Saturday, August 13, 2022

My Alternative Lifestyle: The Enigma of Black Gay Hollywood

Photo Credit: Daniel Green

*I binged on the first season of The L Word, a Showtime series that ran from 2004 to 2009 and offered a glimpse into the lives of a group of lesbians and bisexual women in Los Angeles.

As I watched episode after episode, I became aggravated by the blatant omission of lesbians of color. One of the main characters, Beth, was identified as bi-racial. There were no lesbians of color who looked like me.

Halfway through the season, an African-American lesbian was introduced to viewers. The veiled tokenism was not enough to maintain my interest.

I applaud a few “out” black gays and lesbians in Hollywood. I am in awe of Lena Waithe, Lee Daniels, Wanda Sykes, Robin Roberts, RuPaul, Don Lemon, Raven Symoné, Jason Collins, LZ Granderson and Jussie Smollett. They have shown that their sexuality is just one part of who they are and their contributions to society. Yet, I wonder, where are the other black gay and lesbian decision makers? Where are the power players who should serve as mentors for younger gays and lesbians to follow in their footsteps?

I thought long and hard before posing what may appear to be a trivial question, given the current state of our country. Racial unrest and multiple mass school shootings prove that our country is moving backward.

I change the channel to escape the heaviness. But I can’t help but be concerned about the media representations of people like me.

When I thought about this issue, a song by rapper T.I. popped into my head, Where, Where They At Doe? Where. They. At. Doe? Where, Where They At Doe? Only four words make up the entire song, and yet the beat is so infectious that it will make you stop whatever you’re doing and dance.  As I listened to the song, I had a flashback and laughed at the dichotomy of receiving my MBA and the Most Ghetto-Fabulous certificate from my cohort peers upon graduating.

camera & female operator

As I envision my first novel, “Pretty Boy Blue,” being adapted into a screenplay, I watch my Caucasian counterparts flourish in the publishing, television and motion picture industries. I think of the long list of movies in which the main characters are Caucasian gays and lesbians: Desert Hearts, Personal Best, Aimee and Jaguar, Gia, If These Walls Could Talk, High Art, Bound, Boys Don’t Cry, Broke Back Mountain, and Milk.

The list goes on and on compared to the short list of storylines that highlight African-American gays and lesbians, such as The Watermelon Woman, Set It Off, Pariah, and Moonlight. Although the presence of QOC (Queers of Color) represented in mainstream media far outweigh those in primetime television, the scales of opportunity and access remain imbalanced. Sitcoms such as Friends and The L Word are not realistic in providing a glimpse into the lives of the black LGBTQ community.

I am appreciative of lesbians of color depicted in the Netflix blockbuster Orange is the New Black. However, women who engage in consensual situations during incarceration, where they often have homosexual experiences for the first time, are not true reflections of me and the women in my life. I long to see robust narratives of African American lesbians that are believable.

I’ve had several late-night conversations regarding the reasons why so many gay black individuals don’t come out, let alone those in positions of power. I turned to an acquaintance who is a straight ally. He said, “Many of the power players in Hollywood are either gay or bisexual but no one wants to own it or talk about it. And we won’t even talk about the black gays and lesbians. We just don’t talk about those things in black families and the black church.”

I questioned him further. “But why? Women like me need mentors.”

He said, “Come on! We, as in Black people, are just getting our foot into certain doors. We are still dealing with racism. Some things will never change. Continue to be a voice for the LGBTQ community. People may not acknowledge it but they see and hear you.”

Perhaps my friend is right. I must continue to tell “our” stories.  I take pride in the accomplishments of what I hope to be many “firsts.” I am the first, and to date, only LGBTQ columnist to write about LGBTQ issues for EURweb.com (Electronic Urban Report). EURweb has become the internet’s foremost information source for urban entertainment, sports, politics, and opinion.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In December 2017, I was asked to write an article for The Unleashed Voice Magazine (TUV). Based in Memphis, Tennessee, TUV Magazine was voted Black LGBTQ Media of The Year 2018. In addition to my article being selected as the feature, I was humbled to grace the cover for the January-February 2018 The Year of YOU issue. The feature was my first national magazine cover.

Shortly thereafter, I submitted my work to be considered as a panelist for the DC Black Pride 2018 Literary Café.  If selected, authors will be given five minutes to discuss their work. In addition, each panelist must close with a tribute to the late writer James Baldwin. I thought about the sacrifices and injustices he must have endured during the 1950s and ‘60s. Prior to writing one of his most notable works, Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin moved abroad to France after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers. He thought he would not be respected as a Black, gay writer given the racial inequalities in the United States. I thought about how I would honor his memory if chosen to be a panelist.

If selected as a panelist, I will offer my TUV Magazine cover as a tribute to Mr. Baldwin. I stand on his shoulders as my work as an author, an African American and a lesbian is acknowledged and respected. I hope that he is looking down and saying, “Well done … well done.”

Monika M. Pickett is a veteran of the United States Army. Her debut novel, PRETTY BOY BLUE, will be available on Amazon on June 9, 2017. Pickett is an advocate and activist for the LGBTQ community. For more information please visit, www.PrettyBoyBlue.com. For other inquiries email info@prettyboyblue.com.

 

 

 

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