I do not wake up with aspirations of being black or gay. I already am. I wake up with aspirations of finding love, achieving dreams, fulfilling fantasies and changing lives. As a fiction writer, I look to create stories that speak to more than sexuality and skin color. Yes, I live my everyday life within the context of the black experience–as a black gay man–but one of the symptoms of living in a society inundated with white privilege is knowing that it is too lazy to consider you more than its social categories or stereotypical plights.
In reality, we live in a time when the experiences of black people are mostly relegated to images of tragedy. I acknowledge the level of importance it is that we continue to push the truth in which many people of color live every day–straight and gay. As community editor of Colorlines, this is a huge part of my every day mission. Reminding the world of the affects systemic and cultural racism has on LGBTQ people of color is a part of my job. But speaking from the lens of a creative–a writer tasked with documenting the human condition and experiences as I see them–I also understand that our actual stories are not always riddled with turmoil as the media may portray them to be. LGBTQ people of color are creative, hopeful, well-learned, and at times buoyantly empathetic. Where is the content that shows us in this light?
Not all black gay men are either fairies or homothugs. Not all lesbians are butches. Although HIV is a very real problem within the gay community–particularly among people of color–we’re not all struggling with it. We’re not all trolling the internet for “tea” and calling women “bish” and we’re most certainly not this seemingly aloof group of people that only think about sex, Love & Hip Hop and Beyonce. We are a diverse group of people who understand what its like to be black and gay beyond the stereotype boxes that grab the most attention.
My inherent desires, intricacies of my character, are not simply relegated to a banal social or sexual experience.
For example, for Gay Pride this year, I set out to shoot real perspectives of six LGBTQ people of color. I began with the goal of showing us smiling, laughing and as people who desire to live life just as our white counterparts–with equal justice, respect and attention to our aspirations. In the video, we discussed how they celebrate Gay Pride, what their first Pride experience was like, and whether they believe Gay Pride is for white people.
I concede that the last question was a rhetorical question. Every person of color I’ve met would answer in some variation of “yes.” What was interesting was capturing candid footage that shows a deep understanding of what it is like to be at the intersection of black and gay, while most of our conversation behind the camera was about their aspirations in spite of the social or economic barriers associated with their lifestyle. This was a moment where the stories of LGBTQ people of color could reach beyond what we already know and into what we do not completely acknowledge or discuss.
In a 1984 Paris Review interview with Jordan Elgrably, James Baldwin said it best.
When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out.