Gay: It’s A White Thing

When I saw the video of the two black men getting married that sent the media into frenzy over the last couple of weeks, I was uneasy. I was uneasy and I couldn’t necessarily understand why. I sat and watched a video of two beautiful black men expressing their love for one another in a rather beautifully elaborate ceremony, but there was something that I just couldn’t get with.  Then, I finally got it: this is a gay thing. Something, oddly enough, we are not.

In a personal analysis of the world we live in, it doesn’t really look good for black homosexuals. In fact, the whole idea of “gay” seems to be a construct that we as black men and women tend to not be subscribed for the sheer fact that it’s not necessarily designed for us. Take a look at the health factor in our community where there seems to be a lot more focus compared to our mainstream counterparts. Statistics show that we’re disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS at a rate nine times that of whites.  Of course, HIV/AIDS awareness is important across the board, but there just seems to be less of a focus on the mainstream gay agenda; yet marriage equality is.

Marriage is one of those tricky things. We’re taught that when you grow up, you get married and you have kids. It’s always difficult for me to understand when we take antiquated heterosexual archetypes on love and accept them as our own. However, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has contributed $7.3 million to marriage equality initiatives during this campaign season. That’s a lot of money to shell out for a political fight for the option to marry. Clearly, we see that equality is politically and economically driven, and given our history, we haven’t had the greatest of luck in either of those realms. We’re still struggling since our alleged freedom was granted over 200 years ago. I’ve joked around in personal conversations and through social media that it saddens me to love a country that doesn’t necessarily love me back, but it’s true! We earn less on the dollar, are affected by the leading killers in regards to health, have the highest rates of incarceration… but we still continue to subscribe to a lifestyle in which we can’t and don’t fit.

Interestingly enough, black homosexuals make up the largest share of the LGBT community. However, “gay” still has a white face.  In any facet of the media or political discussion, there seems to be a focus on the gay, white male who is seemingly affluent, flamboyant and poses a threat to the sanctity of whatever construct of society we’ve established ourselves upon because it’s out of the norm. We have no representation in any of those facets. In a previous article, I discussed how there’s no real outreach for mental health awareness in the black LGBT community. There’s also no real advocacy group (or if there is, there’s no national media attention or funding/support) for black homosexual rights and for what we believe in. There’s hardly any support groups for our men and women struggling with their sexuality. There’s far less, when there should be more, community centers for LGBT men and women of color like the MOCHA Project in western New York. In essence, we just don’t fit.  Then, if not gay, what are we?

We’re same gender loving, at best. The idea of having sex or loving someone of the same gender is not a new concept. In fact, same gender loving and sex was quite the common practice until Christian imperialists came to colonize us and…well, you know what happened next. But, gay is new. The politics, face, and construct of gay was developed relatively recently by white homosexual men – a construct that was and is not designed to necessarily include us.

Being able to come out and say, “I’m gay,” in society denotes a privilege and access that we, honestly, just don’t have.

And we should be pissed about it.

I firmly believe that a lot of the issues in the black LGBT community could be solved once we remove this dark cloud of self-hate and stop imparting it to the younger generations. Once this happens, we’d be able to develop a strong sense of pride, knowledge, and sense of acceptance that we’ve been lacking and needing. It’s time we create our own construct.

X. D. is a blogger, social commentator, and digital content creator from New York City by way of the San Francisco Bay Area. He writes and vlogs about the everyday musings of what it is to be a black male who just happens to be same-gender loving in a large city at TheXDExperience.com.

  • http://twitter.com/RonaldMatters RONALDMATTERS.com

    In my most humble opinion, until same-sex marriage is legal everywhere for at least a millennium people will still talk about the discrimination and be fascinated by media portraying two people of the same gender embarking on that “sacred” journey.

    It’s been 150+ years and we still aren’t over the BIG race issue that applies to all of us, slavery. It’s been close to 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and they still have to fear Mitt Romney may take away their right to poop out the baby they don’t want.

    Divide and conquer… whoever came up with that was a genius.

  • Nicholas

    The race issue will not die in the United States, at least….not anytime in this lifetime. Overall, a great read. As a “gay” black male, I could definitely identify with it.

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      Thank you, I appreciate it. “Race” will become less of an issue when we’ve been free as long as we were enslaved. It takes time for us to rid ourselves of ridicule and self hate.

