Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Policing Desire = Race Card



My recent critique of a post on LarryLyons II was met by a flurry of words meant to fatigue me; which they did. Lots and lots of words and answers posed as questions that I was not supposed to answer. Like:

“Is it impossible for John Stewart to critique white privilege if he benefits from it?” (can you hear the implicit answer that one is supposed to arrive at?)

Yes, certainly.

(But there is another question)

Is it possible for me to accept his critique as authentic when he is working (4 times a week in the gym, is it, Larry?) to keep his privilege in place?

No, AB-solutely not.(LOL)

Thus, exhausted I ended my participation in the blog discussion. Then the discussion continued on my blog.

Larry commented that drawing the connection between “No Fats No Fems” and Jim Crow laws was overly simplistic, strategically worthless, alienating, and dangerously close to “policing desire.”

I thought it was beautifully simple, striking, empathy inducing, and dangerously close to letting desire off the hook. It was an image coupled with four words that are popular within the cultural language of black gay men. And the intention of having a conversation on my blog about No Fats no fems was realized months later, thanks mostly to Larry’s abs.


Social Justice Lessons


I’ve learned through years as a Social Justice trainer, who made a cute penny at white college queer alliance conferences, that no matter how well intentioned people who come from privilege or people who have privilege are, they have every reason to protect by struggle and fight-to-death their privilege. Whether we are talking about Men, White people, people from class, heterosexuals or able bodied people, the above is true.

The second thing that I learned is that silence is the glue that keeps oppression in place (NCBI). If we don’t talk about it disenfranchised people who know of their oppression, will never truly know the full impact of that oppression or the differences between the lives they live and the lives that the people of privilege live. This means, to me, that in the struggle to defend privilege the people of privilege are wedded to silence. We do not discuss, in proper taste and proper places, race, class, disability, women’s rights, etc. We do not mention whiteness. We do not discuss body privilege or question that people who are conventionally attractive have privilege. Be clear that when I say privilege I mean benefits that are undeserved and unearned. We certainly do not discuss the disenfranchisement of Fat people, black people, feminine people, women, disabled people, and what those listed and those not listed, lose as a result of there being outside of convention, or being fringe. If we do discuss these things we are accused. We pay dearly. We are lashed by people of privilege.

The third thing I learned is: There is an inherit complicity with the abuse and subsequent suffering of the disenfranchised whenever one, consciously or unconsciously “accesses” (accepts the benefits of) privilege.

The fourth thing that I remember from my social justice work is this: As a way to deal with the guilt that inevitably arises from knowing about one’s own privilege and knowing about the impact of one’s own privilege on the lives of the disenfranchised, people of privilege do a couple of things:

1) Deny that the privilege exist all-together and reduce the voices of the disenfranchised to complaining (Race card). This method usually involves blaming the disinfranchised for their condition as well.

2) Attempt to associate themselves with the disenfranchised group which amounts to cooption of the disenfranchised identity. White wigger identified individuals and skinny big-gurl identified gay men fall into this category. Also those "allies" who's alliance is always rhetorical and never active.

3) Declare themselves disenfranchised and hold up the ways in which they are disenfranchised as a shield to being challenged about their complicity with the disenfranchisement of others. "I am not a receipient of white priviledge I'm a poor woman." or ???Intellectuals in sexualized positions are subversive???

Protecting Privilege



1) Others and I who critique the use of body privilege by one who identifies as feminist and queer, are accused of being in pain and reacting to “our own stuff.” This is not unlike the habit of white people accusing black people who acknowledge racism of having a “chip on the shoulder” or “playing the race card.” This is not unlike calling women who advocate for there rights as humans bitches. Disinfranchised people must not dare mention there disenfranchisement! When they do, it is because of their own anger and bitterness and not because of “what had happened.”

3)We are accused of policing desire? I believe that the term “policing desire” is equal to the term “race card” in this instance. It’s a term used to say "shame on you" when people who are on the outside challenge people on the inside of privilege.

37 comments:

Frank León Roberts said...

"Black Is/Black Aint, or, Why Do I Feel Like Im On The Set of School Daze?"
-----------------------------------

Im less moved or amused by most of Heru's comments.

What disturbs me the most about this discussion is what I see as a deeply unsettling and essentialist re-inscription of black authenticity rhetoric, re-framed and disguised here as a conversation about internalized body fascism.

Why is it that in the debate that has issued above, I feel as though I’m on the set of Spike Lee's "School Dazes" with Larry, and by extension Keith, starring as Tisha Campbell and the “Wannabees” while Heru, and by extension Charles, stars as Keem-ee and the “Jigaboos”?

Brothers, is this discussion really about internalized body facism, or is it just our black queer way of pointing fingers at who we believe the academic/social justice Wannabees are versus who we see as their proud Jugaboo counterparts; our way of separating the light skin "Good Hair" girls from the dark skinned "Bad Hair" sisters?

I’m absolutely disgusted by this on-going investment in imagining a tug-a-war between the supposed "organic", afrocentric, homely/homie, vernacular queer black intellectual vs. the bourgie, muscled, internally fascist, ivy-league educated (Harvard or Princeton, J.D. or Ph.D.) "luke-warm" social justice activist.

So Heru, your move here to frame Larry as the young, naive, uncritical, I-go-to-Princeton-but-im-full-of-shit, almost-muscled, "eurocentric" black brat (whose arrested intellectual and activist development is no doubt a result of his "middle-class, bourgie-intelligensia, Eurocentric approach to connecting with people") basically helps frame you as the wise, grounded, "afrocentric", fat and fem Molefi Asante, poised to set the muscle-flexing "youngsters" Straight.

What I don’t hear here is any consideration of how the politics of erotic display, exhibitionism, and (muscle) showcasing which is popular in the blogsophere might constitute ambivalent yet nonetheless important forms of black queer self-fashioning and corporeal exploration. Because this "look at me, I am fabulous" rhetoric bears resemblance (or indeed cites elements) of dominant muscle-boy discourse, does not mean that it can be completely reduced to, in its final turn, these same regulatory logics. To assume that a black gay man displaying his fit body on his blog is automatically an ideological endorsement of "no fats, no fems" is as terribly reductive a reading as one that would suggest that "fat" and/or "fem" black subjectivity is somehow always already liberatory, "grounded", or progressive.

Again, keeping with black hair as a metaphor, I am reminded here of cultural debates over the supposedly "internally racist" nature of many "eurocentric" black cultural practices (the silky weaves, the hot combs, the blond bombs). Im sure we are familiar with how this critique usually goes down: the girls who wear the weaves or straighten their hair are accussed of "selling out" or "internalizing" eurocentric forms of beauty, while the "girls" that rock Afros and "stay nature" are hailed as the culturally connected unsung heroes; the "authentic" race men and women.

But before we're so quick to dismiss the "tits and ass" scholars and social justice activists (which I assume would include Keith Boykin, POCC's Michael Roberson, Larry, myself, and various Others)where is our discussion of how we use, re-make, and self fashion our bodies in ways that might work simultaneously with and against dominant discourse? As british culturalist Kobena Mercer argues in his crucially corrective essay "Black Hair/Black Politics", any "one-size fits all" approach to how the black (queer) body should self-fashion or present itself runs the risk of reinscribing a sort of blatant essentialism that is ultimately anti-progressive, and quite frankly, "anti-black."

When I see Larry's photographs, I see the usual "look at me, my abs are hot" rhetoric of neoliberal gay body politics, but I also see what I would call a "body longing", an attempt to feel sexy, to feel fabulous, to feel (w)hole, in a culture that ultimately demonizes the black queer body in any and all of its incarnations: the “ugly”, homie fat fag or the DL, homo-thug, infectious muscle niggah. Lets not act as though muscles and sweat are always read as "good" things. Likewise, being "fat" or being "fem" cannot be our litmus test for determining who the "real" (i.e. grounded) organic intellectuals are.

So Charles even in your critique of what you call the "Keith Boykinization" of the blogosphere (which I assume you feel represents a sort of unsettling rhetoric of neoliberal black homonormativity) you still, ultimately, reify the very essentialist terms regarding black queer identity that you claim to critique. Muscles, ass, tits == men who are usually superficial, uncritical, "luke-warm" social justice activists while fats, fems, and bellies === men who are charged to resist the status quo, men who occupy the outer most margins of our black queer world. Tempting as this equation might be, its lack any kind of vigorous intersectional analysis. There is no discussion of the muscle man that's still fem, or the "fat" boy that still relies on educational status as a means of authenticating his status as "better than thou"; or the ass-queen that is still on the Bottom, or the "fat and fem" queen that is still deeply classist, and elitist. I dont need to name, names. I see these intersectional identities all the time in this "community". And so I dam sure know not to assume that because someone is perched on their blog with that abs flexed, they are automatically “internalizing” body fascism. They might be simultaneously recycling, and working with and through various discourses in a way that might be ultimately smart, negotiated, and useful. This of course is what Jose Esteban Munoz calls the “disidentificatory” nature of much minoritarian queer cultural practice.

So rather than thinking in binaries, we might want to think through the ways in which each of us is multiply implicated in various and concurrent identifications. Otherwise, this whole discussion is really nothing more than a unproductive quest for the determining what (progressive) Black Queer Is, or Black Queer Ain’t.

Herukhuti said...

DAMN!!!

Ynkuya said...

Within the context of black gay male desire politics Muscled bodies are valued against Round bodies. Rarely will one find a flyer that declares “No fats, No fems” that does not boast an image of the muscled male body.

Chile this aint about “street cred.” It's about good ole fashioned double talk.

It is probably because of my lack of academic training, and my lack of the intellectual jargon granted by the extreme academy that I have no vocabulary that will allow me many words beyond dualism and an H word that my upbringing as a Muslim will not allow me to suggest politely.

