Church and Society / Politics / Pop Culture / Random Thoughts from an Uppity Negro

Response to “When Does Gay Tolerance Go Too Far?”

onefamily1First of all, if this is the best writing sample that has been produced by The Maroon Tiger, then I feel as though I’ve missed my calling as a journalist because I think I write better than that.

The article in question can be found by clicking on this link and refers to the UNN post on which I first shared it with my readers.

Secondly, and more to the issue of things I think Mr. Gaynor is speaking naively without placing himself in the shoes of a gay person living in a heterosexual world.  The ultimate question raised for me is to what level of tolerance would YOU want if you were in their position?

Actually, my response ends with that question, but I have much more to say.

I think if I hadn’t attended an HBCU and hadn’t had the experiences that I had with gay people on campus, then perhaps I would have left my response as such, but since I did, I have some advice for some of my homosexual bretheren.

I remember when I was a freshman at Dillard University in New Orleans, that in addition to the general culture shock that is the State city of New Orleans and being away from the parents and what not, there was this added issue of the gay presence on campus.  To be specific, there were four young males on campus, two of which took “out” to the next level.  These group of men would go to Ashley Stewart, wear Bebe shirts and everything.  Not to mention they called each other “bitch” all the time.

Now, because I had a female friend who was friends with them, I kind of got to know them on a less flamboyant level, but what I do remember was that they thrived off of attention–or at least that’s how it was interpreted to the rest of the campus.  They thrived off of getting a rise from the heterosexual male population of the campus.  These guys would put an extra flaunt in their step when they walked by a certain bunch of the alpha males in our freshman class.  These guys would be super extra with talk of sex and other various encounters that they had.  I remember vividly being in the lounge and one of them walking in with just boxer shorts and tank top t-shirt, and this was something that not even the heterosexual dudes of the dorm would do.  

Oh did I mention one of them walked out of the shower down the hall naked?

Ohhhhh…yeah, I remember why, some of the straight dudes had taken their clothes while they were in the shower.

See, this whole issue is multi-layered and one straight-forward approach doesn’t apply.  Whereas I fault the gay dudes on campus who knowingly raise the ire of idiotic and egotistical straight males, I still question the motives of the straight males who would take the clothes from someone who already threatened to walk up and down the hallway naked.

And who’s side does it help out that the rumors on campus were that the same straight dudes who ridiculed the gay guys on campus were the same ones who were knocking on their door at 2 and 3 in the morning?

****************

Now, since this is my blog, I do have something to say about males wearing purses.  

I think that’s more a matter of personal responsibility.  Society isn’t really ready for that–yet.  That would take a fundamental shift that I don’t see coming in the near future at all.  I really don’t think the males on Morehouse’s campus, or any campus for that matter should lose any sleep over a fellow classmate wearing a purse to class–you’re there to learn.  However, my concern is for the purse wearer.  They live in a society that will force them to compromise: either be who you be and wear the purse or don’t wear the purse and stand a better chance of being accepted by larger society.

Of course an even deeper question would ask is wearing the purse being who you really be, or is just a tool to get attention?

I don’t know, I’ve never worn a purse, nor had the desire.  Aside from being the man at the mall who was stuck going with his wife to Black Friday sales at Macy’s, I’ve never really held a purse.  I’m sure the response to that is, why should gay males have to cater to and compromise their being just to fit in with larger society?

I don’t know.  Pose that question to yourself.

It’s my understanding that one goes to college to prepare for the “real world” or whatever we want to call post-college life these days.  The primary objective of college life is to successfully pass classes and that all other social interactions are secondary.  In the midst of all of that, there is some sort of assimilation that takes place–reality is that homeboy with a grill in his mouth, tattoos on his neck and arms, jeans down to his ankles is probably not going to get the corporate job.  HBCUs especially foster an atmosphere for him to dress how he wants to dress outside of the classroom, but once inside the classroom HBCU professors have a tendency to slip into Sunday school teacher mode or Church Deacon mode and tell the boy, “Son, pull ya pants up,” or if someone dressed like a goon walks in, they may actually take the time out to see them after class and ask them “Where do you expect to see yourself in 5 or 10 years?”

I pose the same question to these gay people that decide to wear purses and wear weaves: where do they see themselves in five to 10 years–let alone at the age of 40 or 50.

Oh remember the guy I was talking about who was prancing down the hallway naked–yeah, he’s dead now.  One of four classmates that the Dillard class of 2006, the first post-Katrina class, has buried since 2005.

