Showing posts with label Gay and Black. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay and Black. Show all posts

October 9, 2019

Growing Up Black and Gay Equals Hurt But The Experience Can Also Empower You

CreditCreditJon Premosch
Previous on Adamfoxie Blog {Heavy, Thick, Black Gay Men in Love. The Points these postings are making, apply to blacks but also to those that are tossed to the side as if they were bad weeds. Adam

By Saeed Jones
Roughly midway through the poet Saeed Jones’s devastating memoir, “How We Fight for Our Lives,” we meet “the Botanist,” who lives in an apartment decorated with tropical trees, lion statuettes and Christmas ornaments dangling from Tiffany lamps. Despite the camp décor, the Botanist advertises himself as “straight-acting” on his online profile, which piques the interest of Jones, then a student at Western Kentucky University. They agree to meet for some meaningless sex, the kind that is scorched with meaning.
This isn’t Jones’s first rodeo. After growing up believing that “being a black gay boy is a death wish,” he takes to openly gay collegiate life with a “ferocity” that alarms his college friends. Jones finds “power in being a spectacle, even a miserable spectacle,” and sex with strangers — “I buried myself in the bodies of other men,” he writes — become a sport at which he would surely win championships. Each man offers Jones a chance at validation and reinvention. There are countless roles to play: a college athlete, a preacher’s son, a high school crush finally willing to reciprocate.
When the Botanist asks Jones his name, he lies and says “Cody.” It’s a psychologically salient deception. Cody was the name of the first straight boy Jones ever coveted, and also the first one to call him a “faggot.” Jones was 12 when that happened, and he didn’t take the insult lightly. He beat his fists against a door that separated him from the slender, acne-covered boy who held so much power over him until he couldn’t feel his hands anymore. “I felt like I’d been split open,” Jones writes. Still, the insult was “almost a relief: Someone had finally said it.”
Like many gay boys before him, Jones eroticized his shame. He dreamed about Cody insulting him as the boy undressed. “‘Faggot’ swallowed him whole and spit him back out as a wet dream,” Jones writes, one of the countless sentences in a moving and bracingly honest memoir that reads like fevered poetry.
Years later, in the Botanist’s junglelike bedroom, Jones channels Cody’s indifference and cruelty. He condescendingly scans the Botanist’s body and then tries to “[expletive] my hurt into him.” The Botanist, meanwhile, reciprocates by calling Jones the N-word. “It wasn’t enough to hate myself,” Jones makes clear. “I wanted to hear it.” Jones keeps returning to the jungle, to his antagonist with benefits. “It’s possible,” he writes, “for two men to become addicted to the damage they do to each other.”
Remarkably, sex with the Botanist is not the darkest you’ll read about in this short book long on human failing. That distinction belongs to Jones’s encounter with a supposedly straight college student, Daniel, during a future-themed party. At the end of the night, Daniel has sex with Jones before assaulting him. “You’re already dead,” Daniel says over and over again as he pummels Jones in the stomach and face.
The way Jones writes about the assault might come as a surprise to his many followers on Twitter, where he is a prolific and self-described “caustic” presence who suffers no fools. As a memoirist, though, Jones isn’t interested in score-settling. He portrays Daniel instead as deeply wounded, a man who cries as he assaults him and who “feared and raged against himself.” Jones recognizes “so much more of myself in him than I ever could’ve expected,” and when he looks up at Daniel during the attack, he doesn’t “see a gay basher; I saw a man who thought he was fighting for his life.” It’s a generous and humane take, one that might strike some as politically problematic — and others as a case of Stockholm syndrome.
If there’s surprisingly little blame to go around in a book with so much potential for it, there’s also a curious lack of context. Except for passages about the deaths of James Byrd Jr., a black Texan who was chained to the back of a truck by white supremacists and dragged to his death in 1998, and Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student who was beaten and left to die that same year, Jones’s memoir, which is structured as a series of date-stamped vignettes, exists largely separate from the culture of each time period. That decision keeps the reader in a kind of hypnotic, claustrophobic trance, where all that seems to matter is Jones’s dexterous storytelling.
But I sometimes wanted more. How did he engage with the politics and world outside his immediate family and community? What messages did a young Jones, who would grow up to become a BuzzFeed editor and a leading voice on identity issues, internalize or reject?
That’s not to say that “How We Fight for Our Lives” is devoid of introspection or searing cultural commentary, particularly about race and sexuality. “There should be a hundred words in our language for all the ways a black boy can lie awake at night,” Jones writes early in the book. Later, when explaining his need to sexualize and “shame one straight man after another,” he explains that “if America was going to hate me for being black and gay, then I might as well make a weapon out of myself.”
Jones is fascinated by power (who has it, how and why we deploy it), but he seems equally interested in tenderness and frailty. We wound and save one another, we try our best, we leave too much unsaid. All of that is evident in Jones’s relationship with his single mother, a Buddhist who leaves notes every day in his lunch box, signing them “I love you more than the air I breathe.” Jones’s mother is his champion, and though there’s a distance between them they struggle to resolve, they’re deeply connected — partly by their shared outsider status.
In an especially powerful passage, one that connects the author’s sexuality with his mother’s Buddhism, Jones’s grandmother drags a young Jones to an evangelical Memphis church. Kneeling next to his grandmother at the pulpit, he listens as the preacher announces that “his mother has chosen the path of Satan and decided to pull him down too.” The preacher prays aloud for God to punish Jones’s mother, to make her sick. Jones is stunned into silence. “If only I could grab the fire blazing through me and hold on to it long enough to roar back,” he writes.
It’s one of the last times, it seems, that Jones will keep quiet when he wants to roar.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis is an associate professor at Emerson College and a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine. He is at work on a book about people who experience radical changes to their identities and belief systems.