Regardless of the Kitty-Spin (Balenciaga) one attempts to put on this conversation Body Fascism is just that. Part of body fascism is No Fats No Fems. Another part of body Fascism is the valuing of certain bodies above others and subsequently valuing the owners of those bodies above the owners of other bodies (this is all so Feminist). Within the context of black gay male desire politics Muscled bodies are valued against Round bodies. Rarely will one find a flyer that declares “No fats, No fems” that does not boast the muscled male body. So, the absence of the fat and fem is just as crucial as the presence of the muscles. Right? One cannot pay into a system that values and not pay into the one that devalues because they are the same system. See? One cannot accept white privilege and not be complicit with the subjugation of people of color. One cannot perpetuate body fascism by drawing from the Body-Privilege-Amex (Natures Credit Card as a gurlfriend of mine puts it) and not be implicitly contributing to the subjugation, disenfranchisement, outsidering of those who do not possess those privileges.

"It just wanna be loved. Just like everything else?" Ironically you echo Shug Avery in your appeal on behalf of the "Radical Muscle-Queen." I say IRONIC because I cannot help thinking of what Shug's "being loved" cost to Miss Ceily.

Herukhuti said...

I say again Kevin, DAMN!!! Your treatment of this topic, your analysis is so phat without all the pretentiously unnecessary literary and intellectual gymnastics.

One of the pitfalls of doctoral study, I'm speaking from experience here, is that you get so immersed in the writings and thoughts of others that all you end up doing is quoting them, vomiting back up the thoughts of others without birthing your own new ideas, and using unnecessarily complex sentences or elitist jargon, all in an effort to prove that you are smart.

Some of us never lose that once we've gained the doctorate. I've been guilty of it myself from time to time.

So I appreciate, even if you may not appreciate, the fact that you've avoided that pitfall so far as a result of not receiving such "academic training."

Frank León Roberts said...

Well first of all Kevin, my critique of the discussion was against what I still believe to be a heavy dose of essentialist logic here. I never suggested that "muscled bodies" were NOT much more celebrated than "round bodies", instead, I argued that we need to be careful to take context and presentation into account when we start calling people out, and assuming that any display of black queer masculinity or muscle is inherently "internally fascist."

And Heru, you're getting so fucking tired with these claims that someone my language and politics have been "tainted" by the verbiage of academia. This of course comes moments after your wonderful catergorization of me as a "ball queen", a term I might add that was basically meant to be just as injurious as "no fats, no fems".

A quick cruise up and down my blog will make evident that I rarely, if ever, use language that is not accessible to all the many communities I belong to.

I responded to the discussion here the best way I felt comfortable, in a way that I believe offers a departure from the rather reactionary and narrow-mind rhetoric I heard and hear in many of Heru's comments here. And its no muthafucking shade.

T. Zac said...

(spelling alert I did not gramar or spell check)
I hate starting a statment with some kind of reference to my percieved authenticity through education and or experience.

However, the internet requires it.

So let me WEIGH in as on of the THICK ones. Who according to David benefits/(suffers?)from a face that has been described as cute from the time of my birth.

Also being the decendents of many a varied individual I still reap some (not many)benefits of the White skin privilege of those that preceeded me.

So there, yes I am privileged an NO I am not going to appologize but I will join in on this subject.

Cuase Kevin, no matter how you spin it, you too benefit from globabl privilege because you were born and live in the United States of America. And you are male.

You no doubt type from an air conditioned home and or business office and you probably can either affoard to pay for and or get internet access for free.

The fact that you have time (or have made the time) to even consider these issues screams of privilege.

So while you are pointing or wagging your figner at EVERYONE else's percieved privilege, three fingers point back to your own. Own it papi. A simple initial on or two word disclaimer would be nice - hehe.

Now on to the hate. Yes, yes "chile" hate, puro and simple -HATE.

As you have positioned yourself as the moral authority on marginalization and your association either by birth, circumstance, happenstance, or consious endeavor informs and (you obviously think) solidifies your 'expert' position, you fail to recognize the hate all through your argument.

I can't believe you dishonor the horrors of the expeirence and the struggle of our parents grandparents and great grandparents by comparing even slightly the arpathied of Jim Crow to some gay male sex partner preference.

No Fats, No Fems does NOT equal or is even similar in form or function to Jim Crow. WTF are you thinking? Are you comparing a sex party to not having access to equal housing, schooling, facilites, health care etc? Are you kidding me?

You sound exactly like those idiot White people that say when you stand up at work for fair prices in the cafeteria its the same as Rosa Parks not giving up her seat on that Montgomery bus.

Let's face it you are not playing anything similar to the Race card here, you are playing the hate card.

Your argument is essentialist. And hasn't life, the world, everything in history taught us that nothing is that simple.

According to your logic(?)you could not be friends with Larry or any other dude with well defined abs because then you would be accessing their privilege. The same way a White person like John Stewart cannot really rail against the privilege that he is a beneficiary of.

So what do you do Kevin, do you stop being male and reincarnate yourself into a poor African lesbian missing- limb woman born in the bush? I think then you'd still have the privilege of not bieng HIV positive. Maybe you have or want that one also.

I wonder, hmm where is all this hate coming from. Why do you care who these muscle boys want to have sex with? Unless you want it to be you? Okay but wait, don't acuse me of playing any card but reality. Cuase who really CARES about no fats, no fems? There a plenty of place where there is no muscled and not thin or whatever. So what if somebody doesn't find love cause everyone wants no fats and no fems. Or maybe there is somebody for everybody? Who knows, what I do no is that this is hate.

You want to see a change then balance the force with a counter narrative visual. All the fats and fems, pull up your shirts, and put yourself out there. Think it, Speak it, Do it, Be it. Will you be happier when the world says no mucsled up and or thin poeple need apply?

Ynkuya said...

I wish that I could give your post a more dignified response but your "argument is rediculous." Not only is it rediculous it is ladden with the attitudes that I feel all who have had this conversation until today(Heru, Larry, Frank, Charles, Me) have demonstrated some level of committment to struggle against, however flawed the methods may or may not be.

You sir assume that this conversation is about sex and sex parties.

I feel 100% confident in asserting that you completely missed the point. Go back and read the rest of the post sweety then try again.

Daquaviar said...

Work ynkuya! The conversation is a necessary one and ongoing. By the exchange between those with more cogent thought and those who would resort to believing that one could not attack an idea without attacking the person simultaneously in their comments ; my inner nerd squealed with delight ( while at times the exchange caused me to do so vocally). I look forward to any subsequent subject matter and responses. Blogging has become so popular that some would consider the "blogosphere" as this generation's answer to the boob tube due to the prevelance of 'tits and ass' sites. However , the dialogue found within Kaleidoscope , Rod2.O , J's Theater (to name a few off the top of my head), justifies the medium. Social responsibility is still alive and hopefully , the internal discourse will continue in the minds of all priveleged to be specators on this exchange.

Charles S. said...

Greetings Frank, I’m so happy you chimed in on our little discussion. Now a few things:


I must say I’m disappointed in you. Your positioning of us: me and Heru against Larry and Keith, is absurd. Then positioning me against Michael Roberson and you. Not only is this absolutely hilarious, but absolute wrong. As Heru clarified, we are debating ideas not people. Your use of Keith I found especially suspicious and loaded. This is most evident in your feelings of the discussion being like School Daze, which was a misreading of the conversation and an overt effort to trivialize the discussion and create more disharmony. This is not some sort of squabble, cat fight, or war; this is an attempt to articulate a strand of black queer politics, one that values all black queer bodies, expressions of gender and sexuality. Something I can’t help but wonder if you really value since you have interpreted my call for that as some sort of attack against you and the other people you assumed I was critiquing.

Let me reiterate this is not some sort of battle between toned/muscular bodies vs. other bodies or intellectuals from elite universities vs. “organic intellectuals,” or anything of that sort, this is a debate about strategy and tactic. That does not mean, as has happened, that the context of the actors can’t be considered, but certainly to try to minimize the exchange as some sort of School Daze scene is inappropriate for this discussion.

I never said muscular brothas or toned brothas or conventionally attractive brothas are wrong, evil, less than valuable, superficial (and for the record I would be very careful about assuming who I would include and exclude from this category).Those are your words, which have led me to believe that your blatant mischaracterization of me is an attempt to start some shit. My use of the label “tits and ass” isn’t a damnation of any of the people you listed, I made no character assessments. I was only speaking to a strategy of representation mislabeled as some sort of grand political statement. How you managed to drag all these people into that, and then make assumptions about feelings toward them is also deeply troubling.

How unfortunate that you would see me as attempting to put forth some sort of essential notion of muscular bodies. I have made no such claims. Calling for wider representations of bodies isn’t the same thing as attaching negative value to particular bodies. My challenge to the overrepresentation of particular bodies, and yes the homonormative implications of these representations, isn’t my desire to demonize the muscular, masculine, toned, or fit bodies, but a drive to create spaces where more marginal bodies are represented and expressions of gender and so forth. Your accusation of my points as essentialist are presumptive, premature, and ill-informed. I am not demonizing muscular bodies, only suggesting that maybe those are not the only bodies that should be represented. And maybe those that have those bodies, should think more critically about there political aims when they run the risk of reinscribing those aesthetic values even as they attempt to dismantle them.

And my use of the term “keithboykinization” and “tits and ass blogs” had less to do with finger pointing as you suggested, but a critique of a trend. I also, if you would have really read my comment, gave props to Rod, who if I recall correctly has a muscular body. As I did with Ajamu, Adodi Muse-where a particularly muscular brotha takes part, and Lyle Ashton Harris who unless things have changed is rather toned. I referred to all of these men as brilliant. But in your urgency to dismiss what I was saying, because of your own agenda, you missed the point that muscular and toned bodies do not equal superficial or lukewarm. This completely does away with your characterization of my post as essentialist, which again betrays your real intent, to start some shit. And also position yourself in this debate as being somehow about you. This ain’t about you, and I refuse to be a part of your PR machine.

I would also point you to Michael Gibson the writer/journalist/activist/social justice diva or Anthony Antoine the performer, that the muscular body doesn’t equal lukewarm or superficial. They have both created better models than most, of how to challenge and yet embody a particular body.

And it’s hilarious how you challenged my lack of a rigorous intersectional analysis when in fact, I constantly invoke the architects of intersectionality to inform what I see as the necessity for wider representations. Your suggestion that my arguments have relied on notions of black authenticity I also find deeply confused. I am pleased you have read Mercer and would offer that like Mercer, I agree with all types of black hairstyles being displayed, as I do all types of bodies. I am not calling for black authenticity but a plurality of expressions/visualizations of blackness. And further, when you suggest that muscular and toned bodies are demonized if they are inhabited by black queer men, in your extensive and rigorous reading of intersectionality you should also know that oppression like privilege is not a monolith, and we are all ultimately rewarded and punished based on our degree of conformity with the dominant culture.