This is NOT me being anti-gay, but rather this is me being realistic.  Sadly, life is not a utopia like Morehouse or even Atlanta for that matter.  For those that can find their niche outside of the campus communities, that’s fine, don’t let anyone stop you.  But, everytime someone sends me a clip of transsexuals or gay boys fighting on Youtube, my heart breaks because my ultimate question, and one I pose for everyone, is how are you being a productive member of society?  No, this doesn’t have anything to do with have you made your family proud, or even your friends, but honestly, have you reached a plateau for your own existence or do you still have a ways to go in just being who you be?

*****************

Is being gay comparable to being black?

No.

Well, let me clean that up a bit.  I do believe that some people are born gay, and I think that some choose that way or become that way as a result of a plethora of life’s circumstances.  I think how one chooses to carry themselves as a gay person is NOT comparable to being black.  And of course that goes into how does one define being gay; is it the action itself?  is it self-identification? or is it societal identification?  My rubric is that if a gay person took it upon themselves to apply for a job, their interviewer doesn’t necessarily know that they are gay–all of that goes into how one decides to dress, comport themselves and how they speak; they’d see I’m black from the moment I walked through the door.

Or maybe from my name.

As far as the civil rights struggle and fighting for equal rights, I believe that there is much to be learned from the Modern Civil Rights struggle during the 60s that could be applicable to 2009, but it most certainly is a different world in which we live.  We have a different set of rules by which successive generations operate from that was not the case in the 1960s.  Not only are we more tolerant, we’re more accepting of different lifestyles, in fact we celebrate diversity on a level which has not seen before.  But, to borrow the words of Attorney General Eric Holder, “we’re a nation of cowards” not just when it comes to race, but when it comes to sexuality as well.

******************

I know it sounds like I’m all over the place with this, but it’s because I am, and I think that one should be in order to fully understand the breadth of the world in which we live.  We live in a complex society and the simplicity of the structures we try and impose on it are falling bankrupt.  Our previous norms and concepts of accepted living are changing and the inability for our various institutions such as educational facilities and various churches to keep up with the conversation is going to result in less tolerance from the majority society.

And let me address personally Mr. Gaynor, the author of this article “When Does Tolerance Go Too Far?” and by extension the editorial staff of The Maroon Tiger:

Clearly we have “hard work to do, and loads to lift” because the title alone of Gaynor’s article fails to understand the idea of tolerance in the first place.  If tolerance were placed on a continuum, going farther would in face be acceptance.  Many of us profess this Christian ideal of God and Jesus loving us all and accepting us all, but dammit, we’ve created our own mantra’s that get us around really practicing that such as “love the sinner and hate the sin.”  And I be damned, if the authority of biblical scripture doesn’t get in the way of us fully accepting each other.  We try and reconcile a biblical text that CLEARLY is irreconcilable because of it’s many authors and vastly different authorial intents.

Frankly, I’m borderline convinced that the Bible has solely prevented us from fully embracing what is humanly natural to accept, not just tolerate, all humans.  But the “us vs. them” dichotomy as outlined in the biblical record has a stronghold on most mindsets.

Granted  Gaynor didn’t go into the politics and religious aspects surrounding this controversy, I think his article proved to be homophobic and naive.  Seriously, what Atlanta world is he living in?   He writes “Is it fair for a straight male to come to an institution where he is forced to live in an environment that makes him feel uncomfortable?”  To which I say, for the nearly $40K that’s being paid for tuition and other expenses, there are thousands of other schools in the country from which to send one’s money to, if you don’t feel comfortable, then disenroll and go elsewhere.

Not to mention, an anonymous source has let UNN know that the author of this article is rumored to not necessarily be straight himself.

Okay, that was messy as hell, forgive me, but if I can be totally honest I almost picked that up from the little picture they had in the article.

I hope I didn’t come off as some intolerant, narrow-minded bigot just because I really believe that some of these gay boys on campus purposely incite the ire of the straight boys and I think that concerning this issue, this is a real issue and needs to be told.

************************

Okay, after all of that, what I want you the reader to walk away with is this:  if the shoe was on the other foot, just how far would you want tolerance to go?

Alright, leave your comments down below.  Keep them cool and not just completely dogging folk out.  This is a touchy subject for some, and I want to try and keep this a hate free zone as much as possible.  Failure to do so may result in your comment not being posted or summarily removed.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL


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9 thoughts on “Response to “When Does Gay Tolerance Go Too Far?”

