In D.C., we were sitting in his apartment on a winter night. This apartment was once housing for Negro soldiers coming back from the war. I would always wonder when I visited if the creeks from the hardwood floor shook the soldier’s at night conjuring up their PTSD. In that apartment knowing the way I felt about him, romantic in nature, sacrificial in nature, he looked me in my eyes with a sense of joviality and said, “I’m trying to prepare myself mentally to be with a guy of a different race if I ever want to be married.” Though I provided a big contrast– me settled in my black skin. I was a spec in his all cream furnished apartment; he saw through me like cellophane.
The image of the two, one in denim jacket with afro to the sky and the (presumably) White man in white t-shirt playful and affectionate is affixed to a ballad about the optimism ahead after reconciliation is possible between two individuals.
Rod, a Leather Daddy in Atlanta, sat in my apartment as I interviewed him for a documentary (that never came to fruition). I don’t remember much of the hour long conversation, but what did stick to my bones like a pork chop and mashed potatoes was conversation about Black men in California. Rod is originally from San Francisco, but the south holds as special place in his heart for the simple fact that it is a locale where Black men will love on Black men. A hue as dark as any of Toni Morrison’s protagonist through the years, Rod is Black like lacquer. In San Francisco, Rod says his skin is a fetish for those that aren’t black and a deterrent sexually and romantically for those that are a part of the Black diaspora.
After I married myself to Beyonce’s plight of self discovery, her anger, her self condemnation: I fasted with her, grew my hair past my ankles, swallowed a sword and “plugged my menses with pages from the Holy Book,” I was disheartened to have it be illustrated to me that my happiness would be at the hands of interracial matrimony. After all the femme Blackness we maneuvered through in the hour long quasi-confessional, I yearned for the queer moment to be as transcendentally Black as the rest of the film. With so many motifs of Southern Black iconography seeing two Black men loving one another would have been a powerful stamp on an already monumental film. Take into consideration the ability to live openly Black and queer (unlike anywhere else) in mass populations in cities like Atlanta and Houston (Charlotte gets honorable mention). Or even the ability for New Orleans hip-hop and bounce culture to openly embrace queer aspects (to a certain and death defying extent). In the District of Columbia, (yes, though north of the Mason Dixon line, if it had plantations, I consider it the South) Black professionals are openly gay in government positions, forming organizations and being invited to the White House.
I was maybe twenty or twenty one years old on the phone with my mentor. He may have been sitting on a Kansas porch toes muddling in red clay or at D.C.’s Busboys and Poets. We were conversing about a book I was working on (that never saw the light day); it was about identity and love. I remember the words from this forty something year old: the older we get as single Black gay man the more the notion creeps into our minds that we must find monogamy outside of our race or give up on love as a whole.
With face paint and head gear, I was in formation ready for the commands of General Yoncé. Ultimately, I had to go against orders; I had to fight the image of interracial coupling as my only avenue of marital utopianism. Since the turn of the current decade, we’ve seen a handful of Black professional and collegiate athletes come out as openly gay only to have White and non-Black significant others. I want to be Negro and desirable and be taken to an alter.
My Instagram (@pattonthequeercurator) for sometime now (thankfully, at least once every other month) has been unveiling Black same gender loving men as grooms and husbands. When Marlon Riggs spoke of Black men loving Black men being a revolutionary act the context illustrated by my imagination was always as a rebuttal against gang violence and other male “Black on Black” crime. Never had I fathomed that the revolution was due in part to the psychological belief and practice that gay Black men cannot find romantic life long partnerships with one another.