It’s 2:15am and I can’t sleep because my brain’s thoughts are all running together. For some reason I can’t stop thinking of my dad, my brothers and how important the Black male relationship is to my life. My dad, who affectionately refers to me as ‘pumpkin’ has shown me what it looks like to be an ex-convict, turned licensed boiler maker who loves his children unconditionally, even his one gay son. My appreciation for them runs deep as some of my experiences with the African-American male has been nothing short of traumatizing. Sure, having all brothers allowed me to connect with men who held some responsibility of loving me based on sibling relation. We’ve also had moments where they judged me based on lack of understanding whether it was a derogatory look or expression used to show disapproval. Along the way I’ve had the pleasure of making friends with men who were gay and straight. Regardless of gender expression it’s quite normal for a man to sometimes only want to identify with another male. Today, many people belonging to the African-American community still don’t discuss why Gay Black men are viewed as faggots and why many straight men like to use homoerotic terms with one another to show disrespect. There’s also a lack of discussion when it comes to the role many Black women play in helping to fuel the stigma that all gay men are hair dressers and or fashion stylists looking to ‘ki-ki’ and gossip in a flamboyantly feminine nature. Most of the time we (Black People) don’t realize how we affirm the heteronormative thinking amongst of men and children. Whether it’s a kid teasing a boy because of his high pitched voice or a man calling another man a faggot because of his apparent sexual choice. Even if it is silently judging our gay brothers or sisters while offering little to no support of the person. To understand is to educate and to educate is to hopefully eliminate the solidly built infrastructure that is homophobia. All of these things make it a job for me as a Black Gay man to educate everyone around me on what it feels like to not be accented by a group who’s already undergone so much prejudice for just being a certain skin color. How many times are we going to act shocked over something that is simply an expression of love?
After being up for about 10 minutes or so I get on social media as most of us do when we’re up in the wee hours of the night. I notice the postings from the recent Grammy activities happening in the celebrity entertainment world. I then see a picture of Jay-Z and Diddy, two heavy hitters in the world of musical entertainment taken from this January’s Roc Nation Grammy Brunch. Both of the Shawn’s (Diddy spells his name Sean) appeared to be well-dressed and heavily engrossed in what looks to be a brother to brother conversation about whatever moguls discuss these days. The picture shows Jay looking at Diddy straight in the eyes as Diddy appears to be looking downward. After a few seconds of staring at the picture I notice Diddy’s eyes are lowered slightly toward what looks like Jay-Z’s crotch area. Immediately I look back at the caption and then peruse the comments to see what people were saying. Every other comment being a derogatory term citing something homophobic or others defending what they believe is just an innocent picture that may have caught Diddy off guard. Either way there was bigger disturbance lingering in my heart. My people, Black people have a problem with men’s expression toward one another. At this point I’m sitting upright in bed trying to see if it was just me or way the problem big. Big being an understatement as I see pictures belonging to commenters who look like me but want nothing to do with loving me. This bothered me as much as the 2016 Vanity Fair spread that depicted Actor, Michael B. Jordan and Director Ryan Coogler in what looks to be a brotherly embrace. Michael is shown palming Ryan’s head from the back as if he were showing support. This kind of embrace was very familiar to me as my dad has done this numerous times, hell uncles and cousins who were slightly older/taller than me had done the same thing at one time or another. Still, there was a problem with how many other young Black boys hadn’t had those same experiences to show them that it was okay. Since when did it become gay to hug another man to show that you care?
Here’s the thing, we have allowed ourselves to ostracize a group of people who are look, sound and move as we do just in their own way. These people are men, they love, they hurt, the feel just as any other man does. There’s something about this heteronormative thinking that constitutes ignorance and misunderstanding causing our Black men to miss out on what it feels like to know love. A feeling that would allow our Black men to hold another Black man’s head without having it chopped off soon after. A world where we look, feel and speak as confidently as we are because we love and support one another. There may be some female readers thinking “wow it would’ve been cool to see my dad love my brother as he did me.” How about if little boys were taught that it was okay to look and speak as they are and play together happily. Things among-st our culture would be more kind, less violent and maybe more love would be present. There’s no doubt that there are assumptions present but to know that I can’t hug my brother without him being mistaken for my boyfriend disgusts me. Most of us will only look at the surface of things to judge what we don’t know. Instead of taking time to work on what we do know, life is hard enough without any love. Black men, it begins with us rearranging our thinking to establish ourselves as better together. Some of my greatest accomplishments were made possible by having someone in my corner who mirrored what and who I am. There was a time when I didn’t know if I could have a healthy relationship with a ‘straight’ black man. Often times I would be deemed cool enough to speak to when no one was around or funny enough to laugh with but not good enough to be a friend. It took for me to connect with men who were bred to be individual thinkers. Men who knew how valuable true friendship and support were enough to love beyond gender expression. Whether through mutual acquaintances or organically these relationships have been a key role in my characterization as an African-American gay male. There is a constant benefit to my dad telling me “I love you” and being able to comfortably say it back. .With that being said, do me a favor and make a Black man smile you never know what’s behind it all.
Vashon Wade 2018