Gay Marriage or NAH? My Ambivalence

As I type, a couple is filing a lawsuit that could legalize gay marriage in Georgia. I found out as I scrolled through my Facebook timeline and as I read the article, my mixed feelings about marriage equality started to surface. I want a family one day and if gay marriage is legalized in Georgia, I could be one step closer to having a family that could be legally recognized because mama wants them benefits. However, my inner hell raiser wasn’t having it especially after I got a look at the plaintiffs behind the lawsuit. They are the picture perfect portrait of gay family: two white and presumably well off men with two cute little adopted babies.

I saw the source of my ambivalence for marriage equality in those smiling faces emanating from my phone’s screen. If this lawsuit is successful it will be a victory for the Ellens and Portias and Neils and Davids of the world. The mainstream gay rights movement will call this the end of the fight for equality and I’m sure Atlanta PRIDE will be quite the spectacle. After all, gays will be able to marry and that’s enough right?

Not quite.

On the surface, marriage equality appears to be the only issue standing in the way of gay rights but there’s this pesky little concept called intersectionality that says otherwise. As couples prepare to line up at city hall for a photo op that will land them on the front page of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution, I can’t help but think of the queer people that are just trying to function.
The ones that are not only queer but poor, female/female assigned, trans, disabled, of color or a combination of these and other qualities.

In other words, the type of people that were the heart of the LGBTQ* rights movement before it was gentrified.
All 50 states could legalize gay marriage but that doesn’t mean the work is over. There is too much that needs to be done and quite frankly, I’m sick of these picture perfect gays speaking for the rest of us. There are so many other issues that impact the queer community but since they don’t have a rainbow plastered all over them and the Stepford gays don’t give a damn, they go ignored.
Being able to marry my girlfriend doesn’t mean shit in a world where people are being denied medical care because some medical school gave some religious wack job a degree and people are still being maimed, assaulted and killed for being queer. Not to mention, my queerness doesn’t cancel out my blackness, femaleness or other nesses that factor into my lived experiences as someone living in a patriarchal heteronormative white supremacist society. Until we can really have a conversation about what queer people need besides a piece of paper and some rings, you won’t see me prancing through the streets in a party city veil or applying for a marriage license in protest.

It’s Okay to Be Mad…Or Not: The Colbert Report Boo Boo

I’m no Beyonce, but I have a busy life. If I’m not at work, I’m at school or taking care of something related to an extracurricular project or activity. I don’t have a lot of time on my hands and lack of idle time makes me miss things. While I’m slinging dishes or facilitating meetings, it isn’t rare for something blog-worthy to pop off.
This week’s hullabaloo came in the form of a tweet from the Comedy Central-run Colbert Report account. The tweet was a quote from a Colbert Report segment that was meant to be a dig at Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, his disregard for the team’s racist name and his brand spanking new foundation with an equally offensive name. Without the context provided by the segment, the tweet is flat-out racist and that out-of-context tweet pissed a lot of people off, especially members of the Asian and Asian-American communities. Activist Suey Park was one of those pissed off people and from her timeline, #CancelColbert was born. People were out for blood and they wanted it from Stephen Colbert’s veins. The hashtag eventually became a trending topic and soon enough, the trolls came out to play. Suey received a barrage of insults, including death and rape threats and she was also accused of being of being too extreme, angry and reactionary. Her detractors went out of their way to harass her and in response, her supporters tried to shut them down. All hell broke loose and the argument became very polarized. Anyone that didn’t agree with #CancelColbert was assumed to be an insensitive troll. On the other side, people that supported the campaign were written off as too sensitive. I would love the say this outcome is unexpected but I’ve seen this happen one time too many.
Someone does something bad.

Someone gets offended.

Someone tells them not to be offended.

Hijinks ensue and nothing good comes of it.