I did use the label “keithboykinization” as a joke, a humorous aside. I have had very positive things to say about him, Heru as well, and just because we both resist the sniveling sycophancy of many of his followers, does not mean, at least I can speak for me, having anything against him in particular, or a willingness to dismiss his contributions. He is obviously happy with his muscular body, and is in fact an activist with a substantial portfolio of political work, more than some other self-proclaimed activists. Your harping on that, instead of the point where I called for more models of bodies/desire/and expressions of gender against indicates to me that you want to, in a way, start some shit.


I have nothing against you Frank, or Larry, or any of the people in this discussion. I have only been concerned with a wider representation of black gay bodies. My disagreement with the particular strategy of a particular black queer body, or a few bodies, does not mean I attach any negative value to them.. I have consistently resisted addressing Larry directly because I was less interested in critiquing his particular strategy and more interested in the articulation of more models. This I have done, and hope from this conversation we begin the real work of building a black gay communities where all bodies and expressions of gender are valued across the board. I have honestly enjoyed most of the exchange up to this point, and felt it wonderfully creative.

T. Zac said...

I did do as you suggested and re-read your post and my first comments stand. Additionly I reiterate and add the following:

No it is not about sex parties, but about sex and preference for sex partners and or associates.

Or is this about marginalization and privileged people speaking against privilege?

It is actually about your feelings on selective marginaliztion and conditional privilege.

Fat and fem are relative positionalites. What is fat in one space is thick and healthy in another. And what is fit and muscluar in on space is thin and ematiated in aother.

Being Black in a White world is not nearly as subjective and should not be compared.

Therefore your comparison of fats and fems to Jim Crow era and before aparthied is WRONG.

Regardless of your intent, your method here is for sure wrong, and if Larry's is wrong, then two wrongs do not make a right.

They make a sharp left, into ABs-urdity.

I can not be the only person that sees your comparsion of a Larry, a Black gay man with well defined abs who puts them on a blog with a narrative and people that say no fats and fems in their lives to the Jim Crow era American aparthied as ABs-urd.

Speaking of your comparision you wrote (maybe in jest perhaps?) "It was beautifully simple, striking, empathy inducing, and dangerously close to letting desire off the hook."

In fact, Kevin, it is a horribly disfiguring attempt to group together two social situations that are not related. No fats, no fems is not the progeny of Jim Crow era No signs.

This kind of "Desire" expression is not the same as, and does not manifest itself in the same ways as the construction of race.

Name again the problem with men on gay sex websites, flyers, blogs, tv , hell in their mama's living room naming their desire? Because what, that marginalizes someone? Is that the problem? Really?

Or is this about people perceived as privileged broadly and more specifically these body privileged people (like Larry) discussing and or attepting to work against that perceived privilege while simultaneously being a percieved beneficiary of that privilege? (Notice the qualifiers.. becuase unlike yours, my argument and my paradigm is not essentialist.)

Let's face the facts the very existence of certain people put them in privileged positions. They can't escape it and when they own it and want to do something about it - like fight against it, you still resent them by saying they cannot fight against it because they benefit from it. Now who is being Abs-urd?

Simply because a person has every reason to "fight-to-the-death" to protect their privilege does that they actually do.

A person can effectively reject their privilege to empower others while still benefiting from that privilege, because they did not create the structures that put them in the privilege position.

And in the case of Larry if have well defined abs is a side-effect of a healthy lifestyle he can't fight against the percieved privilege that comes from this side-effect of a healthy lifestyle.

The existence of ones privilege does not preclude one from fighting against that very privilege.

If that is the case your years of fighting against privilege are in vain.

You are an American male.

You exists in two of the most globally privileged categories. You may also be a sub-member of marginalized groups but you live your life as an American male and therefore privelged as compared positioned in similar groups.


What about your privilege? Aren't you in fact by your status as male and American speaking from a place of privilege?

How do you explain yourself and your position of privilege? Since you seem well able to name effectively privilege as you see it.

Based on your argument you should now disqualify yourself the same as you would disqualify Larry or anyone else that speaks on a subject from a position of privilege.

So Kevin are you disqualified from fighting the privilege that keeps for example, a gay man or lesbian from a lower caste in a Muslim or Hindu nation on the fringes of the margins? According to your argument you are because you are an American male.

Yes your benefit from being male and American was undeserved and unearned.

Your everyday life choice(s) contribute to somebody elses marginalization and the perpetuation of a system set up to keep wealthy men on top. You cannot escape that.

But again if you think the problem is that people name their preference then act against it. Offer a competing visual narrative.

Fats and fems take off your shirt on the blog lol I did. Make you a flyer and celebrate it.

And while you are at do (more) work at transforming the underlying social structures and constructs that create a "no fats, no fems" visual narrative.

You don't start here with you and the other guy like school yard bullies hurling anti-intellectual hate at FLR and others.

You start with re-thinking the way you have experienced and been educated in race, class, culture, sexuality, gender and social economic strata.

By suggesting that you are at least a little influenced by the hate of not being in your precieved privileged body position I am not denying the privilege of the well defined ab body. I am only suggesting that it is not as important position of privilege as you are suggesting.

I say you are one that is perched from a position of privilege naming and acusing privilege and Drawing false comparisons.

Now what exactly is ridiculous about my argument? Or is it my percieved attitude that you find ridiculous?

Herukhuti said...

Frank,

It speaks volumes to me that you, the academic-ethnographer researching among the masses of ball and house kids, would find being called a ball queen an insult.

Having friends, past lovers, and a godchild involved and members of the house/ball community, I meant in no way any insult by my use of the term.

But it speaks volumes that it curled your kitty.

Ynkuya said...

“Has anyone else noticed that the only people who are saying that racism doesn’t exist are the white people in the room?”


Ok Mr T-Zac,

You want to know why your argument is ridiculous? Well here goes:

1) Your posts demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of the argument. Something that I think we have all, except you, agreed about is that there exist a system of Sexual Desire Politics within the Black gay male, and gay male for that matter, community that privileges people with certain kinds of bodies over others.

Now I am going to try to articulate this clearly for you because you seem to have some problems understanding or you are refusing to understand. Either way, I’ll type slowly.

Sexual Desire Politics that marginalize Fat men, fem men, older men, “ugly” men, etc. is rooted in misogyny and internalized homophobia. The violent language with which Fats and Fems are addressed, the nasty attitudes with which they are met within Black gay male spaces goes WAAAAAAY beyond what is reasonable behavior for dealing with someone who you are not “sexually” attracted to. Further the opportunities within Black Gay male leadership of Black gay male organizations and communities are reserved for Black gay men who are aesthetically pleasing. There are in existence Black gay male organizations that have stated in there missions, visions, values, and goals, that they are against “effeminate” gay men. In fact most Black gay men, when asked, will say that they would prefer someone who is not “feminine” be a leader for Black Gay Men (this of course will be called anti intellectual because it is not empirically supported, but I challenge you to stop the first black gay man you meet on the street tomorrow and ask him what he thinks about fem men in leadership positions for Black gay men and see what he says.). This is marginalization and the privilege that results from it hierarchies men with certain body types and gender presentations over others.

Black gay men who do not belong to the “ideal bodies club” and the “butch club” are marginalized far beyond what is reasonable regarding sexual desire. The sexual desire POLITICS of black gay men mandate that positive characteristics are attributed to men who look like what we want to fuck. Thus the cute boy is the smart boy, the promising boy, the boy who’s blog we read, the boy who gets mentored, the boy who gets the letter of recommendation to his graduate program, the boy who’s rally we attend, the boy who becomes head of the national organization, the boy who becomes recognized as national leader, the boy who gets the scholarship etc. The not-so-cute boy is relegated to the margins. This is because of sexual desire politics. It is this idea and acknowledgement that has formed the basis for this conversation.

It’s interesting to me that you say Larry’s abs are a result of “a healthy life style.” Health happens to be one of the positive characteristics that we attribute to a body like Larry’s. But only our blood tests, and our physicals can really tell which of us is the more healthy. What do you know about the man with abs blood pressure, or cholesterol, or colon, or T cell count? Nothing. But you automatically assign him “health” in your assessment.

2) Neither me, nor anyone on my side of the argument, has ever suggested that a person with privilege is precluded from struggling against the systems in society that create privilege. That is a ridiculous assertion and it is ridiculous for you to try to attribute that assertion to me. My assertion was, has been, and continues to be, that a person who professes to be struggling against a system of privilege vs disenfranchisement/marginalization is being a hypocrite when they take conscious action to tap into that privilege and reap its benefits. Example: A white man who professes to be an anti-racist. What if he owned a lunch counter and because, of the law, had to serve either whites or blacks and there weren’t many blacks in the area to serve. He would be within his rights to serve only whites. If he participated in the civil rights movement no one would blame him for owning a business. But what if, for that competitive edge, he advertised that his counter was “Whites only?” Would we call him an anti-racist? Would we respect his anti –racist rhetoric? I wouldn’t.

It is of course impossible to not access some privileges. For example: Most of the medical research done in America is conducted with male research subjects. I am privileged as a man within the medical establishment. I can’t just put that privilege down. I can’t stop the pharmaceutical companies from doing research the way they do. I can’t help accessing this privilege. There are other privileges that I can control. Again, As a man, I have a voice that is listened to more than women’s voices. I have the ability to step back or to say “hold on lets hear what Jenny has to say.” This is an example of using my privilege to fight the marginalization of Jenny. So, no body has ever said that privileged people are wrong. Hell, most people with privilege don’t even know they have it. When someone professes that they know, articulates the privilege, claims to be an ally to those who are marginalized by their privilege and then actively and consciously benefits from that privilege, I take issue.

3) “Fat Fem, as relative privilege”: If this ain’t the greatest Marry-Go-Round argument of them all! Class is relative too does that mean that elitism does not exist? Gender is relative too, does that mean that sexism and misogyny do not exist? Age is relative too, does this mean that ageism and adultism do not exist. Common brotha, let’s make arguments that are valuable. This is the kind of stuff that I originally refused to dignify with a response.

