Filmed over the course of a decade, the new documentary Grace Jones Bloodlight And Bami from director Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology) offers a stylish and unconventional look at the Jamaican-born model, singer, and New Wave icon.
Filmed over the course of a decade, the new documentary Grace Jones Bloodlight And Bami from director Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology) offers a stylish and unconventional look at the Jamaican-born model, singer, and New Wave icon.
Dating can be rough, regardless of sexual orientation but sometimes we can make it a lot harder than it has to be. There’s also a lot of things to consider when romantically pursuing someone you’re interested in, regardless of whether it’s for something long term or just a one night stand. There are things we know we have to be aware of and keep in mind the entire time we’re interacting with these other guys. With that said you’d think there are certain things you should already know when interacting with someone you’re trying to get to know better.
For instance if a person is extremely short you aren’t going to make a comment about how it must be easy for them to reach smaller cupboards are you? No you aren’t. Well at least you shouldn’t bring attention to it. Why? Because it’s rude and whether or not they’ve had with it. Or it could make them self-conscious about something they never had a problem with? And that goes for other physical attributes like birthmarks, speech impediments, physical or mental differentiation in ability. And race, which is what I’ll be focusing on today.
Earlier this week after picking up some healthy nutrition (more like 3 family sized bags of Peanut M&M’s) I noticed a guy was watching my every move. It wasn’t a stare so much as it was one of those looks that someone gives that wants you to notice them. So I turned around and did my default response of whenever someone seems interesting which is an eyebrow raised and I lite tilt of the head. He smiled and returned the gesture.
His eyes appraised me from top to bottom (no pun intended) It appeared that I had passed whatever requirements he had in deciding if someone was attractive/interesting. I have this thing where my eyebrow goes up when I’m smiling and he placed his hand on my shoulder and he commented on how strong he presumed I could be. Then that proceeded into me saying a few sexual innuendos that I won’t bore you with as they were a bit off the cuff and a bit dirty.
All really fun and playful banter. He had an amazing smile and a sweet airy laugh. He loved shifting his weight on either foot to begin and end his thought process. It was all endearing within those first few moments. I was really enjoying the conversation and was ready to forget everything else I had planned for the day go hang out with him right at that moment. But then as he was laughing at our small talk, his expression changed slightly to what only I assume to mean he had something serious to say. He lightly touched my arm and said,
“You’re so cute. Funny. I’d like to get to know you. Seem like one of the good blacks that speak well.”
Seem like one of the good blacks that speak well
THE GOOD BLACKS
All the smiles and playfulness on my face was immediately replaced with revulsion and intense anger. I replied saying why the hell he would say something so racist, forgetting temporarily in that moment that when people say things like that they truly believe they’re paying you a compliment when in fact it’s a huge insult. Needless to as that it completely desiccated any amorous feelings I had for this effervescent man. So instead of enlisting into what I’m sure would’ve been a very heated debate on manners, I collected my belongings and left him standing there in the parking lot.
I wish I could say that this was the first and only time someone has said something like this. Or that I’ve only heard it a dozen times or so. But in reality I have heard this phrase too many times to count from some well-meaning guy something so crass. So many decisions are based on the potential length of the relationship with the first few minutes. You have to convey so much within the first few seconds that you all attributes you want to be known (single/married, looking for sex/looking for love, top/bottom/vers). But when you say something completely asinine like the gentleman in this story you eviscerate any ground you made.
All the things you were silently trying to micromanage onside your head becomes only focused on what you believe he’s focused on. Since he brought up my race, then how am I supposed to focus on anything else? Sure there is a lot of pressure from your inner monologue tell you to decide within this small frame of time what to say and what you should not say. These situations seem to be magnified when there
You see what the problem is with comparing someone to the rest of their race, or other tall or short people, guys with birthmarks, stutters or any other thing that you see as unique, different or outside the box, is that it is a problem for you because that is all you seem to focus on. Too often talking about race in the gay community is dismissed and made taboo because it is just assumed that you can’t be racist if you’re gay. But just because you come from one oppressed group does not mean you know everything there is to know about every other oppressed group.
