Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These are the ingredients used to make young women and not young men…This is one of the major issues in the Black community that perpetuates a constant stigma on how Black Men should act to be considered as “straight Black Men”. I want to mention a disclaimer to the fact that this isn’t to bash anyone that is homosexual but rather to emphasize and/or shed light on the things that we consider to be feminine or “gay” that make Black Men feel as though they cannot be themselves.
Let’s start from the beginning. In order to not only give a Black Woman’s perspective on Black Men and femininity, but I also did my due diligence and spoke with a variety of Black Men. It’s safe to say that most of them have grown up with parent(s) that did not approve of their actions. Those parents have their own bias and may even be homophobic and in raising their children, they wanted to make sure that their Black sons did not grow up to be gay or bisexual or even trans. Their children may not have even wanted to be any of those things but instead wanted to do certain things that would allow them to express their true identity. They were taught that in order to be a straight black male, you have to dress and act a certain way. They were taught that blue is for boys and pink is for girls. Some men were even beaten because they showed feminine tendencies and their fathers and/or mothers did not want them to grow up and become “gay.” Outrageous, right?
There is a big correlation between feminine actions as a child and being gay as an adult. This is something that I think people need to understand as it has been a pattern in the Black community and a constant “problem” among many cultures. A lot of my millennial Jamaican friends are open to living a certain lifestyle while their parents are very close-minded in the fact that their culture does not approve of anything pass what they have been taught. People’s experiences give them different viewpoints.
Even men who chose to groom themselves in a certain way get backlash because they aren’t rugged enough. They’d rather get manicures and pedicures than let their fingernails grow long and accumulate dirt. I personally love when men do this because it shows just how much they love to take care of themselves. Your nails can tell a lot about your personal hygiene. The problem is that I’ve dated Black Men who do not want to be seen getting their nails done but still get them done. This is a problem!
I want to make the argument that just because you act a certain way, doesn’t mean you are gay, straight, or bisexual. But on the other hand, everyone’s experience is different and most people I know that have changed the way they act now to become more expressive of who they are, have come out to be what most people thought they would be. That’s a personal experience. So what happens when the people that others placed their own societal views and stereotypes on say that they are just a straight Black Man who loves to move a certain way that isn’t “the norm”? Does that make them any less of a man?
OGs are in an uproar. OGs don’t paint their nails, wear skin-tight jeans and put beads in their hair…indeed they have!
Which brings me to my next point: Fashion! Probably one of the most liberating yet controversial ways of self-expression. Because of the standard set by not only society but our parents…I believe that the set standard goes a such
- Boys that wear blue: straight
- Boys that wear pink: gay
- Girls that wear pink: straight
- Girls that wear blue: still straight
This standard hasn’t even been followed by the teachers themselves.
Exhibit A: There are Black Men who were wearing dresses and blouses.
Photo Credit: Livingly
Boy has times changed!
Exhibit B: Young Thug
Photo Credit: The Fader
I am in no way comparing these two Black Men as far as their discography goes but I am of course comparing their choice of clothing and creativity. Fashion and sexuality aren’t in the same bubble.
A Black male friend of mine made a good point: People pick and choose when they think that things are “gay.” I say “gay” because of that’s usually the word I hear when straight Black Men with major insecurities refer to when they see another Black Man living in his truth. His truth isn’t “gay”…it’s just his true self.
This is something that goes on across all communities but maybe even more detrimental to the Black community because of how harsh society is on black men. Black Men get enough flack from society whether it’s from being too hood or too feminine.
Video Courtesy of Dalton Skaggs
Take, for example, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., two men of color who play on the Atlanta Braves baseball team. A video compilation of them hugging and joking around in the dugout went viral on Twitter and people had so much to say on how their display of affection may come off. However, Albies was actually just comforting Acuna during the game. The other videos included how close a friendship they share and how Black Men don’t have to act so reserved all the time.
These men have never come out and said that they were into each other. In fact, they are said to be childhood friends. Women touch each other all of the time but for the most part, aren’t perceived as lesbian or bisexual. We are taught to be loving and caring for others. To show empathy.
“Many men have not been told how to process and talk about their emotional experiences, furthering a sense of isolation, anger, and resentment,” says writer for Talkspace, Jor-El Caraballo. “For these men, this creates an emotional volatility that can sometimes manifest in seeming “shut down” in relationships and friendships.” Carballo talks about how men are praised for their physicality but are rarely held to a standard that meets their emotional and intellectual needs.
He also says that “It is a circular problem we experience. In order for Black Men to get help, they must open up enough to let someone know that they need help. But in order to open up and ask for help, they have to crack the cool façade…”
Like I said before, men are taught to not cry or show emotion as women do because that’s being “soft.” Which makes them even angrier. Not being able to show your true feelings about certain things causes psychological trauma instead.
Nonetheless, this isn’t about the path these young men chose growing up, but rather the way they chose to express themselves while doing it. At the end of the day, it is all about comfortability. Black Men should be able to be comfortable expressing who they are and how they feel whether it be through the way they act, through the way they dress, or in how they treat others. Real straight Black Men do not let others’ opinions of themselves become their reality. Opinions are just ideas based off of that person’s own experiences. A wise straight Black Man once told me, “Are you really a man if you let another man tell you what you can and cannot do?”