October 5, 2019

'Heavy, Thick Black and Gay Men in Love and We Want The World To Know'

Tyler Hightower posted a picture of him kissing his boyfriend, Ahdeem Tinsley, to Twitter, in a now-viral post.
Tyler Hightower posted a picture of him kissing his boyfriend, Ahdeem Tinsley, to Twitter.  Courtesy Tyler Hightower

By Gwen Aviles
Just a few days ago, Tyler Hightower had only 40 Twitter followers. Now, he said his Apple Watch won't stop buzzing to alert him about replies people are leaving to a photo of him and his boyfriend sharing a kiss.
“Posting this because of representation matters. The black, gay, and happy world is out here!” Hightower wrote in an Oct. 1 tweet that has since gone viral. “We live together and have two cats. … We are at our 1 year and 8th-month mark and still going strong!”
Hightower, a cancer research coordinator, and his boyfriend, Ahdeem Tinsley, a construction manager, met about two years ago through a dating app. They started off as friends who would chat over drinks, but at some point, Hightower, 26, realized he wanted more.
“I realized this was insane: This was someone I couldn’t get enough of and who understood me on so many levels, and I didn’t want to wait any longer,” he told NBC News. “I said to him, 'You and I are dating.'”
The couple moved in together with their cats, Buddy and Gigi, in Philadelphia. On their anniversary — the night the viral picture was taken — they got matching tattoos on their forearms with each other’s initials and the date. After seeing another black gay couple post a picture on Twitter, Hightower realized the salience of representation and decided to post one of his own. In just two days, the tweeted photo garnered more than 100,000 likes, 12,000 retweets, and countless comments.
“The responses have been awe-inspiring,” Hightower said. “People are replying saying that the picture made their day and that they didn’t know there was love for people like them.”
In the LGBTQ community, according to Hightower, “classically attractive white gay men” receive the most representation, which excludes others who may not fit that paradigm. As a result, he wanted to show others that people like him and his partner are “out here, working and living and falling in love.”
“Part of our identity is being fat, heavy, thick, black and gay men, and we want all people to know that no matter your size, color or religion, be yourself and live authentically, and you will find love,” Hightower said. “I’d been closeted for a very long time, and now I’ve found true happiness.”

