Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm Beautiful Damn It

The messages that I’ve received since coming out have consistently suggested that I do not deserve to love myself. At every turn within Black gay community, in clubs, at discussion groups, on the street, on internet dating sites there are messages and messengers waiting for me to inform me that I do not have the right to like my body. “How dare you be a sexual being,” is a constantly reoccurring message drummed at me from every corner of Black gay community. While I have attempted to be strong I have internalized many of these messages.

Just this evening I was on a popular website for Black gay men to “chat” with one another. I’ve been in Oakland for three months and have not found a club or other venue for meeting men that suites me so I decided to give the internet a try one more time, after a long self imposed period of exile. So I got my pictures together, got them posted and wrote a blurb that advertised me in what I thought was the best light. I finished my profile, closed the window (to give it a minute), and waited to get a message or two that I could respond to in the hopes of having a date for this weekend.

While I was going through the dozens of pictures of myself on my hard drive and selecting the ones that I consider the most flattering I was feeling particularly good about myself. I had looked at the pictures, of my face, my body, my sense of style and once again, against all conventional wisdom, decided that I am beautiful. This has become a seemingly annoying habit of mine that I am apparently more susceptible to after long extended periods of absence from Black gay male community.

After an hour or two of “giving it a minute,” and feeling my resolve that I am beautiful begin to weaken, I decided that I would be more proactive. I started reading the profiles of the cute guys in the thumbnails on the left hand side of the page. About half of the profiles saved me the trouble by designating “no fats, no fems” I spent a bit of time pleasuring myself by rating them and selecting zero for every “pic” on their profiles. The other half of the guys that I found attractive got a short message from me expressing that I found them attractive, sexy or cute and that they should “hit me up” as the online jargon goes. Of the four or five guys that I sent messages to three responded negatively. One sent a message that simply said “no thanks,” another sent an email stating in, so many words, that I was fat, undesirable, and that I had nerve sending them a message, yet another sent a message that simply said “you’re fat.” I responded politely to two. The third guy who had said simply “you’re fat” I learned had blocked me when I attempted to respond. Wow!

I didn't know what to do. I thought for a moment, letting the feelings of rejection marinate and wondering why people felt like they could talk to me as if I'm a person without feelings. What is it exactly that would empower someone to feel entitled to saying hurtful and damaging things to another human being?

After a while of this musing I decided a couple of things were going on. The first thing is the devaluing and dehumanizing, by black gay men, of other black gay men who do not offer sexual value. The other thing that I recognized is the cultural norm that allows small people to mock and make fun of fat people without worrying about being held accountable for hurt feelings (we don't have feelings). The third thing that I realized was empowering these men to treat me the way that they were treating me was my silence. My silence allowed them to go on believing that I had committed a crime by being attracted to them, that I did not experience hurt when I was rejected with such vigor. This situation of my silence held in place by the shame attached to these feelings of rejection was the perfect place for the incubation for inhumane behavior toward fat gay men within Black gay male community.

I posted the following statement on my profile:

Damn! What have I done to be treated so badly? You don't know me, I've never done anything to you but I send a message to say hi or compliment you and you block me, don't reply, or reply saying mean things about me and my body? Why? Because you're not attracted to me? Here's a suggestion: If you're not attracted to me don't fuck me. All that other shit ain't necessary. You may not like my body but this is what the creator has given me and its the only body I have regardless of what you think about it. I haven't hurt or wronged anybody on this site. Please don't attempt to hurt or wrong me.

The anger, malice, and hatred that I am met with in Black gay male spaces when I attempt to be a sexually realized being in those spaces has always perplexed me. The communities that I’ve existed in have reacted to me with anger when I have asserted myself as a sexual being and abused me when I’ve owned my sexuality. I have experienced little more than rejection from Black gay male community and have relied largely on Black straight identified men “trade” for sexual affirmation.

While I have been a warrior for the rights of fat-fem me to be sexy, beautiful, attractive, and wanted I have often contributed to my own oppression by accepting the rejection of Black gay men wholesale, and acting complicitly with my silence. Silence and self imposed exile from clubs, internet sites, and other sexualized spaces has been the result of my own painfully internalized oppression.

My Promise to myself

As of today, I will no longer participate in my own oppression with my silence. While being rejected is shaming and while shame is powerful I am committed to making sure that Black gay men that treat me badly know that they are treating me badly and know that their treatment of me has consequences. Its only if I pretend nothing happened that people who treat me badly get to feel like they are the good people that they describe themselves as on their profiles. Maybe if we all (Fat Black Gay Men) react to the vigorous and unnecessarily vehement rejection that we often receive by expressing the feelings that we experience the shame will belong to those who abuse us and not to us.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gay Racism At It's Best

Chris Crain, the good ole boy former editor of Southern Voice is at it again with his special brand of radical race bating and white man cluelessness. His article "Where's The Truth in Humor?" which appears in the San Franciso Bay Times skirts dangerously close to advocating for the public use of the "N word" among lesbians and gays; at least until Blacks stop being homophobic.

