In the wake of several instances of Black Gay/Queer men and boys who losing their lives due to interpersonal and systemic violence, I decided to do a 3-part series going over a couple of particular cases that have stuck out to me, the systemic factors that led to them taking place, and the overall response to them. I’ll start off with one of the most recent cases (as of this piece being written).
[Trigger/Content Warning for anti-LGBTQ violence/murder]
On November 2, 2017, a young Black Gay teen named Giovanni Melton was murdered by his own father. This happened because Giovanni’s father “disagreed” with his sexual identity and couldn’t handle having a Gay son. There are so many layers to this that it’s hard know where to begin. And I don’t believe I’ll even be able to touch on every aspect. But one central takeaway from this whole situation: Black Gay/LGBTQ bodies are undervalued and left behind. Even in this era of so-called “Intersectionality.”
First, I believe that the widespread notion that LGBTQ identities are a simply some idea that be “disagreed” with heavily contributes to this. All of the propaganda in church of “hate the sin, love the sinner.” The posts on social media casually asking baiting questions like “what would you do if this was your son?” The way people relentlessly debase men who do anything that doesn’t fall in line with this colonized idea of masculinity. Making AIDS “jokes” at the expense of Gay/Queer men. All of these things are factors, and all of the people who contribute are complicit.
Queerness being reduced to a “lifestyle” is a trope that’s all too common. While there are various cultural aspects that have come from people within the (Black) LGBTQ community, that doesn’t make our sexual and gender identities, themselves, a “lifestyle.” Queerness is simply an innate part of our identity and being. And in a world that puts so much onto sexuality and gender, it’s a very important part of our being. So, when these identities are simply written off as a “lifestyle,” then a large chunk of our humanity is prone to being written off as well. When people say that they “disagree” with the LGBTQ “lifestyle,” they’re essentially saying they disagree with our very existence.
And since our very existence is disagreed with, well…here we are, today.
Additionally, in this colonized culture, Gayness (and anything else considered feminine) is deemed the absolute worst quality a man/boy can posses. Oftentimes in our communities, men are routinely coddled and deemed worthy of love and protection, even after committing violent acts like murder and rape. Yet, that kind of support isn’t extended to men & boys who simply exist in their authentic identity, not hurting anyone.
Centuries of colonization has defined the idea of manhood/masculinity in very rigid (and often barbaric) terms. Men tend to be socialized into toughness and violence, to a dangerously toxic degree. Therefore, men murdering or raping others is often considered forgivable. What’s not considered forgivable for men is embodying anything that falls under the antithesis of manhood: womanhood.
Anti-Gayness/Queerness is largely rooted in the (false) idea that a man being attracted to, and/or sexually involved with, another man is feminine or womanly. And since womanhood and femininity are so heavily reviled (see: misogyny), Queerness can be seen ss the most unforgivable quality in a man. This also speaks to why violence against Trans women is so common. Because Trans women were designated as men at birth, them affirming their true selves (thus, rejecting the manhood that was forced onto them) is seen as a capital offense.
In previous work, I’ve theorized that one of the biggest drivers of anti-Queerness is fear. Men not only fear embodying any qualities associated with Queerness, but even having any kind of proximity to it. This includes by way of offspring. If we’re socialized to believe that being Gay and/or feminine is among the worst things a man can be, then a parent might experience great shame because of that. They might feel like an ultimate failure as a parent (based in the idea is that Queerness is inherently a choice) and can’t stand having that constant reminder of said “failure” around. So, this combination of shame and fear my compel some people to take extreme measures to remove that reminder. Sometimes that materializes in the form of murder. More often, in the form of throwing your child out and leaving them homeless. Or it could be putting your child into some kind of “treatment” program (i.e. Conversion therapy). And often times it can be your run-of-the-mill abuse.
And it’s important recognize all of those things as the oppressive violence that they are, and that they’re all rooted in the same systems. Some people may read takes like these and think that we’re over-exaggerating. That this is simply a one-off incident that shouldn’t be painted into a systemic problem…particularly, since Gay/Queer men aren’t literally being murdered everyday. These people don’t have the range and I’d strongly suggest looking at the bigger picture. We need to realize that violence can take many forms. In a world where almost half of america’s homeless youth are LGBTQ (and a disproportionate amount of those are Black), we can’t look at anti-LGBTQ violence through a limited lens.
Going along with this thought, I went on Twitter and asked the following question of my followers: “If you identify as LGBTQ, have you ever gotten a (direct or implied) death threat from a parent/guardian, based on said identity?” My mentions were so flooded with responses that I couldn’t keep track of all the notifications. I also received several anonymous responses via DM’s. The overwhelming majority response, essentially, was “Yes…and if it not, might as well have been.”
There’s clearly a pervasive culture of anti-Queerness and it materializes in many ways. And in the Black community it can be even more tenuous, given how issues around Queerness and masculinity intersect with institutional anti-Blackness. Sadly, because Wendell Melton is emotionally-stunted trash who couldn’t work through his own personal issues around how he was socialized to view Queerness and masculinity, an innocent boy had to pay the price**. Until we’re willing to get serious about dissecting the ways that patriarchy harms our community (more on this later in the series), this kind of violence will continue.
We have to become more willing to unpack the ways that colonialism informs Black masculinity. We have to examine how it normalizes violence. Our communities must take a firm stance that anything less than affirmation of Queer and Trans identities is unacceptable. We have to be intentional in affirming Black lives in every variation that they come in. Only then can all of these instances of intraracial anti-LGBTQ violence cease.
**Just a final note, for any potential parents out there. If you wanna be hateful, bigoted garbage, that’s on you. But at least have the decency to not have kids. Don’t make innocent children suffer because you refuse to check your ego and unlearn toxic views.
Checkout part 2 of this series, where I discuss the death (likely murder) of Gemmel Moore, a Black Gay sex worker, and the ways in which anti-Blackness in the Gay community contributed.
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