This is the 3rd of a multi-part series, where I highlight how this system often works against men/boys who live in the intersection of Blackness and Queerness. In the first part, I discussed the murder of Giovanni Melton, a 14 year-old boy killed by his own father. The second part goes over the case of Gemmel Moore, murdered by an affluent white Gay man. Here, I’ll be discussing the overall theme, of how the general disregard for Black LGBTQ people enabled both of these tragedies.
I decided to focus on the murders of Giovanni and Gemmel because I felt like both cases, together, highlight conflict that all Black Gay men (and Black LGBTQ folks, overall) face. There’s risk of discrimination, erasure and violence in most any space that we’re in. There’s anti-Blackness in many LGBTQ spaces, and anti-Queerness in many Black spaces.
Black LGBTQ folks are constantly put in a position of having to choose between race and sexual/gender identity. Worse, not only are we expected to “pick a side,” but it never is to benefit us. WhiteGayze™ expect us to fight for Gay/LGBTQ causes through a white-centered lens, with no regards to race. Black people (primarily cisgender & heterosexual) expect us to fight for Black causes, but through the lens of cishet men (i.e. “Race first”**), with no regards to sexual/gender identity. And any time we try to fully affirm ourselves, we’re labeled a “distraction.”
Truth of the matter is, the goal isn’t to advance true liberation by subverting white supremacist, colonial systems. The real goal of many people is to see Black cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men and/or WhiteGayze™ sit in the position that white, cishet, able-bodied men currently hold. And they want us to happily and quietly take every bit of their abuse in the process.
All that being said, this is stuff that I’ve covered, in various forms, through previously-published work. I no longer have much interest in dragging white people (Gays included…I’ve done that enough already) or outwardly hateful Black cishets. Not only have I grown completely tired of expending energy trying to reach them (especially when they wouldn’t listen to a “nigger” or a “faggot” anyway), but again…been there, done that.
The people who I’m interested in discussing, here, are the ones who purport to be “woke” and/or “allies.” Those who will openly declare “ALL Black Lives Matter” because they know, in this era of “woke” being trendy, that’ll get them a few easy fans on social media. Yet have clearly demonstrated a total lack of interest in putting in actual work towards defending and affirming the humanity of Black LGBTQ people.
Many “activists” love to scream cute terms and phrases like “intersectionality” and “All Black Lives Matter” for retweets, likes and follows. However, the same, typical erasure remains, in actual practice. Black cishet people love to claim “allyship” to the LGBTQ folks in our communities in order to score (what I like to call) “woke points.” But when it comes time to put that cute rhetoric to action in ways that actually matter? Radio silence.
One shared issue between the murders of Giovanni Melton and Gemmel Moore was the general response on social media…or lack thereof. Much of the (already lacking) discourse around Giovanni had died down, within a week of his murder happening. It was as if the Black community knew this highlighted a serious issue…and decided to unsee it as quickly as possible. And not only did the news around Gemmel’s murder get out much slower, but it’s drawn little outrage. Granted, in the case of Gemmel, a poor Black Gay man associated with sex work,just isn’t gonna immediately inspire much sympathy (a key reason white men like Ed Buck target and prey on them).
However, Gemmel’s story finally started to draw some decent traction—particularly, among Black people—when The Root published an article on him on 11/13/2017…months after the fact. Even worse, the article, written by Michael Harriot, was so badly filled with inaccuracies and lies, that Jasmyne Cannick—media consultant for Gemmel’s family and foremost journalist for this case—had to contact Harriot directly, as well as release a public statement, calling for the numerous errors to be corrected. The piece was quietly edited later that week, but Harriot and The Root never offered a public apology or retraction for their shoddy reporting on this case…thus, maximizing the likelihood that The Root’s readers are now going around with twisted facts around what happened to Gemmel.
It’s clear to me, from the way that the article was presented (i.e. The headline never mentioning Gemmel’s name, but making sure to refer to him as a “prostitute”), to the general lack of attention that Harriot and The Root give to Black LGBTQ folks, that this wasn’t written to raise awareness or affirm anyone, but to be provocative and draw clicks for revenue. If that sounds familiar, it should. This is the exact same thing that white publications do to Black people, constantly.
I’ve been active on social media long enough to see that most “allyship” from Black cishets is just, plain terrible. Any time outwardly bigoted Black cishets attack us on social media, many of these so-called “woke allies” (especially ones with large followings) are nowhere to be found. We might get a passing affirmation every once in a while (but again, only when it’s done in a way that’ll score a few “woke points”), but far too many folks are not remotely intentional about centering Black LGBTQ identities. Certainly, not in a way that these “radical” politics that they love to claim would suggest.
I believe that many people who claim Black Queer Feminism in theory, actually embody Black Nationalism (think Umar Johnson) in practice. People don’t wanna truly liberate themselves of these existing systems, because there are hierarchies that allow them to maintain a sense of power.
In fact, I’ve personally theorized that one of the biggest obstacles to Black liberation isn’t outright white supremacists, but Black Nationalism. The patriarchs, or “hoteps.” Not only is their ideology toxic, in that it aims to maintain most all existing, oppressive systems (just with Black, able-bodied, cishet men at the helm, instead of white counterparts), but it’s catchy and easy to latch onto. A Black Queer Feminist politic requires a radical rethinking of virtually everything we’ve been socialized to believe. Meanwhile, a Black Nationalist politic doesn’t require nearly as much thought or effort. It doesn’t challenge existing thoughts or systems to nearly the same degree.
People like me are in the business of selling Black Queer Feminism to folks who have likely been led to believe that both Queerness and Feminism were creations of white supremacy to subvert “The Black (cishet) Man” (false, in both cases). I find that a greater challenge than convincing Black people that whiteness is evil and irredeemable.
So, a lot of these “woke” Black people (cishet Black men, in particular) will try and play both sides. They want the popularity and “woke points” that come with claiming to support Black LGBTQ people (in easy, vapid ways). But they don’t wanna risk the loss of social capital that comes with checking their outwardly anti-LGBTQ peers. They also want the (false) sense of power that comes with Black Nationalism.
Reality is, Black cishets, even when fully cognizant of the issues at hand, are often more concerned with preserving their image and egos than centering more marginalized Black people…even as we face persecution and death. If anyone knows how to reach people that far gone, I’m all ears.
**While we’re here, I just wanna quickly point out how laughable “Race First” politics are, as well as the people who push them. Of course, there’s the basic fact that liberation for us can’t happen without affirming every oppressed identity and experience that a Black person could hold. But beyond that, I’ve seen, time and time again, that these very same people who claim to be “race first,” will happily collude with outright white supremacists to shit on Black women and Black LGBTQ people. They’re literally choosing to play nice with anti-Blackness at the expense of their own race. It’s not “race” that these people want put first, it’s cishet maleness. The concept is a joke from every, conceivable angle.
I have a bit more to say on this topic to wrap it all together. Stay tuned for the final part of this series, where I continue to explore the ways that groups within the Black community fail to uplift LGBTQ identities…including cishet Black men, Black Feminists, and Black LGBTQ folks, ourselves. I’ll also discuss how we can all do better to help ensure that these kinds of tragedies don’t continue.
(Yeah, I know I said 3 parts at first, but…oh well. I’m verbose as fuck and you’ll deal)
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