reminds me of some of the issues of hypermasculinity tackled in “#BlackMenDream.”
Black people, tell your own stories. Novelists, playwrights, directors, writers, journos, bloggers, actors, pundits–everybody get to work.
— Kierna Mayo (@kiernamayo) December 6, 2014
What this genius said.
I don’t wake up everyday obsessing over my race or my sexual orientation. As much pride as I have in being both Black and gay, my first thoughts of the day are usually “What songs shall I jig to?” and “How can I get myself out of Sallie Mae’s Burn Book?”
Alas, enough people obsess over my race and sexuality in this world for me. To the extent that I end up being forced to think about it at least some point on any given day.
As a result, I am usually exhausted by the predominate narrative about being a gay Black man. I often have to fight erasure from white gays and Black heterosexuals alike. Or, I have to wrestle with the reality that when trying to tell my story, it is preferred that I tell it through some sort of prism of pathology.
Yes, it is still very hard to be a gay Black man.
So often we are limited to the perceptions other people have about us. Our masculinity. Our expressions of sexuality. Robbed of our basic right to simply just be.
I like to think I try to find the good in even the most difficult situation, but funny enough, when faced with the question “Could you write about what you enjoy about being a gay Black man?” I was a bit stumped. All too often I am asked to write about this experience from the opposition perspective. The task felt like a pop quiz I was possibly going to fail.
A few moments later, I went with sarcasm: “Uh, was ass and Beyoncé’s B’Day?“
The more I thought about it, I felt that was a good enough place to start. I also like not having to ever be lumped in with those ‘stay-at-home sons’ Twitter often drags (or celebrates)—those sexist, heterosexual Black men who are an enemy to Black gays and Black women alike.
As for other benefits, I cannot speak for other gay Black men, but for me, the best parts of being who I am is all that I am. This includes the things that challenge the stereotypes about what a gay Black man is and the other characteristics that fit right into the caricature.
Read more at EBONY.
So I was a guest on Billboard’s “The Juice” podcast hosted by Erika Ramirez.
I’m lazily copying and pasting their description from the site:
For this week’s episode of The Juice Podcast, Taj Rani (BET) and Michael Arceneaux (Complex, Ebony) join me to discuss the happenings of the week, including Usher‘s new single “Believe Me,” Ariana Grande and Big Sean’sblooming relationship, Karrueche Tran’s tasteless joke about Beyoncé and Jay Z‘s daughter Blue Ivy by way of BET, and the Beyhive’s reaction.
Last month, I was asked to contribute to the “Men In America” series running on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” My story is on the time I was approached for the priesthood and how it pushed to me finally start dealing with a part of myself I was tired of denying.
A few things:
1. My speech pattern is basically Soulja Boy to Nicki Minaj real quick (oh, Lord).
2. The segment ends with “Say My Name” so #Beyhive.
3. I sound so Houston in certain parts, which means I’m country, and more importantly, like Beyoncé. That makes me feel better.
That said, check it out below.
I met him in a drag bar in the West Village on one of the first warm days of the year. While I certainly get the appeal of drag queens, it’s not really one of my favorite forms of entertainment. But I didn’t want to be a spoiler so I watched some really large Italian man in makeup quote Trina’s rap lyrics in exchange for laughter and a few dollar bills. Right around the time I thought to leave, he walked in. And we immediately locked eyes. We gazed at each other for an hour until I noticed something: He was with someone else.
How long was the other dude there? The hell if I know, and to this day, I still don’t particularly care. I do remember mouthing off, “Is that your boyfriend?” To which he nodded yes and I said, “I’m sorry.” He told me it was okay and we continued to study one another from a distance. Since I’m never approached, I’m used to going to men first if interested. So when his boyfriend went to the restroom, I went for it.
But as I made my way to his table his boyfriend came back, and I swiftly turned my trifling ass around. To the amusement of my company, I was greeted by them with the following: “WIG!” “Kim Zolciak!” and “Close your legs to married men!”
I’m not usually this guy. In fact, I hate people like this. But I wanted to find out more. I followed him to the restroom line to talk, hoping he would find my Southern speech, now coated in alcohol, charming enough to give me his number. He did.
After we exchanged information, we looked into each other’s eyes for a few minutes. Ho shit or not, it was sweet. I could have tried to do more—kiss him, feel him up, et. al—but since New York City bathrooms are full of bed bugs with gonorrhea, I decided to cut it short.
