Queer, Black Characters Have Been Sidelined For Too Long

Writing for Elle in late 2016, I asked the following: “How many Black lesbians can you count on television?”

The question served as the lede for my review of The Same Difference, the award-winning documentary directed by Nneka Onuorah which brought viewers into the world of Black queer women. As I discussed with Onuorah that same year, it is frustrating to see how there is a dearth of Black queer perspectives in television and film, be it her documentary or more fictionalized accounts. There are sprinkles of us to be found on various shows, but we’re never the leads. We are never, ever at the forefront; we largely exist within the constraints of the sideline roles.

No, that doesn’t diminish those roles or the actors behind him. I appreciate Jamal Lyons. I like Titus. I would never play Kima Greggs like that. All of these characters have helped move things along. Yes, I get that progress is slow.

Still, why can’t we be the main attraction? Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams live charmed lives, but why can’t we get the Beyoncé treatment? Wait, both of them got solos after LeToya and LaTavia were escorted out of the group by Mathew Knowles. Let me try this again. In the past, queer folks have gotten the Joh’Vonnie Jackson treatment in television and then we progressed to Rebbie Jackson’s “Centipede” and maybe one or two modest hits from La Toya and Jermaine. But obviously, we’re Michael and Janet. Ain’t it about time we got to show the world our butterfly?

Shut up, this all makes sense.

Yet, as much as I gripe about the lack of Black queer male visibility on television, I know that it has been far worse for Black queer women. To wit, Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and actress Lena Waithe made a similar complaint about the lack of Black queer female representation a similar complaint last fall. Speaking with The Daily Beast, Waithe shared a vision on how to help right that wrong.

“I want to create a show where a black gay woman is the lead, where she is the protagonist, she is the person whom we are following,” she explained. “That is still yet to be done. I have faith. I hope we can make it happen, we still don’t have that. We don’t have a show where a queer brown male person is the lead.

For those of us familiar with Waithe’s work, we knew that she had been trying to get said vehicle, Twenties, a show following three Black women but one queer one as the protagonist, off the ground for some time. Some years ago, Waithe, working alongside Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit production company, released a pilot presentation of Twenties, to help show what the series could be. To get people to see the obvious lacking representation and seize upon it.

As she told Shadow and Act back in 2013, “A lot of networks read the script and loved it, but they either thought there wasn’t an audience for it or that it already existed. Of course I became extremely frustrated because I knew neither of those things were true.”

Ahh yes, that bullshit trope. You see, let a few small minded fools tell it, if you are Black and queer you are too “niche,” and thus, not able to enjoy the opportunities your paler and/or straighter peers are often afforded. I’ve been told this many times for many different reasons. I have not decided if I am cursing some of them out in my book acknowledgments yet.

That said, Waithe did ink a deal with BET about the show, though it never came to fruition. Now, after winning an Emmy for her Master of None episode based on her own Black female queer experience along with a hit Showtime series in which she serves as creator and executive producer, Twenties now has another chance of helping fill a void as TBS announced that has ordered a comedy pilot for Twenties.

In a statement, Waithe said: “I always wanted to tell a story where a queer black woman was the protagonist, and I’m so grateful to TBS for giving me a platform to tell this story. Queer black characters have been the sidekick for long enough; it’s time for us to finally take the lead.”

TBS and TNT, under President Kevin Reilly, has actively been rebranding the networks. What better way to illustrate that they are indeed now one of the more formidable, forward-thinking cable networks than by doing the bare minimum (a task Hollywood so tragically tends to struggle completing) and showing all of us. As Waithe and others have long said, Queer Black characters have been the sidekick long enough.

We are no less appealing than anyone else; let Lena Waithe and the rest of us prove it.

Saying We Shouldn’t Care About LGBTQ History Is A Form Of Privilege TBH

You would think a queer-identifying person would understand the perils that can come from judging matters in rigid binaries. After all, our sexualities and gender identities do not adhere to what constitutes “traditional” yet here we all are, challenging so many purported norms and rightfully murking up the waters. Nothing is black and white as it may seem and by now many of us within the LGBTQ community know better to believe otherwise. Yes, many of us, but not all of us.

Indeed, after reading Dylan Jones’ Attitude piece, “YOUNG QUEER PEOPLE SHOULDN’T BE OBLIGED TO CARE ABOUT LGBT HISTORY – AND THAT’S THE BIGGEST SIGN OF SUCCESS THERE IS (editor’s note: these are their caps, not mine),” I was provided yet another reminder that quite a few folks take the “it’s all about me-me-me-me-me, forget about you-you-you-you-you” approach to disagreement.

To be fair to Jones, some of his points are valid. There are some older gay men like Rupert Everett and Boy George who should sip some shut up juice and spare us from their self-loathing and anti-trans apologist stances. Some LGBTQ people do have to worry more so about surviving than protesting. And yes, there can be no denying that in many parts of the world, there has indeed been a wider acceptance of queer folks.

However, in his complaints about older gay men seemingly lecturing the youth to respect their elders, party less, and praise them for their activism of yore, he plays right into many of their diatribes by essentially encouraging the dummying of youth.

Jones writes: “All this raises the question – SHOULD young LGBTQ people care about their history? They’re certainly not obliged to. Why should they? This is just their lives. They’re existing as they should always have been allowed to exist – happily and freely. They shouldn’t be made to feel guilty, or even grateful for that.”

Guilt trips may be bothersome, but to discount history is to play into the less ideal traits such as ignorance, arrogance, and entitlement. And just in terms of common sense, if you’re annoyed by “old folks” not evolving their thinking, how is encouraging younger people not to know shit at all a solution? What good does that serve?

