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I was only two months old when Prince reached the commercial peak of his career with Purple Rain. So, my earliest memories of the iconic musician may make those fortunate enough to experience him sooner wince. This would include watching Jack Nicholson dance to “Partyman” in the movie Batman, and a few years later, seeing Prince expose his bare butt at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.

I found the former fun, and the latter, strangely alluring. Nevertheless in either instance, I didn’t really understand what was before me. I knew Prince was someone to revere because I saw vinyls of albums like Purple Rain, Sign O’ The Times, and Parade spread across various parts of my home. Prince was something special, but I was too young to see why. He was not the kind of act a young child necessarily gets.

Michael Jackson was easier to digest for a child, especially one named after him. Michael Jackson was incredibly kid-friendly. He made things like Moonwalker and Captain EO. Prince, on the other hand, was anything but PG. Prince required a certain maturation — one that compelled you to know what norms he was challenging, what buttons he was pushing, and what experiences he sang about that are only accessible with age and with living.

Prince sang about sex fluidly. It was love and sex, it was spirituality in unison with sex versus in conflict. It was also sex in its absolute rawest form. Sex was cool. Sex was fun. Sex was a connection. Sex was whatever you wanted to be at the time. I had to reach the point in my life where I could understand that. Once I did, like so many others before me, I fell in love with his art.

As a gay black man, I appreciate that Prince did not cower under the rigidness of the hypermasculinity all too often thrust upon us. He confidently wore a G-string on an album cover, exposed his butt on national television, wore heels, and embraced androgyny. Prince was not a person who fixated on appearing “hard” or “tough”; he opted instead to show the greatest strength that is being comfortable in your own skin.

Many have long joked that Prince was as pretty, if not prettier, than the beautiful women he dated. That was often the case, but behind any chuckles about that lies the fact that the artist never bowed to anyone else’s idea of how his manhood should be presented. He was not making overt political statements with gender-bending aesthetic. Prince was just being.

That can often be a revolutionary act on its own, but this is especially true for Prince, a black man. For anyone who argues that this is standard fare today, I invite you to pull out a magnifying glass and give our culture a closer look. There aren’t many modern-day black male entertainers like Prince. They may sound like him because his works are highly influential and innovative, but name a heterosexual entertainer walking around in high heels, eyeliner, and pants that could easily be rocked by your sister or auntie. At least, there isn’t one that enjoys the kind of stature and commercial success that Prince enjoyed at his peak.

Now, name a gay black guy doing that.

I hear your silence. The sad reality is most black male entertainers can’t even get away with wearing one of Luther Vandross’s old glittery jackets without having their sexuality questioned. Odell Beckham Jr. — a professional football player — can’t dance in peace without his manhood and sexuality being called into question.

But this is what separates Prince from everyone else: he didn’t give a damn. His sexuality was not defined by the gender norms of others. He was an individual in every sense of the word. Prince lived by his own standard.

Read the rest at Teen Vogue.

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When it comes to criticism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, I’m reminded of the way criticism is often leveled at Beyoncé, or “Bayoncé,” as Clinton has mistakenly called her.

In my eyes, Beyoncé is as close to perfect as this world is going to get. But no one is totally perfect. Now, I’m not in the business of speaking ill of my favorite Creole, but I can understand someone taking issue with select matters. Say, her being hyper-capitalistic. However, as is the case with Beyoncé, whatever legitimate gripes one might have about Clinton often gets lost in the noise drowning out what could be legitimate criticism.

Because Clinton elicits such visceral anger from her detractors, many look for any available reason to condemn her. The latest example of this would be people losing their damn minds because she mentioned that she keeps hot sauce in her bag during an interview with Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club.” Because she made this comment during a radio program that targets black people, some felt Clinton was pandering.

However, no matter what your uninformed faux politico or Donald Trump might tell you, Clinton has been talking about her love of hot sauce since the first Destiny’s Child album. Actually, she’s been talking about hot sauce since Girls Tyme. Clinton has mentioned her love of hot sauce to black and mainstream media outlets for more than two decades. So, to be clear, when it comes to her eating habits and the hot sauce she drowns her food in, she got that fire, she got that fire, girl, holla at HRC if you want that Oscar Meyer.

