Saturday, August 22, 2009
I awoke this morning to a report describing the opposition, by some prominent Black clergymen, to the proposed repeal of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Rev. Dr. LaSimba Gray was also quoted in the New York Times as saying he, and members of his Black Coalition Against Gay Marriage, were against the repeal of DOMA, and equality for gays and lesbians. “In all my 40 years of civil-rights work, I’ve never seen a gay water fountain and I’ve never seen a gay entrance to a building.” In a post on political blogger Taylor Siluwe’s website, further commentary indicates that Gray’s members were “offended” by the idea that the “black and gay communities are somehow connected”.
Now, I have written in the past that the LGBT and black communities were not only connected with one another, but that both owe each other all the benefits they enjoy today. For this, of course, I have been flogged unmercifully, as if it were set in stone somewhere that blacks and gays were mutually exclusive, and never the twain shall meet. At the risk of more public flogging, I stand by my position, and I enlist the historical record to aid in my defense. I think that the record speaks very well for itself.
It’s 1955. Rosa Parks has defied Jim Crow and refused to give her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white person, as the law required in those days. In response to her arrest, the local black community turned to a 26-year-old minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. Meetings are held to devise a plan of action. Seeking guidance and direction on how to find the most effective means of protest, Rev. King looks to one Bayard Rustin, a black, gay advocate and strategist whose writings on nonviolence have impressed the young preacher. The fact that Rustin is gay, does not discourage King one iota. King knows that Rustin is the go-to man in matters of protest and petition.
Rustin travels to meet with King that year, and the counsel King receives from a gay man of color is crucial to the birth of the modern civil-rights movement, and establishes nonviolence as the means of protest. Rustin thus changes the course of history, and all people of color who live today, free of Jim Crow’s awful depredations, may add Rustin’s name to those to be thanked for their efforts.
Two years later, American literary icon James Baldwin writes and publishes the homoerotic novel Giovanni’s Room, establishing himself as a gifted writer of early gay lit. The book is banned from publication in the United States, but becomes a wild bestseller in Europe. Baldwin becomes known as both a gifted author of color and a gay man. These facts, however, do not deter Rev. King from seeking out and including Baldwin prominently in the civil-rights struggle during the 1960s. The FBI, in an attempt to separate King from men like Baldwin and Rustin, quietly warns King that both men are gay. King replies “I will not refuse the help of such wise and gifted men. As much as anyone, they have given our cause meaning and direction.” When his words are picked up by the Associated Press, the nominating committee for the Nobel Peace Prize begins to understand that here is a man worthy of their accolades.
These are matters of undeniable fact, available for research by anyone with an Internet connection and an interest in the historical record. In spite of this, people continue to have the attitude that I speak heresy, whenever I cite the record. It is a mystery to me why so many people of color are “offended” by the idea that blacks and gays might ever share commonalities in their history. Gay men and women of color have contributed so much to the advancement of all people of color, that they are inextricably linked to the shared history of both. Conversely, people of color, through their tenacious and diligent struggles for equality, have opened the doors of tolerance for the LGBT community which would have remained locked, perhaps indefinitely.
In my studies of the art and literature of the civil-rights era, I find so many contributions to black history by gays and lesbians of color, it’s amazing. The great examination of the black experience of those days comes alive in the works of Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, and numerous others. Their cries for social justice, together with the activities of Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Rosa Parks, and the whole roll call of the era, all suggest a great need for acceptance of diversity. The sexual orientation of any or all of these great people was not an issue. Achieving the equality promised by our Constitution was the issue.
So, “how dare I suggest” a common history between people of color and the gays and lesbians among them? What issue do I address that is so uncomfortable to some? Perhaps there has never been a “gay water fountain”, or a “gay building entrance”. Yet there were barriers to equality for gays every bit as formidable as the legal and structural barriers faced by blacks under Jim Crow. There was a time when sodomy laws forbade homosexual activity in all but two states. There was a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. There were no visible, structural barriers for gays because gays were considered to be deviant, criminal, and antisocial by their very existence, regardless of their color.
As people of color suffered under Jim Crow’s reign of subjugation and terror, gays of color suffered those hardships, plus the added stigma of being black and gay. To this day, debate rages over the need for, and type of, legal protection gays and lesbians should receive. This brings me back to the beginning of this essay. Legislation such as the Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the repeal of DOMA are needed to afford the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. For people of color to wish denial of these protections to a subset of their own community, is appalling. Some people are quick to deny the struggle, perseverance and triumph of those who came before them, and whose history they all share. In so doing, they diminish the value of the whole enterprise. How dare I suggest that!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Flesh To Flesh anthology which includes my novella, Thickness, is being developed into a film series! Editor and acclaimed black gay author Lee Hayes will be holding a Casting Call for the first episode, Swingin', Saturday, August 29. Details are as follows:
Flesh to Flesh- An Erotic Series is a thriller that takes a bold and unapologetic view at the real lives of African- American gay men and lesbians. Episode 1, Swingin', focuses on a male couple in a long-term relationship who decides to spice up their sex life and the consequences that follows.