  1. I’m sorry, but I fail to understand both YOUR point and the point of Mr. Gaynor.

    You seem to say that because “society” isn’t ready for a guy to carry a “purse” (rather vague term), he shouldn’t, and if he does, he’s doing it for attention. Maybe he just likes the convenience of being able to carry his wallet, keys, iPhone, whatever out of the way and not in his pockets. My question is – why does it matter? In the case of Mr. Gaynor – how is someone carrying a purse eroding the fabric of Morehouse. If that’s all it takes then there are bigger issues at hand.

    Second, I made the same argument about being black vs being gay. But here’s the deal. Where, yes, I may not get the job because I’m black (or a woman or both), and yes being black may pose challenges in some workplaces, I know that I’m PROTECTED from most treatment. Sexual Orientation isn’t for most part. So let’s assume a gay person isn’t out at the interview. For how long does he or she need to be in the closet at work….unable to sit out a picture of his or her partner like the rest of us…unable to invite the partner to a work event…afraid to bump into colleagues or vendors or clients on the weekends because what will they think? It’s not as easy as in or out. We talk about living a double life as blacks and code switching. We know the cultural schizophrenia and yet we can’t imagine what having to live a TRUE double life (not just a changing of tone and verb usage) would mean.

    Finally – about the “gay boys…purposefully trying to incite the ire of the straight boys.” Oh give me a break and give them a standing ovation for daring to challenge the rampant black male homophobia. Just as the straight guys could pick any school, there are several schools in the US that have taken a stand against bigotry and would be much more open institutions. You would think that black men face enough challenges that they wouldn’t need to create an issue around this. But I guess not. Gender is a social construct. Maybe they don’t teach this at Morehouse or Dillard? Maybe you and Mr. Gaynor disagree? But I think it begs the bigger question of attacking our incorrect and ill-described ideas of manhood and masculinity in the black community. Maybe if we were squicky about vaguely effeminate men or masculine women we could figure out how to have positive relationships. Maybe then, there wouldn’t be so many young people of color (black, hispanic, and otherwise) dying because they’re misunderstood. Because someone else feels the need to define what man and woman mean. I encourage you to check out the work that GenderPAC, HRC and GLAAD are doing to make the world better for GLBT people everywhere.

    I’ve rambled – but I have to say – as a reader, I’m sad. I’m sad because you didn’t come out with an unequivocated dismissal of Gaynor’s diatribe. I’m sad because in the paper of the school that is supposed to develop the epitome of black men dribble like that diatribe is tolerated. I’m sad because we have so many more issues to deal with, but we can’t even stop worrying about what 2 adults do in the privacy of their homes to deal with them.

    • @Gracie B

      This response may be a bit harsh, but, um…it’s where I am, and I’m saying it all in love with the thought in mind that there really is no context in text….

      I get the impression you didn’t want to understand my point. I stated early on in the post that “[S]econdly, and more to the issue of things I think Mr. Gaynor is speaking naively without placing himself in the shoes of a gay person living in a heterosexual world. The ultimate question raised for me is to what level of tolerance would YOU want if you were in their position?” And I finished the post after saying that I had rambled by saying “I know it sounds like I’m all over the place with this, but it’s because I am, and I think that one should be in order to fully understand the breadth of the world in which we live. We live in a complex society and the simplicity of the structures we try and impose on it are falling bankrupt. Our previous norms and concepts of accepted living are changing and the inability for our various institutions such as educational facilities and various churches to keep up with the conversation is going to result in less tolerance from the majority society.”I finished by saying “Okay, after all of that, what I want you the reader to walk away with is this: if the shoe was on the other foot, just how far would you want tolerance to go?”

      If you missed that, then I’m quite clear that you wanted to.

      By raising that question, I was throwing the ball back into the court of society. I already know how I’m going to personally act toward gay folks and even the flamboyant queens. Which, I still stand, purposely instigated straight boys on campus–I think that’s beneath you’re level of intelligence to even remotely suggest that flamboyant gay boys are challenging patriarchy and male homophobia on campus by sashaying by them asking em if they wanted some or talking lewdly to them–especially because they know what the response is. That’s no more than typical playground child psychology at play–the gay dudes know that they can get a response from them that puts them at the center of attention, I watched it all the time.

      Moreover, I’m saddened that you didn’t make any note of how I excoriated the church for their practices and how I really did make a condemnation of the lack of tolerance, daresay acceptance that’s taught on college campuses–notably Dillard University.

      Annnnnd, apparently, this post didn’t satisfy you because I didn’t expressly say “Gaynor was wrong for this article” but instead said:

      1. “First of all, if this is the best writing sample that has been produced by The Maroon Tiger, then I feel as though I’ve missed my calling as a journalist because I think I write better than that.”