As for why young people should skip bothering to understand any aspect of LGBTQ history, he goes the way of trope: “They’ve also got shit to do. They’ve got shelves to stock, hair to cut, gigs to go to, dissertations to write, dicks to suck, selfies to take. And, quite apart from being queer, just being YOUNG in 2018 is difficult.”

Jones is very impressed with himself; bless his trying too hard to be cheeky heart.

No matter how one might gussy up their advocation of willful idiocy, it’s an ugly characteristic all the same. Perhaps I now sound like one of the very aging gays he loathes so much, but while some progress has been made, we still have a long way to go. In his native country of England, in the United States where I am writing, and in so many parts of the world.

The past is prologue, and for anyone who genuinely cares about the advancement of queer people, it behooves you to not only have some nominal knowledge of history, but sincere gratitude for what our elders have done for us.

He’s right when he says “LGBTQ history isn’t being threatened by people having a good time,” but he is dismissive about legitimate calls for more people to be informed and delusional about just how “good” everyone in the community has it.

Jones asserts that “Shame is largely a thing of the past and homophobia is, like, SO 2008.”

Jones also had the gall to declare: “One thing’s for sure – if Marsha P Johnson were around now, she wouldn’t scold young people for knocking back blue WKDs on the street at pride; she’d ask for a swig.”

Jones might not be up for an LGBTQ history exam, but it appears he would also fail a pop quiz on current events. If he bothered to watch even a few YouTube clips of Marsha P. Johnson, he’d know better than to say something this obnoxiously dim. Black trans women like Marsha P. Johnson are being murdered all over the United States. They are the most vulnerable among us, so while Johnson might enjoy a good time, her activism would still be going.

Not to mention, there are trans women across the country continuing to fight for their rights and they are inspired by her legacy.

Since Jones is being so blunt, I’d like to return the favor: he comes across as a privileged white man who only got a teaspoon of marginalization, managed to escape further tastes of it, and has decided that because he’s okay, everyone else should be just as ignorant as he opts to be. That’s great if he would rather go fuck and party than learn, but here’s the thing: it has never had to be one way or the other. No reasonable person has ever argued otherwise.

Maybe Jones considers multitasking too laborious, but trust me, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

Gay Rappers On ‘Love & Hip Hop’: You’re Blowing It

In his meet-the-cast video for Love & Hip Hop Miami, the latest franchise of the immensely popular series that merges hip-hop culture with the narrative structure of telenovelas, Bobby Lytes claimed despite any suspicions to the contrary, he was not “the typical gay guy.”

At this point in society where by now, if you have a limited view of what a gay/queer man looks like, it is due to your own ignorance, whenever one says they are not the “typical gay guy,” I’m expecting them to say that they have an extra toe, regularly talks to God, Lena Horne, and 2Pac in group chat, or some other indicator that indeed makes them oh so different.

Lytes, however, individualized himself in a way that made him sound not necessarily pedestrian, but not atypical either. “I grew up in some of the roughest parts of Miami,” he explained. “I had to find a type of therapy, and that was music for me. I came from nothing.”

So, he’s like Moonlight with bars? Cool. Lytes, who also happens to be the cousin of the veteran southern rapper and personal favorite, Trina, then made a bold declaration that made clear that bravado is a familial trait: “I can rap. I got bars. I got talent. I got skills.”

In a the competitive world of hip hop, one has to be confident. This is especially true for a gay man trying to thrive in an environment that, while it has made some tangible progress in terms of acceptance, nonetheless, much like the society it reflects, continues to carry the stenches of misogyny along with the homophobia attached to its hip. Unfortunately, based on what we’ve seen thus far from Lytes on LHHM, his storyline is not all that different from what we’ve seen from other gay or bisexual men that have been featured on other franchises.

They gonna love me for my ambition ❤️💛💚💙💜🖤

A post shared by Bobby 💡 Lytes (@bobbylytes) on

Lytes is a rapper, and while his belief that Trina is unsupportive in his dreams of rap stardom is part of his story arc, as it stands now, what we mainly get from Lytes is that he’s combative (likes to throw drinks, curse people out, and so forth) and has a boyfriend that is only now getting used to being out (a legitimate issue for some but nonetheless, trite by now on this show) but has him involved in a love triangle all the same.

This is not the typical gay guy, but it arguably is for this show. This is not a diss to other gay men who have been on the show. No, it really is not.

Many people have lamented about their exhaustion with the “messy queen,” DL dude narratives found on the show. Although I have commended the show for offering more representation of non-white LGBTQSWV than many scripted shows in the past, I can understand the boredom some hold. Even so, it’s Love & Hip Hop. This show has a format where much of the cast on any of its franchises are a big ass mess, so in that instance, everyone is treated the same.

However, what separates some cast members is what they do with the platform they’ve been provided. Whenever an artist – veteran or newbie alike – join the show, they claim to have done so in order to boost their careers. And yet, there are only two artists that have actually used the show to bolster a music career: K. Michelle and Cardi B.

K. Michelle may have talked about her abuse, fought with lots of her co-workers, and continuously cracked jokes, but she was simultaneously releasing music the entire time. She released multiple singles, and by the time she scored a new label deal and was prepping a proper debut, she was adamant about promoting her art. The same can be said of Cardi B. Although she was adamant about never recording on the show itself, she released songs like “Cheap Ass Weave” as her fame grew. She also was shrewd enough to record and release tracks based off of Love & Hip Hop scenes. In one scene, she warned a man she was involved with that “if a girl have beef with me, she gon’ have beef with me foreva.” As The Fader noted in a 2017 profile, when the clip went viral, she turned it into a single.

