Friday, April 4, 2014

Black & Queer: My Lived Experience

Being Black in America is hard. Being Queer in America is hard. Being Black AND Queer in America, now that is something a lot of people would never want to be. However, this is my lived experience.

Being both black and queer for me has posed many challenges. Though both groups are oppressed, I've faced oppression from both groups. In my life, I've experienced homophobia from the black community and racism in the queer community. I'll start with my upbringing. I grew up in New Orleans, LA in a predominantly black neighborhood that many would call "the hood." I can't say that it was the safest of neighborhoods, but I have to say that the sense of community there was amazing. Like many black children, I grew up in the church. Every Sunday morning that is where I was with my family. That is the place where I fell in love with music. However, the black church is not the most queer friendly place to be. Queer people were often condemned right there in the church, even though there were the obvious queer people in the church that no one ever spoke about including the stereotypical choir director. I've noticed that in the black community queer identities aren't talked about much.  Everything is discreet. There is that one neighbor who lives with another woman. Always going out and doing things together. Everyone refers to them as just friends despite the obvious same sex relationship that is going on. However, this same sentiment isn't acceptable for me. The second you are outed as a queer man who isn't the choir director at church, all hell has come loose. That definitely happened when I came out in the 9th grade to my mom; all hell broke loose. Because we were conditioned from a young age to condemn queerness, it was an extremely hard thing for my mom to accept; hell it was an extremely hard thing for me to accept. All my life I was told that being queer was wrong and here I was a budding little queer boy.

Eventually things got better with me and my family. My queer identity is still hard to talk about but most of them are cool with it. Once I got to college, I decided to explore my queer identity a bit more. I joined a few organizations and became an extremely active member in the community on campus. The only part of my life that wasn't active was my love life. Being in the queer community has made me hyper-aware of my race. Nothing is outright said, but there are times when I feel like I don't connect with those around me. People would make comments about their experiences and I'll be sitting there like I don't deal with that. Any time I've considered asking someone in the community out (a rare occasion, but it happens), I hear this sentiment, "I don't date black guys." This is a shot to my soul. The first time I heard this, I was taken aback asking "what's wrong with black guys?" I immediately got the defensive "nothing, it's just my preference" thing. But when you get that sentiment over and over again, you begin to notice that it's not just preferences. When non-black guys do take in interest in black guys, it's often fetishized in my opinion. They want black guys because they want something exotic or the bbc (big black cock). It's definitely infuriating to me. I am more than what's in my pants. I'm a human being just like anyone else.

Also finding people that look like me in media is discouraging. LGBTQ people are making a rise in media, however a vast majority of them are white. If there are black characters, they are often caricatured to fit stereotypes. There are only two things in media that I've found that portray black queer characters as dynamic people and both of them are from the same director. They are Patrick Ian Polk's show Noah's Arc and his film The Skinny. Other than these two things, I've found very few shows that I can actually relate to.

Now stereotypes as a black queer person are interesting. A lot of the time, people are trying to figure out if I do the things I do because I'm black or because I'm queer. There is also the aspect of getting stereotypes from both. It's interesting to see and sickening. I'm not going to say if these stereotypes are true or not because some may be true from me but not for others. Just last night I was asked if I could teach a white girl to twerk under the assumption that I can twerk because I'm black. Then I got the question of "Are you a bottom" because of my big butt. Basically the girl associated my having a big butt with being a bottom whereas others have associated it with my being black. It's things like this that makes me question my faith in people. Why can't I do things just because I'm Ronnie and not because of stereotypes? People associate my being able to sing with being black, not because I'm just talented in that regard. People associate my being able to dance with my being queer because apparently all queer people can dance. My wardrobe has definitely been associated with my being queer because they assume that I know something about fashion when all I truly know is that I like to look good.

My lived experience as a black AND queer person has been full of conflicting ideas. It's hard and I know for a fact that many people would not want to be in my shoes on a daily basis. While they may not want to be in my position, I wouldn't change who I am if I could. I love being black and I love being queer. It creates for an unique experience that has made me who I am.

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