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F*** White Boys: The Agony of White Assimilation and the Ecstasy of Black Liberation

Still from World of Men

"My race is black, my skin is brown, but my life is ostensibly white. And I’m miserable because of it."

It's okay to be unhappy. When the whole big dumb world seems to be caught up in one collective hurt, it's okay to be unhappy. And it's imperative to express it. I wrote a poem the other day. It didn't rhyme, it wasn't particularly catchy, rather, it was, in a word, invective. Invective as "fuck":

Fuck your whiteness, fuck your privilege, fuck your abs, fuck your European ideals of beauty, fuck your headless torsos, fuck your Grindr, Scruff, Jack'd, Tinder, Adam4Adam...
That only reveal the monsters lurking beneath
The insecurities, the prejudices, the despicable and deplorable you feel you must hide behind your fragile armor of masculinity
Fuck your preferences
Fuck your ignorance
Fuck you for telling me what my experience is and has been
Fuck you for dismissing my anger as part and parcel to my race
When you could never conceive the hurt or anger I wake up with, just knowing I have another day of justifying my existence and validating my own worth
So that now, I greet my fellow faggots with the same look of derision, disappointment and disgust
If I can bring myself to look at them at all
There is no brotherly love, no camaraderie, there is no community
Only the resentment that eats away at me, eroding my sanity, my ability to love

It was painful to share, almost as painful as it was to write, but my ability to keep up this ongoing charade of adulthood depended on it. I shared it because I could no longer hold onto my pain alone.

I got a response shortly after from an old friend, imparting some wisdom I felt I had known, or should've known by now:

I have felt similar feelings in the past and relate to your pain. What has helped me remedy it was a conscious choice I made several years ago to 1. Stop focusing my romantic/sexual interest towards white and European men and 2. To actively pursue and nurture relationship (both platonic and romantic...BUT especially platonic) with other queer men of color. And to make that pursuit intergenerational as well. Finding and building community has been the key for me [...]To know that my friends and lovers have also experienced the challenges inherent in being a queer man of color has helped me release my anger towards white gay men and their privilege... Helped me stop seeking out validation and acceptance from them and their world and reclaim my power. At the end of the day it's not about them, or their privilege, preferences, etc. It's about the power WE give them. You may have figured this out and I may be preaching to the choir. But if not I would suggest finding your brown brothers... Seek out brown mentors.


Race was always something I thought I should transcend, that I could transcend, something that didn't quite apply to me because I was gay.

However, I soon realized that no matter how I saw me, the world saw me as black first, and everything else second. It began to really sink in when, around 14 or 15, I was at a Rite Aid--looking, probably, for an apricot face wash because proper skincare has always been a priority--and a black female employee took me aside, as she had probably taken aside her own son.

"They're watching you," she told me.

"They" referred to the other, white employees, and not to some alien threat or nebulous government organization, as I had originally thought. "They" were already suspicious of me--little old gay me-- because I was black, black like the boys who made fun of little old gay me. I left without buying my apricot face wash. My skin recovered, the rest of me never did.

This was the first time I realized, truly realized, that to the rest of the world, I wasn't gay, or a good student, or shy, I was black. And I was a threat.

I didn't come to understand the full extent of this judgment on the color of my skin and not the content of my character until I entered the gay community, and started dating. Where I thought I would feel accepted as another faggot, as someone also marginalized by society, I encountered further marginalization.

By then, I had gotten used to being, as Hilton Als described in 1994 in The New Yorker (and reprinted again in White Girls) "the only one." Being the only black gurl in the room. This was something I was acutely aware of at a time when my peers were still figuring out who they were, because when you're dramatically different than everyone else around you, you realize that early on--and you realize you have to assimilate in order to survive, also early on. Not only did I assimilate, I excelled. But the more I excelled, the more I stood out as the only one.

So by the time I went to my fancy, over-expensive college, I felt I had finally burrowed my way into the American Dream. I was an outsider, sure, but I had found my way inside, inside whiteness, inside privilege--two things that had been denied me but flaunted before me as goals to be achieved.