4) Black in a white world, Fem in a butch world, Fat in a thin to muscled world. You say that they are not the same. If ever there was an essentialist argument. From the champion of all non-essentialist arguments, comes this.

Whites only signs served the purpose of articulating the system that oppressed black people. The sign was of course not the end all be all of the oppression that we endured. Nor was that oppression dependant upon the presence of that sign. But it served as a visual reminder of the politics of Racism.

No Fats No Fems signs and posters serve the purpose of articulating the system that oppresses Fats and Fems. The sign is of course not the end all be all of the oppression that we endure, Nor is that oppression dependant upon the presence of that sign. But it serves as a visual reminder of the politics of Sexual Desire.

You are suggesting in your argument that racism is systemic and that sexual desire politics are not. However my argument is that No Fats No Fems are extensions of misogyny, and homophobia. These issms do result in the exclusion of fats and fems from much more than the bedrooms of those that prefer thin butches.

Of course you being the non essentialist that you are probably need rail cars, schools, lunch counters, and employment lines with “no fats, no fems” signs on them to accept the comparison. How very non-essentialist of you.

5) While I’m sure that you are not the only person that sees my comparison of No Fats No Fems to signs from the Jim Crow era that read “whites only” as absurd, I certainly do not care. What you want me to address is the system that the signs, respectively, represent. What I think my post represents is the impact on the targets of those signs. Can you tell me that the emotional impact of the two signs are not equally as damaging? If one is more damaging than the other I certainly think that growing up in a world that rejects you for being black, and rejects you for being gay it must be terribly devastating to seek refuge in Black gay community only to find that you are being rejected for being fat or fem. But you are free to think what you like of my comparison. I don’t think seeing “No Fats, No Fems” signs as the “progeny” of “Whites only signs” is essential to the message being communicated by the post in question. They are certainly both born of the politics of exclusion, the politics of privilege and marginalization.

7) Again, this is not about naming desire. This is about how sexual desire, within black gay community, creates exclusion that is beyond exclusion from the bedroom. Your refusal to address this point is telling. Your constant assertion that this is an argument about who we fuck is telling. It is not about who we fuck, it is about how we let who we want to fuck shape our communities.

8) No. The fact that someone has every reason to fight against their privilege does not mean that they do. It means that I am not surprised when they do. Get it? It means that I never assume that they are going to do differently.

9) Yes I am privileged. I am male, I am American, I am able bodied, I speak “standard” “non-accented” English, I am college educated, my mother is college educated, I am middle class (relatively), I am living as the gender I was born in, I am over 25, I am under 45, etc. Is that what you need? We are all privileged. My argument has never been about having privilege but about how using privilege intentionally in a way that contributes to the continued subjugation of others is AB-solutely wrong. Particularly when the user is someone who claims to be against the systems that create that privilege.

10) Fats and Fems Take off Your Shirts: This demand suggest that the system that exist to oppress, marginalize, disenfranchise fats and fems is within their control. This is the classic Regan argument. Good for you. Black people stop being poor. Done deal! Right? Wrong. There are plenty of fats and fems that celebrate there bodies and their gender presentations.

A friend of mine called privilege and power the ability to define reality. With all of the Fat boy sex parties, web groups, social clubs out there. This does not change the fact that there is a majority attitude/perception of these men that serves to exclude them from Gay Male community.

Further, this argument does not take into account the years of rejection and negative messages that most fat men have experienced regarding their bodies. Many fat men lack the self esteem, self regard, and body love to display their bodies in the way that you suggest (Ironically because of the same forces that post "No Fats No Fems" signs). The assertion that unless they do so they should keep their mouths shut about their marginalization is, again, Ridiculous.

11) As Important? It is easy for folks that do not belong to a particular marginalized group to trivialize the marginalization of others. Interesting. I would like for everyone that participates in this conversation from now on to LOCATE themselves. This might shed some additional light on the conversation. So the way it will work is that you will say somewhere in your post “I am fat but not fem, I’m fat and fem, I’m neither fat nor fem etc.” I believe that by locating ourselves along this spectrum we will ad some context for the arguments that we are making. Are you fat or fem? Then I understand how this could be “not important” to you.

In my experience as a social justice trainer the most profound experience that I ever had was in Florida at there “New College.” My white partner (Business Partner) and I were conducting a “Racism 101” type workshop for a Queer student alliance conference. We were attempting to explain racism in terms of power, oppression, privilege and disenfranchisement that would make the white people in the room understand that they all benefited from racism. They were very argumentative. Every time one of us thought we had done it, thought that we had articulated the concept perfectly a white student in the room would say, “Well I don’t benefit from racism because…” This went on for a few minutes until a young white woman who had sat quietly for most of the work shop spoke up and said “Has anyone else noticed that the only people who are saying that racism doesn’t exist are the white people in the room?” At that moment everyone who had participated in the argument had a locating experience and the entire conversation changed.

So, moving forward, I would like for people to enter the conversation by saying where they are on the spectrum.

I believe this will be telling.

Signed

Kevin- Fat Fem

T. Zac said...

"This is about how sexual desire, within black gay community, creates exclusion that is beyond exclusion from the bedroom."

You explained it very well. I do not agree totally with some of the logic process, but the overall point I conceed.

I stand corrected, I see how my experience thus far does not inform me on yours and others positioning.

I truly saw this as a simple desire preference issue. I really had no idea that it affected the core of your life in a very similar way that race does. That is really an eye-opener.

I would have to say that if being fat and fem places you on the fringes of the margins as you have described, then my experience is not that of a fat & fem person.

So what can I do on a real level to change the situation for fat & fem people?

Herukhuti said...

Damn Kevin. You continue to articulate a clear, powerful analysis.

Heru
Trans-Fat (I can present myself as fat or not fat depending on effect), Trans-Gender (I present as masculine in everyday life and I am a vessel for a number of female deities and ancestors during ritual and possession).

Charles S. said...

Rethinking my original contribution to this exchange:


I will say this. Looking back I really wanted this conversation to be about healing. This could have been an excellent opportunity for us all to heal from the body stuff that we all suffer from. That is not to say we all deal with it the same way, some bodies are more marginal than others, and that is a fact that can not be minimized. But the thing is, through using that shared pain as a starting point, perhaps we could be more affirming to each other. That was the promise. And though I don’t regret the actual points I made, I do think I could have delivered my comments in a less adversarial fashion. I will say that my own approach wasn’t constructive to the healing, and my intention wasn’t realized through my approach. I focused on the points of disagreement, instead of the points of agreement. Or perhaps I could have done both.


Larry. I will say that I think I misfired. Though I still disagree with how you approached what you were attempting to do, I do think we share some common ground, and maybe that should have been a starting point for this dialogue. Rereading your comments I think you were attempting to do that, so I guess if you want to still, I’m very open to having more dialogue about the points where we agree and using that as a starting point to create something very productive out of this.

On a personal note, having neither a six pack, nor being rotund, I sit in the precarious position of at times benefiting from the politics of beauty, but at times being marginalized. Probably a little more the former than the latter, and I know I have to make peace with that. There have been moments in my own experience where my support came not from those that valued what I was saying, but what I looked like. This was also my frustration with blogging, which is why in the second incarnation of my blog I did not include a pic. And yet there was still that “ I agree with you and everything, but whats up with you,” kind of element. Let me also say that I have no problems being desired, one of my biggest influences has been Essex Hemphill’s “Object Lessons,” in addition to Robert Reid-Pharr, Kobena Mercer, Michael Warner, and the sex radical strand of feminism. I am certainly not a prude in any sense. But at times I have been positioned to defend my substance when accused of benefiting from the politics of beauty. And then at times benefiting from it, while being repulsed by it. And at times feeling punished for not being “pretty” enough and so on. This has led to my own ambivalence because on some level even when I have benefited from it I didn’t think I should. I am not trying to make my experience or my approach in that sense exemplary of what everyone should do, rather it’s merely descriptive of what I’m bringing to the discussion. That being said, by using my personal experience as a starting point, my approach might have been more constructive.



My fear is that alliances will be cast, and kudos given in this ping-pong dialogue, not based on the substance of the conversation but who they “like” more. This has been my experience, offline, as I have challenged why some people cast their allegiance in certain directions, rather than others. This is also something I fear will happen with those that cast their alliances my way. Even my desire to speak out has been constrained by this, as I wondered to what degree critiquing the beauty standards, pits me outside of it, and might damage my own sexual currency. Or the fear of by critiquing Frank or Larry, I become some sort of troublemaker. In a sense, we are kind of enacting the sexual politics of our communities through the blog debate. The difference is, there was a resistance to the silence or apologetic posturing that I have seen color these debates in blogs past from those standing in opposition to the more overrepresented bodies.

Let me also be clear. I am not some sort of Amen corner for Heru or Kevin, and particularly Heru. I can stand on my own and have done so very well. Part of my aggressive support comes from the fact that I think they are some of the brightest minds of our generation, and yet don’t get as much life as they should. Perhaps, I could have done that in a more distanced and disconnected fashion, but I quite simply love them both immensely, and am always impressed with the things they say. Yes, I could be more polished and refined about my support, and yes it might bite me in the ass to do otherwise. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take. So ok I’m a bit ghetto about it, or a cheerleader, but that’s just part of who I am and I have made peace with that. One of my projects is to celebrate those that might not yet be households names, but are brilliant nonetheless: Marvin White, Jafari Allen, Michael Gibson, Adodi Muse, Craig Washington, Colin Robinson, Bernie Tarver, Karsh, and yes Kevin and Heru. I could go on. So if I appear to merely echo or co-sign, it’s because I like what they are saying.

