On Being Black and Gay

huff-post-gay-voices-logo-1Anthony Lorenzo

Writer, copywriter, pontificator.

 

A gift of childhood is the distinct lack of self-awareness. You’re alive, but you don’t contemplate ‘life’. One happy day becomes the next, until suddenly; your hitherto unknown differences are thrust upon you. Once a child, now a black child. You believed you were essentially the same as all the other kids in class, skin colour notwithstanding. The teacher picks on you, and Joel, and Emmanuel, for doing things you see everyone else doing. It takes a while to put the pieces together. Negative certainly, but the sense of kinship, the shared outrage at your bad treatment, is a silver lining. You’ll get past poor treatment, because you’re in it together.

Forward 10 years, and society not being content with one box, sees fit to squeeze that airless cardboard cube into another. You’re now aware you’re a gay black child. Joel and Emmanuel leave you for dust, having to fight against notions of their violent masculinity, or worse, fulfilling the prophecies. You’re on your own.

To dwell on What It’s Like to be at an intersection of various oppressive constructs is to dance with depression.

Predictably, racism is as rife here as it is anywhere else. We didn’t need a survey, when on Grindr and other such ‘hookup sites’ the bastardised ‘No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish’ signs are listed next to long walks in the park, good senses of humour, and proclivities towards extra-large penises.

Where do you turn? The outright rejection of you based on your race is tempered not by more understanding men, but by attraction to you based on your race, or more specifically, based on pre-conceived notions of what your race has to offer: Big cocks, thug-like masculinity, animalistic lust. When you’re strong, you ignore it. When you’re desperate, you capitulate.

You turn to your racial kin, but they’ve decided you have wantonly emasculated yourself – something colonialists did through slavery – and you are thus now on the side of ‘the enemy’. Too black to be humanised by white LGBT, too white to be embraced by the Black community [Gayness, according to some Black academics, is a White plot to kill the black male, and by corollary, all black people]. Ponder for a second, the conflicting message a black gay man such as myself contends with: In the gay community, you’re a hyper-masculine thug, in the black community, you’ve wilfully feminised yourself.

The black community is not more homophobic than any other community. Homophobia is a colonial throwback to a time when the bible was handed to the oppressed with one hand, and the books taken from them with the other. You see more homophobic laws in countries touched by colonialism because there was no time to ponder ancient and well-established gender or sexual fluidity, not when backs were breaking in the fields. Such ignorance is clung to, because where do you turn if you give up on all you were taught? Can old dogs learn new tricks? Is decolonisation of the mind even possible?

This all-encompassing barrel of contradictions is something those of us at such intersections must ponder regularly. It’s bad enough as a man, so to imagine how black lesbians feel, or black transpeople feel, is to dance ever strenuously in that quagmire of depression. Perhaps this is why it’s easier for mainstream media to ignore the issues altogether. Writing about whether Ukip should be allowed to pride is easier than contemplating the pain PoC face when we see extremist viewpoints being normalised and celebrated (for Pride is a celebration). It’s easier to pontificate on liberty and argue for free speech, than it is to discuss another of those freedoms, the Right to Assembly, and whether PoC feel safe enough to assemble when faced with people who do not want us and our families around.

I suppose we have to remember that beauty and strength reside in us. The rejection, the juggling of toxic balls, the hatred; those things are external. On a subconscious level, we know that hatred such as racism is borne from fear, jealousy, and ignorance. I used to be torn between feeling like I had to choose one or the other: be gay, or be black. To be one was to let the other side down. The knowledge that the two aren’t mutually exclusive was as shocking as it was simple. I am me. You are you. No-one can remove our sense of self without our permission. Don’t forget that, and celebrate your existence!

 

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