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Thank You, Tank

One small step for man, one giant step for breaking the barriers for fragile masculinity in the black community.

As the weather gets a little warmer, the clothes get a little skimpier. The remains of cuffing season begin to melt off and Planet Fitness begins to look like it did on January 2nd. A time for pulled pork barbecue and broken Brooklyn fire hydrants, it also signifies a time for another annual celebration: Pride. The evolution in the movement geared toward celebrating liberation, freedom and the fight for equality has become more mainstream throughout the years. Allies of the LGBT community have become involved in the celebration of unity. Today, events hire celebrities to be visible ambassadors and show their support for the cause. This year, R&B singer Tank took the stage at DC’s Black Pride and his involvement left the community shook.

Prior to last weekend, I did not piece together the narrow demographic that was willing to attach their name to something black and LGBT+. When the round of flyers hit out on the Instagram feed, you usually see traditional faces like K. Michelle, Joseline Hernandez, and Cardi B, who was welcomed this year. Typically, you see funny, vocal women who have captured the attention of the gay community through reality TV, or you see same-gender loving men who are active in LGBT pop culture. However, we’ve never seen a straight black man with such a big name openly support and perform at not only pride, but black pride.

The performance was great. The performance was authentic R&B. The performance was Tank. He did not hold back.

Shirt off, sweat drippin', Tank performed his sensual hits in front of a packed house of homosexual men. Just like he would at the casino in front of a bunch of middle aged women in faux leather Catwoman boots, Tank put on a show for a demographic that typically does not get addressed by straight black male musical artists. The reasoning behind the lack of support is unquestionable. It’s rooted from the fragile masculinity that saturates the black community. From the church to the streets, the existence of black men, especially black gay men is something that is just now barely emerging from taboo conversations. They are the same issues that keep down-low men from coming forward and living their truth in fear of the backlash from their own families and peers. The same issues and stigma that prevent us from expressing our thoughts and feelings because men are not supposed to cry or show emotion. The same problems that make some gay men who simply want a haircut for the weekend nervous to go to the barbershop because they are uncomfortable being around all the homophobic and misogynistic comments of the same men who look just like them.

Of course, videos of the performance caught wind and ended up on blogs, newsfeeds and articles across the country. Naturally, the comments from the general public were the absolute worst. Coming from men and women, the black community questioned Tank’s sexuality because he decided to openly support a community that has supported him for decades. How dare he show his nipples and give the same performance he would give you!

Luckily, there was a bit of comedic relief that filtered the comments labeling Tank as “sus” (slang for suspect) and how uncomfortable it made them feel watching. An unknown individual, who has yet to be identified, threw up his leg 180 degrees in a perfect split. Literally, perfect! The moment was random and the exemplification of utter amusement. Most of the comments went to the well-deserved act of foolishness, but there were still several comments, mostly from black women, who felt the need to vocalize how they did not approve of the show that they did not even attend

This is not the first time Tank has broken barriers when it comes to effortlessly living his authentic truth as a heterosexual black man. Last year in an interview with The Breakfast Club he openly addressed that he enjoyed getting rimmed by female sex partners. With a dash of humor and instigating demeanor from the show’s host, Charlamagne tha God, they laughed about how at first it tickled. But once he became comfortable he was all in! Regardless of your sexual preference and existing backwards stigmas and ideologies, some things just feel good. His willingness to not only talk about it, but to lift his legs in the air giving an on-camera play-by-play of the experience obviously shook the world, and the black community responded. Comments, tweets, messages calling him gay became the headlines that focused on a minuscule part of the interview that lasted over an hour.

Afterwards, he went on Instagram to comment on the fact that people calling him “gay” as an insult implied that being gay was wrong, which he does not agree with. Once again, the Internet trolls had something to say, but personally to me this was a pivotal moment in breaking the ridiculous divide that separates an already marginalized community. I was so happy that someone who represents one of the most toxic demographics to black gay men was bold enough to publicly vocalize his support. 

The double standard between men and women in the black community when it comes to sexuality is unmatched. Even simple things like openly showing love for a brother is deemed as gay and inappropriate. Women can have a little girl-on-girl experience in Dorm A29 back in the early 2000s, but if it were the other way around a man would be labeled as gay for the rest of his life, even if he didn’t like it. Meanwhile, the white frat boys are innocently smacking each other’s bare booties at the Greek house down the way and going home to their girlfriends.

I can go on a rampage about the celebrities who bash the LGBT community when they have and have had diehard fans (Kim Burrell, cough cough), but I want to end on a positive note. Thank you, Durrell “Tank” Babbs. Thank you for being the unconventional ally that the community needs. Thank you for being the example for other straight black men who may not have the courage to show their support. It is truly appreciated.



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