April 27, 2011

LGBTQ erasure and the hunt for the elusive Good Black Man (TM)

I don't normally talk about the intersections of race and sexuality that much. It's not for lack of awareness, but all too often, the commentary I make can be abused by people who don't know and/or don't care about the broader context. There are people who have a vested interest in seeing Black people as uniquely sexist, misogynist, and homophobic and would take what I say as ammunition to fire that charge. Being that I am Black and woman and queer, I would be less than thrilled if such a thing were to come about.

Cyberstalking trolls take note.

That said, I'd like to address a really persistent meme that keeps going around about Black women and what we want out of life. It goes like this: every Black woman is desperately searching for Good Black Man (TM) to make her life complete. Everything she is and everything she does is made to snag such a rare and elusive creature. He must (among other things):
  • make good money
  • have good looks
  • be Christian
  • have no Baby Mama Drama
  • love his mother without clinging to her
  • be straight
I'm not knocking anyone for having standards about what they're looking for in a life partner. But there's a stark difference between an individual sharing their desires and the sort of stuff that gets shoved at people as being important to the lives of all Black women. There's nothing wrong with straight Black women who want to start families with straight Black men who share their values and don't come with a lot of extraneous baggage. But when that's the only story that gets circulated? Then we have a problem.

In the case of the hunt for the rare and elusive Good Black Man (TM), it's a problem because the assumptions involved in that conversation cut out pretty much every Black person who is not cisgender and heterosexual. Oh, it's never as blatant as "no homos allowed," but not formally excluding Black LGBTQs is not the same as including Black LGBTQs. Saying, "I don't have a problem with the gay lifestyle" is not the same as inviting us into your space. There's a huge difference between a lack of overt hostility and the presence of welcoming.

Heteronormative assumptions about Black relationships used to not bother me. I used to take the attitude that the conversation was by and for straight Black people, and I didn't begrudge them that. Now it's starting to get to me, and I'm just starting to figure out why.

For a long time I couldn't articulate what irked me so much about it. Reflecting on experiences and conversations I've had about this, it's not merely the erasure of queerness. It's the fact that in order to contribute in these conversations - at least around straight people - I need to mute or dilute my queerness. I have to pretend that my queerness is ultimately a different flavor of heterosexuality. Unfortunately, that's not how I experience it.

Queerness is not just about who we want to fuck. It's also about the visceral relationship we have to gender and the nuances of how attraction and affection work for us while single or in a relationship. I am always queer no matter who I'm with or who I like. Even if I were to settle down with a man, I am still queer because I would relate to him as a man differently from the way straight women relate to men.

How can we have that Gotta Find A Good Black Man (TM) conversation in a way that's queer-inclusive? I honestly don't know. Maybe it starts with broadening our ideas about the relationships we can have with Black men. How about we stop focusing exclusively on romance? Think beyond boyfriends and husbands. What about Black men as fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, mentors, muses, students, peers, and (gasp!) friends?


  1. The other problem I have with this good black men crap is that queer males like myself (even when we aren't being looked at as potential partners), we get looked down upon as deficient or inferior.

    My thing is this, it's the 21st century. If finding a good black man is that fucking difficult, then maybe you should broaden your horizons and find a good Latino male, or a good Arabic male, or a good Asian male, or a good white man, because there are plenty of men out there who would love to make a Nubian goddess happy.

    And at some point, I have to ask about so many of these sisters, if they can't find a good black man, then maybe the issue is with them.

  2. The other problem I have with this good black men crap is that queer males like myself (even when we aren't being looked at as potential partners), we get looked down upon as deficient or inferior.

    Yup. And on top of that, because the Hunt for the Good Black Man meme is so heterocentric and so focused on forming nuclear families, so many good Black men who happen to be queer are excluded from contributing their gifts to the youth of the community. I personally know a lot of gay Black guys I'd trust with my children before many of these Babby Daddies running around.

  3. This is an interesting post. Reading it makes me think about a tendency I used to see on blogs lamenting the lack of GBM (not coincidentally, the same blogs that tended to pain White men as Black women's saviors) to lump in "become a lesbian" with all of the other negative consequences of not finding a GBM. Apparently Black lesbians are only "like that" because they couldn't find a man. It doesn't surprise me to hear straight Black men say this, but I was really disappointed to read it on so-called Black Women's Empowerment blogs (which is why I can't mess with them).

  4. @Jasmin:

    Oftentimes, we carry out our own oppression better than dominant groups.