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.