Once I was challenged by someone I have a great deal of respect for about my lack of respect for other brothas. My cynicism. My anger. And I thought, what about all the men I celebrate. But then I had to reconcile the fact it doesn’t come across very clearly in what I write. Even in this, I’m certain there are those that will cast me in a negative light. And perhaps I have contributed to that perception. But I’m also at peace with this because I know I speak from the place of what I hold true. Though I have previously characterized my position as rooted in a disagreement of strategy, for me it's also principled. I honestly want freedom for the majority of us, and not the minority. That's me all day. I do not and will not support folks just because I want to fuck them, nor attribute virtue to mainstream standards of beauty. But more about my support of Heru and Kevin….I see in them the promise to begin producing new messages, messages that I think are important like “we are worth wanting each other.” My intent, even in how I posted my comments, was to not focus on Larry as if making it a critique about him, but focus on the things I enjoyed that Heru and Kevin were saying, and use that as a starting point to envision new possibilities. There are those folks that my question my alliances, but I can only follow my heart. Hopefully, through this debate, fingers crossed, we can all come from it transformed, much happier and much healthier.

There will also be those that read this dialogue as either the ranting of a fringe element, or a bunch of angry black bitches, and so forth. How often have groups been labeled as angry, as hateful, as jealous, as mean, as egocentric, when they were seeking to challenge those in a place of privilege? How many of us have been labeled as angry, or mean, or troublemakers, when we challenged norms and values. Guilty.

Yes, one could argue there is a way to do everything, and that these delicate matters should be approached with diplomacy and grace. To that I would say, I appreciate that approach but I also appreciate the more aggressive, more direct, more upfront approach. Again guilty.

I want desperately for our generation to do it better, particularly the 35 and under set. Lord knows we have to. I have enjoyed being engaged with Heru and Larry and Kevin and those of you offline who have emailed me. This is not some sort of self-righteous attempt at “why can’t we all just get along,” but more a sense of urgency from someone that has been accused of being too academic in the activist spaces, and too activist in the academic spaces. I have always, for the record, found those distinctions bad business and try in my life to resist them, so it’s funny having in this discussion being cast in that light. This has actually been wonderful in that the different parts of my life and self have been bridged perfectly. I never thought that among the theory queens I would be labeled essentialist and championing authenticity. I love it. But this also speaks to how my view has evolved out of being wedded to Theory.

Frank, I still think your response was extremely loaded. I don’t know what your intention was, but it was much different what you attempted to represent.

What I have taken from this is my own commitment to building bridges across methodological differences. I am very open to our future exchanges being rooted in how we can all work to create spaces, places, and models for all gay men, wherever they are, to heal from the pain we all experience around body stuff.

jbyrd130@gmail.com said...

"Again, this is not about naming desire. This is about how sexual desire, within black gay community, creates exclusion that is beyond exclusion from the bedroom. Your refusal to address this point is telling. Your constant assertion that this is an argument about who we fuck is telling. It is not about who we fuck, it is about how we let who we want to fuck shape our communities."


Kevin, could you be so kind as to expound/give examples on this point? I don't want to make assumptions about your perspective...

For the record, I am a 25 y/o, college educated, middle class, brown skinned, BGM whose neither particularly "fat" or "femme", but takes womanism/feminism and "queer theory" very seriously.

Herukhuti said...

jbyrd,

Here are a few examples and more elaboration from my observations.

People's desire clouds and colors their assessments about the what others say and do. Empirical studies have been conducted that demonstrate that when a person's appearance is most inline with what is considered conventionally attractive (symmetry of face, skin tone, body frame, etc.) what they say is believed more than those whose apppearance is not as conventionally attractive and people treat them differently, e.g., more willing to assist and help them, more receptive to their requests, etc.

In Black community this has also played out in terms of skin color. Generate a list of people who have been designated as African-American or Black leaders on a national or international scale over the last 100 years and you will find that the major are male and light to brown skin.

The fact that someone may prefer light skin or brown skin in their sexual partners is not the issue. The fact that that preference is transfered into their social, political, or economic allegiances is a political, social, and economic act with real consequences for people.

On the issue of economics, when sex party promoters, in an effort to cater to the bias, preferences, and prejudices of the mainstream or the masses, create a "no fats, no fems" policy that they believe will be interpreted by consumers as a "hot boi party", they are reinforcing, supporting, and promoting the belief that men who are fat or fem (as though fat and fem are these exact terms with exact meanings that we all are on) are not desireable, have no right to have sex with non-fat, non-fem men, and are threats to the sexual and erotic environment of a sex party if they are present. In the same way, white-owned businesses during Jim Crow segregation reinforced, supported, and promoted the belief that black folks had no right to eat alongside white folks and they they were a threat to the comfort and enjoyment of white folks if they were present.

When the sex party promoters say, in their defense, that they are not creating these rules of desire they are merely responding to them as good business people, they are ignoring their role as fellow human beings. They choose to give up their collective and social responsibility to make a buck. Capitalist have done that since the beginings of capitalism, the slave trade. Nothing new about that. Sex party promoters are not the only capitalists doing it today. J L King is a similar capitalist whose foresaken integrity and humanity for profits.

The critique in this discussion has been when those of us who call ourselves or wish to be agents of social justice, activists and such, engage in actions that reinforce, support, or promote social injustice, structural inequality, and/or social discrimination and how we might be able to engage each other to help one another grow and develop.

I think that discussion was happening productively until others with less insight or integrity entered the discussion and rather than do what you did by asking sincere and thoughtful questions, jumped to conclusions, allusions, and illusions for the sake of something, I don't know what.

Peace Pleasure and Passion,
Heru

Ynkuya said...

Thank you. It could not have been said better. I'm so delighted that we are having this conversation.

Peace,

Kevin

jbyrd130@gmail.com said...

Respectfully, I don't feel that my question was answered.

I'm aware of how desire can potentially "cloud and color... assessments"; my inital question was/is how exactly is it that sexual desire/preference/etc. "creates exclusion that is beyond exclusion from the bedroom," specifically in the black gay community.

The sex party example that you gave Heru isn't literally "the bedroom", but i'm assuming you're making reference to a social event where the key priortity for the attendants is to (pay for an evironment in which to) fuck someone that they desire. If that's the case, I find it hard to follow your logic that the "no fats no fems" stance for **certian** instances of these sex parties (though, yes, this stance is clearly the status quo) resonates in our platonic, political, spiritual, and (let's just go there) economic relationships as BGM.


Your comments on the economic impact of this stance, and it's comparison to Jim Crow era white owned businesses leads me to points that haven't been dealt with as of yet, what i guess could be called the Microeconomics of Desire:
The Civil Rights "Era" essentially began with a boycott of an oppressive marketplace. Many within the movement disagreed with the transition to "sit-ins", arguing (rightly so, IMO) that pushing for "tolerance" and "acceptance" would be microeconomic "suicide" and counterproductive to any real sense of self-determination as a black community. Moreover, we all know that many white owned gay venues have and continue to be exclusionary. These oppressive institutions can and should (depending on your economic politics) be completely ignored in lieu of affirming, self-determined entrepreneurship from within the community...

All this to say that, in terms of the capitalist/neoliberal "sexual marketplace," the choice is there to consume the product that you desire, even if at the expense of political subujation. Is that choice affirming or self-determined? Usually not. But is it "injust"? I'd have to argue no.

As manufactured as "mainstream" consumerism seems, products acutally do start with someone's real, pure desire/need (is there a difference?). It's shortsighted to read a promoter as "irresponsible" because they choose to enterprise on a demographic/market that exists anyway. And it is counter-intuitive to expect, let alone demand, a promoter to be "inclusionary", "tolerant," "diversified", on a macro level.

So, what measures are to be taken? Affirmative action for the thick kids? Diversity seminars on femme boys? Sex party protests? Seems facetious, but seriously, what can be **DONE** here? Because a changed heart doesn't necessarily translate into a changed mind.

Herukhuti said...

jbyrd130,

It's hard for me to provide examples specific to Black Gay communities without naming specific people and risking my comments interpreted as mean-spirited. Contrary to some public opinion, I don't go out of my way to sound mean or call people out.

Having said that, in my few years of socializing in "Black gay" communities, I have observed that too many of the individuals with 100,000 page view sites, book tours, co-editorships on anthologies, and claims to the title "leader" or "spokesman" are folks that are not qualified or are terribly mediocre. When I read their analysis of things, or lack there of, I am thoroughly unimpressed.

These people tend to also be the people that are on many people's I-wish-I-could-fuck list. They are too often given a pass on the mediocrity of their thinking, strategies, and actions because they are "cute."

I'm not even saying these folks are attractive, at least in the way I conceive attractive. But they conform with certain criteria, that makes it easy for people to digest them as sexual beings, e.g. body frame, skin tone, level of masculinity/effeminacy, etc. The interesting thing is, and I just realized this as I began to write this sentence, that their thinking, strategies, and actions are equally easy to digest. They don't require much of their audience, sexually or intellectually, in how they get into them.

I think that's also what makes them attractive in "Black gay" community...they don't require us to do much work toward our liberation.

When the only choices available on the national scene are Phil Wilson and Keith Boykin on one side and Cleo Manago on the other side, something is terribly wrong. Yes, HIV/AIDS has limited much of our options in the way of critical voices of liberation and struggle but our own lookism and sexism has also limited those options. We have excluded, to return to the language of your question, certain voices into the main square of "black gay" community because of the degree to which the appearance of the message or the messenger has been pleasing to our sensibilities and our desire to not have to work hard.

The "no fats, no fems" policy at the sex party is representative of the laziness in the community around desire, values, critical thinking, and socially responsible action. And it isn't policy for certain sex parties; it is (implicit/explicit) policy at most parties and the expectation of many people who either attend the parties or consider attending. I'm speaking from experience as a former sex party organizer who talked with a number of party promoters and attendees.

I believe anytime you are "enterprising", which really means exploiting and using, a demographic/market whether economically as a capitalist business owner, intellectually as a capitalist scholar/researcher, spiritually as a capitalist religious leader, etc. you are socially irresponsible, counter-revolutionary, and ethically vacant as a human being. The capitalist mindset is by definition exploitative and therefore socially irresponsible. Having said that, I do not expect most sex party promoters to do anything differently. They are among the most parasitic, narssistic, socially unconscious people that I've encountered. I did try to do something different with the parties that I organized and the business that I own. See my comments on Business and Liberation.

In what way is a lack of self-determination not an unjust situation? In my definition of self-determination and social justice, you can't have one without the other.

I disagree that all products start with a real/pure desire/need. In fact, I believe one aspect of capitalism is the production/manufacturing of perceived need/desire. There's a whole lot of shit we don't need but we're encouraged to desire it and believe we need it through marketing.

