Homecoming is a big deal in the black community, especially when you are an alumnus of an HBCU. It’s a family affair, where you get to see all your classmates and professors for a weekend of reminiscing, drinking, and partying. I’ve never had a problem at Homecoming, and most know of my LGBTQ writing and activism; never feeling that being friends with me was a threat to their manhood. However, this year would be much different for me, though, as I witnessed for the first-time things I had only heard about whispered behind my back.
It was at Homecoming where I was introduced to a young lady who one of my best friends was dating. The initial exchange was normal. We laughed, had a few drinks at the bar, and gossiped all the way to closing. It was at that time my best friend decided he would give me a ride home, but wanted to drop her off at the hotel first, which she was fine with. After dropping her off, he proceeded to take me to where I was staying. After missing my exit twice, I could see he was tired. We pulled over and switched seats so that I could drive while he took a nap in the passenger seat.
We were gone about 25 minutes when she called. He put the phone on speaker and that’s when I heard all the whispers over the last 20 years come directly to face.
“What’s taking so long?”
“I missed his exit because I got tired, so G is driving,” my friend said.
To which she responded “Naw, I know what it is,” she said. “You gay. And you fuckin’ him.”
Suffice to say my friend woke up. We were both in shock, him because he was being called gay, and me because the one thing I never wanted projected on to my family, and friends was my sexual identity. I said nothing, but my friend defended my honor. He apologized profusely but the damage had been done. It was the realization of a fear I always carried with me.
The truth is I’m tired. Tired of always having to defend myself and others against the constant homophobia the exists throughout the black community, the by-product of white supremacy and patriarchy norms. If it’s not Nipsey Hussle condemning “homo sexuals” for the feminization of the black male, it’s Migos releasing a song with a lyric stating “I do not vibe with queers.” Black queer antagonism is a constant within a culture which unfortunately dictates the types of relationships queer men can have with heterosexual males without the assumption of a hidden sexual desire.
I always knew that my friends who were straight had to deal with the community questioning why they would ever be friends with a person like mean openly black queer man who is very vocal about the plight of the LGBTQ community, that regularly challenges cishets on the ways they treat us. I’ve had straight friends my entire life, and that road has not been easy. The constant having to defend me from slurs folks used when I wasn’t around couldn’t have been easy. I’ve even had straight friends who went “too hard” in my defense be questioned even more about their own sexuality, something I still feel guilty about from time to time.
However, it was never brought to my face where I actually could see it first hand until this past Homecoming.
I wish I could say this was the first time I had a black woman question the sexuality of my straight black male friends simply because they were friends with me. Part of the complex relationship that is black women and black gay men is this myth that we share a dating population. To be clear, gay men are not chasing after straight men. Gay men want to be with other gay men. Furthermore, society hasn’t created a safe space for men who identify as bisexual. Most recently, an episode of Insecure depicted how Molly couldn’t date a good man because he had one prior experience with a man. This correlates with reality when a man attempts to date men and women, he is often boxed in as gay.
Masculinity doesn’t allow for straight black men to have platonic relationships with anyone who isn’t that. Growing up with a little brother who is straight, I remember feeling guilty about some of things he had to deal with having a gay brother. I remember doing my best to suppress who I was in effort to help him have it easier. Despite my most valiant attempts, he dealt with it all as many of my current friends continue to do.
We must do better as a community to allow relationships to exist despite sex and gender affiliations. Toxic masculinity is the greatest threat to the existence of our community. Rhetoric that suggests straight men will lose their manhood due to associating with those that are LGBTQ is dangerous. It leads to violence from cishets to those who are LGBTQ, simply because we are not doing the work to allow those relationships to exist safely, without scrutiny and devaluation of people. Too many people have been hurt and killed because folk would rather have dead children then gay children, or murder a trans woman than the world find out they love them.
We can’t gain freedom as a community that continues to be divisive, and shaming of platonic relationships between hetero and homosexual individuals. Thankfully, my friend reacted as one should. He not told her some things about herself, but he apologized to me. The next day, when I seen her she also offered an apology for her rude behavior. Although the outcome was one that didn’t end in drama, I hope we can all work to get to a place where the accusations never have to occur.
It’s 2018. Homophobia has no place in the black community.