  • Cam

    Just for clarification, the Gallup Poll you reference does not say that black homosexuals make up the largest share of the LGBT community; it says that a higher percentage of blacks identify themselves as LGBT than members of other races.

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      Thanks! And the piece still stands with that clarification. =)

      • http://twitter.com/TheRyanSides Ry’n Mekhi

        Not necessarily, 4.6% of 13% of the population isn’t larger than 3.2% of 78% of the population.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mychaeltodd Mychaeltodd Robinson

    All this was said to say what?!

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      I believe it’s rather evident and apparent.We shouldn’t feel affirmed personally by “gay” which is a construct made by and for white homosexual men. Gay is a political, economic, created…thing that really black men and women don’t necessarily fit into. So, we’re same gender-loving at best. The point is to really analyze and understand who we are and where we fit in.

  • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

    I’m not sure I understand your comment. What is it that I’m over thinking and what does the media have to do with anything? Because…this site is a part of the media. And I’d like to think that this portion and corner of the media challenges mainstream media and promotes thought and progressive conversations. I never said that other organizations were racist. I also never said other orgs weren’t accepting. That’s another conversation.. So again, I ask clarification.

  • http://www.facebook.com/montre.bible Montré Bible

    youre getting too caught up in labels . Outside acceptance first begins with your ability to accept yourself and that is in regards to racial and sexual orientation issues. You have the freedom to call yourself “whatever” to make you feel better but at the end of the day when you hold your lovers hand no one says hey look at that “same gender loving” guy… they will say look at that gay guy. No need to divide the gay community into any MORE sub cultures (ie studs, twinks, trades, pig, leather, jock, fem, queen, thug) let’s find what we have in COMMON.

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      It’s not about labels. It’s about who and what and where we fit in. Sure, you have the right to call yourself whatever you’d like. I’m not saying anyone ought to listen or subscribe to how I view things. However, facts are facts. If we have, and see, a sexuality politicized and economized to a point where Af-Am men and women don’t even fit into the conversation….it makes you think about some things.

      • http://twitter.com/JoelJavier Joel-Javier

        Also, labels count in associating one with a culture, history and privilege (or lack there of). It seems like a still VERY needed conversation about how queer Black men and POC have continued to be marginalized.

  • cjayconrod

    XD, real quick:

    “The idea of having sex or loving someone of the same gender is not a new concept. In fact, same gender loving and sex was quite the common practice until Christian imperialists came to colonize us and…well, you know what happened next.”

    Where did you learn that? Any books/sites/docs you can suggest? I’ve never heard that before.

  • http://twitter.com/AmericanBoi Jonathan

    “Gay” is a white thing. But it’s only like that because WE make it like that. I read you’re article on mental illness, and how you’re friend thought he didn’t need therapy because he had Jesus. Eventually…Jesus didn’t prevail for you’re friend. So sad. Its 2012 and black people still have serious issues with homosexuality. Not matter how many psychologist explain it’s not a choice, no matter how many gays commit suicide, no matter how many “down low” men keep doing what they do, we REFUSE to accept that homosexuality is here, and its not going anyway. And with refusing to accept it, they don’t talk about it and just “pray” they we don’t have to deal with it within out families. I thought the gay kappa wedding was beautiful. i thought it was tasteful, and it kind of gave me hope. Neither of the men looked like they were trying to be the bride, both were grooms. Our race needs alot of help. Help that we probably won’t get because we don’t see the problem.

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      I agree that we need help. I’m not sure that gay is a white thing because WE make it that way, though. If that were the case, we would have a different type of movement and our own agenda…which we don’t necessarily have the access and resources to do. It’d be nice though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bj.tillman.9 Bj Strongforu Tillman

        We’re always talking about limited “access and resources” and it takes me back to Bayard Rustin who had no money yet organized masses of people for Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Today, we have the internet which gives us unlimited access and resources and we have a federation of black prides which gives us access to each other like never before. When will we stop making excuses and just do something?

  • Yonnie

    Interesting article. I just wanted to point out that it is inaccurate to say that “Black gays make up the largest share of the community.” The article that you linked to says that 4.6% of Blacks identify as LGBT. But since Black people are only 13% of the population, they are still a minority in the LGBT community.

  • Kopperhead

    So once again, Blacks can’t seem to relate to the same shit every other human being has no problem with accepting or relating to..