When digital debates go off the rails, it is impossible to have a truly nuanced discussion because people are too focused on being right. There have been too many times I’ve wanted to engage someone about a topic but I kept my mouth and pen shut because I didn’t want someone to jump on my back and play privilege/social justice police. Don’t get me wrong, if I fuck up, I expect to be called out. However, sometimes it seems like people are in competition with each other and calling it activism. I’ve been guilty of it myself but I’m also learning how to check myself and more of us organizers, activists and advocates need to learn how to do the same. A marginalized group doesn’t owe the privileged an explanation but if someone shows a willingness to listen and learn, I am willing to teach and vice versa. I’m no one’s porch monkey but I can only get so far by yelling about privilege checking to drown someone out.
Additionally, there have been times where I’ve chosen silence because I didn’t want to deal with someone telling me why I shouldn’t be offended by something. I am entitled to my feelings and If I feel a way about something, I shouldn’t be shamed for that. Engage me with some decency and consideration, especially if you have privileges that I don’t possess because your lived experiences might affect your ability to be empathetic. Be considerate and receptive because you are mature and have the ability to listen.

If a women’s issue upsets me, I don’t need no man telling me I’m being too emotional.

If something terrible happens and it affects queer people, I don’t want to hear a hetero try to explain to me why it isn’t a big deal and so on. I’ll try my hardest to do the same for others.

It is okay to be offended or not offended. There is nothing wrong with feeling a way or not giving a damn.

Just don’t be an asshole. No one likes an asshole.

Snoop Dogg’s Nails: No One Can Snatch Your Masculinity

Recently, a picture of Snoop Dogg sporting a French manicure and as I expected, all hell broke loose. Black men across the country lost their collective shit and the debate over the supposed emasculation of black men reared its head. Cue the man tears.

Brothas had a fit when D. Wade painted his nails black . Someone has something to say every time Kanye West decides to put on one of those leather skirt contraptions and don’t get me started on the feels generated by people like the Princess Boy and the patron saint of black ratchetness, Tyler Perry. Any prominent black male that decides to do something that isn’t man code approved is met with contempt and blamed for the continued emasculation of black men.

To be honest, it’s tired.

Brothers, I get it. Kinda. You have been fighting for your masculinity for decades, centuries even. When our ancestors were enslaved, the males had to watch helplessly as their wives and children were abused and taken away from them. Post-slavery, you struggled to find jobs and support families. It was the first time you even had a chance to assert your masculinity. Still, you were expected to defer to white men and maintain a stoic face when they referred to you as “boy” and disrespected you in other ways. My own grandfather told me stories of having to cross the street if a white man was walking down the sidewalk and needed to get by. You have been subjected to beatings, lynchings, mutilation, castration and other forms of abuse. Needless to say, you’ve had to deal with some heavy shit. Your masculinity was the only thing you could hold onto and it seemed like that could be snatched in an instant.

Still, why must you police each other’s masculinity and gender performance? Another man doing something feminine shouldn’t affect you nor does it make him less of a man in my eyes. Gender (not to be confused with sex), is a social construct. There is no such thing as a universal masculinity because every culture has its own definition. An American’s idea of masculinity probably differs from that of someone across the globe. If our Westernized idea of masculinity was natural, it wouldn’t have to be forced upon people and policed. No one is genetically wired to wear pants or dresses. We are trained to gravitate towards qualities that match our assigned genders. To paraphrase RuPaul, we’re born naked and the rest is drag.

That said, no one is asking or demanding that men have to alter their gender performance. Brothas, if you like traditionally male activities, that’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to change a thing and no one should pressure you to do so. I’m just asking you to live and let your brothers live. Manhood, womanhood and any other hood isn’t a competition. In addition, check any internalized misogyny you may have. Femininity is viewed as a weakness and something that men are supposed to avoid. Boys are taught the worse thing they can be is a sissy, fag or woman.  A girl is typically allowed to be a tomboy (to an extent) but under no circumstances can a boy like “feminine” things and activities. They can ogle, fuck and procreate with women but they shouldn’t want to be one or be like one. It might sound crazy but it’s something to think about. 