As I was discussing this with colleagues and close friends they wanted me to elaborate on a few points about intersectionality and how race does affect dating in this community. So I wanted to write about some of the things I feel are the biggest issues and point out some things that I feel arise in these situations that if we remember in these situations you won’t offend a person and actually see them as a person. But more specifically these are some of the issues that arise the most.
You don’t have to tell us that this is the first time you’ve ever went out with an African American or anyone outside your race because more than likely we are the first. Even though we are becoming more diverse by the day, most of the dating pool is in the gay community is comprised of Caucasian males. I know you aren’t going to know each and every phrase. No you don’t need some special manual to interact with me. Just be authentic and treat me as I do you’ as a person.
That doesn’t give you an excuse when you’ve said something we feel is insensitive. You can express how you didn’t see it as offensive but try to understand why we are upset. Just like with being gay, there are a lot of intricate levels of insensitivity to institutionalization of racism. In any case when you’ve offended someone you care about, apologize first then talk about it.
No you are not responsible for knowing every sensitive, intricate detail of what it means to be an African American in this country for the man you’re dating. You don’t have to know the reasoning of every time we are offended by something that is insensitive to the color of our skin. But understand there are so many varying levels you may not see. So when your guy points it out, both of you should be willing to listen to both sides.
Remember how it is when someone straight dismisses you for something you feel is homophobic/insensitive to LGBT? The same rule applies here. Because you may not notice the same things that we do. And we see it from a lifetime of patterns that let us know that the intent of statements like “you’re so articulate” can sometimes mean “I don’t think African Americans are smart, intelligent human beings”
So don’t ever dismiss the way we feel. Ever. Even if you don’t agree and are unable to see what we see. Just because you don’t see what the issue may be known that it may not always affect you even though we are together that it will always affect me.
Yes you can engage in conversations about race and race relations. It affects you just as much as it affects me, just not in the same way. You sitting there listening to me giving a speech about what you did wrong or what I found offensive by what someone has said or done will do nothing but make both of us resentful. Open dialogue is what changes perspectives and fosters understanding.
Don’t tell us why you think we are the exception to our race like the story I shared earlier. It makes us feel like we are some type of anomaly of an otherwise undesirable race of people we belong to and are a part of. Telling us we are a contradiction to a stereotype given to our race implies to us that you believe those stereotypes to be true and that even though you show no evidence to the contrary that we are still capable of those behaviors. So on some level you only see the person as a stereotype or a contradiction of a stereotype, and not the person. Stereotypes imply that we are susceptible, regardless of action and behavior.
You see color. Unless you have some kind of differentiation that does not allow you to see color or are visually blind you see color. When someone says “I don’t see color” that means that you are going to ignore when (sadly not if, but when) something comes up about race. Whether that be an inappropriate comment from you or someone else. See the current politically correct thing to say is phrases like I don’t see color to show that it doesn’t factor in who you’ll choose to date. You can’t say that you enjoy learning about different cultures and perspectives and say you don’t see color. Because you do see color.
But again it’s a generalization, and no one ever wants to be considered the “other”. We all notice differences in culture, race, and ethnicity. All of us need to learn that when it comes to race, sexuality, pretty much anything that is innately different to us, does not equal better or worse. Just different. We are still a society that is obsessed with hierarchy and order instead of incorporating even playing fields for everyone.
I am not just my race so when you focus on that it is all I believe you will ever see when you look at me. If all I believe you can see is what’s on the surface then why would I want to go deeper with you? Spoil you? To put all the effort necessary into building a strong stable relationship or one of the hottest, most passionate hookups ever? Because you are only seeing the surface. And I am better than that. Even certain myths and stereotypes (no matter how true they may be) that on the surface shows a group in a positive light are based in discrimination and hate.
Be open and ask. Be open to the fact that perspectives are going to be different. Patience and understanding is rewarded to those that are willing to hear both sides of an argument/view/opinion. When we listen even when we don’t agree because it allows us to see why we feel the way we do.You should never be afraid to ask someone you’re with why something is the way it is. Just don’t treat it like a science project that you’re collecting data for. Don’t understand something? Ask. We are not silently blaming you for the actions of ancestors long gone, but we cannot ignore that their actions still affect us. So talk. As often as necessary.
