On Black People And “Our” Homophobia

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1. As I listened to Jason Collins and Oprah discuss the extra “stigma” of being gay and Black, I couldn’t help but wonder how true the “Blacks are more homophobic than everyone else” sentiment truly is. I think many of us—myself included—have said it so much that we’ve accepted it to be true, and since we’ve accepted it to be true, we don’t bother challenging or even testing that theory. And, over time, this widely-held theory is repeated as fact.

I’m not here to argue whether it’s true or false (at least not yet), but how do we really know? Sure, we can cite a few rap lyrics or some loosely connected vagaries about Black people and Christianity, but all that might prove is that a certain type of Black person might be more likely to be homophobic. But, once you control for education, class, location, and any other environmental factors, how would we (Black people) fare?

This phenomenon sort of reminds of me of the theory that Black people are the worst tippers. Whether or not the theory might be true is inconsequential (And yes, I believe it to be true). It’s so ingrained into so many people’s minds that they don’t even bother challenging it, they use confirmation bias to strengthen their beliefs, and after enough circular thinking it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. I think that when people say that Black people are more homophobic than everyone else, what they’re really saying is that Black men are more homophobic than everyone else. Black women generally get a pass, and I think that pass is undeserved.

Generally speaking, I think straight Black women are more superficially accepting of homosexuals—more likely to have gay male or lesbian friends, more “comfortable” around gays, more likely to participate in the fight for gay rights, etc. But, when it comes to actual beliefs about what constitutes male homosexuality, they’re no different than the typical Black male, as both the typical Black male and the “gay-friendly” Black woman tend to believe that there’s no such thing as a bisexual male. Basically, if a man has ever participated in any type of non-straight activity—a one-time act, a thought, a recurring dream, anything—he’s gay now, and gay forever. This is homophobic.

3. I think quite a few women are going to read those last couple sentences and tell me that I’m wrong, that they and most of the Black women they know don’t have any homophobic bones in their bodies. I think that before they leave any comments today, they should ask themselves two questions: Would you date a man who had one gay experience fifteen years ago? If no, would your answer change if you were 100% certain he wouldn’t do that again? If the answer is still no, I’d like to know why. What is it about that one-time act that would completely eliminate a man from your consideration?

4. I think I’m anxiously waiting for the day some prominent person just stops the denials, double-talk, and mealymouthedness and just comes out and says “Yes, I’m homophobic.” I think I’ll be waiting a while for that to happen. I don’t mind that, though. I’ve been waiting a couple decades now for a public figure to just say “Yes, I’m racist. Can you stop asking me whether or not I’m racist now?” so if anything it proves I’m patient.

5. I think I don’t like it when certain people (and by “certain people” I mean “certain Black Christians”) are asked about their views concerning homosexuality, and are criticized for responding honestly. But, I also think that socially abhorrent views are meant to be criticized. I think my problem isn’t necessarily with the criticism but with the ambush tactics—ask someone a question even though you already know how they’re going to answer just so you can make an example out of them—especially from other “progressive” Black Christians.

6. I think you can ask a million Christians about the Bible and what they take from it and get a million different variations. I mean, we (Christians) all believe that, to paraphrase Bill Maher, there’s a “magic genie in the sky that’ll grant our wishes if we ask really hard,” so is it really that bad when one of us also believes homosexuality is a sin or that you can legitimately pray your gay away?

7. Speaking of progressive people and homosexuality, I think there’s a bit of a disconnect when it comes to what people are willing to admit. To wit, many people (myself included) believe that human sexuality exists on a continuum. Basically, there’s a sexuality scale that we all fit somewhere on. Most of us are gathered either at the gay end or the straight end, but the rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

But, if a scale exists, I think it also stands to reason that a person in the middle can consciously choose to be gay or straight. Yet, I think you’re unlikely to find a liberal/progressive person publicly admit that people who can actually make that type of choice exist because it opens a Pandora’s Box for “less enlightened” people to say “See, I told you that all gay people are only gay because they chose to be.”

