A Facebook friend recently sent me this video. Another distraction from all this pretending to write, thought I. Now, unlike the cats-are-assholes videos and clips of happy, dancing Black babies that occupy way too damn much of my day, this video prompted a big ol’ screwface. Ten seconds into the clip, I rolled my eyes back to childhood.
The thumbnail told the tale: light-skinned gent with light eyes and a pretty mouth in a wig or weave, portraying a Thotasaurus Rex, tap dancing, drunk on self-satisfaction, through the land of cheap jokes and uncleverly distilled hatred of Black women. Whew, shit. Yawn, motherfucking yawn, yo.
Now, I don’t know this guy, YouTube personality Tré Melvin, master of the validation-seeker’s war cry, the Mysterious Tumblr Nigga Brow Furrow, personally. I do know that he recently came out as bisexual, and there was a big hullabaloo about that, for some reason. So perhaps he does not necessarily fall squarely into the gay category, but what he’s pushing is a familiar brand of antagonism. It relies on the same lazy characterizations and feeds (on) the same passive and overt aggressions between Black gays and Black women.
I am told that this young sir’s other videos are on point. Good for him. I’m not suggesting HE is the issue or plays a huge part in this dance of mutual disrespect and dependency. Tré Melvin is simply continuing an ongoing trend. Black men and everyone else jump to the hood/ratchet/unworthy Black chick stereotype, put on some tragic wig and tacky clothes and become LaQuaysia, the fatherless ho with five kids by eight men whose misfortune and lack of tact shall bless you with entertainment and half-baked life lessons. It’s all so damn tired.
This antagonism and foolishness between Black women and Black gays? It’s exhausting. This eternal spring of joke-wrapped anti-Negress vitriol is a side effect of Black men historically finding a whole new rack of material by putting on dresses, wigs, and pearls for laughs once they run out of engaging roles to play as themselves. Some say it’s problematic on some “effeminization” shit, which is a whole different barrel of bullshit to unpack. It is, however, an ugly mutation of an existing, also tired-as-fuck comedy trope. We need less of this.
It is clear that many gays consider women an easy target. Many of the jokes, Vines, and memes that involve Black men (gay, straight, and otherwise) portraying Black women employ the same cheap hat tricks. Though many attempt to exclude gay men from the Kingdom of Manliness, gay men still benefit from male privilege. This allows us to crack jokes at the expense of Black women, critiquing their hair, weight, bodies, and life choices under the guise of tough love, just like our vagina-hunting brethren. This, all via low blows and demeaning characterizations that would surely be deemed homophobic if delivered by a Black woman towards a gay man.
Gay men are not, of course, exempted from misogyny and sexism. Male privilege makes sure of that. Our need to fix women by molding them into better and prettier versions of themselves by helping them become more glamorous beacons of womanhood is informed by some of that misogyny and sexism. We often feel empowered when a woman places her beauty into our knowing hands, ready for a
On the other end, I’ve seen Black women, on television and elsewhere, float the idea of their ex-boo being a homo, as an insult. (Hello Chili. Hello Porsha Stewart.) Publicly suggesting a dude is “sweet” is the perfect deflector. (“Oh, you know, she may be right,” the public usually says.) Why can’t the way to chop down worthless husbands and beaus be to just call him a swampdonkey or a deplorable human? How can you love “your gays” today and sling gayness on someone tomorrow?
A) Because eeeeeverybody knows that’s the easiest way to wound a straight Black man, and
B) The slime left by public accusations of homosexuality, the worst kind of offense, never completely washes away.
We all have work to do.
Look. Black drag queens and some flamboyant gay men perform caricatures of Black women/Black womanhood when they borrow from and dramatize the personas of their favorite divas. Oftentimes, on television and elsewhere, Black women in turn perform caricatures of Black gays performing caricatures of Black women.
“YASS HONEY CHILE GET YOU SOME GAY FRIENDS THEY’RE GREAT I HAVE SIX #slay,” and such. Nothing is wrong with any of this, on the surface. The relationship is typically a harmonious, mutually beneficial one. My unions with my ladyfriends are fruitful and necessary. Gays and girls often serve very specific purposes for one another. The flow of influence is bidirectional. We socialize and are socialized in the same spaces. Exchange of culture and behaviors is fine and expected.
Interpretations of femininity have evolved based on its proximity to queer expression. Gay Black expression has evolved due to the influence of femininity. Consider certain aspects of Beyoncé’s high-octane stage presence and choreography. Over the years, a host of Black gay choreographers, directors, and guiding hands have helped her craft her onstage dramatics. Janet, Bey, Mya, and even Christina Milian have vogued on stage, incorporating elements of Black gay ballroom culture into their work. All totally fine. This is not to suggest they are simply the hosts, waiting to be occupied and directed by an all-knowing gay man. On the contrary, I love the exchange. The give and take is beautiful to witness.
Publicly, this relationship so greatly benefits Black women, as evidenced nightly on reality television. When Black gays and Black women share screen time, the Black gay almost always exists as an accessory of the Black woman. He is either her ornament or her prop, dispatched from the Land of Delusion and YAAAAASHUNTY to help the newly empowered Miss Girl get her hair, wardrobe, or makeup situation together.
We ChocoHomos have the peripheral fabulousness industry on lock.
Both sides have their gripes. Black gays push to be seen and portrayed as regular, job-having, non-ornamental human beings who don’t necessarily speak in exclamations and insults. Some Black women believe that their gay besties want to be like them. Others believe they want to be them.
But pointing fingers and playing the blame game solves nothing. Jabs, though often momentarily cathartic or fun, do nothing to advance the collective progress or visibility of We Who Are Not Privileged Straight White Men. Rather than reading and shading one another into oblivion, our time would be better spent joining up like Double Minority Voltron and uniting against our common enemy: Andy Cohen.
Both groups suffer from a lack of public visibility and humanity in our representations. We are types first and then, if we’re lucky, people. The hairdresser. The shadeful, drink-throwing frenemy. The sassy Black co-worker. The grandiose jester. I’m tired.
There is no singular solution. There is much to unpack here. Our communities are deeply intermingled. Our respective struggles are valid and demand attention and compassion for any improvement to be seen. As partners in underrepresented nonWhiteness, it would behoove us all to set aside our differences and engage in some honest, open-minded truth telling, loving, and learning. We all have work to do.