I’m literally screaming “RAN DOWN ON THAT BITCH TWICE” now because that song is what got me to purchase a free mixtape (I support the arts).

I say this with all of the love in the world: none of the gays I’ve seen shouting and cussing and fighting over trifling men with wayward dicks for our entertainment (or sigh-inducing masochistic viewing) on Love & Hip Hop has made any visible effort to do the same. And considering how hard it is for LGBTQSWV Black artists to breakthrough, why not try when you’re on a show watched by millions week after week? Why? Why? Why?

Perhaps Lytes may seize the moment if he genuinely has the skills he speaks of, but if not, add him to a list of others that have made the same mistake. Then let it be a warning to those who may join the franchise later: Be more like Cardi B with this shit, not Biana. Good luck, beloveds.

Images via Getty.

Give Ginuwine A Break (and Not Because He Gave Us ‘Pony’)

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Ginuwine, the man who gave us “Pony,” “So Anxious,” “Differences,” “Final Warning” with Aaliyah, “In Those Jeans,” “None of Ur Friends Business,” and so many other iconic bops was doing Celebrity Big Brother out in the U.K.?

Ginuwine, the man who I once saw in concert aggressively dry humping an extremely large speaker (at the time, I was so worried that his sweat or s-curl grease would fall and potentially cause a fire — which would’ve been his second Michael Jackson cover) in a crowded arena, has gone from double platinum-selling artist to Celebrity Big Brother? Is this what happens when you let Timbaland go too soon? I hope the check for this show is sensational.

Once I got over my shock about that, I returned to the controversy that alerted me about his current whereabouts that will surely show up in his episode of TV One’s Unsung: his refusal to kiss his co-star, India Willoughby, a woman I never heard of but thanks to the Google, I’ve come to discover is a well-respected journalist and BBC presenter who also happens to be trans.

Ginuwine has faced accusations of being transphobic because of what transpired during a conversation with Willoughby about her gender identity and how it relates to her dating life.

Men in the cast were asked if they would date a trans woman, but Willoughby noted her issues with the phrasing of the question. “I feel like a lot of guys would not go out with somebody like me even though I’m a woman,” she explained only to be interrupted by Ginuwine, who said, “Some would, though.” However, the singer did go on to say, “I believe it’s your choice, too. I would choose not to, but that doesn’t make me scared [of trans women].”

Near the end of the segment, you see Willoughby wrap her arms around Ginuwine, and as he proceeds to lean in, she grabs his neck and goes in for a kiss only for Ginuwine to move away. Ginuwine laughs about it, though Willoughby proceeds to say his reactions throughout their exchange lend credence to her point. In turn, some have gone on to accuse Ginuwine of being transphobic.

As I’ve learned more about this show, Willoughby has been subjected to misgendering from her cast mates and overall other cattiness that comes with these sorts of shows. Yet, in a write-up about the segment, Pink News ran with the headline “CBB’s India Willoughby branded a ‘victim’ after being rejected by Ginuwine.” They also referred to him as a “rapper,” the label clueless white people attach to any Black man who is a recording artist whose music they are too lazy to quickly look up.

I cannot speak to the experiences of India Willoughby, but I can say that I do agree with her overall complaints about the stigmatization that trans women and men face and that they do need to be erased. We should respect everyone’s gender identity, and unless you’re some type of soulless cretin, all of us ought to easily agree that no matter who we are, each of us deserves love and sex if we so seek it. And yes, it is fair to question someone’s preferences – namely what informs it, i.e. their prejudices, overall ignorance, what have you. We do have conscious and unconscious biases that each may need to be checked.

Still, I’m uncomfortable with immediately assigning a bigoted descriptor to someone for expressing their preference based on a hypothetical question. Many of us talk about our ideal mates and what we like and then we meet someone who blows all of that away. Life can be funny that way.

So, we didn’t get enough out of Ginuwine from that conversation, and what we did see was a man trying to be empathetic to someone’s plight while maintaining his own set of preferences in a romantic partner.

Ginuwine was respectful, nodding along to Willoughby as she explained that she is a woman. Ginuwine also interjected to say that some men would not have an issue with dating a trans woman, which I imagine was his method of trying to be encouraging to Willoughby and her quest for a bae. After that, he proceeded to cozy up with her while under a blanket – conveying his own sense of comfort and ease with her. Then, Willoughby grabbed his neck and went in for a kiss. He didn’t give her consent to do that, so it wasn’t her place to do so. How might’ve we reacted if Ginuwine had done that to her or any other woman on set? In the same way she wanted to question conscious and unconscious biases in men, some might wonder in that moment, did she feel entitled to the body of a Black man?

This might’ve been a sensitive subject matter, but it appeared to be a constructive conversation. People can have their preferences, but what separates Ginuwine from a real menace is that he didn’t guise a preference for phobia and subsequently use that phobia as a basis for violence against a trans woman. Furthermore, as Ginuwine said himself, some men have no airs about dating trans women. While Willoughby’s experiences are hers, that doesn’t mean other trans women are worrying about what men like Ginuwine prefer in a boo thang.

Ginuwine may not fancy India Willoughby (it appears he is into another co-star, Ashley James), but perhaps Jaheim, Carl Thomas, Avant, J. Holiday, or one of the other related artists according to Spotify might give her a shot. Either way, none of y’all can be out here grabbing folks’ necks and trying to force a kiss on them. And again, to those across Al Gore’s Internet, be careful about attaching labels based on a man being put on the spot with a hypothetical question. It feels too easy for some to immediately brand him transphobic — kind of like some outlets over the pond dubbed him a rapper. I’d be more worried if Ginuwine behaved in a way that made India Willoughby feel unsafe and/or uncomfortable.