After some conceded just that, the outrage shifted to Charlamagne Tha God jokingly telling Clinton that her admission of her hot sauce habit on the show might seem like pandering. Clinton’s response was, “Is it working?” It was deadpan humor, but Clinton had a grin on her face. Why? Because it was a joke. You can either laugh or not, but to suggest that it connotes anything other than bad comedic timing is the kind of hyperbolic antics that I find headache-inducing. Clinton loves her hot sauce and there are plenty of folks out here that need to get drunk off some chill.

And since we’re on the subject of pandering, for the love of God, let go of Hillary Clinton dancing on Ellen. Clinton was appearing on a daytime television show in which she was asked by the host —who often makes dancing a central component of the telecast—and her black DJ to try the latest dance trend (to that audience, anyway). That’s why you do on daytime TV: silly-ass shit to relate to Americans who don’t really know a great deal about policy, but tend to be way too into the idea of voting for a candidate’s charisma. Like I told y’all before, the game is the game.

Moreover, there’s the reality that, if Hillary Clinton didn’t go directly to outlets that appeal to black voters, she—and, for that matter, Bernie Sanders—would be accused of ignoring key Democratic voting blocs. You know, like Republicans. If anything, I find Sanders’ dismissal of southern voting states—which also happen to encompass large black populations—to be more offensive than Clinton dancing off beat and talking about hot sauce on a morning radio show.

Pandering is Mitt Romney asking black kids, “Who let the dogs out?” A better example of a politician being condescending is Rand Paul taking a field trip to Howard University and trying to lecture students on issues the students understood better than he did.

Make no mistake: this is not me declaring #ImWithHer. I don’t despise her as some of my friends do, but she’s not exactly my favorite candidate. For the record, neither is Bernie Sanders. As of now, I’m planning to vote for “Bayoncé.”

What I will advise, however, is that for those who detest Clinton and want to let it all out day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute on social media—shall you proceed? Yes indeed. Only, can you try to limit your criticisms to policy? There is plenty of reason for condemnation there.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Mere moments after the world learned that Beyoncé would be premiering her long rumored “Lemonade” project on HBO this upcoming Saturday, the following question rippled across the BeyHive: “Where is the watch party?”

All I could hear each time was Phaedra Parks saying “Go away from me with all of this.” I prefer to watch Beyoncé in silence so I can properly stan as my Lord and Gyrator ministers to me. I am debating whether or not to watch it with a group, but if I do so, it will be under very particular circumstances.

Since I am a good person, I’m going to share my rules with you. If you are a true Beyliever, you should apply them to your life—should you opt for a watch party, that is. Environment matters, BeyHive, especially considering how long we’ve waited for Beyonce’s newest era.

Do not watch with Beytheists.

“Beytheists” are people who don’t believe in Beyoncé. Anyone who dares question the power of Beyoncé has a serious character flaw that you should avoid at all costs. It could be contagious, like the Zika virus or something. Actually, the Zika virus sounds better for your body than not believing in Beyoncé, to be quite f-cking honest.

Anyhow, don’t attend any watch party in which a Beytheist will be in attendance.

Why? This person will be making unnecessary contrarian comments, such as “She ain’t all that.” Yes the hell she is, you tasteless simpleton. They will then be picking apart the special, bit by bit, to your annoyance. Someone already told me that they can see themselves fighting such a person. Listen, we are too close to the Formation World Tour for legal problems. Besides, if you’ve got great seats for the show, you’ve more than likely already spent your bond money.

If you attend a watch party, make sure the haters don’t have an invite. Or at the very least, make sure they have they own designated circle of crazy that is far, far away from you. I would place them in a tarpit, but it’s the host’s call.

The overzealous fans who can’t shut up.

While we love fellow fans of Beyoncé, I don’t need to hear “YASSSSSSSS!” every other second. The same goes for “SLAAAAAAYYYYYY” and other typical forms of conveying jubilee and climaxing. These folks are going to drown out the special and you’ll end up wanting to drown them. Again, do you have bail money? You can’t afford Annalise Keating either. Tell the people to use their inside voices until the special wraps. After that, y’all can all have the orgy.