What can be done about all of this has been the focus of my work for the last 7 years. I've been working on several tools, strategies, and actions with a number of folks to create what can be done. What I've learned over the last 7 years is that what can be done requires work, internal and external, requires a community of support to act as mirror, coach, mentor, and companion, requires the involvement of the body, mind, and spirit, requires commitment, authenticity, and integrity, and requires an acceptance of the unknown, not knowing, choas, complexity, and the loss of perceived control.

Frank León Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Frank León Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Frank León Roberts said...

Apologies for all the deleted entries, blogger is really carrying on right now!

At this point, this entire discussion tells me more about the difficulties between text and translation than anything else.

Heru, your responses are truly getting outrageous. For you to act as though I am simply an "academic enthnographer" insulted by being called a "ball queen" is insane.

First of all, clearly my critique of you calling me a "ball queen" was to call attention to what I believed was YOUR sly way of insulting me. The way that you used the term "ball queen" was meant to be pejorative, and in no way suggested that you had a positive view of the house-ball community. Instead, you shot back with "ball queen" in a way that was intended to trivialize who I am, and the work I do. Plain and simple. I stand behind my intrepretation.

How dare you try to (re)present me as though somehow I was "insulted" by being hailed as a ball queen, rather than by the trivializing/comedic nature in which YOU deployed that hailing. But really Heru, at this point I could care less what you think of me, or the comments I've made. I dont consider you to be an ally, and I dont think your philosophy for social change for and by black queer people is liberatory or nuanced at all.

But thats neither here nor there. This online discussion has lost much of its effectiveness to me. Quite frankly, I think this discussion would be much more productive if it were to take place live (perhaps as a community forum, working group, reading collective and/or as a panel discussion). I think those types of live settings allow for people's ideas to be expressed with much more clarity. As I respond back and forth, the effectiveness of the dialogue is somewhat tainted, because so much of what is going on here is people responding to what they thought, or didnt think, someone said meant, felt, implied, etc.

I am more than willing to work together with any and everyone to perhaps take this discussion out of a strictly textual-context and bring it into the space of the live. And again, Kevin I think its great that this post opened doors of/to dialogue.

jbyrd130@gmail.com said...

Dr. Heru,

I share many of your criticisms of certain high positioned members of our community: i'm too am disappointed in how gender and class privilege has framed who becomes heralded as "leaders" among us. There's definitely is a lot of "edutainment" packaging going on that isn't really about getting us anywhere politically. Not enough "action," too much "reaction."


The "no fats, no fems" policy at the sex party is representative of the laziness in the community around desire, values, critical thinking, and socially responsible action.

...But I would depart from this statement. What is a "lazy desire"? And not to say that values, critical thinking and responsibility are diametrically opposed to desire, but can they genuinely fuse in a space (a hot boy/thug/dl/whateva sex function) where desire is clearly a less communal pursuit and a more individual one?

"I believe anytime you are "enterprising"... you are socially irresponsible, counter-revolutionary, and ethically vacant as a human being. The capitalist mindset is by definition exploitative and therefore socially irresponsible."

Since you are a business owner, and presumably not a marxist or anarchist intent on dismatling free enterprise capitalism, how is it that you reconcile this with your work? How do we differentiate between "irresponsible" business and "revolutionary" business?

My root issue is this:

So much of identity politics is about performance and context. Notions of "fatness" "femininity" etc., and the value of such notions are interpreted and judged in different ways depending on the cultural circumstances. There is an element of both individual and communal "choice" there. A free, "responsible" society ought to be about making room for that choice, regardless of where the margin and the center is.

Herukhuti said...

Peace jbyrd130,

Lazy desire to me is desire that is unexamined, not interrogated, or absent of critical reflection.

I don't believe that desire is an individual act. I believe desire is communal, if not at least interpersonal. I also experience desire as more than merely emotional. I experience desire sensually (rooted in the body), spiritually (rooted in energy, soul, karma, destiny, and spirit), and communal (rooted in the interactions of people and groups).

I'm still in the process of reconciling the nation of business and social justice. I worked through some of that in writing on the article I referenced earlier, in Business and Liberation.

Herukhuti said...

Everyone,

Did you notice how someone who I won't name who wasn't a part of the original discussion or the original post that started all of this, appropriated this discussion to their blog after coming on this one, acting defensive and and hostile, misinterpreting folks' posts, and making very little sense while saying too much?

Why couldn't they just simply direct people to this blog and continue the conversation? Why be colonial/imperial about knowledge/information?

Frank León Roberts said...

Heru, each time I promise myself I wont bother going tit for tat with you, you make another genius comment that I feel compelled to counter.

Its so sad to me that you have made this entire discussion a competition for "flashiest comeback line" or "best academic one-liner" in a way that is truly childish.

My essay on my personal website, which clearly calls readers to visit this blog and contribute to the discussion here, was actually a way for me to flesh out and articulate my thoughts without taking up too much space on someone else's blog with my shit. God knows I wish you'd take a similiar cue.

joshua-myerson said...

I have to with this last comment. Heru, the way you keep making this discussion one about "who's right" and "who's wrong" is really beginning to seem like you are using this whole thing as some form of intense intellectual masturbation, instead of really dialoguing about the issues you all have raised.

In actuality, as someone on the sidelines that understands both "theory" and "activism", I think all of you have made very valid points. I dont think its necessary for you guys to go back and forth about who made the "best" point and who made the "worst." Heru, it keeps sounding like you are framing each one of your comments with this in mind.

But in all seriousness, all of you had offered something different: Heru, I think your critique of Larry's work was a smart one, but I also think that Frank's point about reading the black body in more than just one way was also a corrective. Likewise, Charles and Kevin, your critiques about how leaders are chosen in the black gay community is also smart.

But you all need to think of yourselves as allies rather than adversaries. I think that some of the people from both sides of the fence that have NOT CONTRIBUTED to this discussion, are really the folks that we should be seeking answers from. Who felt they were "too good" to contribute to this conversation? Where is ____ and ____ and ____ (fill in any of the blanks). Surely, they've seen this blog. Its interesting that in the end, this debate really was argued out by the same "usual" suspects: Frank, Larry, Charles, Heru, Kevin.

All five of you have VERY different politics, but I really do think that as a team you all represent the future of black SGL politics and theory. Think about the discussion here as a starting post for creating change rather than creating tension. And lets not forget, Malcolm and Martin were not always friends, neither did they always see things in the same light. But when history remembers these two men, we recognize that they both had something AMAZING to say, even if it sounded very different from each other. I see something similiar going on here.

Herukhuti said...

Joshua-Myerson,

Thank you for joining the discussion but you've misinterpreted the pattern in my responses.

Those individuals who I take seriously and respect (most of the people who have posted here) I have treated with respect and treated seriously even when I was critiquing them. The person who I don't take seriously and don't respect as it relates to this discussion, and who I might add takes himself way too seriously, I've treated as such.

If you notice, I've even stopped referring to him via name or responding directly to him as he has promised he would do with me several posts ago but obviously can't help himself.

If what you read in the response to my critique of Larry's act was that the black body can be read in more than one way (I'm impressed that you were able to decipher even that from the text), it was not corrective in that I didn't say that the black body could be read only in one way.

I'm curious what silent others you were referring to and also how you've come to see Charles, Kevin, Larry, and I as the usual suspects discussing these issues. As far as I know, this is the first time the four of us have occupied any epistemic (knowledge creating) space at the same time.

You reference to the future of black SGL politics and theory was not lost on me. That's why I took the risk to share my honest thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and criticisms in such a public forum, one in which who and what I am and think/feel could be just as aggressively challenged.

Because I appreciate the contributions of Martin and Malcolm, I am never concerned about alienatiing a Martin because of my acting out Malcolm. As a student of history, I am more concerned about the ways in which the Ella Bakers get written out of the picture or their role minimized. I am more concerned about how the SNCCs get downplayed. And I am very concered about the ways in which even Malcolm's legacy and message was co-opted, colonized, and commodified by a Clarence Thomas and used for his own self-interested purposes. That's why I draw the distincts in large letters and with a broad-tip marker. So folks really have to be accountable for their shit and have to do some work to say that they are my ally or ideological comrade.

Real lives are on the line in our communities and around the world. No this is definitely not an exercise in intellectual masterbation for me. Part of the reason Africa has experienced such self-imposed devastation is because "leaders" trained in the West or by the West did not undergo a rigorouse decolonizing of their thinking and being before "coming to power" and therefore perpetuated the same bullshit the colonizers did on their own people.

The same can be said of leaders of African ancestry here in the US, in the Caribbean, and other parts of the Diaspora.

When I critique an action of Larry's, it is because I respect him and believe that he will be in increasingly more impactful positions in our communities and I want his actions to be as liberatory as possible in that regard. We need to nurture, support, and develop a different kind of leadership and followship, both accountable to each other, engaged in organic and passionate dialogue. We also need a greater sense of meritocracy when it comes to who we support to act as a community person. Of course, the banner of social justice is no one person's monopoly. And I am not advocating from the position of "I'm more down and committed to our people than you are" in a Managoian sense. But I am suggesting that there should be some standards that we continue to discuss, debate, and hold each other to.

I don't have all the answers but I'm willing to continue to work them out in community.

Joshua-Myerson said...

Herukuti,

You have a terrible habit of arrogantly dismissing people's comments as "misintrepretations". This is the third time here I have noticed you do that and I do not appreciate it.

I didnt "mis"intrepret any of your comments, I INTREPRETED them. Now if you happen to disagree with my intrepretation, than thats on you, but dont come on here and speak down to people by telling them they "didnt understand" or "misintrepreted" what you said. This is very similar to white people, when they are accussed of making racist comments, saying that the black folks doing the accusing are simply "misintrepreting" their comments.

Now, on to my points. In terms of who I think is missing from this discussion, I think Keith Boykin should be here, as well as a few others. Thats first. Secondly, with all due respect and as a completely neutral observer here, I still think you seem to have an exteme catty-ness to the way that you have conducted yourself in this conversation. Why, for instance, you feel as though you dont need to "take frank seriously" seems as though you are either jealous, envious, or some fierce combination of both. Clearly his words and ideas are critical and are much more substantive than what I hear most of the blogger crew discussing.

