George's LGBTea: Discrimination Within the Black LGBTQ Community
There is an interesting conversation that never seems like it wants to go away In the Black LGBTQ community. Wrapped up in many of the problems we face as the marginalized is a vanity complex that many of us are trying to work our ways through. “Pretty” in our community is oftentimes more than just a privilege, as it’s become the standard of desirability and it controls more than just the way we view our dating potential. It has seeped its way into who is allowed in the room, who we trust, who we associate with, who we are more willing to follow, and most importantly, who sits at the top of the LGBTQ pyramid of oppression.
Preference towards the aesthetic that exists in our community is about more than just dating and relationships. It guides many of the ways we choose to interact with people within our community on a social level, and informs the decisions we make towards how we operate within shared spaces. “No fats/no femmes” isn’t just a tool of sexual desire because it seeps into who we will support as an individual. Whose body we deem as desirable can seep into work associations, socio-economic status, and even worse, who is deserving of protection from the violence that many of us face as being LGBTQ people.
There is a social conditioning that has never been broken in the way in which we are groomed to look for a particular type of partner. Without breaking that conditioning, we get into the “circle” mentality, which many in the community have been accustomed to define folks as. Those are the “muscle boys,” “activism girls,” “The HIV girls,” and so on as we continue to place labels on groups of people with the fear that an intersection will destroy the masculinity values many of us continue to seek.
Discrimination is often wrapped up in what many of us view as preference. When scrolling through apps like Jack’d and Grindr, most profiles are built on the elimination of people who they have never met. I get it, you like what you like and don’t even want to entertain something that you aren’t attracted to. But, how many times does that “I’m not attracted to…” become the way you live your entire life? It doesn’t just stop at who you are unwilling to date or have sex with. It dictates who you are willing to be friends with, and oftentimes that is used as a weapon against those who fall into that particular community; No fats, No femmes, no HIV-positive – this isn’t just what you prefer, it’s dangerous to the existence of a community that has many moving parts and walks of life. When we begin to discriminate our own, we leave them vulnerable to be discriminated against by folk outside the community. It becomes “why can’t y’all be gay but masculine” or “respectable” in the eyes of assimilation.
It’s also left to be said that there are uneven correlations made between labels and personality. I see folks say “no femmes” who are, in fact, femme but with muscles; really trying to say they aren’t for flamboyance or “extra” femininity. These uneven correlations spread into how folks are viewed and limit socialization at the intersection of how we show up in a room. The chasing of masculinity has become detrimental to normal interaction. The lacking of education has become detrimental to a community of HIV-positive people. When the CDC states that 50% of MSM’s will likely contract HIV over their lifetime, you more likely than not are going to cross sexual and social paths with someone “diseased.” The “disease-free” notion is just unrealistic and more projection than protection of anything.
Now, this message also goes for those who fall into the subcultures of fat, femme, and any other community that experiences dismissal from masculine folk. Why only do you want someone who is masculine? Why is that your main “preference?” The retort has always been, why is it okay for those communities to desire masculine men, but never want to be with folk who are like them. This one is a valid question that doesn’t often get explored enough when we look at how hetero-normative behavior has trickled down into our community to dictate what we think we are supposed to date.
The “I like what I like” argument has to fall both ways in this case. One can’t be upset about desirability politics that discriminate against them, while upholding them as their standard of desire. Why is there no common ground on a “femme with a femme” and a “fat with a fat?” Is it that conditioning from society tells us that proximity to femininity can only be balanced out with a masculine counterpart. When we think about the HIV-positive community, why are so many quick to turn our noses up at our brothers and sisters whose infection was part chance and partly by design. Unfortunately, many of us have become quicker to criticize others without actually taking a look inward at what our own perceptions are doing to destroy external discrimination. Our projections are playing into the worst parts of our community, where we can’t even be attracted to our own reflection.
We are the blueprint generation for what it is to be out LGBTQ people in America. As the blueprint, we will make more mistakes than any future generation as we craft and shape what our “normal” will look like going forward. Now is the time for us to be open about our issues and work on them in a way that is constructive and conducive to our growth as a community. The only preference I have is for us ALL to fight against a society that continues to discriminate us as a whole, despite our masculinity.