Not everything will be about race, Far from it. But don’t pretend that these issues won’t arise because they will, just like every relationship. This isn’t to detour you from pursuing someone you’re interested in. These situations only become a big issue is because as a community we actively choose to ignore it and not talk about it. And just like any relationship when communication is down, everything falls apart.
But let me make this clear that this is no more work than if you were dating someone of the same race. I’m pointing this out because it is obvious and something you can see thus making it easier to address. This is to remind those that have always wondered but been unaware of how to approach it. We can’t change it if we ignore it. So scenarios like the story I told earlier still being a reality today fade into history where they belong.
People always want to analyze the constructs of any community and label each component. We all do in order to understand the unique complexities that structure a culture’s behaviors, customs, and even thought processes. Understanding the mechanics allows us to be able to understand why people are the way we are. And the gay community is no different. We have certain things about us that are a part of our daily lives that help us in one way or another. Often, when asked about what things are involved in our daily lives one thing always comes to mind that makes our experience as gay men truly unique.
Now this is the one accessory that nearly every gay man has in their possession. It serves as a calendar and journal that documents the inner workings of your life in just about every aspect. Most of us, at some point, reference to these record keepers as they are often the ones that help us analyze our lives. No matter how feminine or masculine any gay man claims to be, this is acquired in one way or another and is a part of your daily life. And it always comes in the form of a woman.
This woman does just about everything with you. From picking out clothes to going to night clubs together. Workout together. Eat together then obsess about your weight so you have to go workout together again. You have great movie marathons and dance parties to occupy the lonely nights or just because you love to dance. Road trips and music concerts become your freedom anthems. You cry together over breakups and laugh after your latest conquest in the arena of love. She defends your honor and stands by you
They are most likely one of the first people we tell that we’re gay, if not the first. And even though they have always known they quietly sit as you shed copious amounts of tears and console you, all the while allowing you to tell your story. Even though they will never completely understand what it’s like to be different they do everything in their power to make sure you don’t feel different around them. They let us know that it’s okay to be who we really are and let us know that there is always someone there no matter what anyone else thinks.
Often they are the voice of reason that talks us through the pained experiences that we encounter every day. Not only do they witness the trials we face as gay men when we are ridiculed and harassed, but also when we are facing that prolific battle of accepting ourselves internally. Because we all know that there is so much more than saying the words “I’m gay” when we come out. They stand there with us to lift our spirits and tend our wounded hearts and egos.
They will rally at our first gay pride parade and compare notes on deciding if the insanely hot guy that walked into the coffee shop plays on our team or team hetero and then have some of the most intricate dialogue to see who’s right. Throughout so many first steps that we take as gay men are greeted by the solace these women provide.
They will listen to you when you both attempt to decipher the biggest mistakes made in both past and current relationships. They will listen for hours on end to the endless mounds of exposition that you give on life because you do not understand why relationships have to be so damn complimented. They simply have a way of making everything in life a little more glamorous.
They grant us a smile just because they want to brighten our day. To assist in the most mundane of tasks to the wildest of adventures. From our resounding victories and conquests in love to the devastating life altering despair of ending relationships, they are there for us. To the casual outside observer, the dynamic of a gay man with a straight woman as best friends would resemble a tv sitcom. And maybe in some ways it is a little like Will & Grace. But it’s not all sunshine and smiles.
When we’ve done something wrong, they won’t let it slide.They will call you out on your crap faster than anyone else. They now when to coddle us and when to tell us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, to pick up, dust off, and get back in there and fight for what we want. It is not asked for it is demanded because they often see the strength that we are unable to in our more fragile moments. They challenge us to challenge ourselves to be better men than we once believed.
By now you know who I’m referring to. They are referred as the hags of our communities. And I know there’s another word that goes before that. A word that we are called when we are bullied and beaten and threatened. A three letter word that can haunt some of us for our entire lives because it is associated with being weak. And we are not weak. And neither are the women that stand by us and as a result I refuse to say it, because for me it is a word of disrespect no matter the context.
See these women are not accessories. They are our friends. Too often we lose sight of that and treat these treasures like the latest fad that can be ditched at any time. They are not the sidekick to our superhero complex, there merely to provide some form of comic relief to our overdramatic lives. These women are in the thick of it right along with us. To many of us they become a never-ending source of strength when we are at some of the most vulnerable times in our lives. These women have a somewhat detailed account of the experiences we go through every day. They love us. So why would we ever degrade the magnitude if their significance by calling them a hag?