The people who ask too many damn questions.

Yo, shut the hell up when Beyoncé is doing something. Set up your panel discussion for a later date. Silencio yo’self. 100 emoji.

Beyonostics

As in, those who claim to not feel strongly about Beyoncé one way or another. These types are dead inside—and not in the cool way, like me. My concern with the Beyonostics is that while you’re losing your mind and overcome with emotion (yet, still respectfully silent during the airing), they’ll be looking at you like you’re crazy. In actuality, they’re the crazy ones for not being an emotional roller coaster while Beyoncé is doing something. Ugh.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I have just one and very much sincere question for those responsible for guiding Chris Brown’s career:
Do you still actually like him? Yes? No? Circle one.
I’ve watched the trailer for Brown’s upcoming documentary, Welcome to My Life, and if I were in Breezy’s circle, I would advise him to take the tape, destroy it, bury it, and pretend it never happened. Beyond the optics of the doc itself (its production value recalls afterschool specials I used to record on my mama’s VCR) I think if Brown has taught us nothing else, it’s that for him, silence is golden.
In the film, we hear the narrator claim, “He went from being America’s sweetheart to public enemy number one.”
Yes, we know much of that has to do with him physically assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Some people will never forgive him for that — even if Rihanna herself has. That may strike some as unfair, but for others, Brown has continued to show himself to be a volatile and often vicious figure, thus incredibly unlikable.
Consider the reported physical altercations with Frank Ocean and Drake. There are also stories floating around, like say, him getting in shouting matches with his former girlfriend, Karrueche Tran. Then there are his combative social media habits, which ultimately prove that Brown needn’t talk to us anymore about anything besides his music.
Chris Brown has engaged in online battle with comedians, talk show hosts, bloggers, ex-girlfriends, actors, and other recording artists. Brown has also shown made statements that are sexist, transphobic, and give the distinct impression that he is, well, not a particularly nice person.
The reality is you don’t have to be an especially nice person to be successful – especially as an entertainer, but of course there are limits to what folks will put up with in the public eye. The documentary seems intent on two things: telling Chris Brown’s side of the story about his life in a more intimate way, which is designed to make him more appealing to the masses. However, we’ve long known Brown’s story. Perhaps too long.
I distinctly remember Brown’s interview on former Tyra Banks’ daytime talk show in which he described the abuse he witnessed as a child. It’s evident how much that shaped his life, but while many can understand how a Chris Brown is made, Brown himself has not done a whole lot to display that he has tried to take full control of his anger issues.
To that end, what good would yet another “inside look” into his life do? Does anyone on Team Brown remember his “The Real Chris Brown” video from 2012 in which he declared, “I’m a little drunk, so I’m going to be honest. You don’t all really get the real Chris Brown. I like to be honest.”
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If there’s any constant with respect to social media and the internet, it is that somebody is going to do something incredibly stupid and racially insensitive. Congratulations to Snapchat for being the latest guilty party.

In concert with marijuana aficionados’ most cherished holiday, 4/20, the the social media company released a Bob Marley selfie filter that, when used, adds locs, a Rastafarian-style hat and darker skin to the user. Problem is, it didn’t dawn on anyone over at the Snapchat offices that adding black skin to a white user’s face might look a lot like blackface. No matter what Zoe Saldana’s makeup artist in Nina or racist college party attendees might tell you, blackface is not really poppin’ in the streets. Unsurprisingly, the internet rage machine quickly homed in on the deserving target.

That said, SnapChat did use Marley’s face and name in partnership with the legendary singer-songwriter’s estate. A Snapchat spokesperson told Forbes via email that the filter “gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music. Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements”.

That permission doesn’t make the feature less racist. Marley was the voice of poor people and black liberation in a space very few artists ever have access to, a distinction that deserves due respect. Whoever gave Snapchat permission to do this, it was an idea that shouldn’t have been executed. And Bob Marley’s estate can’t be trusted to police this – it has a questionable history of licensing the late singer’s likeness. (Full disclosure: I use Bob Marley-brand protein powder.)