The next day, we set a date. I’m not much of a dater. In fact, even at the age of 30, I’ve never had a real boyfriend. This tends to frighten some people—even other gays—given it suggests that something is “wrong” with me. I shared this with him during our first date. And, really, I didn’t anticipate much to come from us meeting each other one on one. If anything, I pegged him to be some guy who was having relationship problems and wanted to “see what was out there” before he got scared and rushed back to his man.
I have been in love before, but my 20s were spent either ducking intimacy or pursing it in unattainable men. Men that were in denial about their sexuality, their feelings for me, or a gumbo consisting of the two that would’ve alerted a saner person to run away. Coupled with my childhood experience—a cocktail of depression, violence, and watching two people clearly not meant for each other suffer from their failure to stop being codependent—I am admittedly fucked up.
But he enjoyed every bit of it.
He knew what it was like to grow up in a violent home. Despite being younger than me, he had more experience with boyfriends, but still seemed to struggle with letting people in. Yet he was letting me in very quickly and I was happy to return the favor. Then the strangest thing happened on our first date: he grabbed my hand at the dinner table and held it the entire time. I’d never been open with affection like that before. I recently opened up about my fear of sex in response to very early exposure to AIDS, but I’m not a virgin by any stretch of the imagination, and the sad reality is, I’m probably far more comfortable with you holding my dick than I am with you holding my hand in public.
Days later we had another date that started at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once again, he made me hold his hand. Then we kissed in public. We eventually left for the second part of the date at my apartment, where he cooked for me. We had dinner and dessert ready, but ended up naked not watching Boomerang, our bodies spread across my bed. In the time we spent together—more dinners, meeting up to walk around the city and enjoy each other’s company, and coming to spend my birthday with me before I left to go get drunk and dance to Beyoncé with my close friends —we were constantly all over each other. But it wasn’t just sexual—and that ultimately became the problem.
When I realized I was starting to fall in love with this person, I tried to exercise as much self-awareness about the situation as possible before losing control. I looked myself in the mirror and quoted Monica’s “Sideline Ho,” the best song from the painfully underrated album The Makings Of Me: “Ho. Ho. Sideline ho. You’s a ho. You’s a ho. Sideline ho.” I also sang a little bit of MoKenStef’s “He’s Mine” while cruising through both his and his boyfriend’s Facebook pages. I began to make peace with my reality.
Read the rest at Gawker.
“Put ya arms up….Whew! Ya small.”
Shadiness about my size aside, the Caribbean woman working at Macy’s was a life saver when I approached her with a specific, time-sensitive goal in mind: to find a tuxedo on a Tuesday and have it ready for a Saturday wedding. I had been given a three-month window to prepare, but naturally, I waited until the last minute to get everything done.
That would include getting it altered in time and finding whatever else in the hell one needs for a black tie affair. As recently as two months ago, I knew about as much about black tie affairs as Katy Perry seems to know about actual Black people. Even sadder was the fact that when everyone asked me my measurements, I didn’t have the slightest idea. The only measurements I can remember are “36-24-36” and that’s only important to a room full of old people at a cookout or a hole in the wall club.
One of my new favorite people ever, Nicole Richie, put it so eloquently on her VH1 show, saying, “I’m grown up, but I’m not like, a GROWN-up.” This philosophy is pretty true when it comes to how I tackle time management and general responsibility, but most certainly correct in assessing my preparedness and ability to dress for truly adult affairs. When you’re blessed with an invite to a wedding and various fancy people events, even if you’ve never been anywhere nicer than Olive Garden before, you know you better show up and put on some Meryl Streep type performance—looking and acting right immediately upon arrival.
Then again, even when it comes to invitations to speak at events less formal in dress code but still requiring a level that’s more than denim and a tee, I’m usually still ill-prepared and in a rush to find something to wear. This happened to me last year, and basically all I did was duplicate a look I wore to an internship interview several years prior. Luckily, no one in attendance was the wiser.
You see, I work primarily from home, a place where pants can be oppressive, and things like jackets, ties, and dress shoes don’t even enter the conversation. Even worse was that up until a year ago, I lived in Los Angeles – not exactly the place for dressing sharp and formal if you’re not attending an awards show. Yeah, damn me for not learning Final Draft well enough.
Regardless, it is a different time now.
Read the rest at Complex.
I’m sitting at my desk in my increasingly uncomfortable office chair drinking red wine while listening to Anita Baker. For someone in desperate need of a vacation, but months away (at the very least from taking one), I’ll take whatever temporary moments of escape I can get. For years now, editors and many of my fellow writers have referred to me as a machine due to the way I’ve been able to churn out assignment after assignment. Maybe, but I think it’s about time someone put me in the shop.
