Since so many people want to talk about why they have a problem with a movie like Moonlight winning an Oscar for Best Picture, let’s talk about it shall we. Let’s talk about this masterpiece that Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney created. The movie deserved that win this past Sunday. Hands down. While I would have been pleased if Hidden Figures had nabbed the trophy, Moonlight’s victory means more for me as a black gay man.
I can honestly say, that Moonlight is the first and only film I’ve seen that highlights what it’s like to be black and homosexual in America, without the use of over-the-top stereotypes and hypersexualized cinematography. I saw the movie and saw a piece of me in the main character Chiron. While I didn’t grow up with a mom addicted to substances, or ever been beat up because of my sexuality, I have lived in fear to be me. I grew up too afraid to embrace my sexuality because of the often judgmental culture that exists within the black community. That’s truly an awful feeling and terrible space to be in as a human being.
For the heterosexual men and women that may be reading this, let me speak exclusively to you for a moment. Imagine how you would have felt growing up having to constantly hide a big piece of who you are because you feared rejection. Never being able to feely hold your lover’s hand in public or bring him around to family functions, because you were afraid your best friends would desert you and your family would disown you. Having to monitor your every move and word, to make sure nothing hints at who you really are. Constantly berating yourself for being what you’ve been told is so vile and disgusting. That kind of living is mentally exhausting, and wears down many people to the point of depression and suicide. Trust me I know, I was there. But hey, with age came wisdom, self-acceptance, and confidence.
Now back to my point. For all intent and purposes, I find the grievances from black heterosexuals about Moonlight’s win to be pathetic and unwarranted. To claim that “Hollywood only recognizes black men that play effeminate roles,” is insulting to a demographic of people for no reason. To take it a step further and complain that “black homosexuality is degrading and destroying the image of strong black men,” is so crazy, that I might laugh if it weren’t so ignorant.
I’m trying to keep this as brief as possible, but I have so much to say. First, if the black people who had a problem with Moonlight would have actually watched the film, then they would realize there was not one “feminine” male character in it. As a matter of fact, every male character in Moonlight exuded a heighten sense of masculinity. Heck, as far as I’m concerned, the characters represented what many in the LGBT community recognize as “trade.” However, even if there had been one scripted role for a “feminine” black man, so what? There is no singular notion of manhood. So even if the film had depicted someone who sounded like Kermit the Frog and not Barry White, and dressed like RuPaul and not Idris Elba, Moonlight would have shown a segment of the population of black men that exists. A point on the spectrum of manhood that reflects real people and real men. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Let me also take this moment to make it perfectly clear that being gay doesn’t make you less of a man, or make you feminine. It just makes you gay.
Second, how dare anyone use the marginalized to justify why someone else wasn’t recognized. Black and brown men of the LGBT community have never been in a position of privilege in this country. Mainstream America has traditionally cast us to the side because we’re men of color, and black and brown communities have demonized us because of who we sleep with. When have we with our dual identities, and dual oppressors to match, ever been in a position of privilege to deny the “straight black man” anything? When?
Yeah, a black gay love story finally got one of America’s most distinguished honors. It’s about damn time. It’s 2017. Black gay men aren’t new to the scene, and yet have traditionally been kept in the shadows when stories about blackness in America are being told. So when a great story about black LGBT culture is told, it’s deserving of recognition.
To simply blame homosexuals for why black “straight” men can’t get the recognition they deserve is less of a fact, and more of an excuse. You can’t use black gay men as the scapegoat for all the problems in the black community. We aren’t responsible for heterosexuals being passed over for certain recognition. While I’m talking about it, we aren’t to blame for incarceration rates, school dropout rates, murder rates, unemployment rates, or anything else that may be plaguing black people as a whole. The sooner some folks realize this, the sooner we as a collective community can better address the issues that threaten OUR existence.
Lastly, let me point out that for those that have an issue with black people historically winning Oscars for playing slaves, maids, and in some cases human demons, I can understand that criticism to a degree. But lumping Moonlight in that category is a grave misstep. Black gay men are a part of this community. We shouldn’t be seen or treated as a stain on the collective “Black Resume.” As black gay men, we deserve to see ourselves reflected in Hollywood, and I’m only sorry it took this long for it to happen and be recognized.
While I didn’t lace this post with profanity and insults like I could have, I find myself not having the energy to keep defending my right to love who I want to a community of people that revel in ignorance, and have no interest in bettering their way of thinking. But I’ll leave you all with this, there are some very misleading misconceptions about LGBT folks, that has skewed many people’s perceptions. Check out an earlier post to see what I mean (Misconceptions about Gay Men ). Oh and if you haven’t checked out Majoring in Me: Acceptance, another story about black gay man coming into who he is, make sure you do so.
As always nothing but love,