In this floating clip, I saw no bigots or victims but rather adults trying to have a difficult conversation about preferences and dating struggles that ended rather weirdly albeit nonetheless yielded a surprisingly productive conversation in a medium not typically designed for it. And for the record, India, if you were really trying to hit on Ginuwine, you should have hit a few body rolls and sang a few lines to his track “Tribute to a Woman.” Next time, sis.

Dave Chappelle’s New Special May Show He Doesn’t Have Much To Say Anymore

Whenever I think to look at the work of a comedian through a critical lens, I fear coming across as a humorless killjoy. And as someone who, at least to a nominal degree, understands the critique some folks have about increasing hypersensitivity, it makes me ultra cautious to not judge a comedian’s material devoid of context.

However, there is something else to consider: when called out on their prejudices, or at the bare minimum, their misguided musings, many comedians like to cower behind the pretense that it’s “just jokes.” And after that, they’ll babble about political correctness.

For sure, you’ll be told that they’re an equal opportunity offender as if it was some sort of a get-out-of-criticism card. Then they, along with their fans, may proceed to bemoan how everyone is just so uptight nowadays. It’s smug, it’s dismissive, and above all, it’s lazy.

In his most two-recent Netflix specials, Dave Chappelle presents each of these sentiments as he addressed the criticism leveled at his previous comedy specials for the streaming service.

“It’s too hard to entertain a country whose ears are so brittle,” Chappelle opines to great applause. “Motherfuckers are so sensitive; the whole country has turned to bitch ass niggas.”

While I can acknowledge that I sometimes worry about how quick many are to condemn and dismiss those who speak from a place of ignorance rather than maliciousness instead of making an effort to educate, it’s important not to confuse a purported growing sensitivity with marginalized people now having space to say to public figures “Hey, that’s not okay!” thanks to the advent of social media.

Not hearing about a problem sooner doesn’t make it less any of a problem because you learned about it a bit later. Moreover, if you are told exactly what is wrong about whatever you said and you stubbornly repeat the pattern, what does that say about you?

We must also remind ourselves that jokes do not come out of a vacuum. They speak to an individual’s point of view on a given topic, or in other cases, their nescience about it. So as much as I appreciate the genius I saw on Chappelle’s Show and respect the right of an artist to forgo “political correctness,” it does not excuse the stupidity exhibited in his comedic observations about trans people.

After quipping that the trans community hates him the most, Chappelle makes clear that he likes trans people, always has, and never had a problem with them. You see, he’s “just fucking around.” Yet, while acknowledging “they mean what they say,” he goes on to say, “Them niggas cut they dicks off, that’s all the proof I need.” There is also a comparison made between trans people and Rachel Dolezal.

Select apologists might suggest simply sucking those quips up and brushing it aside, but even if trans people did, what mostly troubles and ought to spark concern in others is how he posits the trans community as majorly white and enjoying the wide-ranging support that has long eluded other minority groups.

Chappelle claimed: “My problem has always been with the dialogue about transgender people. I just feel like these things should not be discussed in front of the Blacks. It’s fucking insulting, all this talk about how these people feel inside.”

Black people have long self-identified as LGBTQ more than white people have. Furthermore, of all the trans women that have been murdered in recent years, an overwhelming amount of them have been trans Black women. They are the most vulnerable. And who is mostly responsible for their deaths? Straight Black cis men that look like Dave Chappelle. If he weren’t so dim about the subject at hand, the potential consequences of these kind of statements might have on the public would dawn on him.

There was talk of Kevin Spacey, too, and one of his accusers, Anthony Rapp. “Kevin Spacey sniffed that shit out like a truffle pig,” he said. “And not to victim-blame, but it seems like the kind of situation that a gay 14-year-old kid would get himself into.”

As many have pointed out, Dave Chappelle is out of touch. He is an old, straight Black man with a very specific and rigid point of view. He sounds like someone set in his ways trying to speak on issues he is clueless about and could not care less if anyone is offended.

In assessing his most recent specials, I kept circling back to this comment in the midst of all those trans jokes: “I mean, it’s funny if it’s not happening to you.”

It is indeed so easy to laugh at something that doesn’t relate to you.

Yet, I can’t help but recall what Chappelle said about a particular sketch from Chappelle’s Show that helped pave the way for its infamously abrupt end:

a sketch about magic pixies that embody stereotypes about the races. The Black pixieplayed by Chappellewears blackface and tries to convince blacks to act in stereotypical ways. Chappelle thought the sketch was funny, the kind of thing his friends would laugh at. But at the taping, one spectator, a white man, laughed particularly loud and long.

His laughter struck Chappelle as wrong, and he wondered if the new season of his show had gone from sending up stereotypes to merely reinforcing them.

“When he laughed, it made me uncomfortable,” says Chappelle. “As a matter of fact, that was the last thing I shot before I told myself I gotta take f______ time out after this. Because my head almost exploded.”

I guess we all have our sensitivities, but it’s too bad that a few of us are selective about when to realize such reality. Chappelle is going to talk about whatever he wants and whomever he wants. It’s his prerogative. He’s still funny in select moments.

As a comedian who offers social commentary, wouldn’t it serve him right to know a little bit of what he’s talking about? Wouldn’t that make his jokes actually funny? It would certainly make them less dangerous.

Ultimately, what I got from Dave Chappelle’s two new Netflix specials is that he listened to critics without truly hearing them, went on to make the same mistakes or worse, and a new fear: maybe Dave Chappelle doesn’t have that many more interesting things to say.