Last week, Cord Jefferson wrote yet another very good essay, this time on how tiresome it can be writing about racism over and over again. It’s worth the read, and as someone who, too, writes about race a lot, I can attest to the sentiment. For one of the outlets I regularly write for, I often joke to my friends that they might as well give me a column called “That’s Racist with Michael Arceneaux.” My way of tackling what I often think are worthless targets is to simply make fun of them. Even so, I’d much rather go with the Mariah Carey method of dealing with a complete waste of space: “Ain’t gon’ feed you, I’mma let you starve.”
I wish dealing with racism was the least of my problems, though.
Since graduating from college and actually collecting checks for my writing, I’ve tackled pop culture, politics, music, celebrity gossip, sexuality, race, satire, and social media. I am happy I’ve been allowed to write about so much. Not everyone can be versatile, or at least, be convincing at. That doesn’t negate exhaustion, however. Like, I’m not necessarily over writing, but I am somewhat tired of a few things.
The aforementioned writing about idiotic racists, but also subject matter I can classify as either “dumb shit” or “silly shit” or “patronizing shit.” I came across an article entitled “The Internet has a content diversity problem.” In it, the writer basically takes shots at varying publications for following into the listicle vortext in response to the chase for clicks. I’m somewhat conflicted on that. Do I think “sharebait” has further contributed to the decline of people’s attention spans and their desire to read anything more than 500 words that might require them to think? Yes. Nevertheless, for a bunch of people stuck in cubicles and offices at least three hours too long, I can understand the desire to read something easy breezy.
Plus, I’ve contributed to the problem ’cause those pay the checks. And honestly, writing a “dumb list” is a lot harder than people realize. It can be a challenge to make any piece look like easy reading.
I’m less annoyed by the list than I am this growing subgenre of online journalism that’s basically “Tell ‘Em Why You Mad, Son.” It’s like watching people race to out politically correct the other in an effort to sound more evolved than the next. There are plenty of things to get mad about, but so many seem insincere because it pays to rage. A lot of it comes across a lot like masturbation. As in, let me patronize you, oooh, baby, baby, they’re so bad, but your point of view, so-so-so good.
I don’t wake up everyday wanting to be “mad.” I want to make people laugh and make people think. If some people deserve a roasting, so be it — just don’t position it as “moving the debate” forward. That would require a level of respect, and gasp, nuance, which so many writers seem to lack.
Then there are the “LET ME ENRAGE YOU ON PURPOSE AND THEN PRETEND I ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING MEANINGFUL TO SAY BECAUSE MY ATTENTION WHORING ASS GOT THE ATTENTION I SO DESPERATELY WANTED.” Fuck off twice, please.
In any event, I found it more interesting that a writer is complaining about diversity in content but only cited works from mainstream publications. That’s not surprising, but no less dually ironic and irritating.
What I’m personally sick of is having to chase for a check. I’m even more sick of having to churn out more than ever because though there may be an across the board wage depreciation, the publishing industry has really made an effort to take advantage of it. Even when I am offered the chance to write something that actually excites me, I have to contend with the reality that I have to be careful where I pitch it ’cause motherfuckers ain’t trying to pay the way they did even six months ago much less two years.
And yes, sometimes I do feel like Beyoncé being forced to cover Keri Hilson’s catalog due to increasingly stupid and/or lazy readers.
You know, a lot of the time I get told, “I’m so proud of you for living your dream.” I know the intent is complimentary, but I sometimes wince anyway. Yes, I’ve written a lot of things I’m particularly proud of – this year included – but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m living my dream. I’ve accomplished select goals, but my dreams are too big to truly embrace a statement I find hyperbolic.
I could go on, but I’m about to switch to Anthony Hamilton and perform “Float” in my apartment.
A few weeks ago, while watching Oprah’s Master Class with Whoopi Goldberg, she said something to the effect of, “Do what you have to do until you no longer have to.” That’s something I continue to tell myself, though I do know I have to push (and get it right) to do more things worthy of my talent (that pay better). Even if I feel tired. Even if I increasingly get upset by the state of the biz. Thankfully, there are people every now and then who remind me that in the midst of the noise, my voice still stands out. I appreciate that. More than most will ever understand.
The wonderful people over at NPR’s “Tell Me More” reached out to me about my xoJane essay that chronicled me tackling my fear of sex. This is the segment that aired yesterday. Was honored to be asked. I felt classy as opposed to my usual classy ratch. Now, I make Beyoncé and Mariah references during the discussion because I am who I am (you just can’t change me…I hope you hear that in Lil’ Kim’s voice). I was told I towed the line between NPR and not NPR/me well.
Y’all let me know. Thanks to them again for having me.