ANTHONY DIX, African-American male, late-twenties, clean-cut, good looking; a bit conservative;
JAMAL PHILLIPS, African-American male, mid-twenties, masculine with tattoos on his arm, handsome; not afraid of taking chances, slightly manipulative and sexually adventurous;
AHMAD ARMSTRONG, African-American male, late twenties, good-looking, sophisticated and very polished; carries himself in a haughty manner;
MONICA RANDALL African-American female, beautiful, edgy and stylish, in her mid-upper twenties; very personable;
ERIC STEWART African-American male, late twenties, with a toned and solid body, a bit unpolished/rough around the edges;
MARCUS JOHNSON, African-American male, mid-thirties, very distinguished-looking and charming, good body;
JAYCENT TUPPER, African-American male mid-thirties, very attractive with a beautiful smile;
ZANDAR PAIGE - African-American male, early-mid twenties, extremely good-looking and masculine; walks with a bad boy swagger and knows what he likes.
DATE: August 29 -30, 2009
TIME: Saturday, 11 am - 7 PM; Sunday, 11 am - 3 PM
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
MORE: All auditions will be by appointment only. Please submit Acting Resume and Photos to: email@example.com.
I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this project develops, and I'll keep one and all updated on its progress. Lee is advancing to new horizons, and I hope he enjoys every success!
Monday, August 17, 2009
This past Saturday, all the Ballroom Houses in NYC came out to the 19th Annual Latex Ball at the famous, fabulous Roseland Ballroom. This unforgettable event, produced by Gay Men's Health Crisis, was a spectacular success. The House Of Latex Project was created by GMHC to address the growing issue of HIV/AIDS within the ballroom community. Using the Latex Ball as a vehicle for prevention/education efforts, GMHC offered educational tabling and on-site HIV testing at the Roseland during the Ball.
As the videos below demonstrate, positive, creative ways to help our LGBT community stay safe and play safe are at once effective and encouraging. Kudos to all who worked so hard to make this yearly extravaganza a blast!
Baron never fails to please the crowd!
Luna Show Synopsis Of The Latex Ball
J'Sun Mugler on the runway...
There were 24 Ballroom Houses competing in the Latex Ball, and all of them scorched that runway with their own fierce inner fire! Can't wait for next year!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Let's go, one and all, to NYC's Mocca Lounge on Friday, August 28, for the Sights and Sounds End Of Summer Bash! Joining me as Special Guest Hosts are hip-hop artist Rugged-N-Raw, Doug, and Dork U. Presented by the incomparable hip-hop duo Rebel Starr and The Nook Party, Sights And Sounds will feature DJ Sucio Smash and Raydar Ellis. This promises to be an unforgettable, star-studded shindig! There will also be a LIVE video showcase by Noisemaker Media, and a special appearance by DJ Polarity! So make your way to Sights And Sounds, the fun begins on August 28th at 10 PM, and goes on until the riot squad arrives. Admission is free before midnight, and there'll be drink specials, too, all night long. Oh, by the way, I'm celebrating my birthday at this fine event. Gifts, feather boas, and fedoras are all optional. See you there!
Friday, August 7, 2009
Over the years, much has been written, said, and debated about the "down low", men who are outwardly straight, but secretly have sex with other men. Widely reported as a destructive double-life deception, the "down low phenomenon has gained plenty of currency in "mainstream" straight media as a hidden cause of HIV/AIDS, a despicable, cowardly way to live one's life, and the subject of numerous books, such as those written by J.L. King and news commentator Keith Boykin. These are "expose"-type books that do try to shed some light, albeit critically, on the "down low" phenomenon.
Well, while returning from a meeting today, I ran into someone I know, who has been on the "down low" for many years now. We had a fascinating discussion about this as he drove me back home from Manhattan, and it certainly got me thinking about the whole evolution of the "down low" subculture amongst gay and/or bisexual men. A little background on my friend should begin to shed some light on the reasons why he insists--with some real justification, I might add--that the "down low" is a monster created by society, and that prudence, not cowardice, keeps him (and countless others like him) in the closet. My friend "Deion" is a man of color in his late thirties, married, three kids, house on Long Island, and a detective specialist with the NYPD. He was raised right here in Queens, in a middle-class home by a well-educated, professional couple. Discovering his attraction to other men during his high school years, he says he needed absolutely no prompting in deciding to stay in the closet. His lifelong ambition was to become a member of the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit (ESU), and he understood clearly that the letters "G-A-Y" and "E-S-U" did not, and probably never would, go together.