Dear Straight Men Bullying Kids Or Calling Music ‘Girly’: Silence Is Golden

If you thought that the holiday break would provide a reprieve from men talking out of their asses and serving needless offerings of gender politics dripping in equal parts absurdity and asininity, Lewis Hamilton and Bono have news for you.

Hamilton was this week’s first offender after making headlines for taking to social media to mock his own damn nephew. In a since-deleted Snapchat video, the race car bae effectively called out his own kin for not following gender norms. In the clip, we hear Hamilton declare, “I’m so sad right now. Look at my nephew.” We then see Hamilton’s nephew wearing a dress.

“Why are you wearing a princess dress?,” Hamilton asked. “Is this what you got for Christmas? Why did you ask for a princess dress for Christmas?” He then went on to shout, “Boys don’t wear princess dresses!”

The internet promptly gathered his silly ass for being so goddamn simple. Liam Hackett, founder of anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label tweeted: “Disappointing to see somebody with such a huge platform use it to publicly shame and attempt to undermine a small child.” Others poured in to effectively rely the sentiment “What the hell is wrong with you, Lewis Hamilton?”

In response, Hamilton took to Twitter to offer an apology: “Yesterday I was playing around with my nephew and realised that my words were inappropriate so I removed the post. I meant no harm and did not mean to offend anyone at all. I love that my nephew feels free to express himself as we all should.”

Hamilton added in a subsequent tweet: “My deepest apologies for my behaviour as I realise it is really not acceptable for anyone, no matter where you are from, to marginalise or stereotype anyone.”

While Hamilton’s publicist deserves kudos for hastily providing appropriate language for his coerced apology, points are nonetheless deducted for that person’s failure to remind Hamilton that if you’re going to apologize on Twitter, you probably shouldn’t hit “like” on a bunch of posts bemoaning political correctness. That is, if you won’t folks to buy your apology — which none of us should do considering he gave not so subtle nods to those who felt that Hamilton did nothing wrong and that everyone is just too sensitive nowadays.

I learned in an entry-level anthropology class back in college how actions like those made by Hamilton enforce rigid gender norms into children who genuinely don’t think anything of matters like a boy wearing a princess dress until some jackass adult tells them otherwise. Hamilton was wrong for making fun of his nephew on social media.

He’s wrong for not letting a child be a child. He’s dead wrong for offering an apology that he obviously didn’t mean because he wasted no time negating it by rushing to co-sign posts from other like-minded jackasses.

And by the way, while his career as a race car driver may make Hamilton a “manly man” in the eyes of some (and himself), I’ve seen Lewis Hamilton’s Instagram. Hell, I’ve seen him in person. I don’t try to judge people by those arbitrary standards, but if I were to, let me just say, Lewis Hamilton, you have a lot of damn nerve chastising your nephew for wearing a dress when someone just as small-minded could toss a tiara at you.

In sum, Lewis Hamilton is nice to look at, but Lewis Hamilton can also race right on into the nearest abyss unless he gives his nephew a real apology.

After that happens, perhaps Bono can apologize for the nonsensical drivel he spewed in his Rolling Stone cover story. The U2 frontman expressed concern that too many women have infiltrated radio airwaves with their singing and general instrument playing. Apparently, Bono misses all of the male rage! You know, because we haven’t had enough of that.

“I think music has gotten very girly,” Bono explained. “And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment and that’s not good.”

Bono went on to add: “When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine I don’t care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage.”

Hark, I hear an old man grappling with growing irrelevancy turning to sexism for the sake of scoring headlines. Point, laugh, and pity, y’all. Now let’s turn on some Coldplay to further piss Bitter Bono off.

Rock & Roll was invented by Black people, and when you recall its pioneers, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Ike Turner before that powder had power over him, among others, anger is not the first emotion that comes to mind when describing the sound they made and Bono now wants to comment on.

If Bono believes that it’s important for young men with anger to have a medium like music to channel that rage and flip it into art, that’s a fair point (I guess, if I am being generous because it’s the holidays). However, Bono is making that point at the expense of women. Worse, he implies that women are not capable of channeling rage in rock, an ahistorical and bewilderingly dim assertion if I ever heard one.

As my friend and writer Danielle Henderson noted on Twitter: “In 1992 Donita Sparks of L7 took out her tampon on stage and threw it into the crowd at the Reading Festival after being pelted with mud. I believe Bono spent that year shopping for brightly colored lenses for his fancy new sunglasses.”

I’m still laughing, but beyond that, at its core, Bono still opted to scapegoat women for something he felt was lacking from men. It’s sexist, coming from someone who walks around as if he’s arena rock Mother Teresa, embarrassing.

I want people to be better in 2018, but most especially, men. Please think before you speak. Try not to sound so sophomoric on your thoughts about gender. Seriously, stop irritating the ever living hell out of people with your banal, warped views of the world.