That put the onus on Snapchat itself to make the decision, and it failed on multiple levels. At the very least, Snapchat could have restricted the filter to just the hat and the locs. The darkening of skin was not necessary. And for no one in that company – at least those with decision-making power – to understand why it would be an issue to invoke an inglorious history of minstrelsy speaks, yet again, to the ongoing problem with diversity in the tech industry.

Snapchat’s record when it comes to race is questionable. In 2015, Recode’s Walt Mossberg asked Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel about the company’s staff diversity. Spiegel replied,

Diversity, for us, is really closely tied to competency. We have such a diverse group of people using our products and services every day, that in order for us to make absolutely great products and services for that community, we need a really, really diverse group of people. And it’s really that simple.

Spiegel added, however, that, they don’t think of diversity in terms of percentages, arguing “it’s not really cool to think if people as numbers.”

Read The Guardian.

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When the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) first announced a talk show based on men and relationships co-starring Tyrese one question raced to my mind: Has anyone over there ever paid attention to Tyrese before hiring him for this?

If you Google the words, “Tyrese sexist,” a flock of credible offenses will fill your screen. While a sexist man isn’t exactly an anomaly, one wonders why OWN, a network whose growth is largely attributable to Black women, would offer someone like this a platform. Black women saved OWN in ways Lindsay Lohan, Rosie O’Donnell, Wynonna Judd, and Shania Twain (all of whom had previous incarnations of television specials/shows) could not and the reward for their loyalty is misogynoir with musical sensibilities.

Even though the show is called “It’s Not You, It’s Men,” it does very little in the way of challenging sexism. Look no further than model Amber Rose’s appearance in February, in which she took on both Tyrese and co-host, Rev. Run for perpetuating forms of rape culture. When Rose complained about street harassment and overall disrespect by men, Rev. Run suggested that perhaps “a representation of what you’re wearing and stuff and seems like, in their mind, what you’re representing.”

Tyrese echoed the sentiment adding, “I’m just saying, the comfortability some people find in wanting to touch or grope you. It’s an energy that is sent out there that creates that type of response.”

Rose shut them down, but the problem is when it comes to saying something dumb about women, Tyrese simply can’t help himself. The latest example is an Instagram post in which he claims to no longer fancy a certain kind of women. Everyone has a right to their particular preferences, but there’s an underlying stench behind this chauvinistic notion.

Part of his caption reads, “I was just asked today what qualities attract me at this point in a women…. I love a woman that’s smart, confident, educated, self sufficient, (available to be as spontaneous as this lifestyle I live.) I use to be attracted to women with HUGE personalities LOUD and AGGRESSIVE and I would always it a wall…. Now I’m in a zone where I am ONLY attracted to women who’s voice is so soft and she has the energy and presence of grace and regal sophistication….. Not subservient REGAL!!!”

In the comment section, where intelligence and reason unfortunately often go to be violently slaughtered, one commenter wrote, “Don’t nobody want a bunch Ne-Ne, K-Michelle, Tamar, Mi-Mi, and Cardi B’s running around the house. I can’t stand loud, aggressive women in my space and I’m a woman.”

They are both speaking the same language, only the commenter is merely taking Tyrese’s opinion one step further. When you look clearly at the examples mentioned, you’ll see that NeNe Leakes and Tamar Braxton are happily married. Mimi Faust is in a serious relationship and not with a clown for a change. Cardi B is engaged. Fine, I’ll give you K. Michelle, though to her credit, while it may not last as long as she likes, she keeps a man around.

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Why do some people act as if Beyoncé eats with her feet?

I read Beyoncé’s recent and increasingly rare interview with Elle magazine, in which she discussed her new Ivy Park activewear collection in addition to answering questions about feminism, race and police brutality. I found it rather standard for Beyoncé, or any celebrity of her stardom, for that matter. Others, however, expressed shock and awe that she managed to form short, coherent statements.