8. I know I’m far from the first person to say this, but I think someone needs to invent another word to use to describe someone being uneasy around, unaccepting of, or hateful towards homosexuals. “Homophobic” just doesn’t seem comprehensive enough to capture all of that. Feel free to list any suggestions.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Why “Bad Religion” Was My Song of the Year

If you would have told me a year ago that, sometime next summer, I would be seen be driving around the hood, volume up, windows down, and jamming away to a love song made by a man clearly and unambiguously speaking about his unrequited romantic love for another man, I would have done two things.

1. Ask what prompted you to make such a randomly specific prediction

2. Say that you must have been mistaken

Why? Well, out of the 1500 or so songs currently stored in my car, maybe 1460 of them are rap related (The other 40? Tracks from the Kill Bill soundtracks.), and I’m just not a “listen to R&B while riding in the whip” type of guy. Also, as much as I’d like to say that the gay thing wouldn’t have mattered because I’m enlightened and intellectual and shop at Trader Joe’s, it definitely would have.

Listening to music is a uniquely personal experience — listeners relate to musicians in a way we rarely do with other types of performers — and hearing it in a car or while rocking headphones is even more intimate. And, while I didn’t consider myself to be particularly homophobic, I would have said that this hyper-intimacy would prevent me from feeling a song I couldn’t “relate” to. Basically, a song about a man falling in love with a man wouldn’t resonate because I’ve never fallen in love with a man.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that “Bad Religion” — the Frank Ocean track whose use of a masculine pronoun prompted Ocean to come out and confirm that he was, in fact, referring to a man when writing it — is the song I’m referring to. (Perhaps the title of this story gave that away.)

What prompted the change from “I wouldn’t do that because I couldn’t relate” to “Not only am I listening, but I’m listening in a way to let everyone within a two block radius know exactly what I’m listening to?” “Bad Religion” is a great f*cking song. That’s it. It — as great art is supposed to do — moves, inspires, resonates, and reverberates. Feeling it wasn’t a political statement or an expression of my level of personal progression. I like it because I like it.

Read more at Ebony.com

Hova Speaks, Will Hip-Hop Follow (Again)?: Will Jay-Z’s Support of Gay Marriage Help Hip-Hop Become Less Homophobic?

Although it was a forgettable song (well, forgettable sans for Pharrell’s hook) on an even more forgettable album, the video for “Excuse Me Miss” remains underrated in regards to how much of an influence it had on pop culture.

There’s a scene in it that shows Jay-Z typing on a very cumbersome and very cool looking device that was far too big to be a Motorola two-way and far two small to be a laptop. This mysterious device was the first T-Mobile Sidekick, and it’s inherent coolness combined with the coolness of Jay-Z using one made it the “it” electronic device of the year. I bought one a week after seeing the video. (And, because of T-Mobile’s draconian termination fee and contracts, I hold the dubious distinction of being the only person on Earth to own a Sidekick in 2002 and in 2009)

If you remember, at that time cell phones were getting smaller and smaller — a point parodied in this hilarious SNL skit. The Sidekick was the first phone to start the shift back to big  — leading to today’s behemoths — and Jay-Z deserves (at least) partial credit for spearheading that trend.

I’m bringing this up because, regardless of how you feel about Jay-Z the artist/former drug dealer/freemason/”business, man” you can’t deny the fact that he’s wielded a major influence on Black culture in the last 15 years. If the Sidekick story isn’t proof enough for you, think about this: Remember how cats used to spend hundreds of dollars on throwback sports jerseys; rocking them to night clubs, weddings, proms, and funerals and sh*t? Jay-Z managed to pretty much dead that trend with half of a bar .