    1. We can’t relate to the word “GAY”
    2. We can’t accept the premise of “Proper English”
    3. We’re clueless to “Civic Activism”

    Why is everything so damn foreign to Black People when it doesn’t have to be…?

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      …we aren’t like everyone else, though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bj.tillman.9 Bj Strongforu Tillman

      Amen!

    • gstarraw

      I agree with you 100%.

      But you’re forgetting that Black American culture (AS AN AGGREGATE) is still under-developed in just about every area — wealth distribution, education, culture, etc. — because for many, many years it was de-legitimized as a culture and therefore could not organically progress. Barriers have been (and continue to be) broken for our culture to thrive.

      Stuff is still foreign to lots of Black people because some have either refused or don’t understand how to remove the chains that were once forcibly placed on us and our outcomes.

      While we’ve been trying to break doors down, realizing that only some will actually get a change to walk through, Europeans, etc. have been breaking the bank AND the back/spirit of our people.

  • disqus_0byZeIwUv3

    As a black man, reading this article was not pleasant. I was disgusted. The author, he can not accept the labeling or go beyond the labeling. The article appeared nonfactual. It was very opinionated. I did not think this article deserved to be posted at all. If “you” can not accept yourself as being gay or same gender loving or sex, then “you” should not be practicing or being of that. We are in 2012 going on 2013, with President Obama’s support and many of our allies on same sex marriage and allowed us to live the life we deserve, we should be proud of us that we can stand up and live our lives. Rather than complaining and moping that we can not help ourselves or our families won’t accept us. Move on, there are other families that will be just as supportive as you accept yourself.

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      You missed the entire point of the op-ed.

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      …and disgusted by what?

    • Jay

      read the piece again. please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/diepiriye Diepiriye Sungumote Kuku-Siemo

    The modern “gay” identity is invested in being, and becoming counter-culture. We see this in the way that drag so often mocks/exaggerates/(ridicule) Black femininity. There, you literally have queer white men carving out gayness by (their perception of) blackness. And let’s recall that Stonewall rode on the wave of Civil Rights – it didn’t happen in a vacuum. AND, wasn’t Stonewall a black-n-tan bar, which was one of the reasons why it was so vulnerable to raids? But the exotic, dark other has always played into all sorts of colonial perversions. Think of the repressive Victorian era white male homosexuals who took excursions around the colonial empire, with the promise of the freedom to ‘explore the native men’. There are plenty of those examples, but to use an example from the aspect of race: It’s not just that the dominate culture bites our style, but more like a careful negotiation to iron out a future distinct from our past. There would be no Motown if not for the white audiences and black artist cooing to one another. (Now ask yourself who Hip-Hop heads are trying to impress by killing other Black men and exploiting Black women).

    I think we sell ourselves short when we fail to acknowledge that EVERYTHING modern in this nation was created within this white/black paradigm- either to reiterate or resist white supremacy. This is why a delightful wedding video can spawn so much unease in everyone . Another way of saying it would be that racism is part of the experience of everyone in one way or another – obviously privilege hides it effects while its impact seems more evident in the lives of the oppressed.

    • http://twitter.com/TheXDExperience Xavier D’Leau

      I’m not saying everything has a racial or even racist undertone. I’m not even classifying the construct of gay as a racist anything. I do think we would even sell ourselves even shorter if we ignore the ideas of race relations in all facets–which includes privilege.

      To your examples, sometimes I think drag is an exploitation (that’s another conversation). And to the idea of there not being Motown without white listeners and hip-hop to white listeners….well, you appease who buys your product. That’s not even a race thing. That’s marketing. You appease to those who have the resources who will essentially sell your shit. It just so happens that the prominent group with disposable income happen tends to be non-whites .

  • http://twitter.com/TheRyanSides Ry’n Mekhi

    Reading the article and replies I was a a little surprised by the polarization of the commentators. While I don’t side with all of the arguments presented, I understand why they would have been made.

    That aside, the only thing I really find issue with is the tone and how it seemed to present the overarching argument that we don’t fit the “gay” classification as though this was by design or an otherwise intentional overlooking of the black same gender loving community. I It would be completely naive to say that race issues don’t still exist today but I feel that an equally large part of the problem is how we spend so much time acknowledging them and not addressing them. In 2012, more than anything else, the bottom line is the bottom line, and with the exception of certain niche markets and consumer loyalty, blacks on the whole just refuse to attend the party. As a business, which all of these campaigns are, I’m not going to spend money trying to pull in a smaller market if I’m already capitalizing well on the mainstream majority. As a charity/foundation providing services to a particular community, I also have to go where the money is and people are more likely to give money and resources to people they can relate to, people that look like them. This is the nature of the beast.