I know that most of us do not treat these exemplary women that are in our lives in such vapid fashion. But this is for the ones that do openly, or may not recognize that they do. I also know that it’s about semantics. I know that words only have the power that we allow them to possess. But it still needs to be said from time to time that these magnificent women are not to be the brunt of our jokes whenever we’re feeling vindictive or projecting our own insecurities upon. They do not exist to merely serve our purposes, both deep and superficial in nature. They are not and should never be at our beckon call. They are people just like us. They are not hags. They are our friends. One of the best kind.
You may remember the media blitz created by the so-called up and coming rapper Azealia Banks and her unnecessary twitter war last month with equally controversial blogger Perez Hilton last month. Banks very blatantly used homophobic anti-gay slurs after the two had a disagreement. The LGBT community took the self proclaimed “Rapunxel” of rap to task for her verbal diarrhea and her refusal to make a legitimate apology. You would think that run in would have taught her a lesson but apparently it didn’t.
Fresh off a new remix of the song “Harlem Shake” Banks was taken back when the originator of the song known as Baauer was not too keen on Banks reinterpreting his original song he suggests was created in 2001. Banks did not appreciate this return and began to angrily ask Baauer why he didn’t want her to use the song as a remix. He simply stated because it was not her song. This enraged Banks and the conversation disintergrated when questioned by Baauer’s supporters leading Banks to tweet more anti-gay slurs:
This of course caused members of the LGBT community to react but again, Banks seemed unphased by the tension she had once again created. Then Perez Hilton chimed into the debate, and then Banks turned back to her misogynistic, homophobic, and extremely immature rage:
At the time of this report Banks showed no signs of quitting this barrage of homophobic insults. Clearly her management fails to see how her using such language is alienating a fanbase that up until last month supported and embraced her. What bothers me most is that through all this, her message continually implies that femininity is weak and that gay is weak and an insult. I just like any other gay men love other men and trust, I don’t ever hear the term weak come up when we get down.
I’m so damn tired of this mindset that gay equals weak and from wherever she learned this flawed ideology she apparently continues making the same flawed statement. She can claim that because she is a bisexual woman that it gives her a pass but it doesn’t. It’s just as damning to those that are afraid of coming out that feel they don’t have a voice seeing a trait of femininity in gay culture be reduced to less than the majority. I don’t care what her experiences are anymore at this point. To say the least, it implies that we can use words that are meant to shame and degrade us and use against each other.
I’m no fan of Perez, because he has done some pretty shitty things to other members of this community too. But two wrongs don’t make a right. And at this point, fully support a complete boycott of all her music, works, projects, perfumes, or whatever the hell else she’s trying to promote. I won’t support hate in any form. Period.
And can I just say how frustrated I am seeing some of her supporters, more notably gay men, actually condoning this behavior on twitter right now? This is not about Perez, this is about her ass backwards way of thinking. This internalized homophobia laced with misogynistic, anti-woman ideology is disturbing and witnessing the very people she is insulting blindly justify her actions tonight really need to reevaluate their priorities. Her claiming that she’s being targeted as a woman is invalidated especially when she repeatedly puts femininity and women down in the same breath.
I believe one of the biggest criticisms both from society and from within the gay community is considered vain, selfish group of men. A very accepted belief is that above all else, we are obsessed with vanity and value the latest trends in fashion and hair. The more money we have, the more we can spend on improving how we look until we reach this ideal of perfection The more risks we take in the latest fashion and toned muscle definition of our bodies, the more admiration we gain from supporters and more envy from our adversaries. And every gay man has to meet this standard in order to be an accepted member. That we are only concerned with what we can literally see.
History often associates vanity or self-appraisal as narcissistic, selfish, or even evil. In religion it’s referred to as a symptom to one of the seven deadly sins. It’s believed that being obsessed with vanity is a corruption that will lead to other foul acts against humanity, leading us to destruction and devastation. Strangely enough I always struggled with the concept thinking, how can something that possesses beauty ever be wrong? Through religion and sage wisdom of golden rules by caregivers, we are taught to be antithesis of this concept. But I don’t believe we take it to such an extreme level. Vanity is seen as superficial and a waste of time. It’s a concept that has broadened to not only how we see ourselves but also how we see others and appraise them.
