Divided We Fail

#BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #GayPride are most likely to succeed if it’s together.

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Photo: flickr/Alisdare Hickson

I hate to borrow from Taylor Swift, but here I go. If hell exists, there must be a special place in it for people in marginalized groups who don’t support and look out for people in other marginalized groups.

There must be an out-of-control raging fire waiting down below for gay men who casually use racist language in their Grindr profiles (Sorry, but “No Asians” qualifies) or the ones who don’t but are still complicit in gay racism by condoning it or pretending it doesn’t exist — or matter.

The multi-tasking devil must be turning up the heat for guys in marginalized minorities who promote misogyny and sexism. Meanwhile, he must be prepping the coals for women who stand by their homophobic men or carelessly devalue the LGBTQ community all on their own.

And to my fellow blacks who think it’s OK to abuse and disrespect women or ridicule and shun gay people — including rappers who rhyme about “faggots” and “queers,” their fans who tolerate it, and Bible thumpers who think they read something damning LGBTQ in the scriptures — beware the burning flames. Hell will be lit up for you, too.

OK, maybe I’m overplaying the fire and brimstone. Even in the absence of a hell, though, if karma is the bitch everyone says she is, she might be coming for us all. Life on earth won’t be truly good for any of our marginalized groups until united we stand, because divided, we’ll surely fail — and fall.

Lust and racism on Grindr

Gay men have been flirting with hypocrisy for years, but the Grindr age has magnified it exponentially, while depreciating the gay pride for which we’ve fought so hard.

We cherry pick on hook-up apps based on race, using filters and discriminatory language like “No [insert undesirable here]” as a virtual velvet rope: “No Asians.” “No blacks.” “No whites.” “No femmes.” “No fatties.” “No oldies.” Do not cross the line. Access denied. For many, Grindr and Scruff have become app equivalents of restricted clubs, where some guys don’t even want to see your hideous face if you don’t meet their standards of sex appeal.

“Relax, it’s only a hook-up app” and “We’re entitled to our preferences,” they say in their own defense. They’re either ignorant of how open discrimination can effect the psyches of those it casts out, or unconcerned about the harmful and hurtful tropes many of them are reflecting and perpetuating.

“No blacks,” “No Asians,” and “Whites only” are tantamount to “Anything not Caucasian is ugly.” “No femmes,” “masc/real men only,” and “straight-acting” imply that you’re less than a man if you’re not hyper-masculine. “No oldies” and “No fatties” are just condescending and cruel.

It’s like gay men with their attraction checklists succumb to temporary amnesia, completely forgetting what it’s like to live in a straight world where “No gays” is often implied, if not stated outright, and how some of us used to feel when we were the last ones picked for the teams in P.E. class.

Are we going to defend straight people who don’t want gays around their children, or those who refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay couples, as being entitled to their preferences based on sexual orientation? No? Then we need to stop defending our own prejudices by filing them under “preferences.”

Our desire may be our business, but it’s disingenuous to openly hang it solely on race, age, size, and level of masculinity (or a combination of them) and plead “preference” while castigating straight people who prefer to keep gay people on the other side of their velvet rope. We compromise our credibility as gay activists when we’re apathetic to the marginalized in our own community, clinging to narrow hierarchies of beauty and sex appeal in bold print.

Black homophobia

The apathy goes in both directions. Some blacks are so focused on their own cause that they apparently couldn’t care less about other marginalized causes that parallel their own but are not their own.

Last year I wrote an essay for Australia’s SBS on Dave Chappelle in which I called him out for turning discrimination into a sort of competition. The race was on with Caitlyn Jenner’s heroine’s welcome on the cover of Vanity Fair in 2015.

“I was shocked,” Chappelle said on his Netflix special, The Age of Spin: Live at the Hollywood Palladium. “Is this happening? Wait a minute. Is this a time in American history when an American can make a decision for themselves, and even though other Americans don’t understand it, they’ll support it and let this person live a happy life?

“Is this what’s happening? If it is, then good for America. That’s Dave Chappelle, the American.

“Although Dave Chappelle, the black American, he was a little jealous,” he continued. “I said, how the fuck are transgender people beating black people in the discrimination Olympics. If the police shot half as many transgenders as they did niggas last year, there’d be a fucking war in L.A.”

Chapelle’s riff, I wrote, “highlights minority divides that nearly everyone has been ignoring for years.”

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen the black community go after former The Bold and the Beautiful soap star Windsor Harmon for sharing a meme on Twitter that compared black Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, 80, to a sci-fi monster.

We’ve also seen the black community unite to annihilate Australian artist Mark Wright over his cartoon for Melbourne, Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper in which he depicted tennis superstar Serena Williams as an overweight angry black woman with “Sambo”-like features.

But where was the black outrage when Eminem called Tyler, The Creator a “faggot” on “Fall,” the first single from his new album Kamikaze? When Nicki Minaj rapped about “sissies” and then ridiculed fellow rapper Young Thug for wearing dresses and mocked the “gay lisp” on, respectively (but not respectfully), “Majesty” and “Barbie Dreams,” tracks two and three on her new album Queen? When Offset rapped “I cannot vibe with queers” and then claimed he meant “queer” as in “strange” or “odd.”