    No one rallies and says let’s do something to include white people, they either do it themselves for themselves, or they’re often the default. That’s because that’s where the money and a great deal of power is. If anyone is to blame for us not fitting into the “gay” ideal that’s presented to mainstream America, then it’s us. We have needs so we need to seek to have them filled. Blacks weren’t (aren’t) properly recognized in Hollywood so we created roles for ourselves. Not where we SHOULD be, but the strides that have been made are honorable. Divide and conquer was such a resounding point made earlier, we’re like teenagers fighting ourselves within ourselves and because of this we can’t see the bigger picture of whats missing or important. And I’ve already taken up too much for this to be a reply so I’ma just stop there.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bj.tillman.9 Bj Strongforu Tillman

      Interesting response. Blacks do spend tons of money as evidenced by the multitude of black gay prides and other events that have sprung up around the country. We didn’t fit into the white prides, so we created our own and they draw people from around the world. We need to channel the same energy from those events into community strategies and initiatives. We’ve already got the power, we just need to use it.

  • JC

    Very nice piece, Chris. I agree whole-heartedly. The face of the homosexual male is that of a white male. Just like in this “post-racial” society, the face of America is still that of a white person. Sad, but true. America deals with us because they brought us here and we can’t leave. Once we get to a place where we aren’t trying to fit into white-washed America, we will be a better people as a whole; including all subgroups.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bj.tillman.9 Bj Strongforu Tillman

      Like it or not, we are Amerikkkans. Our ancestors didn’t choose to board those slave ships. However, for our own survival, I think we’d better get on board with the program of equal rights for all. Otherwise, once again, we will get left behind. We can create our own agendas and determine what’s important for us, while simultaneously celebrating and supporting marriage equality. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.halladay.7 David Halladay

    Isn’t it time we stop separating ourselves as much as we do. I love men, and dated every race there is, they were men, I am gay. My husband is a black/hispanic … he is a man. We as gay men, have at times different issues than gay women, straight men love lesbians, and straight older women love gay men. But we are all gay. being gay is not something that was created by a white man for white men. Multiracial same sex relationships have been going on since recorded history. Ancient Greece, and Rome … Egypt , look at real history not Hollywood history. Marriage is not as simple as wanting the right to marry each other. It is also about the right to inherit what while you both were alive was couple property, and when one dies you are treated like a ‘friend’ and have to pay taxes on that house, or bank account. It is about having the right to visit in a hospital, or in making medical decisions. It is about opening up and getting the fact that you are a married couple out of the closet, instead of the way I was brought up, where uncle dick was living with his best friend for 20 years … Come on, why separate us any more?
    I agree that it is up to the black community to stop any self hatred if its about gayness, but I was raised with the idea and couples that were not the same colors both as gay couples and straight ones. It is just as needed for the entire gay community to band together and that the older ones of us, pass on positive role models, of acceptance and openness and PRIDE.
    I am not sure where you got your facts from, but in the Midwest, the race card was not seen during the beginning of gay pride. I watched, and it was open and helped by all races. Maybe the wealthier people get better press, wealth from any race, thats just the way it is, but that is also why we try so hard to get closeted Celebes out in public. The word spreads faster.
    But anyone that thinks the Stonewall riots was a all white man band of gay patriots, needs to research what actually happened. It was a group of different races, different economic statuses, and really different careers, that basically got tired of the cops busting them all the time for going to a Bar, The Stonewall Bar, a place that gay men of all races etc, took the chance to hang out, drink, and maybe hookup.

  • Misty

    It mostly is that way because being a white cis male, even w/o hetero privilege, is still some powerful stuff. And showing a white male face made it easier for the mainstream predominantly white society to accept the LGBT community as “just like them”. You can say the same with the black community with a straight cis black male being the lead role or white cis straight women in the feminist movement.

  • John Mulholland

    Excellent article. And, alas, spot-on.

    I very much recommend an artiicle by Darryl Pinckney from the NY Review Of Books — Post White. Explores much of the same terrain, though from a winder prism-of-vision, the gay focus not paramount. But comes to much the same conclusion.

    Thanks much for this piece.