Of course we know that, as a whole we are not that shallow. We rally behind support and organize for equality so that we are treated equally. We do humanity work and try to heal our resource-depleted planet. Though we do have faults we have a community that has unity and togetherness, it’s just sometimes we lose sight of that like any other group of people. We are so much more than looks and I believe we all know that. Because of our sexuality we inherently possess attributes to promote harmony among our brethren. But more importantly why is vanity such a bad thing? So what if we like things that sparkle and beauty in all physical forms? Is it wrong when we refuse to leave the house on a bad hair day or sculpt our bodies to resemble the Grecian Adonis’s of ancient time? Okay that descriptor was a bit much. Not all gay men are obsessed with these things but all of us are vain. All humans at some level are concerned with how things appear on the outside.
As I’ve mentioned before this is all due to the fact that, as men, we respond most to what we see first. No matter the degree to our other senses being stimulated, we enact on what is seen. From the evolutionary standpoint it gives us the ability to process our environment for signs of danger or something that benefits our lifestyle. Since we are born to examine a physical nature of others we process what we’re attracted to and depending upon other variables, decide the kind of interaction we desire from others. While we are no longer have to be of such an archaic nature, we still need to survey what could be beneficial by what we see first. So we showcase and attempt to portray what others see as attractive and desirable.
Admittedly I can see how people that know me would be thrown off by me taking this stance. Because I’m a hippy by nature. I am not too concerned with how a person looks or so much with how great a shape they’re in or what they wear. But I am human as well that has the same yearnings and desires. Even though I may not put much effort into what clothes I wear I still appraise how others will perceive how I look. I’m attracted the physical form just likes everyone else. The principle of balance is what I apply to vanity. That you can admire someone’s new edgy haircut and firm, toned body. But I now that it’s not the only thing that makes someone beautiful.
We spend so much of our growth period as adolescents and early adulthood struggling with what society demands of us and how our sexuality contradicts that. We’re told what a man is supposed to wear, what to look like, to even what type of woman we’re supposed to love and marry. Then we reach a point of acceptance only to go back to the same stiff, archaic way of thinking? I don’t think so. We begin to modify the things that we can until we’re able to be out in the world. We begin to shape how we dress and how our bodies look in order to have control of our environment. And then we finally are able to reach that moment of accepting it regardless of what society believes we should look like. The process to fully own how we look and then begin to like how we look. That is vanity. Because as we process being gay we constantly have Self-appraisal telling ourselves that we are attractive despite what society wants us to look like. Vanity can build our esteem. And we continue that onward as we like as we truly are.
Even when we say we aren’t looking for what’s on the outside that isn’t necessarily true. When someone who loves to have an intellectual conversation< like I love to do, we look at how they look too. It is not always the best indicator of intelligence but if you’re attracted to say, the nerdy geeky type you look for someone that physically fits that description right? You know that most likely you won’t find that in a gay club but you may find that in the local coffee shop in Chelsea or some local Barnes & Noble or even the comic book store. Our appraisal is based on what we like. And even though we don’t have the exact same definition of what beauty is, we still seek out what we attracted to in the same way; by using our sight.
Beauty, in any form, allows us to transform not only how we see ourselves but also what we feel. Being able to effortlessly put together a look to emphasize and accentuate all our great features promotes us creating harmony. This sense of accomplishment we gain from it helps our own self esteem. And then we look for more long lasting ways of feeling that way. Because let’s be honest, we want the hot guy to notice all of our hard work. It is definitely not the most sustainable way to keep a relationship going but it is how all relationships start. That’s how we attract others to us. You can pretend as much as you like that you’re above it all, but it does you a disservice to ignore that this is true.
So to me vanity is a gateway. It taught us more than society was able or willing to teach us. So I ask again how striving towards beauty can be a bad thing. To display ourselves in a certain way to draw praise from other people? Balance. Knowing that it is not the only thing that makes us have worth. Accepting that what we possess inside is more sustainable and longer lasting than how we look. Too much of anything can be bad for us. But having little to no high appraisals of ourselves can be just as detrimental.