      2. “Secondly, and more to the issue of things I think Mr. Gaynor is speaking naively without placing himself in the shoes of a gay person living in a heterosexual world.”

      3. “Clearly we have “hard work to do, and loads to lift” because the title alone of Gaynor’s article fails to understand the idea of tolerance in the first place. If tolerance were placed on a continuum, going farther would in face [sic] be acceptance.” *fact

      4. Granted Gaynor didn’t go into the politics and religious aspects surrounding this controversy, I think his article proved to be homophobic and naive. Seriously, what Atlanta world is he living in? He writes “Is it fair for a straight male to come to an institution where he is forced to live in an environment that makes him feel uncomfortable?” To which I say, for the nearly $40K that’s being paid for tuition and other expenses, there are thousands of other schools in the country from which to send one’s money to, if you don’t feel comfortable, then disenroll and go elsewhere.”

      And yes, I agree that we need to stop worrying about two consenting adults, however at issue is how others feel that their rights have been infringed upon. Whether or not they have been or not by certain perspectives, I think we, as a society, need to be much more objective in our approaches when we deal with complex issues like this. Whereas this may be cut and dried for you, or others, or even evangelical Christians, this is a highly complex issue for me. My blog post was supposed to indicate this, but that at the end of the day, it comes down to my agency in the whole issue and I have to ask myself how would I feel if the shoe was on the other foot.

  2. Hi Uppity, I stayed out of this one because I have other things to do, but given this exchange I thought I’d give my 2 cents. I’m in a gay-friendly church and know a lot of gay people, also transgendered people. I thought your post was thoughtful and real. But about the purse and flamboyance and stuff, look at it this way: How do you feel when White folks say that it is ok to be Black, but people should know what the normal standards of behavior are and not “act Black” — not wear distinctively Afrocentric clothes or hair dos, not use “Black English” or distinctively Black mannerisms, not expect “Black” music to be played at campus events, etc. ? People who are working hard to blend in and not let their difference show are often fearful and even have what many call internalized oppression, and it can feel oppressive to have to conform to other people’s cultural standards. Fact is (I say this as a sociologist), people who feel marginalized and oppressed often make a point of exaggerating their subcultural differences precisely to make the point that they have the right to be different. There is an in-your-face edge to it, to be sure. That is precisely the point: I’m different from you and you need to live with that. I’m old enough to remember the old rallies: “Say it loud. I’m Black and I’m proud” and people exaggerating their “Blackness” to make the point. To me, it’s a similar thing going on with the things you describe as troubling.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m old enough to get weirded out by hairy guys dressed in low-cut wedding dresses swishing around in the gay pride parades, but I do know why they are doing it. And having gotten to know the deep pain of people who feel that they are the wrong sex and who are dressing and acting cross-gender, I’ve really had to grow in my understanding of these issues.

  3. @olderwoman

    As I experiment with this new blog face…

    I was really trying to keep my deep, deep feelings out of it all, but honestly, I couldn’t care less. It was uncomfortable for me at first when I got to undergrad, but especially after being here in seminary and having FRIENDS, people I’d take a bullet for who are gay and HIV+ I’ve gotten over it.

    Apparently, this was a VERY lame attempt to try and garner more comments so there would be a wider range of POV which is what I was trying to do, because I’m quite convinced that the POV that I assumed in the original post is really how many people approach this whole subject.

    I guess I’m in this whole “it’s all relative” stage because exaggerated blackness vs. exaggerated gayness doesn’t quite jibe with me. I’ll still go back to my old mainstay that race in this country isn’t an ontological issue as much as it’s caught up literally in skin melanin. That’s not the case with homosexuality.

    Honestly, I could care less if gay dudes walked up and down the street with purses, skirts and the whole nine. I’m living in Atlanta and its damn near an everyday occurence seeing that. I’ve visited The Vision Church for class, which is associated with my denomination UCC and trust me, it was moooooore than eye-opening to hear the pastor preach about his “first man” and to have transgendered ushers–trust me, I couldn’t care less about purses and the like.

    However, until someone else decides to chime in on this, I still want the POV expressed that for most in this society purses carried by men isn’t really acceptable–what do we do with that?

    Which leads me into my ultimate question that I posed at the beginning of the original post and at the end of this post: how far would YOU want tolerance to go if the shoe was on the other foot?

  4. They say UCC=Unitarians Considering Christ.

    BTW in my point above, I wasn’t saying that Blacks & gays are the same or have suffered the same or any such. Just that acting “in your face” like that is a political act. It is meant to provoke, so it is not surprising that it would provoke. But there is political meaning in aggressively acting out one’s difference.

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