Finally, when I referred to you, Larry, Frank, and Charles as "usual suspects" I was referring to a certain cadre/co-hort of black gay men who have websites/blogs that reach national audiences. You all do or have. So while we've spent a lot of time here critiquing how "leaders are chosen in our community", I'm not hearing any real self-reflexivity from most of you. ALL OF YOU, not just Frank, really are the "chosen few" that people talk about when they refer to "critical black bloggers"----much to the exclusion of many other black gay men. So instead of pointing figures, I think you all need to think about how the constant showcase of your voices are excluding others.

Heru, you criticism of Frank for "hijacking" this discussion onto his blog is really interesting because Larry did the exact same thing and if it wasnt for him and Frank's respective posts, many of us would have never stumbled upon Kevin Byne's blog.

But here's what really kills me. Heru, I've visited your website (with its extensive (auto)biographies, resumes, and curriculum vitaes) and 99.9% of the language you use is extremely academic, "spiritual"/new-agey and as such is really in no way less "postmodern" than most of what you've criticized Frank for here. Moreover, your "afrocentric" approach to gay black culture seems a lot like Mr. Cleo Manago's, and I think thats really problematic. So in many ways you seem like simply an embodiment of almost everything you have critiqued here. Your words and writing are extremely academic, your "afrocentric" style is incredibly hostile to those that do not embrace those ideologies, and your "activist" history is somewhat questionable. Now I am not trying to be funny here, but I am familar with Kevin and Charles' activist efforts in Atlanta, Larry and Mervyn Marcano's work with the Rashawn Brazell Collective and Frank Roberts' work with POCC and with anti-gay marriage campaigns, but what kind of 'activist' initiatives have you really head up or been apart of? It seems as though you come dangerously close to being the same "ivory tower" intellectual syndrome that you are trying to say you are against. Besides writing a doctoral dissertation and doing some workshops, where is your groundlevel community campaign involvement?

Herukhuti said...

J-Baby,

"You have a terrible habit of arrogantly dismissing people's comments as "misintrepretations". This is the third time here I have noticed you do that and I do not appreciate it.

I didnt "mis"intrepret any of your comments, I INTREPRETED them. Now if you happen to disagree with my intrepretation, than thats on you, but dont come on here and speak down to people by telling them they "didnt understand" or "misintrepreted" what you said. This is very similar to white people, when they are accussed of making racist comments, saying that the black folks doing the accusing are simply "misintrepreting" their comments."

If you're wrong, you're wrong. Likewise you misinterpreted again the difference between "comments" and "pattern of comments". I said one thing and you interpreted another. Maybe you're not reading close enough to actually see what's on the screen or you and I come from places that have different meanings associated with words in the English language. I don't know but you are mis-reading and misinterpreting what I've been writing.

That to me is not in and of itself a reason to dismiss what you are saying. And actually I had not and haven't dismissed what you've said here. I have been taking your words, your arguments, and you seriously, that is until you called yourself neutral and then started to attack me. The two are for me mutually exclusive.

What the hell is "extreme catty-ness"? Is that like some kind of Xtreme sport we can find on ESPN? I gave back to him the energy that he entered the space with. I was just better at it and could up the dosage of it in the process. And so what?

From that you've concluded that I'm envious and/or jealous? Because you may believe he is deserving of your respect, you conclude then that he is deserving of anyone's respect and when that's not given, the person has to be envious and/or jealous? Oh, but you're neutral right? Come on.

I didn't use the word "hijacking" that was your interpretation of what I said. What I said was that he attempted to colonize the topic and discussion. And I also stated reasons why I felt his action was unique and why Larry's post referencing the discussion was different. Larry was, as you noted, an original contributor to the discussion. His work became a major jumping off point for the discussion. Therefore, in my opinion, his post of the discussion on his blog made sense.

Whereas that other person, who jumped into the discussion with misinterpretations of people's comments, dragging themselves and one other person's name into the discussion when neither of them had even been thought of in the discussion, let alone mentioned, to then post the entirety of their introductory speech to us on their blog without any substantial context for their readers, rather than just telling their readers, with a link, to come over here, that to me, was/is some shit. I'll let others make up their own mind about it.

FYI - I'm not a black gay man. What I am you don't have language for in English.

FYI - Anyone with a website or blog has an international audience; that's why they call it the world wide web.

"ALL OF YOU, not just Frank, really are the "chosen few" that people talk about when they refer to "critical black bloggers"----much to the exclusion of many other black gay men. So instead of pointing figures, I think you all need to think about how the constant showcase of your voices are excluding others."

Really? That's news to me. In what venues do you see my voice being showcased? In what contexts, have I been referred to as a "critical black blogger?"

"Heru, I've visited your website (with its extensive (auto)biographies, resumes, and curriculum vitaes)"

Do you mean the ONE founder's bio page? Oh, but you're neutral, right?

FYI - academic language does not equal postmodern language. Academic language can be postmodern language and postmodern language can be academic language but there's not a one-to-one correlation.

FYI - few people who know both, postmodern thinking and Afrocentric thinking, would say that the same piece of writing or the some source of writing is both postmodern and Afrocentric. If you read more Afrocentric theory, you'll understand why.

FYI - Cleo vehemently opposes the classification of his work as Afrocentric.

"So in many ways you seem like simply an embodiment of almost everything you have critiqued here. Your words and writing are extremely academic, your "afrocentric" style is incredibly hostile to those that do not embrace those ideologies, and your "activist" history is somewhat questionable."

But you are neutral, right? LOL. Maybe by "extremely academic" you mean that you can't read my words and writing and understand what I'm saying or interpret them accurately. That seems to be what you mean.

If I seem like an embodiment of almost everything that I have critiqued, that is because I am every woman or man or whatever the song says. LOL.

Now when you say "Larry and Mervyn Marcano's work with the Rashawn Brazell Collective" do you mean the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Scholarship Fund or the Rashawn Brazell Collective? Is there a difference in your mind? If so, what is it? How did the RBC come to be? Who were it's founders?

Better yet, since you, in your neutrality, called into question my "activist history" can you explain what you mean by activism? That way I can speak to whether the work I've done measures up to that definition or not.

Thanks for bigging up my doctoral dissertation and workshops, Boo. Part of my activism can be seen in them. In about 6 weeks, anyone and everyone will be able to read my doctoral dissertation, describing a form of community activism and cultural work, on Our Bodies, Our Wisdom published on ProQuest. The publication number is 3208854 and the ISBN is 0-542-57191-9. Go to the digital dissertation section on ProQuest.

All in all Joshua, it appears that you wish me to not critique/criticize anyone but myself. In your neutrality, you seem to believe that that would be the most productive use of my criticism time. At the same time, you, it appears, want me to "campaign" on the community, feeling that my work with and within community doesn't rise to the level of needing acknowledgement.

But how is all that related to the original topic? I have an idea. Do you have a clue?

T. Zac said...

I see my question has been marginalized - lol. I guess I am too much of a dolt in this space to get a response to my last question?

But I'll try again.

First I will say I think I finally got it - fat/fem dudes are being marginalized beyond bedroom preference.

This marginalization is because they are not butch and "fit" with abs and or cute.

Therefore the fat/fem don't get mentored, hired or even considered by Black gay organizations for anything.

I understand that the problem is rooted in mysogeny and (internalized)homophobia.

This issue seems really deeply rooted, and I am at a loss as to what to do about it.

So I am asking all of you (for the second time on this forum). You first Kevin (only because you explained the problem so well) but the others also. What can I do on a real level to make a positive change?

Ynkuya said...

Hello Tzac,

Please be aware that I am writing this at 4 AM after very little sleep. So it may not be very eloquent but I think I make my point.

Thank, you T-Zac for your insistence that your question be addressed.

Here goes:

I would like to tell a little of my story to a) locate myself within this conversation and b) create a more rich and human context.

I am fat. I have been fat for most of my life. I went through a gym queen stage (17-20) when I had defined pecks but never a visible 6 pack. It's funny because I see this time as one of the most unhealthy times in my life while folks who look at me would call me "fit" or "healthy" then as opposed to calling me healthy now.

Any way, I've been an activist in Atlanta for about 10 years. I have run some campaigns here that have gained national attention and a Google search of my name will reveal me as one of the most active and engaged people in Atlanta.

Every bit of work that I have ever done has been on behalf of Black LGBT people. I've founded a support organization for Black gay youth, taken on one the oldest and most respected HBCUs in the country on behalf of Black gay youth, run one of the most innovative and recognized HIV prevention programs in the country, endowed a scholarship for black Gay and Lesbians, served on the early board of Atlanta's Black Gay Pride, and the board of directors of second Sunday, etc.

You probably think I'm bragging, but I'm saying all of this to illustrate a point. What's my point? I have dozens of awards for the work that I've done. Not one of them is from a Black LGBT organization. Not even the many organizations that I've served. I've had a handful of "Gay" jobs and applied for dozens of "gay" jobs. While I've been hired by White people and straight people, to work on behalf of Black LGBT community, I've never been hired by any of the Black Gay organizations I've applied with. Am I bitter? Maybe a bit. But I mention this to give you an idea of where I'm coming from.

At any rate, what can you do?

I grew up in the Nation of Islam. Louis Farrakan around 1989 developed a course for his followers called "Self Improvement: The basis for community development." I have retained many of the lessons from my experience in the Nation and one of them is that Self Examination and improvement are the basis for community change and development. Thus I believe that we must examine ourselves first, question not only what areas of our lives our desires inform but even our desires. "Why are the feelings that I'm having about this job applicant, negative or positive?" I do not believe that desire is static. I believe desire is mutable and is informed by culture and media. We must examine how our desires have been shaped by western-hetero-patriarchal-eurocentric-consumerism. As Hip-hop becomes more popular Tupac becomes the commodity man as opposed to the pretty boy, smooth operator Billy D Williams of the 80s.

We must ask ourselves why we think that this one is brilliant and don't notice that one.

I also believe, as I've stated in earlier post, that "Silence is the glue that holds oppression in place." Unless we speak, scream even, about these issues and question each other we will never achieve social change. We should ask our institutions why black gay leadership roles resemble the pages of GQ and Esquire magazines. We must ask our institutions why the talented fats and fems (and women) are always in "low profile" positions.

