More often than not, when I am asked what it was like being gay in the South, it is met with certain expectations. You can tell the person asking is likely anticipating me to offer a dramatic pause—perhaps one long enough to let a single tear fall down my face—before ultimately saying something that fits into their stereotypical presumptions. Maybe they expect me to tell a story about being shoved down by a gang of overalls-wearing homophobes on a hog farm, too. Who knows, but based on reactions, I typically don’t offer the response they’re seeking.
As someone who is also Black (and not having “transcended race”), I am used to this; it is very much akin to the falsehood that Black folks have some monopoly on homophobia. Much like that issue, homophobia in the South is not all that different at its core than it is anywhere else. If nothing else, perhaps it is unique in its delivery.
That said, when one says “the South,” specifics are required.
I am from Houston, Texas, with both sides of my family largely hailing from Louisiana. Texas is a nation unto itself and while Houston is southern, the rest? Eh, not so much. Similarly, you can’t expect major southern cities like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, or Miami to be the same as towns in Mississippi or Alabama. The reality is, while I chose to wait until I was a 21-year-old intern in New York City to admit to myself and my friends that I was gay, I could have easily done so in high school.
At the time, many of my friends were sneaking into gay and lesbian clubs where they were free to be themselves. One club in particular was called Big Yo’s. I never made it there—and though everyone comes out on their own schedules—a part of me wishes I was. It was always described to me as a fun, joyous place where people were allowed to live as individuals—a feat often unallowed in every other space of their lives. Rappers like Trina would perform at the clubs because (surprise, surprise) some people knew early on that money is money and that all people—even those defying heteronormativity and rigid gender binaries—are just people.
Years later, relatives would tell me about their drives to New Orleans to see groundbreaking queer rap artists like Katey Red perform. Some would join Katey Red onstage to twerk the night away. For all the current chatter about where hip hop needs to go in terms of allowing more LGBT representation, a fun fact is that this has long been happening in the South.
This same joy I’ve heard and seen in cities like Houston and New Orleans also exists in other places like Atlanta, and yes, Orlando.
The thing about us southern folk is while bigotry might be directly in our faces and heard at higher volumes, we have always found a way to bounce pass it—literally and figuratively. And the thing about hearing prejudice at its bluntest delivery is that it does not mean you are any safer in places where it is conveyed in softer tones. Donald Trump is a bigot and xenophobe, but he is nothing more than a reflection of the Republican Party, and in many ways, America.
Read the rest at Complex.
Michael Arceneaux: hooks is entitled to her opinion; I’m entitled to mine
As great a fan of Beyoncé as I am, I know no one is above criticism. Still, I find it equally fascinating and frustrating that bell hooks – the same person who once wrote so gleefully about Lil’ Kim and now champions the likes of Emma Watson – can in turn be so contemptuous about Beyoncé, and in separates cases, artists like Nicki Minaj.
hooks’ continuous condemnation of femininity is a petty critique gussied up with academic pretension. The idea that being ultra feminine is anti-intellectual is more damaging and reductive a sentiment than anything shown in Lemonade.
It’s also mighty rich for a woman who labeled Beyoncé a “terrorist” to now complain about female violence. By the way, when you’re as controlled an act as Beyoncé is, there’s something to be said about her allowing herself to publicly show that level of anger.
And someone who sells books and gives speeches at premier universities should also know that just because something is designed to make money doesn’t inherently mean it is corrupt or compromised. Then there is the reality that how we hurt and how we heal vary. This was her way and art is not intended to discuss such matters in absolutes. I imagine the same goes for Beyoncé’s ideas of feminism, the celebration of women, and femininity in general. bell hooks is free to continue feeling otherwise, but I’m glad the rest of us are not bound to.
You can read the entire roundtable over at Feministing.
“In the last album — that was like love and relationships in its best form, and here she’s talking about the actual challenges that come with that,” Rolling Stone writer Michael Arceneaux tells NPR’s Michel Martin.
And Arceneaux notes that, through it all, Beyoncé’s work demonstrates a significant respect for spectacle — nowhere more so than in Lemonade.
“A lot of artists now don’t particularly care about the visual and it’s just the song,” he says. “But I think Beyoncé really genuinely appreciates how everything is supposed to work together in unison to have a larger impact.”
But don’t make the mistake of comparing her to another performer with a knack for spectacle, Michael Jackson; Arceneaux says Beyoncé actually shares much more in common with Janet.
“Because I think with Janet Jackson, she was able to talk about racial identity, her sexuality, gender and queerness, all these different things,” Arceneaux says. “As much as I love Michael Jackson — I’m named after Michael Jackson — Janet was a bit broader in her themes throughout her career.”
I was never shielded from anti-black racism, its overt ugliness, its subtle nastiness, its shared intention to make me feel small. Yet, I was cautioned to never allow someone else to define how I felt about myself. In essence, to the white people reading this, I was not raised to care all that much about what you thought of my black ass.
I understand the frustration. I get that this is a longstanding issue. I know that people should make sure bigots know they cannot cower behind the false pretense of preference. I even accept that preference does not necessarily equate prejudice in some cases.
Nevertheless, I am so sick of reading and watching black men complain about white men not wanting them sexually.
When it comes to tackling the relationships between gay black men and gay white men, to only discuss in the context of sexual attraction is insulting to both and can often have damaging consequences in the narrative. Last fall, The Advocate published a piece titled “Is Gay Dating Racism Creating a Black HIV Crisis?” To his credit, author Daniel Reynolds did ultimately speak to someone from the CDC who denotes other factors play a larger role.
However, why even center the black male HIV crisis on the affections of white men? Especially when you factor in that in December 2013, the New York Times published a report, “Poor Black and Hispanic Men Are the Face of H.I.V.” which examined factors behind higher HIV rates among poorer Black and Latino men. In it, they detail how the failure of health organizations to reach both groups are largely responsible for our higher rates. We are less likely to take drugs before having sex and no more likely to engage in risky behavior, but we do have less access than our white counterparts.
Working within a smaller pool can be problematic, but the issue of racism and how it burdens black men ought to be more focused on institutional issues (poverty, mass incarceration, lack of access to education, health services, etc.) than these hollowed conversations flooding my social media feeds every couple of months. Why be so focused on the “preferences” of an idiot? Why continue to make whiteness the center of world and perpetuate this notion that we have to belong?
Read the rest at NewNowNext.