In the movie Marie Antoinette, by Sophia Coppola, the titular historical figure asks if she is to be Austrian or the Dauphine of France. Her advisor replies that she must be both. In the same vein, members of the black gay community are presented with a similar situation: are they to be a ‘nigger’ or a ‘faggot’
To be a ‘Negro’ and a member of ‘The Gays’ I often ask myself, “Where does my allegiance lie?” When someone chooses to insult me, am I a ‘nigger’ or a ‘faggot,’ when clearly both epithets are equally hurtful.
At times, I want to simplify the issue and tell myself I must choose a side. It is impossible to serve two masters.
If I want to fight for change in both communities, then my allegiance must lie with both sides. Apparently, I must be a nigger and a faggot. A high heel wearing, pole smoking porch monkey. One can insert any racial epithet, because it is an issue not just for the black community, but Asians, Hispanics, Martians, Latvians and everyone in between who is a minority. Except, I am not a nigger. Nor am I a faggot. I am black. And I am gay. But these are not the only qualities that define me. I am also a writer, a poet, a brother, a friend, a confidante, and a student. There are a million other attributes that define me.
I’m fortunate to have a supportive family. I came out my senior year of high school in 2003, and my parents told me ‘That doesn’t change our love for you, and we will continue to support you. But we cannot accept that lifestyle.” They didn’t mean they were abandoning me. They simply declared being gay put them in a position of moral conflict. Fast forward to last fall, where both of my parents showed up to hear me read at the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival because they knew it was important to support me. And a year ago, at a bar in our hotel in London my dad told me he didn’t care who I loved, as long as I was happy that’s all he wanted for me and would support me.
At the end of the conversation in Marie Antoinette between her and her ambassador, she declared that letting everyone down would be her greatest unhappiness. Letting down either side of communities that are important to me would be my greatest unhappiness, because identifying as a minority builds camaraderie with others through shared experiences like members of a support group. I share common history and genetics with members of my black community. I share common interests, hopes and aspirations with members of my gay community. And with all Americans, I share a right to the pursuit of happiness.
Change doesn’t come easily, but in the words of Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” For me, this means simply being myself.
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