Black and queer in America: the double negative


Ryan Thompson

Black and queer in America: the double negative. To grow up a black male in America is to grow up confused and uncertain of your place. You are constantly made aware of your larger features and your color. One could argue that growing up a queer male is a traumatic experience in its own. You must be aware of who’s around and how they might respond to your queerness. The combination of these two worlds – a black man and a queer – can be seen as a double negative. Coming to terms with my identity as a black queer male was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

This journey left me lost and broken. I had no place in the black community because I was gay — I was condemned. Black, gay males are chastised, speaking against homosexuality in church and even calling for their persecution in Hip-Hop music and culture. No black parents, fathers especially — want a gay son or daughter. If you are a gay son, you are a threat to the hypermasculine ideology of the black male; It is a scenario in which your family subconsciously recognizes your queerness, but it is never openly discussed. But just as I was unwelcome in the black community, I was even more so in the gay community.

I had no place as an LGBTQ+ because I was black. Racism, often disguised as “preference,” is alive in the LGBTQ+ community. Blackness is like the equivalent to wearing the scarlet letter. The ideal of the European white male with light eyes and blonde hair stood to remind me how far from the standard of beauty I really was. I was reminded every time I looked into the mirror that I would never be desired as long as my hair was rough, my nose was big and my lips poked out a little more than the “ideal” gay male. Every time I turned on the TV and saw some representation of the gay male — it was one that I couldn’t identify with.

I spent years running from my blackness using countless chemicals on my hair to achieve a silky standard. I was slowly chipping away at my identity. And what pierced me even more was the consensus of this disdain of black men. I remember scrolling through dating apps and seeing bios that read “not into blacks.”

You are constantly made aware that you are lumped together as one and erased from the equation. And, at the other end of the spectrum lies the fetishization of the black male. You are left feeling like some african-safari adventure that gay men go on once just for the thrill.  So what do you do when you’re caught between two communities, feeling insecure in both?

It took me a while to confront my own self-loathing, but once I did, I was able to overcome it. I have come to know I am not beautiful despite my blackness, but I am beautiful because of it — my big nose, large lips and bold features included.

So, I write this to create a space for the next black queer adolescent who may be facing this same identity crisis. Little black queer boy, you are important and valuable. You aren’t a disappointment to your family, you aren’t something to be coped with. One day you will see that you deserve to be celebrated just like every other queer male. There is a place in this world for you, and if you feel like there isn’t, you must create one. One in which your brownness and queerness can live in perfect harmony and you don’t have to seek heterosexual validation. And if you can’t seem to find the courage to create this space of your own, you can come join me in mine.