About feminism, Beyoncé made comments like, “If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you’re a feminist. We need men and women to understand the double standards that still exist in this world, and we need to have a real conversation so we can begin to make changes.”

And when asked about those who protested her “Formation” video, Houston’s finest noted: “I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me.”

It’s not as if she broke down critical race and feminist theories in the Q&A, so why in the hell is anyone surprised by these not especially complicated sentences? I’ve seen some of my writing colleagues insinuate that perhaps her public relations team answered the questions for her. This was an echo of the sentiment expressed two years ago when Beyoncé’s essay “Gender Equality Is a Myth!” was published by the Shriver Report.

In that essay, Beyoncé wrote: “We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.”

Watch out, Toni Morrison, or nah?

Even if Beyoncé did have someone gussy up her essay, she wouldn’t be the first person to do so—celebrity or otherwise. We live in a nation where, if the proper use of “whom” were a choice that could end or life or death, a sizable portion of the U.S. population would immediately drop dead. So if you really want to talk about what is or isn’t dumb, I wouldn’t be aiming my dart in the direction of a pop superstar with a growing empire on which she has relentlessly proved to have a tight grip.

I’ve always found this “Beyoncé is some sort of simpleton” narrative to be painfully ignorant and remarkably dubious. Sure, after LeToya and LaTavia left Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé launched a solo career a few years later, she did noticeably become far more cautious in how she answered questions. That doesn’t necessarily say anything about her level of intelligence.

Read the rest at The Root.

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It didn’t take American Idol runner-up and new Motown signee La’Porsha Renae long to realize she probably should have kept her stupid to herself with respect to thoughts about the LGBT community. In a recent interview, Renae was asked about the controversial HB1523 legislation that was passed in her home state of Mississippi recently. While Renae did express some niceties about LGBT folks – we’re people like everyone else, we have feelings, and other things you learn early as a Sesame Street viewer – her phrasing rightly courted controversy.

You see, Renae could have left her comments right there, but she went on to note: “I am one of the people who don’t really agree with that lifestyle. I wasn’t brought up that way. It wasn’t how I was raised. But I do have a lot of friends and a lot of people that I love dearly who are gay and homosexual and they’re such sweet, nice people. We should just respect each other’s differences and opinions and move on.”

Renae has since conducted another interview that ran on Tuesday in which she acknowledged she had been “offensive by using the word ‘lifestyle’” to describe homosexuality. Renae adds that while she’s totally aware of the details of HB1523, she is “firmly” against any discriminatory laws. How nice.

To some, this would be the part where I pack up my annoyance and mosey on over to the next thing many would describe as “problematic.”

However, I’m comfortable right where I am so I would like to spend a lil’ more time addressing the issue with use of “lifestyle.” La’Porsha Renae is 23 years old, but sounds like an uncomfortable senior citizen describing her gay child’s longtime “roommate.” And just like Big Mama, Renae needs to understand that veganism is a lifestyle, not my predominate and natural attraction to members of the same sex. No matter what Rachel “Fake Ass Freddie Brooks”  Dolezal tells you, being Black is not a lifestyle choice either.

When people invoke “lifestyle” to describe one’s sexuality, they are insinuating that it is a choice. As in something that can be changed or “cured” depending on what kind of zealot you’re talking to. Renae might not even be fully aware of this because homophobia is so ingrained in society. Even her use of “homosexual” speaks to antiquated viewpoint of gays and lesbians. Whether or not she realizes any of this is irrelevant. The damage is done the minute the words are uttered.

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I try to steer clear of wishing ill on another, but I wish Erykah Badu’s cell phone, iPad, and laptop had forged a suicide pact in order to spare us all of the string of tweets she’s unleashed multiple days this week.

On Monday, Badu, like many others on Twitter, apparently saw New York magazine’s The Cut tweet out a link to a story about a New Zealand school that enforced knee-length skirts for girls in order to “stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff.” Badu’s initial tweet linked to the piece and added: “I agree. We are sexual beings. We should consider everyone. Young girls are attractive. Some males are distracted.”