Brothas, I’m not trying to tell you how to be a man because it isn’t my place. It isn’t my place to tell anyone how to be male, female, both or none of the above because it isn’t none of my business. It isn’t your business either.

 

Lupita Nyong’o, The Black Girl Pedestal and the Other Girls

Lupita Nyong’o has been the center of all of our attention for weeks and it has reached a fever pitch now that she has an Oscar on her mantel. I readily admit my admiration for Lupita even though I have been too chicken shit to see 12 Years A Slave. She’s smart, beautiful and talented and it is uncommon to see a girl like Lupita be so celebrated. She is someone we need to see more of in addition to Viola Davis, Quvenzhane Wallis, Tika Sumpter and countless others that are doing the damn thing.

Still, I worry about Lupita.

I worry about any black girl who is placed upon a pedestal, deserved or not. I worry because the Black girl pedestal tends to be a bit steeper and if we fall, our fall is rougher. The Black girl pedestal requires a lot from the woman who occupies it.

She has to look a certain way. Lupita is deep chocolate but she is also thin and has model-like facial features.

She has to be smart. Lupita is Yale-educated and is lauded for being articulate.

In addition, she better stay covered up. There can’t be a titty or butt cheek in sight.

The Black girl on the pedestal can’t fuck it up because she doesn’t want to be like the “other girls.” Who are the other girls?

Be respectable or go in the trash. No in-betweens girls.

Nicki Minaj is one of them with her colorful wigs, big booty, pasties and tight clothes. Beyoncé is one of them too because she wears hoochie clothes and sings about sex despite having a husband and a baby. Those other girls are the ones that wear weave because a truly respectable woman doesn’t like that 18″ wavy. The other girl is the one we can catch p-popping in a head stand while other ladies cross their legs and sip their Smirnoff. The other girl doesn’t speak proper english and double negatives are among her favorite things because she just doesn’t know no better. The last quality, perhaps the most important, is any woman can be the other girl. Yes, including Lupita.

Depending on the situation, everyone woman can possess the aforementioned qualities and be disqualified from the pedestal. Why? Because black women are complex and multi-faceted like any other human being.

Shocking, I know.

I am educated and can hold my own in “intellectual” circles and I tend to favor a reserved style of dress. However, I am loud as hell, brazenly use ebonics and I wore booty shawts and a crop top to Pride last year. I wrote a term paper critiquing Nicki Minaj’s gender politics in her music but Stupid Hoe is my shit. I have my contradictions, hypocrisies and plan ole shit in my craw but so does everyone else.

THAT is what we need to teach our daughters. We need to stop letting them believe they have to be on the pedestal and risk being stripped of love should she fall off. My first niece will be born this summer and I want her to live in a world where the Lupitas of the world are celebrated. But, I also want her to know that it’s okay to be loud, twerk and fuck up sometimes. I want that for every girl and so should you.

Chris Brown and the Plight of Black Boys

Last week, court papers were released that reveal Chris Brown had been diagnosed with bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders. I’ve had my issues with Breezy but that revelation broke my heart. He has become yet another example of what happens when mental illness and past traumas are ignored. Yet another Black boy who was not given an outlet to feel and express his hurt. On top of all of that, he has been exposed the spoils, vices and general fuckery that can accompany fame but’s he’s just a public example. He isn’t the only black boy walking around with bags filled with emotional and mental turmoil. He is one of thousands, maybe even millions.

Prior to the Rihanna incident, Brown revealed that he’d grown up watching his mother be abused by her intimate partners. But, since he was still the fresh-faced kid dancing in doublemint gum commercials, so people took that story as merely one of overcome adversity when in reality, he should have been getting help back then.

He will not be a time bomb.

He will not be a time bomb.