Not only did I not fit into this ivory tower, but I couldn't afford it, and after two years, out I fell. Still, in my short tenure there, I had made lifelong friends, most of whom happened to be white. Over 10 years later, I've held onto the same friends I met in college, and though I've picked up a few more along the way, I'm still often the only black gurl in the room. And even if my friends are considerably woke, and therefore are sympathetic to, and can empathize with, my plight-- as we've all felt like outsiders at one point or another--they can't understand how I see the world, and how the world sees me.


This is one of the main reasons I do what I do for a living. To have a voice, to engender understanding. Still, I work in a mostly white environment in a mostly white industry--I can basically count the number of black people in media, particularly queer media, on one hand. It's about the same number as in Provincetown. I've gone nearly ever year for the past decade with my group of gays. It's a glorious, regenerative time for us all, but my wisdom-imparting friend's experience there was different than mine:

The most racist gay place in America!!!! No wonder u in crisis honey. Lol! A white gay man actually used the N word in my presence there. I'll NEVER go back.

He's not the only black kween who's related a similar experience to me. Ptown, a singularly queer safe space, like that other gay mecca Fire Island, is not so safe or accepting of QPOC. And yet this is where I find myself, physically and spiritually, each year.

My race is black, my skin is brown, but my life is ostensibly white. And I'm miserable because of it.

To assimilate is to give up, or dull, certain parts of yourself, so that you run the risk of not recognizing who you are anymore. But as "white" as my life and my surroundings are, I've never been able to escape my blackness. I would be lying if I said I never wanted to, if only to experience sex and love without the complications I associate with both. Embracing my blackness, however, has led me to greater understanding of myself.

One of the most edifying and life-altering moments I've experienced took place during an extended kiki among black, queer creatives like myself. We had all worked on the second volume of the QPOC culture magazine The Tenth, and met up one Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn to shoot the shit. For a few hours, I existed without explanation, without apology. There in those few hours was the brotherly love I sought. There was the camaraderie. There was the community.


I always knew the coming-out process could be traumatic. Anytime you assert your identity and independence, there's bound to be collateral damage. What I didn't know was that being out could also be traumatic. The tragedy in Orlando made that all too clear. In the following days, I felt the need to come together with my fellow queers, to assert our identities and independence together. I went to Pride in New York--only for an hour because I'm not about that parade life--just to feel the unity trying to be taken away from us, by crazed gunmen and crazed politicians alike.

In times such as these when we're increasingly threatened to be divided by our differences rather than united in the similarities we share, my need for unity is trumped by my need for self-preservation. Therefore, some division is needed. We are all humans, we all have similar wants and desires, we all have the same feelings, but we're not all the same. We can't relate the same way to the same things. Which is why it's so important to seek out others who share your experiences. To "get in where you fit in."

Initially I rejected this, I rejected seeking out primarily or exclusively black queer spaces, because it felt like a capitulation to white hegemony when I felt I wholly deserving, nay, wholly entitled to occupy the same spaces as the "regular," the "mainstream," that is, the white gay community. Spaces I never felt truly welcomed to begin with. There's no better way to feel invisible than entering a club of bearded white clones you see glance your way in unison, only to rescind their attention immediately once they've registered you're not one of them, like the children of the goddamn corn.

But entitlement is a classist emotion. While it does have racial overtones, a person of means will still have a sense of entitlement despite their race or ethnicity. But I've never been a person of means. I've been on food stamps multiple times, both as a child and as an adult. I had shitty credit before I was old enough to even establish credit. I've struggled financially my entire adult life, until basically, well, now. So my sense of entitlement comes from a feeling of being unfairly robbed. Of being denied what I feel is rightfully mine. Success, love, beauty. They're all the same. They all qualify as societal markers of achievement. And I work hard for them all; harder, it seems, than everyone else, only to be granted less.

This apparent failure, which is not a failure at all but just simple disappointment at the limitations of life and one's own abilities to transcend it, is at the heart of my pain. Striving for something that will ever be out of my reach. Perhaps then the key to my happiness--or at least to relinquishing the hatred, resentment, and disappointment I harbor for all gay men, white gay men in particular, and for whiteness in general--is to stop pursuing whiteness. To stop placing it on an undeserved platform. To reject exclusionary white queer spaces. To stop fucking with these white boys.

And to seek association with others who look like me, in a way that enriches, not reduces, my experience as a black queer man--so that I can find harmony between these two identities constantly at war within me.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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