Oh, those helpless men who can’t manage to avoid sexualizing minors on their damn job of all places. Let us all please consider their special needs. Badu continued, “Men and women both go thru cycles of arousal. Men automatically are attracted to women of child bearing age….” While she did acknowledge “Males should be taught to be responsible for their actions from childhood” and that “It’s not ok to “prey” on young women,” she still said when it comes to a heterosexual [adult] male being attracted to a young woman in a “revealing skirt,” she argued, “No, I think it is his nature.”

Badu continued this debate all through Wednesday, more or less repeating the same logic to the rising depression levels of many of her fans — myself-included.

To some, Badu might have been merely “telling it like it us.” The problem there is just because something sounds pragmatic on its surface doesn’t mean it actually is or even remotely insightful.

Here, Badu is essentially coddling men to the point of infantilization. If an adult man is sexually attracted to a minor and the endpoint is statutory rape, ultimately, the person who bears the greatest burden on that crime is the adult in question. Yes, we are all sexual beings, but this notion that a man cannot control himself because of his nature makes us no better than some wild animal. By the way, if grown men employed to educate school-age girls find themselves sexually attracted to their students, the reality is the length of a skirt will not be that remarkable a factor in thwarting that.

I’m also not totally comfortable with the idea of young girls of “childbearing age.” Exactly what age is that again?  Of course, I am not surprised by Badu’s sentiments. After all, as others have pointed out, this is the same person, who last November as host of the Soul Train Awards, claimed that R. Kelly “has done more for Black people than anyone.”

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What comes to mind when you think of Stevie J? To be kind, I’ll start off with “musician.” After all, he did work on the legendary Mariah Carey’s Butterfly album. OK, enough of that.

Thanks to Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, when I think of Stevie J, I primarily think, “man with penis that suffers from attention-deficit disorder.” That’s why he cheated on Mimi Faust with Joseline Hernandez, who is either now his legal wife or the hood equivalent that is “wifey.” And based on the preview of the fifth season of this hit franchise, he’s cheated on Joseline, too. There may even be another baby on the way.

Are you thinking of Stevie J as a man of high moral character? Yeah, me neither. Still, stay with me. Suspending reality is the theme of this reality star’s story.

Now, after associating Stevie J with cheating, I think of the 2015 child-support arrest in which he was accused of owing more than $1 million in back child support. With that in mind, I find it highly comical that Stevie J reportedly has a problem with Mimi being in a relationship with a woman and that he doesn’t want the child he shares with her “exposed” to that. Stevie J recently told TMZ that he doesn’t “condone Mimi’s new relationship with GF, Chris.”

Stevie J went on to add that “he doesn’t want his little girl being raised in a lesbian household, and thinks that’s only a job for a dad and a mom.” If Stevie J were so fixated on a two-parent household, why did he never marry any of his baby mamas? Feel free to point and laugh here.

That said, on the most recent episode of the show, Chris revealed that she considers herself to be male, so the tag of “lesbian relationship” would not necessarily apply, and the couple themselves haven’t as yet labeled their relationship that.

Beyond Stevie J’s issues with Mimi’s relationship with Chris is his belief that Mimi is dating a woman only for the sake of a storyline. I haven’t made a baby with Mimi or made her weep on national television, but from the outside looking in, I’m not entirely surprised by her dating another woman. He should understand that sexuality can be fluid in many. Ask Joseline.

In any event, I’m fascinated by Stevie J’s stance for its hypocrisy and how it highlights what’s long been an issue—especially in the South.

In 2011, the New York Times published “Parenting by Gays More Common in the South, Census Shows.” In it, reporters spoke with Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles, who noted that gay couples in Southern states are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York or in New England. Moreover, black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children. Many of these relationships began after one party or both had children with partners in heterosexual relationships.

Mimi is not an anomaly but merely another example of a trend that’s been happening for years now. In recent years, there have been studies that show that kids being raised in same-sex households face no disadvantage compared with children raised by heterosexual couples. So it’s peculiar that Stevie J, who has also been two-stepping in rehab over the last year, felt compelled to speak to a media outlet to discuss what he deems inappropriate settings for child-rearing.

Read the rest at The Root.

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