And if it’s going to take a while for you to get there, fret not, for silence is golden.

~~~

“Thots & Thoughts” is a column in which musings on dating, sex, race, religion, and politics all come togetherfrom a bird’s-eye view.

Black People Saved Alabama Last Night — Now Stop Ignoring Them

Judge Roy Moore is a hate mongering buffoon who has nostalgia for the “family values” that ostensibly presided over the days of slavery, seems to long for a U.S. government that tilts to Christian theocracy rather than the existing constitution, thinks Muslims are a stain on the population, appears to think women’s best role is one of subservience, absolutely loathes everyone attached to the LGBTQ community, and because he is a show off for evilness, has been accused of being a pedophile.

This man has never deserved to be on the set of Mama’s Family much less a judge’s bench yet thanks to white supremacy, white patriarchy, the white evangelical community who pledges allegiance to both in addition to the complicity white electorate as a whole, Moore almost became a U.S. senator yesterday.

Almost because thanks to a higher than anticipate Black voter turnout, that is not the case.

Unsurprisingly, there are several pundits who can only muster themselves to serve pedestrian levels of analysis already trying to downplay the decisive impact Black voters – most assuredly Black female voters – played in the election of Doug Jones in the Alabama special election to fill the seat of that Keebler Elf pie crust looking racist Jeff Sessions.

Yes, some Republicans presumably a marginal number at best of white women played a role in Moore’s loss. Indeed, if not for the write-in vote tally, Moore arguably could have edged out Jones. Even so, when it comes to who deserves most of the credit for the first Democrat in 25 years to win a Senate seat in the deeply red state of Alabama, that honor goes to Black voters, not white ones.

While it’s easier for some to pretend Jones won largely due to affluent whites and white women because convincing themselves of that allows them to continue avoiding the reality of just how bigoted the electorate is.

In reality, 98% of Black women supported Jones. Another poll shows Black people supported 96% of Black voters overall supported Jones — a figure even higher than Obama’s support in 2012. Meanwhile, Moore won among white men and white women spanning education and economic level.

So, regardless of whatever small inroads Jones made with white voters, according to an exit poll conducted by the National Election Pool, Blacks made up about 29 percent of the electorate on Tuesday and it was their nearly unanimous support of Jones that proved pivotal to his victory.

Jones actively courted the Black vote (albeit in ways that were not specific to our needs) which is why he specifically thanked them after thanking victory. If left to just white people, Judicial R. Kelly would be riding that horse he goofily used as a prop yesterday all the way to the Senate to the delight of Steve Bannon, the multiple-shirt wearing, white supremacist errand boy for his billionaire benefactors and fellow racists, the Mercer family.

But while Black people do deserve credit for last night’s results, certain realities cannot be ignored. Black people are the most susceptible to voter suppression and voter suppression is remarkably cruel in the state of Alabama.

Moreover, Black voters only became a subject of conversation about this special election once it became clear that allegations of Moore being a pedophile did not prove to be a destructive enough blow to his campaign certainly not after that admitted sexual assaulter in the White House voted for him.

And it is not lost on me how Black people’s morality has been questioned by members of both major political parties yet it is Black people that will spare this country the embarrassment of having a pedophiliac bigoted theocrat in the Senate.

Still, for those of you out there cheerleading Black voters especially Black women for the role they paid in Moore’s defeat, spare us all the mammying of Black female voters and creating yet another superhero-like savior depiction of us. Black voters didn’t do this for y’all; they did it for self-preservation.

Unlike most white voters hello, white women especially we do not collectively vote against our interests. We tend to make due with what’s there even if it’s the bare minimum. But we are more deserving than that.

If you want to thank Black women and Black voters overall, donate money to Black female politicians. Also, do your part to help repeal Voter ID laws, advocate for for automatic voter registration, advance the call to restoring voting rights for ex-felons (which surely helped in Alabama where it is allowed and Moore complained about on social media), and join the efforts to help end racial gerrymandering.

Most of all, get Democrats, including Doug Jones, to stop acting like their lil’ color blind policies are the fix we need because where those policies claim not to see color, structural racism surely does. Think of Black voters are like the hook of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle”: rub us the right way.

Afterall, while select members of the GOP may be relieved a pedophile won’t be joining the ranks, they are looking at the Black voter turnout and already prepping another strike for 2018 and 2020.

It May Not Have Been Patti LaBelle’s Place To Talk About Luther Vandross’ Sexuality, But I’m Glad She Did

If you ask a Black woman in her 70s a direct question, chances are she will give you a direct answer.

Seemingly keenly aware of this, Andy Cohen posed Patti LaBelle a profoundly intimate question about her close friend, the late Luther Vandross earlier this week on an episode of Watch What Happens Live: “Did Vandross struggle with the idea of coming out publicly? Was that something that you talked about at all?”

“He did not want his mother to be [upset]–although she might have known–he wasn’t going to come out and say this to the world,” LaBelle explained to Cohen. “And he had a lot of lady fans. He told me that he just didn’t want to upset the world.”

Still, some took issue with her. During her Hot Topics segment on Thursday, talk show host Wendy Williams took issue with LaBelle commenting on Vandross’ private life. As much as I have enjoyed Williams, considering much of her radio shtick included speculating on the sexuality of select male entertainers (and occasionally, this shtick has surfaced on daytime TV), I am tickled by such assertion.

Insert the audio clip of Ooooh, how you doing? here.

Williams claims she can do so because she is an outsider, not a friend. That is senseless to me. Who better to answer a legitimate question about Luther Vandross than someone who actually knew him and loved him? LaBelle’s intent was not to be gossipy; she was asked a question about her friend and she answered thoughtfully and respectfully.

Yes it can be dicey to talk about someone after they’re dead, but Luther Vandross is dead and Patti LaBelle was asked a question that involved her. She chose to answer.

Others are bothered that Cohen even dared to ask pointing out that mere weeks ago, he asked Rosie O’Donnell about Whitney Houston’s rumored relationship with Robyn Crawford.