"Deion" stayed on the "down low" all through college and into the Police academy. Following the strict, homophobic culture of New York's Finest, "Deion" maintained a very straight "public" appearance. He was keenly aware of the professional and societal pressures bearing on him to conform to accepted "norms of sexual orientation", on his quest to win a coveted detective's gold shield. He professed to a life that would meet with the approval of his parents, siblings, and NYPD colleagues and supervisors. A cop's life is closely watched, especially when the officer is known to be seeking advancement to higher levels within the department, and homosexuality is not to be tolerated. Openly gay cops have been investigated, brought up on false charges, and fired by the department, as gay former policeman Jai Aiken discovered not too long ago.
To succeed in this homophobic environment, "Deion" made a veru conscious decision to try to balance his professional life with the need to satsfy his attraction to other men. This extended to marrying and fathering children, whom he admittedly loves, but also confesses they help to cement his image as a "normal, straight husband and father". He is absolutely convinced that this facade helped him to eventually get promoted to detective. In the NYPD, there are two types of detectives. Detective Investigators are exactly what the name implies; they go out and do the traditional gumshoe work, like Briscoe and Green in Law & Order. Then there are Detective Specialists, like "Deion", who possess some critical, special, or unique skill that makes them suitable for one of the many specialized units of the NYPD. The overarching fact, is that regardless of whether you're an investigator or a specialist, the promotion to detective rank is an appointment. Unlike the management careeer ladder, in which you can earn higher rank and pay by taking a series of civil-service exams, to become a world-famous New York City Detective, you must be appointed by the Police Commisioner. As my friend notes with irony, "you can have questionable shootings in your jacket, and get by, but being gay will cause you problems." Of course, these reflect themselves as "substandard performance", rather than "gay cop".
Hence, the decision "Deion" made to stay on the "down low". While there is no shortage of people--gay, straight, and bi--who might say that "Deion" is little more than a coward living a lie, I am of the opinion that his choice is--wait for it--prudent. Now, before you start stuffing my comments with flame attacks, think about it: Given the overwhelming evidence that "Deion's" chosen profession was rife with homophobia, and that his life outside the NYPD would have been equally precarious as an out, gay, man of color, his reasoning seems understandable to me. "But what of his wife, his kids," people will point out, "Don't they deserve better than to live with someone whose life with them is a sham?" Yes, they do, but consider: the "down-low", again, is a monster we as a society created, by teaching the "wrongness" of homosexuaity to people starting at an early age. We teach it at home, in our schools, most definitely in our churches, and at our places of business. We hammer into everyone's head that gays and lesbians are "socially unacceptable", but yet we complain when someone like "Deion" copes with this onslaught of hatred by hiding what he really is?
If we'd embraced understanding and realized that gays and lesbians are contributing members of our society who deserve the respect and value every person should be accorded, and were finally awarded fundamental human rights like marriage, then maybe the "Deions" of this world could wear their gold shields and their sexuality prouldly. Let the debate begin!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
It appears that the hugely popular, highly addictive social networking site Twitter is, as they used to say on TV back in the day, "experiencing technical difficulties". The three-year old site, founded by Evan Williams and Biz Stone, is a micro-blogging site on which members answer the question "What are you doing" in "tweets" of 140 characters or less. Its runaway success is partly due to the many applications that make it possible for people to Tweet from cell phones, other websites, and multimedia venues. Many celebrities, public figures, and corporations use Twitter as a medium to reach their "followers", and as an effective marketing tool.
Twitter has even become an active participant in world affairs, as witness the use of the site to tell the world about the turbulence following Presidential elections in Iran last June. "Twitter addiction" has itself become so widespread, there's even an urban slang term for it: "twitterholic". Well, hurry back, Twitter! I need my fix.
UPDATE: The Twitter Status site confirms that Twitter is indeed down, and now Facebook is offline as well. Early reports suggest a distributed denial of service (dDOS) hacker attack as the likely cause. Stay tuned. I'm off to my Facebook/Twitterholics Anonymous emergency meeting...lol!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
If in NYC, come on out to Jubilation, New York City's Black Pride, this afternoon from 12-8 PM, and enjoy performances by me and a great gathering of fantastic artists from the LGBT community of color. It's at the Helen Mills Theater at 137-139 W. 26th Street (Between 6th and 7th Aves.) Take the 1,2,3, D, F, or PATH train to 23rd Street. See you there!