Now I am not saying that all gay men should be shallow, image obsessed caricatures that the media loves to stereotype us as because that would be ridiculous. We should still accept people as they are, especially because of how we are treated sometimes. We know that looks aren’t everything and that it’s not the only thing that attracts us to others. And we know that when people don’t meet our standard of beauty that you don’t have to knock anyone down to elevate yourself. I’m saying that appreciating and aspiring to beauty is not always a bad thing. Self-appraisal instills worth within ourselves and those around us. A little self-worth goes a long way.
Contributor’s Note: It’s been a hectic day with not a lot of LGBT news today so I share more of my past musings of the stars and love (kinda mushy stuff). Enjoy!
I am simply amazed by the stars. I gaze upon them nightly to revel in the mysteries of the universe. My first (and one of my favorite) memories as a child is when my mom had gotten off work and picked me up to take me home. I was crying in the backseat wanting attention and my mom said, “look up! Look at the moon!” And I was so mesmerized by it. I stared at it saying “moon. Moon. MOON.” the entire way home and she told me a story about the warrior of the moon. Since then, I always need to see the stars and moon each night and growing up I HAD to learn the name of constellations, meteors. This is why I get upset whenever I can’t see them because of the clouds, bad weather, or obligations. Whatever it is, I need to see them every night and learn as much as I could about them, including astrology.
As a result, Astrology is the reason I read as much as I could find growing up about the planets and how the stars affect us and our world.But is ti wise to use this as a daily influence in all aspects of my life? Should I use this for career? Friendships? Love? Sure there are some that say that astrologically speaking that our sexuality makes our readings different but I doubt it. Yes we are different than straight men but only in who we’re attracted to and that’s all. It made me wonder do we question these perceived phenomena as fact or a fun observation of behavior. But I’ve never compared my past relationships and astrology before. I’m pretty sure I know everything there is to know about what a Libra means. We love beauty hope harmony and peace and love itself. We love love. Libras go out of our way to accommodate others so that they’re at ease. We find beauty in just about anything. We can’t stand loud noises or obnoxious and rude personalities and abhor, detest, flat out hate conflict of any kind. And though we’re very relaxed and passive, we become livid when we feel there is injustice and will do all in our power to fight for equality ( LIBRAS UNITE FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY). All of that and I not once with my past exes considered how compatible our astrological signs are.
So I wondered about our culture as gay men and our tendencies to use astrology in our daily lives. So I’ve been in and looked back on our signs of past relationships and I’ve dated almost half of the astrological signs and supposedly been highly compatible with all of them. But aside from two of them, astrology was wrong because the things that should come easy were extremely hard, like spontaneity with the Scorpio or lack of emotional investment from the Aquarius. Actually my worst relationship was with a guy I was supposed to be the best match for. It was their personalities that differed. Did they make some good comparisons about what our relationship was like? Yes it did. Did it affect our relationship? Absolutely not.
I don’t know what I consider to be too careful in a relationship. I’m cautious by nature in matters of the heart. And even though I’m really into astrology I don’t take what they say literally. While I may panic when the sign isn’t in it’s proper house or become a hermit when Mercury is in retrograde (which is going on now until August 8th) I rely on instincts and only use the stars as inspiration. I know many don’t give credence to ‘what the stars say’ but I do pay attention and whether it is true science or mere coincidence, I am all for having more awarenesses about ourselves and those around us. But you can’t apply that logic to a relationship. I believe if I had the relationship would’ve ended a lot sooner and been less satisfying. Not because I was taking advice from an outside source but because I wasn’t trusting my instincts or what my heart was telling me. And while the stars may speak to my heart, only I can speak for my actions.
I will always love to star gaze and be mesmerized by the moon as I ponder what is beyond the stars in the sky every night. Daydreaming of possibilities and opportunities that I have either not realized or not yet succeeded. They are my muse and my inspiration for what I question in this life and what I aspire to learn about myself and others. they inspire me to be a better gay man for myself and our community and to help anyone that I have the power to help. Maybe they are a part of destiny and soulmates as I do believe in both. But I trust my instincts for what to do in my search for love. I love the stars, but I trust my heart.
So, fellow readers, what guides you?