Then, it happened. Chris and Rihanna were missing for the 2009 Grammy ceremony. The rumors started swirling and then we saw that picture of her battered face. Brown’s downward spiral had begun. That’s when that interview about his child resurfaced. Statistically, children that are raised in abusive households grow up to abuse or get abused. While there is absolutely no justification for what he did, it shouldn’t have taken him assaulting his girlfriend for people to know something was wrong. He was a ticking time bomb and so are a lot of Black men and boys. And like Brown, no one cares or does anything until those bombs detonate. Our kids, regardless of gender, are born into a war because of their skin color so when they are not allowed an outlet, they suffer. We all suffer.

Black boys are not ending up behind bars because they are inherently bad people. They don’t get thrown in special education in droves and punished at higher rates than other school children because they are dumber. They’re hurting. They’re forced to adhere to some hypermasculine ideal that encourages them to be stoic from a very young age. When they cry, they get scolded and punched in the chest. If they express creativity that isn’t cosigned by the hypermasculine norm, they’re discouraged because no one wants to raise a fag or sissy. Their inner flame is extinguished early so they lash out. They lash out at their families, intimate partners and anyone else that’s close. They turn to crime. They drop out of school. They commit suicide. They hurt each other and they hurt Black women and girls. These boys become Chris Brown, my adopted younger brother, my cousin Tavares; cautionary tales that are discussed in hushed tones and behind closed doors. We need to do something about it or we will keep losing them.

We need to nurture our boys and let them have their emotion. Whether they like to throw footballs and roll in mud or play barbies with their sisterfriends, it’s okay. Sagging pants aint cute but they aren’t the end of the world. We need to let them be multi-faceted, complex individuals or they will keep slipping away. In addition, when we sense them slipping away, we need to act. Therapy, pills and a good cry are not weaknesses nor are they indicators of deviancy. I could go on forever about this but the point is, we need to let them BE so they can not only survive, but thrive. We might not be able to save each and every one of them but we will be able to hold on to more of them.

 

I Ain’t No Queen: NWAs and The Queen-Ho Dichotomy

Disclaimer: if you don’t like the “n-word”, this rant might upset you.

Like many intellectual negroes with internet access, I did something to acknowledge Black History Month. I used my Facebook page’s cover photo slot to share names and faces. It’s something nice, simple and quick. Sadly, as I expected, some folks just had to do the complete most with the least. Niggas with Ankhs (NWAs), as they are affectionately called on the interwebs, usually act a fool but they lose whatever was left of their mind in February. I have been subjected to negroes posting random instragram memes and social media rants about how Black women don’t conduct themselves as “queens” all dang month. They typically use revisionist history to juxtapose women of the past to women of the present. In a typical NWA picture, a scantily clad Nefertiti rip-off is compared to some random screenshot of a twerk team video.

This shit right here….

In other words, this propaganda promotes a ratchet ass version of the virgin-whore dichotomy except Black men tend to put their own spin on it so I call it the queen-ho dichotomy. The queen-ho dichotomy comes in different forms. The stupid Facebook Alex H comics that are supposed to shame black women into acting in a way that NWAs deem respectable. They hide their misogynoir and benevolent sexism behind the queen label and imaginary pedestals. They praise natural hair and shame women that choose to wear their hair in a weave, relaxed or straightened. They rant against Eurocentric values but are extremely homophobic and claim queerness is European creation even though there is evidence of the opposite. They are patriarchy in a dashiki and they only believe in a one-dimensional black womanhood. NWAs are the enemy and shouldn’t be trusted.

These fools are the reason I don’t trust any dude that constantly refers to me and other black women as queens because that title tends to come with conditions that I refuse to meet. Yes, I have an afro that stretches to the sky and I dropped almost 80 bucks at a bookstore yesterday but guess what? I like to twerk, listen to Nicki Minaj and sometimes, I like to wear clothes that show off my assets. If that excludes me from queendom, I’d rather be a hoe because my black womanhood is multidimensional.

How ’bout that?