Fashion Queens: The Portrayal Of Black Gays In The Media

I was inspired to write this post after watching Bravo-TV’s new show, “The Fashion Queens.” Now, before I begin this, I would like to first state that this is not a personal attack on Derek J. or Miss Lawrence. As it was brought to my attention when commenting on the show during its premiere, my remarks appeared to be a direct bash at flamboyant men. I am in no way discriminatory against them. Yes, I stated that “gay is not a personality in my last post, but it’s obvious I need to clarify. Many people correlate homosexuality with flamboyant behavior, but that is an improper correlation and not always true. Therefore true homosexuality (the act of same-sex attraction) is not a personality, but flamboyant behavior is. Yet, flamboyancy is not a choice and shouldn’t be frowned upon. I myself can sashay with the best of them, and have known firsthand that it is harder to act masculine in public settings like the barbershop than it is to just be my somewhat feminine self. But I feel as though the media likes to publicize this caricature of the homosexual black male that was formed decades ago.

Gay men – particularly black gay men – weren’t a staple in mainstream media until recently. The only ones that come to mind from the beginning of my short life until now are Wesley Snipes in “Too Wong Foo,” Lafayette of “True Blood,” and RuPaul. When it comes to Wesley and “Too Wong Foo” as a whole, my only criticism is that the characters remained in drag the entire film. I may not be a drag performer, but I know that drag is an art form for entertainment and happens mostly at night. Men who wear women’s clothing are often referred to as cross-dressers or androgynous, but – and please correct me if I’m wrongdaytime drag is very uncommon. Although with homosexuality as we know it still in its adolescent stages compared to its heterosexual counterpart, the lines and definitions of these things are in constant debate with no hard rules.

As far as RuPaul, I would have to call him my gay idol for multiple reasons. Not only is he a philosophical teacher with a consistently positive stance on life, he is a businessman that had an idea in mind and worked hard to see it to fruition. I had the opportunity to speak to Jason Carter of the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” pit crew on my blog, and he told me that Ru always had the idea for “Drag Race,” since he first began transitioning into media. I appreciate “Drag Race” for its innovation and its appropriate and authentic portrayal of the drag community. Yes, we have also come across the issue of transgendered contestants on the show, and while it was only discussed briefly, it still served as a teachable moment to me and other viewers. Mostly, I enjoy the “Untucked” episodes when the contestants sit down to discuss their upbringings and the struggles they went through to maintain a successful and happy life. It shows me that no matter how much we fight and pray to be different or accepted, the greatest struggle is being comfortable with ourselves first. As Ru says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else? Can I get an ‘Amen’ up in here?” Amen!

I say all this to oppose the portrayal of gays in mainstream by hetero-dominated media. I was watching an interview of Tatyana Ali where she said that characters usually fit and support a certain archetype (e.g. heroes and villains) and have done so since the beginning of entertainment, way before television. Archetypes of black people, like the mammie, “girlfriend,” or vixen are prevalent to this day. And the archetype of “gay man” hasn’t changed much either, especially when it comes to black gay men. We are still given black gay men that are all dressed up in expensive cosmetics and high heels, with hairstyles that are even more of a statement. Why does the sassy, black gay man exist but not the sassy white one? Yes, I can name a few white ones but none of them are very current. Most new white media portrays their gay men as masculine or just slightly feminine (e.g. Will and Jack from “Will & Grace”), but TV continues to emasculate gay black men. Do you think this has something to do with masculine, gay male actors/celebrities not being out and proud? Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto are two white actors that come to mind who are out and proud, yet still manage to acquire straight roles. Do you think their presence restricts media from creating many sassy white characters, or are they just trying to weaken gay black men?

Abraham Tomo, Jr. is a fifth year college senior majoring in English & Graphic Design in New York City aspiring to be a novelist and journalist. He's been writing on the Internet since 2010 mostly for his own blog, and now wishes to expand his writing career for other media outlets that focus on LGBT issues for people of color.

  • Cam

    I hate fashion queens. Bevy overuses ballroom slang and Derek J and Miss Lawrence need to just have their own show, their chemistry is so much better between the two of them. Straight women and white gay producers need to stop using black gay men as accessories to women’s lives and let us have our own lives.

  • Rehmat Ullah

    How they set and choose these type of styles ,so choosy they are….

    Men and women clothing

  • http://twitter.com/Exhibit_REY The Chosen One ~♏~

    “I feel as though the media likes to publicize this caricature of the homosexual black male that was formed decades ago.” This statement right here says it all. As much as I love and respect Bevy Smith’s hustle, I need for her to stop her over-use of black gay/ballroom slang
    and to stop acting like the proverbial fag-hag because it’s a bit much to swallow. I’d like to see more diversity of gay men on television because despite what people think, not all of us act/dress like women. My gut feeling is that the only reason why Miss Lawrence & Derek were asked to be a part of the show is because they’re flamboyant gay men who stay decked out in labels. I wonder if people like June Ambrose, Ty Hunter or people directly related to the fashion industry were asked to participate in the show. Bravo is clearly in the wrong for pushing such a stereotype but we as viewers are also in the wrong for continuing to support it.

  • Del

    What is the name of your blog Abraham?

    • atfierce

      ATFierce.com

  • Kema

    I’m glad this topic came up. I see it like this, If you aren’t apart of the solution your just part of the bigger problem. What a lot of people seem to forget is the thing that’s so obvious. Flamboyant gays get more representation because they are willing to be seen. Derek & Lawrence do hair for famous women and reality stars which means they are exposed to a lot of industry people. They were there and visible just being themselves, They weren’t looking to get on tv they were just in the right places around the right people. The problem isn’t with them it’s with the rest of us. So many of us for to long have coveted being “DL” or unclockable. To this day all over gay sites and in public we put on a front for each other, drawing a line in the sand between others in the community. I hear it all the time, “I don’t go to gay clubs, bars, parties, balls, etc, I wont date him, I can’t be friends with them”. You can’t say you aren’t being represented in media when you aren’t even able to be visible and counted in everyday life. When you make a living of trying to blend in, it’s foolish to complain after you’ve reached your goal. If more of us were willing to be visible to our family, friends, and society at large then maybe others will take notice. I’m not saying one dimensional representation is ok but it’s that way for a reason. Visibility is the only counteraction to stereotypes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.l.yarbrough Charles Lamar Yarbrough

    This is why I love reading most things that Muse puts out because for me it’s is very thought provoking and it really talks about conversations I have with my mentor and like minded individuals who feel the same on how the LGBT community of color represented in media. I feel that needs to be steps done to gain some ground on changing this we have some awesome web base shows that I feel do a great job representing us in a multifaceted way “No shade” “DL Chronicles” We had Noah’s ARC. I feel we need more.

  • BlackPegasus

    They are disgusting! Nothing more than Gay Black Mammies from a southern fried movie. Why do Black Men put up with this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronald.u.shannon Ronald Shannon

    I just wish there where a more diverse set of homosexual African American men portrayed on tv(Like Karamo from RealWorld, The Diverse set of Noahs Arc etc.) …Not all of us are into fashion!!, not all of us do hair!!!!, not all of us want to go shopping with our female friends…and for goodness sake STOP ASKING ME IF YOUR BOYFRIEND IS GAY..shit I know… all i know is I am I dont know about him lol

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