December 13, 2018

Close Sexual Groups/Networks Are Responsible for the High HIV Rates on The Gay Black Community


By Tim Fitzsimons( reports on LGBTQ news for NBC Out.)
Young black men who have sex with men (MSM) face a disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV because of “dense sexual networks” and other structural factors, not high-risk sexual activities, according to a new study conducted by Northwestern University.
The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes, surveyed MSM in Chicago and found young black MSM in the city are 16 times more likely to have HIV than their white counterparts, despite lower numbers of sexual partners, less unsafe sex and more frequent testing for HIV.
“Our study illuminates how HIV disparities emerge from complex social and sexual networks and inequalities in access to medical care for those who are HIV positive,” said senior study author Brian Mustanski, a professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and director of its Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing.
“Their social and sexual networks are more dense and interconnected, which from an infectious disease standpoint makes infections transmitted more efficiently through the group,” Mustanski said in a statement shared with NBC News. “That, coupled with the higher HIV prevalence in the population, means any sexual act has a higher chance of HIV transmission.” Other factors that researchers probed were stigma, victimization, traumatic experiences and sexual abuse. Young black MSM reported the highest rates of these risk factors, which, according to study co-author Michael Newcomb, contribute to the “difficulty in establishing viral suppression.”
Young black MSM, according to Newcomb, were also found to be the “most likely to have sex with people of their own race.” This, he added, means “it takes HIV less time to travel around that network, particularly if prevalence is already higher and viral suppression is already lower.” He also noted that there is stark racial and geographical segregation between white and black men who have sex with them in Chicago, which is a contributing factor.
While he Northwestern study looked specifically at Chicago, Mustanski said the higher incidence of HIV among young black MSM can be extrapolated in varying degrees to other parts of the country.
“National data also shows big differences in the rate of HIV diagnosis between black and white young gay men. There are large differences consistently found across different parts of the U.S.,” he explained. “In some cities, it’s three to five times higher; in other cities it’s as much as 20 times higher.”
Mustanski said the difference is particularly pronounced in the South, which is most impacted by new HIV diagnoses. “There is a history of large racial disparities in the South in terms of access to health care, poverty and education,” he said. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that, if trends were to continue, half of all black gay men will acquire HIV in their lifetimes. But some places, like New York City, have made an impact on HIV incidence in black and Latino MSM populations, even while other places have seen disparities worsen.
Newcomb said this new study finally provides data to support what had up to this point been a widely held hypothesis: that the dense, segregated sexual networks of young black men who have sex with men are the main drivers of their higher HIV rates.
Ethan Morgan, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern’s Institute of Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing and another of the study’s authors, said by learning more about young black MSM social networks, “we can better understand what drives such persistent racial disparities in HIV — and close that gap.”
Phill Wilson, president, and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute said he was not surprised by the study’s findings.
“If I am a black gay man and primarily sexually active with other black gay men, that fact alone puts me at higher risk,” Wilson explained. “If I am a white gay man, and I usually protect myself, and in the heat of a night I have an experience, my price for that experience is not the same as the price is if I am a young black gay man.” Because of “dense sexual networks,” which were pointed out in the Northwestern study, Wilson said a gay black man who “has one slip” by having unprotected sex with another gay black man has a higher chance of a “lifelong diagnosis, and then furthermore, he’s demonized.”
“You have folks who don't have as much information about things like TasP or PrEP or PEP, or even behavioral interventions,” he said, referencing new prevention methods that use HIV medications to eliminate the risk of HIV transmission.
“To be completely honest, the messenger matters, and there’s an infrastructure within black MSM communities,” said Wilson. “We are not going to solve the problem among this population unless and until institutions that are about, and by, and for them are properly, sufficiently supported with the infrastructure they need to succeed.”
Wilson pointed to proactive efforts by African-American community organizations like his own as a solution. Since opening a PrEP clinic, the Black AIDS Institute has increased the number PrEP-using black gay men in Los Angeles County by 50 percent, he said.