Read the full article

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Anti Racist White Allies

Recently a friend of mine who is white, a drag performer and a former anti-racism trainer wrote me, through an email group that we’re both on to say that Shirley Q Liquor was going to be performing at the drag bar where he performs.

The reason, he said, for his writing the note to the web group was to get feedback, input, and advice about how those of us on the email list thought he should proceed. He announced that he was going to tell the owners of the bar that he would not perform with Shirley Q Liquor because of her racist portrayal of an older, southern, black woman.

This was interestingly conflicting to me because the bar that he performs in is owned by one of Atlanta’s legendary white drag performers who is notorious for her racism and misogyny and has been challenged at least a dozen times over the years for such.

I wrote to my anti-racist drag queen friend that I didn’t think there was a difference between performing with the racist-bar-owner-drag-queen and performing with Shirley Q Liquor. My reasoning was that they are both racist assholes and that performing with one while refusing to perform with the other did not make much sense to me.

His response was twofold:

1- Shirley Q liquor has gone too far by performing in Black Face and is more than he can take.

2- The reason that he remained as a performer in the bar of the racist-bar-owner-drag-queen is that he is the loan white voice of reason and that it is important to him to be in spaces where people do not necessarily have access to the rhetoric of movement. It’s worth it to remain in the racist-bar-owner-drag-bar because someone needs to be there to tell the other drag queens when they are being fucked up.

My problems with his argument are many and varied. I’ll try to be brief about articulating some of my problems here.

1- It seems that an anti racist ally would take his cues about what is “too racist” from people of color. I’d like to know what his criteria for “too racist” are. If the bar owner has been challenged many times, multiple people of color have expressed that her racism is intolerable, and very few people of color will visit her show more than once, why is this not too racist for my conscious friend?

2- Assuming that there is merit to this argument, my question is this: what is the difference between being the lone voice in the wilderness of the racist-bar-owner-drag-bar and being the lone voice in the wilderness at the Shirley Q Liquor show? Are there not just as many, if not more, unenlightened white people waiting for our angelic drag queen friend to deliver them from the wilderness into the higher—ground-holy-land of anti-racism?

I have written all that I’ve written thus far to say: It all rings a little false to me.

That being said, lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the privileged whites who call themselves my allies. I’ve identified a couple of truths and identified some ways to hold those who call themselves our allies accountable.

First the truths:

Very few of the white people who call themselves anti-racist remain anti-racist after college or college age. This is because it is simply easier to be radical when someone else is paying your bills. Tryna get a job as a blue haired, ripped jeaned, queer radical could prove difficult for our fully grown “allies.” So they jump ship.

Further its way too easy for privileged white people who call themselves our allies to gain “street cred” among us, all to willing to accept massa’s love, Black folk.” Refraining from saying racist stuff, calling everyone by the most up to date and current identity marker (African American instead of black), and hanging out with a few people of color (usually snow-queens) is not anti-racist. This behavior is nothing more than politically correct, hollow gesticulation that amounts to absolutely nothing.

My new philosophy is this:

A real anti-racist is a philanthropist.

This is why:

In America the most tangible effect of racism is the huge disparity between the incomes, and lifestyles of Black people and white people in this country. This disparity is actually the reason for and the end result of racism. Racism means that if I am white, I have better access to education, better access to health care, better access to credit, and better access to employment. I am further less likely to be shot down in my neighborhood by the police or a fellow, and less likely to serve time in jail. I will be paid higher than people of color for the same jobs and get better interest rates on loans.

So the only place for racism to lead is to a disparity in wealth. White privilege then is tangible. The culmination of all white privilege is INCOME. There is no “Invisible knap sack.” The knap sack is in fact quite visible. So those white people looking to distance themselves from their privilege need only take out there check books, credit cards, wallets, and start giving. Distancing one’s self from white privilege means, at the end of all the bullshit gesticulation, distancing one’s self from one’s money.

Thus my note to my friend in the racist-bar-owner-drag-bar concluded, I don’t care about Shirley Q Liquor making fun of Black people and I don’t care about the racist-bar-owner-drag-queen making fun of people of color either. I actually think that our so-called anti racist allies often rely on people like Shirley Q Liquor so that they can position themselves against them. They can be seen white as snow against the black background of Shirley’s odious rhetoric thereby removing themselves from scrutiny. We recognize their street-cred without asking why they live in so much privilege, with the big car (maybe a hybrid), the big house in the bleeding heart liberal (the expensive) part of town, the $500 cell-phone, the $400 Ipod, the newest Lap-top, the IRA, the off continent vacations, the study abroad in Spain etc, while they declare that whites must distance themselves from privilege.

In her Black Men and Love series bell hooks suggests that the sex lives of straight men are the last stronghold of male privilege that “feminist” men rarely release. I’ll argue that the pocket books of whites are the last stronghold of white privilege that white people, even the staunchest anti-racist, will not release easily.