Granted, Cohen has been known to be messy with the sort of questions he poses his WWHL guests, but I don’t find this line of questioning to be malicious. Houston’s alleged bisexuality has been the subject of a documentary and been addressed by Houston’s mom, ex-husband, and Crawford herself wrote about Houston for Esquire which may not have confirmed anyone’s speculation but certainly stoked it.

And like Houston, many have commented on Vandross’ sexuality after his passing notably Out magazine’s piece “The Secret Gay Life of Luther Vandross” published in its April 2006 issue.

For those that have used LaBelle’s comments to lash out at Black people specifically, please do the community a favor and properly contextualize your critiques (or just shut up). While I understand that Vandross’ core group of fans were Black women, ask yourself if George Michael would have enjoyed the mega success he had in the 1980s if he were out? Exactly.

Such is why I’m more invested in the crux of LaBelle’s answer than litigating whether or not she had the right to offer one.

When I came out, my greatest concern was disappointing my mother. Ultimately, I feel that I did disappoint her, and while I have no regrets and we continue to love each other, daring to live as I was born became a barrier. I feel for anyone that is put in that situation.

Interestingly enough, my mom once took me to see Luther Vandross perform at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. I was a child and though I may not have thought it out loud, when I saw Luther, who was somewhere in between “Big Luther” and “Skinny Luther” at the time and wearing some purple sequin jacket, I saw through him (how could you not in that jacket), saw a part of me, and was fearful of what all that meant.

It’s unfortunate that Vandross worried that he would be disappointing his female fans, but his concerns were warranted. Much of his music was about love and selling a fantasy; sadly, if he were to acknowledge he was gay at the time, a sizable portion of the audience might have felt alienated. The same goes for George Michael, Whitney Houston, and every other artist of that era rumored or confirmed not to be heterosexual.

Although we’ve made much progress since then in terms of acceptance, consider that even at the end of 2017, we are still debating whether or not queer related films are sexual enough (and the reasons why they do tone them down).

Moreover, while there are acts like Frank Ocean, Sam Smith, and Syd, name songs of theirs that are explicitly about same sex love and/or graphic in their discussion of same gender sexual acts that have dominated the charts like those from their straight counterparts? We all can listen to songs from straight acts that do not directly speak to our sexual identities and enjoy them all the same.

Straight people have not totally responded in kind.

Knowing that, I’m not upset with Patti LaBelle offering a frank assessment of a struggle that pained her dear friend. I’m more so bothered that despite that progress that’s been made since one of the world’s greatest voices left us, the issues that concerned the late Luther Vandross remain matters worth worrying over.

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“Thots & Thoughts” is a column in which musings on dating, sex, race, religion, and politics all come togetherfrom a bird’s-eye view.

Kenya Moore’s ‘Real Housewives’ Transphobia Is Tacky AF

I’ve watched colonoscopies on morning TV more entertaining than much of this season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. No, that is not a euphemism for watching porn in the earliest hours of the day, but if we’re talking about asses greeting the screen, look no further than the most recent episode of the Bravo franchise whose stock has fallen faster than Phaedra Parks’ reputation at Bible study. (Who am I kidding? The stans been clocked that ass.)

Still, of all the things this show and its cast members could have clung to for the sake of consistency, maligning members of the community it largely steals from should have been its lowest priority.

On last Sunday’s episode, viewers were treated to the sight of gay men once again being accessorized on the show along with a casual dose of transphobia.

First, there was NeNe Leakes’ “Gurls & Gays All White Affair.” As Derek J noted to Cynthia Bailey, something was off about the theme. This show has a habit of using gay men as props, and while I know Black folks typically love an all-white party, considering Leakes is the same person who harped on her love of gays once upon a time, then denigrated a gay Black man on the show as a “queen” and used “girl” as a pejorative descriptor, this party doesn’t suggest that she’s learned anything from her past mistakes. Nonetheless, she’s already announced a second annual party in 2018 and toasted “the haters” for garnering the event sponsorship.

I still find the title cringeworthy, but if Baloo can keep her “queen” related insults under her wig, I suppose we can leave her scalp alone. Having said that, if she tries us again, I hope she spills red wine and Hennessy on her white pants, and may her top be stained with hot sauce and catfish grease and let any dry cleaner she take it set the shit on fire right in front of her. Bloop.

As for Kenya Moore, may this fake ass Valerie Cherish whose entire existence on this has reminded me of a Build-A-Bear store, lying ass people on social media, and y’all’s president’s fabrication-filled Twitter timeline twirl right on into the abyss.

During an argument with Kim Zolciak, Kenya said: “Why do you have such a hard-on for me? Didn’t they cut it off during your reassignment surgery? Why do you have such a hard-on? Whack off somewhere. Get it off. Jack off somewhere and get it off your chest.”

Get it? Kim Zolciak used to have a penis and, apparently, that penis has a hard-on for Kenya Moore because Kim decided to troll Kenya about her secret marriage the same way Kenya came for her at Chateau Shereé awhile back. But, like, Kim got it cut off because she’s not really a cis-woman and that’s purportedly some kind of an insult. That’s so funny I could tell Kenya Moore to shut her simple, transphobic ass the fuck up! Insert laugh track here.

I couldn’t see Kenya Moore’s tweets because I recently learned that she blocked me? Why? The hell if I know. She strikes me as the kind of thirsty celebrity that searches her name so maybe she saw that I mocked her fake relationship with Walter. Or pointed out that she’s been copying previous cast members’ storylines to get airtime. Or laughed at the idea that anyone besides Mr. Magoo six months after he died would mistake her for Beyoncé. Or that she had some nerve trying to come for Kim Fields’ career as if being on the set of Martin for 15 minutes 20 years ago gives her the right to insult a legend. I don’t know and I don’t really give a damn either way.

However, I did learn that she addressed the criticism of her remarks on Twitter. She quoted someone who wrote this and added “Reaching”: “Nothing @KenyaMoore said was transphobic. It was just a major read. Slowly rewind the episode and listen what she said. #StayMad #RHOA”

