Queer Black Men Kicking Ass
In popular culture, the stereotype of black men continues to resemble the Big Bad Wolf. Imagine a black man. What do you most likely see? He's tall, muscular, uber-masculine, darker in skin complexion, and likely has the reflection of a hip-hop thug. On the other hand, let's say you're a bit more conscious and culturally exposed: you may see a black man with stature more like President Obama, wearing a shirt and business-style slacks, looking professional at all times. Regardless, it is unlikely that you imagine a feminine-looking, queer black man. That image conflicts with your idea of a black man and the hyper-masculinity that is attached to your visual. You would expect Barack or the hip-hop thug to be able to kick someone's ass. The feminine-looking queer black man? Eh, not so much.
Let me provide some examples:
Case 1 is Antoine Dodson, better known as the popular YouTube news phenomenon and inspiration behind the popular bed intruder song. Allegedly, Antoine's sister, Kelly Dodson, had a male intruder attack her in bed. She screams, Antoine runs into the room and throws the man off her. Somehow the man gets away, the news crew arrives, and Antoine neck swerves and hand motions his way through his account of the story. Everyone raises an eyebrow when Antoine says he threw the potential rapist off his sister because hey, feminine-looking queer black men don't typically have that type of strength. Then, the viewer proceeds to hold in his or her laughter at the idea of Antoine kicking that man's ass. Why is this not plausible? Femininity doesn't equal weakness. Queerness doesn't give a fighter a disadvantage. Where do these stereotypes of queer black men come from?
Case 2 is Lafayette Reynolds, the renowned prostitute-turned-drug-dealer in the popular vampire show True Blood. The character, is an openly gay black man, often rocking some sort of makeup while walking the tightrope between black masculinity and femininity. True Blood's writers are media visionaries for creating Lafayette's multidimensional character. He defies so many stereotypes of black maleness while embodying others. I'm not extremely fond of him being cast as a former prostitute because it caters to the stereotype of black men being hypersexual and black queer men being whores. That is tired and irritating. You'd think TV writers could be more innovative. Additionally, I'm not ecstatic about the character's drug dealing, another popular black male stereotype. Sex plus drug dealing is the perfect deadbeat formula for creating a black male character on television, queer or not. Truly, I get the most pleasure from watching Lafayette kick straight "masculine" male ass. In a single brawl, he has laid multiple men's behinds on the pavement, making it clear that his femininity and queerness are not a detriment to his fighting skills. That is revolutionary and I applaud the writers for giving his character that media-unique quality.
Antoine and Lafayette are queer black men. How does that impact our ideals of their strength? Are they seen as weak because they're feminine or men who are fucked? While Lafayette is more muscular than Antoine, I'd argue their image is about the same. As queerness remains an issue in redefining black maleness, Antoine and Lafayette become anomalies in our imaginations with their abilities to defend themselves and families when provoked.
This stereotype is a cultural issue. Although homosexuality, across various racial populations, remains intertwined with weakness and femininity, it is particularly evident in the black community. Masculine, heterosexual black men want to define black maleness and preserve their image as the norm. While not every queer black man embodies femininity, many do, which creates a challenge to popular ideals and affinity for black masculinity. The redefinition of black maleness is tantamount to the destruction of homophobia. Wouldn't it be amazing for black maleness to be widely recognized as a diverse category of various sexualities and gender expressions? I guess embracing diversity is too "liberal" or radical.
On the flipside, many heterosexual black women reinforce stereotypical black maleness. How many black women truly want their sons to be Lafayettes or Antoines? In the black community at large, male homosexuality and femininity remains a sensitive issue: non-normative gender performance frankly is unacceptable. Heterosexual black women raise their sons to be "men": perpetuating cycles of hyper masculinity and patriarchy. While many black heterosexual women describe themselves as feminists or anti-patriarchal, they instill alarming gender roles in their children. Young black boys are encouraged to go through life being tough, rough, and masculine: three adjectives that remain intertwined and reject any notion of femininity. Of course, this assumes that feminine black boys, like their older counterparts, could not possibly be tough and rough. They could not possibly fight and defend themselves. Femininity equals weakness. And we wonder how little patriarchal monsters are created. Just imagine how these boys view young girls.