An Open Letter to Roland Martin
I am not a gay man, thus I have never had my manhood checked, demeaned, or questioned in spaces reserved for hyper-masculine bravado. I will never understand how it feels to be consistently otherized for not being a “real bruh”, as if masculinity is rigid and absolute, and anyone who deviates from your concept of masculinity somehow deserves to be forcibly expelled from the fraternity of manhood. This realization aside, I come to you as an ally of gay men, especially Black gay men who have had their own tumultuous past with heterosexism, homophobia, hyper-masculinity, and hatred, and I am tired of your shit.
Sit down, grab some tea, and let’s discuss a few things. First, there is no such thing as a “real bruh.” Neither manhood nor masculinity are defined by someone’s desire, or lack thereof, to buy David Beckham’s underwear from H&M, watch sports, and/or climb the top of Mt. Everest. This thinking, undoubtedly enforced and reinforced by some skewed ideology rooted in Black hyper-masculinity, is literally killing the very Black men you proclaim to care about. Men, especially young, Black men, are being murdered or taking their own lives because sentiments, like the ones you expressed on Twitter, have ostracized and expelled them from their own families and communities. The prevailing thought is that because they aren’t “real bruhs,” they are somehow less valuable than their peers, and aren’t worth saving. Consider, for example, Carl J. Walker-Hoover, an eleven year-old boy who committed suicide because of anti-gay bullying. His being construed as effeminate, or not a “real bruh” contributed to his demise, and he is not an isolated case. In What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, your late fraternity brother E. Lynn Harris spoke of how his experiences being otherized as a, “…Black, gay man who was living in a world that had a problem with both,” led him to attempt suicide. So, when Kenyon Farrow, Joey Gaskins, and others called you out on how your words were damaging and homophobic, they were spot-on.
This brings me to my next point, gay men, lesbians, transgender folk, or any other oppressed minority, are NEVER wrong when they point out your privilege and/or hurtful words. I’ll say it again; THEY ARE ALWAYS RIGHT. As oppressed people, we dictate when what you’re saying is homophobic, transphobic, or generally problematic, you don’t. As a straight man, you do not get to define what homophobia looks like, sounds like, or feels like. Why? Because I said so. You have never and will never have to grapple with the harsh reality of negotiating your identity as a Black gay man, and that, in-and-of-itself, disqualifies any opinions you may have on delineating homophobic actions, statements, or stances. Capisce?
Finally (for now), you were wrong, and you should apologize. The defenses you concocted for at best, a poorly-executed joke were ridiculous. You insulted and offended an entire group of people, mainly the Black, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans-folk who came after you with razor blades and lemon juice for insulting our community. You proposed violence against men who do not fit your concept of “real bruh-ness,” and you can claim hyperbole until you are blue-in-the-face, but the threat of violence remains all-too-real in Black gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities. There is always the fear of a hate crime waiting-to-happen when your sexual orientation or gender identity/expression falls outside of the confines of “acceptable” societal norms. Your statements have consequences that you will never understand; I don’t expect you to, but I hope this letter prompts you to do the right thing, apologize.
I pray this letter finds you less defensive than you were yesterday. More importantly, I hope you understand that homophobic and transphobic verbiage, even in jest, will not fly, ever. As my momma likes to say, I hope we don’t have to have this conversation again.
Yours in the spirit of collective consciousness,
Samantha Master is a student at Morgan State University, and the former Community Service and Outreach Coordinator for Rainbow Soul, Morgan’s queer student alliance. She is currently a writer for the Trans People of Color Coalition.