August 10, 2018

Black Gay and Becoming Visible (The New York Times)

Darnell L. MooreCreditEric Carter 
By Ijeoma Oluo

Coming of Age Black and Free in America 
By Darnell L. Moore  

The famous opening words of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” — “I am an invisible man … invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me” — have long resonated with many black people in the United States. The idea of blackness, crafted by generations of white supremacy, has been paralyzing and narrow. Black Americans have struggled to free themselves of these limited expectations, to transcend being seen simply as the brutish thug on the corner, the sassy and strong black woman, the cheerfully selfless mammy, or the mindless entertainer. This invisibility, denying the complexity of who we really are as human beings, has constantly threatened our own sense of self and undermined our ability to realize our full potential — as well as provided a justification for centuries of societal and institutional abuse and exploitation.

But for L.G.B.T.Q. black folk, it has been worse, a double bind. Not only have they had to contend with racism, disabling as it is for all black people, but their identities as queer and trans living in a patriarchal and dominantly heterosexual world has added an extra burden, including one often imposed by their own communities. It’s a further assault on the psyche.

In “No Ashes in the Fire,” Darnell Moore writes a deeply personal memoir of growing up in the crosshairs of racism and homophobia in Camden, N.J., in the 1980s and ’90s. Walking us through his early life as a gay black child of an impoverished 16-year-old mother and 15-year-old father, Moore shows the brutality that many young, queer black people face. We see the bias of teachers, the violent encounters with the police, the underfunding of majority-minority schools, the dehumanizing desperation of systemic poverty and the violence of neighborhood bullies.

It is a harsh environment, yet the most pervasive violence in this book is not physical — it’s the violence of erasure. As a boy trying to be seen for his academic talents in a world that expects little more than anger from black boys, as a boy trying to understand his sexuality in a world that sees black men as symbols of hyper-heterosexuality, Moore is constantly forced to choose between safety and identity — often with dangerous consequences either way. The amount of mental energy it takes to constantly re-evaluate how much of yourself you can expose is soul-crushing. 

This personal struggle also gives him insight. “I am a black man who has loved and been intimate with men and women, a black man who defies societal norms, a black man who grew up in the age of hip-hop and AIDS, and a black man from the hood,” Moore writes. “I couldn’t write a memoir full of life stories without animating all the invisible, and not-so-hidden, forces that rendered my blackness criminal, my black manhood vile, my black queerness sinful, and my black city hood.”

But despite the shocking cruelty depicted in this book, Moore also infuses the pages with great humanity — humanity capable of great horror and even greater beauty. Moore’s descriptions of parental hands that could be a source of love as well as pain reminded me of some of the most beautiful scenes in “Moonlight,” a film that also revealed the young life of a queer black man. And the honest affection that Moore shows for the black women in his life who carried him through the hardest of times, and the black queer community that helped him find his way to loving his whole self, keeps the book from drowning in the bleak reality he describes.

The reader will arrive at the end of this book with a respect for Moore and the many levels of self-realization he has reached, excited to see his already admirable career as a writer, advocate and activist continue to grow. I found myself thinking of all of the black boys I grew up with who also seemed invisible. The boys who were told that their creativity, their softness, their queerness and their beauty were incompatible with their blackness. They will certainly see themselves in Moore’s story and, let’s hope, feel a little bit less alone EDITORS’ PICKS Ijeoma Oluo is the author of “So You Want to Talk About Race.”

Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and TwitterA version of this article appears in print on
 , on Page 14 of the Sunday Book Review

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