We must also, as Heru suggests, vote with our feet (I think he actually said an embodied movement?). Trade the page on Adam4adam and men4now for a Black Funk profile.

I believe that, as Sweet Honey n The Rock suggests, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." I believe that we should strive to make every part of our lives serve liberation. Desire and sex cannot be exempt because they inform so much. "The personal is political." This is of course difficult and probably even a little impossible within the context of western culture but we can ask ourselves at every turn "how does this serve liberation?" How does eroticizing/commodifying the very masculinity that oppresses us as queer people serve liberation?

Another thing that I've noticed about Black gay community is the negative rhetoric about both fat and fem people. It's so common that people in my life often think that it's ok to, in my presence, laugh or react with disgust at the eroticized images of round bodies, or to speak of the feminine man as if he were Satan himself in fitted jeans, pointed shoe, and big glasses. Interrupt these kinds of conversation when they arise. Ask ourselves and the people in our lives why fat people don't have the right to be sexy/sexual and why fem people don't have the right to be positive forces within our community? Something as simple as not laughing at the fat or fem joke may be the beginning of social change.

Is it about changing desire? Not necessarily. It is about interrogating our desire politics.

Peace,

Kevin

T. Zac said...

Thanks Kevin for your reply. I can and will do all of those things.

Herukhuti said...

Peace t.zac,

I apologize for not responding to your question. I totally missed the first request so it was good that you reposted it because I got it this time.

In addition to what Kevin said, I would say that the process of self-examination for me has been fruitful when it has been "embodied." What I mean by that is that I don't believe talking or writing about this stuff is enough. I believe we need to engage in physical activities that bring to our consciousness the lessons and messages we have stored in our bodies. That has been part of the social justice work that I've done over the last something years.

In the academy, the broadest term for this work is called transformative education or transformative learning. Specifically, it's about the practice of specific activities that place us into the everyday forms that our bodies are made to fit into by society but doing so in an environment of heightened awareness or placing our bodies into forms that are completely outside of the normal ways our bodies are structured by society, still in that environment of heightened awareness.

That strategy has been realized in the process I call Our Bodies, Our Wisdom. It incorporates yoga, Theatre of the Oppressed (google it), and ritual in a process of self-examination, social criticism, and strategic planning for social change.

The premise of this work, as I said above, is that our bodies store information, lessons and messages, we've gained by virture of living. Living in this social environment, we've internalized messages that are oppressive, rooted in the capitalist agenda, racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.

It's connected to everything: the kind of work we do and the way that structures our physicality, the physical environment of our homes, our modes of daily transportation, etc.

Basically our bodies have been colonized.

Engaging in a process of discovering how our bodies have been colonized is, for me, a preliminary step in the development of a cadre of people who are prepared to engage in an "embodied movement."

Ynkuya said...

Heru,

I believe you are brilliant. I cannot express how grateful I am that you've participated in this conversation, however catty some say you contributions have been.

Charles,

You are forever my Brista! Even when we fight. I am overjoyed that we have finally had this conversation on the "international" Blogger stage. We've been doing this for years at Starbucks on 7th street. I believe that your contribution has been invaluable. I also happen to know that certain main contributors were brought to this conversation because you dropped an email or two.

Larry,

I hope that you continue the work that you started with your "You Too Can" post. If you made me see nothing else with your post on this forum what you did make me see was that your post may be the jump off for ever more intrapersonal work.

Frank,

I too am a Ballroom Kid, of sorts. I've enjoyed the detailed descriptions of out of state balls on your blog for ages and appreciate that work.

I can appreciate your recommendation that this conversation be carried into "real time" and await the workshop proposal that we all contribute to.

T-Zac,

I feel that you participation has been sincere. Your questions have served, in at least one instance, to bring the conversation to the next step.

Daquaviar,

As you lay sleep on my floor, passed out from watching the endless Harry Potter DVD's that I play, I feel it would be a slight to not mention you. Particularly since you have been a bouncing board so many times for posts that I send into cyber space satisfactorily edited.

Joshua Myerson,

While I appreciate you making me feel like a celebrity for a moment I think that some things you said that may need to be reexamined.

I do not think I'm one of the usual suspects. Insofar as I am it is probably because I'm a work-horse and have a knack for getting loads of people to come to stuff, so that's what I get called for. I don't get many of the calls that I might if I had the six pack and strong shoulder blades.

I also think that you might take another look at what activism means to you. I maintain, as I've said for years, Every time I leave my house it is an act of resistance. To say that you feel that Heru's activism is not up to par is to minimize the reality of living as an openly "english has no language for it" black man in Amerikkka (hows that for militant afro-centric? America with three Ks. LOL)

Jbyrd,

I think that you might be missing something as well. I, judging from your post, have divined that you are laboring to justify a behavior that causes pain.

I ask this: If it cause pain is our desire so sacred that we allow it to? Gay men have avoided asking difficult questions about destructive performance of desire for at least the last 20 years hiding behind the shield, however insufficient it may be, that oppression can some times provide.

Many of the confrontations that we have not had with our communities desire-dance have resulted in 46% HIV prevalence rates (in at least 6 cities), of the scale suicide rates, drug addiction prevalence, domestic violence, violence (against self and others) etc. etc. I believe that its high time Black gay men began to challenge the structure of our desires and the institutions that protect our destructive desires. (I'm ready for the firestorm)

Thanks, everyone who has participated!!!

PithyPoints said...

Beautifully, reading this blog makes it seem like the 1980s again when many, many deeply thoughtful gay and lesbian people of color roundly debated an ever more rich array of issues from complicated perspectives.

I have missed that energy--an energy that seemed to wane as so many of the people I knew and/or respected like Essex, Joe Beam, Jennifer Smith, Miss Pepper Labeija, Marcel Christian, or Mother Dorian Corey died of HIV and other causes. So too did the rising fetishization of theoretical jargon and concept-dropping among gay and lesbian scholars become a means to distance ourselves from issues in favor of ever more ornamental rhetorical displays.

Online communities have facilitated a new renaissance in discussions of African American sexualities. My regret is that sometimes these discussions often collaspe into worthy but also painfully personal jockeyings for position among ourselves. This kind of positioning for leadership-recognition is hardly new: G. Winston James was Essex Hemphill's critic and many still bristle that cults of influence developed around Essex and not other equally wise poets and essayists. Audre Lorde critiqued Alice Walker's concept of Womanism as disrespectful to Black Feminism as a concept and a practice. AIDS among gay men (and women too) and breast cancer among lesbians truly seemed to level the field though. The spectre of death made us work together with more solidarity in different ways.

After the early 1990s, with the rise of important and often wise but also very narcissistic and agressive-cum-passive aggressive leaders like Keith Boykin, I moved away from public discussions. Being attacked by black gay men is a terrible thing, let me tell you--a terrrible thing that is equally as horrible as being attacked by any other group for our ideas or our appearence.

Today, with a newer generation of young college-educated or education-pursuing black gay men in their twenties and thirties, there is, I feel, even more snarkiness, hostility and narcissicism. I found Frank Leon Roberts justifications for that narcissicism on the original June 6th 2006 post on Kevin's blogs very unconvincing and full of the kind of fetishizing of theory and ornamental rhetoric that is so prized in the queer theories that dominate many graduate students' education in sexuality today. However, after his initial response to Mr. Roberts, I found Dr. Heru's increasingly counter-productive rejoiners in reaction to Mr. Roberts to be unworthy of either of these men's erudition and a mistake of reason. Two or more wrongs never, ever make a right.

What has been lost in the increasingly narcissistic and overly personalized exchanges is a deep critique of the exclusionary erotic practices that have always (in my mind) infected gay male sex-worlds (to say nothing of lesbians).

As one of the few openly intersexed people of color who has been active in social justice concerns since the 1980s, the cast of my very genitals and body have stigmatized me erotically among gays. [Please see the following link for appropriate definitions and ideas related to intersexed conditions: http://www.isna.org/faq/. No one has stigmatized me more (laughed at me, called me inappropriate names, accused me of lying and tried to pull my pants down or physical harm me, tried to photograph me in bars while using the stalls, placed mean comments online about my body, admonished me for making money off of my intersexed conditions when I performed at NYC's Show Palace in the 1980s while also defaming me for supposedly not being honest as 'not a true gay man' or a 'true lesbian' or a true anything)--no one has stigmatized me more in sexualized situations and elsewhere than gay men.

I thought that being abused in foster care as a child (in part because of my conditions) would be the most trying pain of my life until I tried to chart my own erotic course among gays and lesbians (and men in particular).

Why are so many gay men and straight men so committed to erotic synecdoche: parts for wholes, and penis and superficial muscularity above all). [On the term synecdoche see the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synecdoche.]

The hurt that I have felt (and sometimes still feel) is real. Having a "perfect" body is so prized among gay men (even when the body is, in reality, hardly perfect) that they seem to forget about the basic hurt of erotic exclusion and the horrible generalizations that arise when we exclude and demean people for being fem, fat, not buff, too black, too Asian, or, in my case, "deformed."

I think in the present discussions of body fascism we quickly moved away from Kevin Bynes' original call to interrogate the pitch and substance of our desire when we exclude others based on very, very superficial and shallow aspects of appearence (like body size, skin color, genital shape, etc) in public forums like personal ads and promotions for sex parties (this was a call that Kevin Bynes and then commenters like Dr. Heru made in the discussion section after Kevin Bynes' original 6/06 post.

Excluding "fats and fems" is a form of discrimination that hurts and diminishes us just as much as excluding (overtly or covertly) "coloreds" from water fountains OR, even more importantly, white gay bars. Audre Lorde was more than right when she said that there really are no hierarchies of oppression.

The problem, for me, is the lack of sensitivity and searching that often arises when the hunt for sex and the "rubber-necking" for beautiful bodies gets turned on. Black gay worlds socialize this problem in different ways than predominately white gay worlds but the basic lack of sensitivity and searching overlaps and persists.

All the depth of thinking that may be evident in a person's life at other times seems to fall away as the person gives into an exclusionary erotics.

Thank you for this belated opportunity to share my view.