What about women like Minaj and Cardi B who rationalize rap homophobia and women like Minaj and Kim Kardashian who casually toss off homophobic slurs while claiming they have nothing but love for gays. Hey, ladies, straight men who sexually harass and abuse women have mothers and sisters and wives and girlfriends and female friends. They claim the same thing about the women in their lives. That doesn’t mean they respect women as their equals.

Tyson Beckford had no right to comment on Kim Kardashian’s right hip, but the minute she referred to him as “sis” in response, she was making a statement about how she feels about effeminate men. Clearly, to her, they’re less-than men.

Beckford’s Instagram response — “Train 5–6 days a wk, weights Martial Arts and Firearms and I defend those who can’t defend themselves! I support LGBTQ, even though I’m not Gay. It’s just the Human thing to do. #blackexcellence #tysonbeckford #lgbt #superhero #realsuperhero” — was yet another instance of a black celebrity subtly and casually diminishing gay men.

The #MeToo vacuum

The #MeToo movement has been probably the most important social development of the past year, yet it sometimes feels as inclusive as Beckford’s idea of manhood. It seems to be mostly about straight white women, exhibiting the same narrow focus for which some criticize #BlackLivesMatter.

A more inclusive #MeToo might deter black female hip-hop and R&B fans from buying/downloading/streaming the music of alleged abusers like R. Kelly and the late XXXTentacion and confirmed ones like Chris Brown. It might attempt to curb the rampant misogyny in rap while continuing to go after Hollywood elites.

Meanwhile, a more racially aware and vocal-about-it gay community might inspire more reciprocity from the black community and inspire black female rap fans to get out of neutral when it comes to hip-hop homophobia.

Women historically have been among the staunchest supporters of gay men in private everyday life, yet it’s amazing how publicly insensitive presumed feminists like Minaj and Kardashian can be. Iggy Azalea, who likes to present herself as a paragon of enlightenment and superiority, apparently didn’t have a problem with Eminem until he called her a “ho” on his September 14 release “Killshot.”

To at least one presumed feminist (and an even bigger self-anointed paragon of enlightenment and superiority than Azalea), gay men are a bigger threat to the well-being of women than the straight men who harass and assault them. In 2014, #MeToo torchbearer Rose McGowan blasted us for not doing more to help the cause of women, actually going so far as to say we are more misogynistic than straight men.

“I think it’s what happens to you as a group when you are starting to get most of what you fought for? What do you do now? What I would hope they would do is extend a hand to women. Women, by and large, have very much helped the gay community get to where they are today,” McGowan said on author Bret Easton Ellis’s podcast.

Did gay men overcome in 2014 and nobody told me?

And what has McGowan done lately — or ever — to help the cause of gay men? Yes, we get it. She’s angry. She’s always angry. But today, as then, her rage exists in this vacuum where nothing but her cause (in 2014, human rights abuses against women in Arab states, and in 2018, #MeToo), her ideas, and her judgment seem to matter.

United we soar

It’s the sort of one-track me-first fury that gave us President Donald Trump. Some voters were so angry and frustrated about their own well-being, their own economic situation, their own future, that “me” became the only thing that mattered.

Even if they found Trump’s political incorrectness disturbing, if he could replenish their coffers by running the government like a business, they could overlook all those other pesky shortcomings, like his megalomania, his toddler disposition, and his overall incompetence.

How did that work out for any of us? If people in marginalized groups, including the poor, were as dedicated to looking out for each other as they are to looking out for themselves, maybe we wouldn’t have President Donald Trump. It is, in part, our apathy that got him elected and led us to where we are now, scrambling for lifeboats to escape a ship of fools that’s sinking under the weight of his ineptitude.

If people in marginalized groups were as dedicated to looking out for each other as they are to looking out for themselves, maybe we wouldn’t have President Donald Trump.

I’m still trying to process the unfathomable reality of Blacks for Trump, Women for Trump, Gays for Trump, and so on. If we were more united, as mindful of each other’s interests as we are of our own, would the number of Trump supporters in marginalized groups dwindle to next to no-one?

As the black, gay son of U.S. immigrants, I’ve been able to overcome many of the obstacles stacked against me and thrive during both Democratic and Republican Presidential administrations. Still, I can’t possibly get behind a leader who refuses to condemn white supremacists, insists on building walls to keep dark-skinned foreigners out of the country, doesn’t care about gay people (Vice-President Mike Pence is proof of that), and boasts about grabbing women by the pussy. How could the same era that spawned #MeToo also have spawned “President Donald Trump”?

At this stage in American history when those of us who aren’t straight, white, male, and born in the U.S.A. face increased discrimination and hate, it’s more important than ever that we’re not just woke on our own behalf.

We’d be so much more formidable flexing together than in our bubbles. Let’s lift up our own causes — whether it’s #BlackLivesMatter, #GayPride, #MeToo, or that of any other marginalized group — by lifting up each other’s.

Written by

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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