“I don’t rock jerseys, I’m 30 plus…”

 

Now, unless you’ve been hiding in James Harden’s beard over the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Jay-Z came out in support of same-sex marriage. I’m not going to spend today breaking down the apparent hypocrisy and lack of sincerity of someone who has repeatedly used the word “faggot” in his work denouncing people who oppose gay marriage. Whether this is a political move to impress (and keep) his high society friends is not my concern.

What I am concerned about, though, is whether Hov has the type of pull to change the attitude of what is arguably the only billion-dollar entity in the world where it’s not just ok to be violently homophobic, it’s encouraged: Hip-Hop. (And yes, today, in 2012, Hip-Hop/Rap is more violently and vehemently homophobic than any other major “thing” you can possibly name. Nothing else beats us it right now.)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hova isn’t the first prominent Hip-Hop artist to start the homophobia is bad train. Both KRS-One and Chuck D have spoken out against it, and Drake’s entire career seems to be a pro-gay PSA. Eminem’s Grammy performance with Elton John still remains the awkwardest five minutes of TV I’ve ever seen.

Also, Jay’s protege has done more to spearhead this current era of skinny-jeaned Hip-Hop androgyny we live in than any other person, and the most popular female rapper ever has cultivated a persona that’s somehow asexual, bisexual, and hyperheterosexual all at the same time.

Basically, while I won’t go as far as to say that hip-hop was already becoming more gay friendly before Jay-Z’s statement, it does seem like it’s been progressively less antagonistic towards homosexuality. Will Jay-Z’s considerable voice and presence be enough to help hip-hop evolve past accepted homophobia? I don’t know. I do know that the fact that I’m somehow still tied into my T-Mobile contract means I wouldn’t bet against it happening.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

no homo: “enlighted” black women and their ambivalent homophobia

i have an strange tendency to assume that people i’ve met who i’m not physically or sexually attracted to are attracted to me, and this can be somewhat disconcerting. but, oddly, this feeling usually only applies to gay black men and ugly white women. you can imagine how difficult this makes shopping at the gap for me.

as weird as this bit of aggressively unambitious egomania might seem, i’ve reluctantly come to realize that it does make me somewhat homophobic. i mean, i’m not going to be joining T.O.K. to remix “chi-chi man” anytime soon, but the fact that i’d be a tad bit unnerved by a hooper x doppelganger showing me slacks means that i’m not quite the bastion of open-mindedness and objectivity i thought i was.

yet despite all of this, i take full advantage of the freedom my well-earned “well, he makes tongue-in-cheek jokes about everybody and everything. he’s really cool and compassionate though so don’t take it seriously” pretense gives me to make off-color jokes, asides, and analogies about homosexual men

anyway, thinking about all of this helps me to understand why so many “enlightened” sistas are loathe to admit that they’re just as (if not more) homophobic than the typical brotha is assumed to be.

because their homophobia usually isn’t as outwardly vehement as a cat reciting cam’ron lyrics or calling kanye a “faggot”, it’s somewhat easy for them to ignore the cognitive dissonance that occurs when professing the need for a “gay bff” while simultaneously using gay black men as an easy scapegoat for rising HIV infection rates. this thought process also leads them to dismiss the idea that a man telling his son to “stop being a sissy” and a woman refusing to date a man who they heard might have been a sissy in 1995 come from the exact same place.

plus, they realize that an educated person actually admitting that they still harbor a bit of uneasiness about the idea of a gay black man in 2010 blatantly contradicts the open-mindedness that most socially and politically savvy sistas pride themselves on, so they continue to join “i hate prop 8″ groups on facebook while opening another firefox window to order j.l. king’s most recent hysterical missive in bulk.

mind you, i’m not trying to start another round of the “more” race. i could care less about who’s “more” homophobic between us (a “typical” black man) and them (a “typical” black woman), and i could give two shits about who’s is going to reach the finish line first.

but, i will say that i know that we definitely aint alone on the track, even if they still won’t admit that they’ve been running too.

—the champ