You can rewind it, chop and screw it, remix it, and play it another a Metro Boomin production for all I care and most of us with sense will still know what Kenya said was indeed transphobic. Kenya’s intent was clear. It was just as clear a few seasons back when she insinuated that Kim Fields’ husband was gay. Like many of the women on this show, they want to flank themselves around queer people, use them for their wit, culture, and labor but the second someone pisses them off, they use their identities as a means to insult.

That is blatant disrespect, a lack of regard for our humanity, and most of all, intellectually lazy. Kenya Moore has two options: She can apologize or she can continue being an insensitive, hypocritical moron whose little quip adds on to pathetic lingering prejudices about trans women that we need to collectively rid ourselves of. If it helps her reach the latter, more humane option, she can even borrow someone else’s apology lines so long as she remains sincere with it.

Images via Getty & Bravo

Welcome To The Reckoning

Powerful white men collectively tend to meet consequence with the same foreignness my country Black ass greets those casseroles I only used to hear about on old, white nuclear family-focused sitcoms.

That’s largely related to the fact that they so often never have to deal with the repercussions of their actions — certainly not with respect to sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and other predatory behavior. But it feels like, for the first time ever, these men are finally facing some of their accusers and being told by them and the lot of us, “No, that’s not okay.” Although men of all of races and ethnicities are guilty of these offenses, there are certain responses that reek of a particular strain of hubris best described as “mighty white.”

Take, for instance, Jeffrey Tambor’s announcement that he’s quitting Transparent in light of recent allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him. The first came from his former assistant and transgender actress Van Barnes. In a private Facebook post published earlier this month, Barnes claimed that Tambor sexually harassed and groped her. A little over a week later, Tambor’s trans co-star Trace Lysette released a statement alleging that Tambor “made many sexual advances and comments at me, but one time it got physical.” Lysette described those physical actions as Tambor pressing up against her and proceeded to do “quick, discreet thrusts back and forth” in between filming.

In response to the allegations, Tambor acknowledged that he “can be volatile and ill-tempered” but went on to say “I have never been a predator — ever.” Tambor described Barnes specifically as a “former disgruntled assisted of mine” while noting that he was “appalled and distressed by the baseless accusation.” Amazon subsequently began an investigation and reports claimed that Transparent writers were exploring continuing the series without its award-winning star. Tambor has since given the writers that opportunity with his exit, but he did so in a way that portrays himself as a victim.

In a statement, Tambor wrote: “I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue. Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.”

The use of the phrase “politicized atmosphere” is undoubtedly a dig from Tambor at his accusers, but it also reveals that ultimately, Tambor doesn’t truly understand what is happening. He continues to see himself as a victim rather than earnestly acknowledge that whether he understood it at the time or not, he behaved in ways that made his women co-workers feel uncomfortable, powerless, and tormented. If one is to make a sincere act of contrition, one has to plainfully make clear that they see the errors of their ways. Tambor has demonstrated that he does not.

His statement reminds me of another from veteran journalist Charlie Rose, who has been axed by CBS News and PBS after a Washington Post exposé revealed that eight women accused Rose of sexual harassment — including groping, lewd calls, and walking around nude around his female colleagues. Like Tambor, Rose denied the allegations, claiming he felt he “was pursuing shared feelings” but went on to add that he apparently now has “a profound new respect for women and their lives.” Rose did offer somewhat of an actual apology, but the fact he felt compelled to defend himself and portray what was clearly shown not to be consensual as such is frustrating.

Of course, there are worse examples such as the statement made from Harvey Weinstein, who tried to initially spin his faux mea culpa as a means to take on the NRA while also denying his many, many accusers. Or Kevin Spacey trying to conflate his sexuality with accusations involving pedophilia. Or Louis C.K., who got a lot of praise for his apology in that he noted that the reporting of his behavior was accurate, but if you read his remarks again, you’ll see the comedian never truly apologized to his accusers.

Then there are the men standing on the sideline who are doing their part to make sure we learn nothing from what’s happening in our culture right now.

Dylan Byers, a senior reporter at CNN, wrote in a since-deleted tweet: “Beyond the pain/humiliation women have endured (which is of course the paramount issue), it’s worth taking stock of the incredible drain of talent from media/entertainment taking place right now. Never has so much talent left the industry all at once.”

If Byers really felt the pain and humiliation of the women speaking truth to power were paramount, he wouldn’t concern himself with the white men who chased away talent from media and entertainment with their predatory behavior. After being rightly criticized, Byers later tweeted: “I’ve deleted my previous tweet. It was poorly worded and didn’t properly convey my intended observation.”

An apology without an apology is a meaningless gesture. Byers meant what he said and no rewording would alter the crux of his sentiment: he’s worried about these white men being held accountable before anyone else. Worry about the women. Worry about the non-whites. Worry about any other group besides white men for whom the world so often caters to at the expense of everyone else. The pampered men will be fine; remember, they’re rich.

After all, Mel Gibson is already back to being the star of family films despite his own history of making racist, anti-Semitic comments in the past. Who is to say these men won’t rebound? In the end, they’re white men, and you can never count them out. We should all work to prevent that, though.

Because we are not living in a “politicized atmosphere” as Tambor and others like him would have you believe. We are living in a period of reckoning. It is long overdue, but in order to make sure that this change stays, we have to hold these men accountable. That means owning up to one’s actions and doing the work to make amends and help break the cycle. This time right now is not about the accused, their feelings, and their befuddlement at the world no longer bending to their will. This is about their victims and the culture that creates them. Some of us get that, but it’s painfully clear which of us still don’t.