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IGNITING THE POWER OF BLACK SAME GENDER LOVE

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IS THERE A BLACK MALE LOVE VACUUM?

During The Gatekeepers Collective last night, Brothers took up the question, Where are the role models for what Black male love looks like?

Facilitator says, “With spring’s arrival, notions like ‘birds and bees’ and love blossoming are part of the cultural backdrop. Given the fact that so many among us profess to want to be in loving relationships, and yet, we’re not, we thought it a good time to consider whether there might be a Black male love vacuum… And, if there is, how has it come to be… And, if we need to fill it…And how…”

Where are the role models for what Black male love looks like?

“ I’ve never seen…”

“ Moonlight…”

“The [film] industry will not let that come through. People think of pornography when they think of Black men who have sex with men…I don’t watch porn…In my mind, sex is so private…It’s something between two people…”

“Yes, the media only want to show us in negative lights… in handcuffs…”

Facilitator says, “I think the reason Moonlight may have been so revelatory is because it treated on just what we’re talking about, the dearth of models of Black male love on the landscape of our lives…And, while the media is certainly a factor in terms of the power of imagery, for our part, since it’s our love, or lack thereof we’re looking at, where are we in this equation?...”

 “I’ve always been looking for love…I’m attracted to masculine guys…[But,] most of the Black gay friends of mine that were in relationships were looking at other people…[And, just] because that’s how you feel at the moment [doesn’t make it okay to be doing that]…”

Have you been in a loving relationship with a man? And, if so, what did that look like?

“Yeah…When I was back at home in Brazil…I was in my twenties… For about a year…We lived with each other, in each other’s apartments, and then we would go back to our own apartments…It gave me the sense that I could love someone…Outside, we couldn’t hold hands or be affectionate [though]…We’d have to hide it…Only our closest friends knew…People from the theatre…He was a fairly famous actor…Once you come out, you become a target…”

“Yeah, a target…That’s why, if people want to know if I’m gay, I’m like, ‘that’s none of your fucking business’…”

“We become a target…There’s this uncontrollable violence…”
Facilitator asks, “Uncontrollable violence?...That’s scary…But, I wonder, from one context to the next, how accurate a gauge we’re using around that sense…and if my attitude about the way I love is that, ‘it’s none of your fucking business,’ then how am I apt to find the love I seek?…”

“Well, that’s around people who are just trying to be nosy, not around friends…”

“Yeah, on the train, I’ll look at a guy [I find attractive], and he’ll say, ‘Why are you looking at me?’ and I’ll say, ‘I thought I knew you…and why are you looking at me?’…I work with my grandson’s group, and I found out that 70% of the children in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing live without their fathers…”

Facilitator says, “And, that’s not an accident…And, that’s a staggering statistic…And a vitally important one where we’re considering where the role models for Black male love exist on the landscape of our lives…For most people, to the extent that there’s such a thing as a nuclear family, the first model of Black male love most of us are likely to encounter is from our fathers…No?...”

“When I was maybe twenty-four, my aunt and uncle kept talking to me about [this guy named] Leo…We were Jehovah’s Witnesses…And Leo, they told me, had asthma…and, I had a car, and they asked me if I could take Leo someplace…And, I didn’t know anything about asthma…And, I didn’t know anything about love…And, I was expecting to see some hugely deformed [creature], but he was [perfectly normal looking]…And, for two or three years, most of the time, I would drive over to his room, until I went down [South] for two or three months [for a project] and he took that as a betrayal, and when I came back, he had taken up with a woman…”

“I never had a working definition of love…but I can understand the tenets of a healthy relationship…[And, somehow, everyplace else], even outside of New York, relationships between Black men seem more friendly, brotherly, hospitable…”

What does it look like for Black men to love each other?
“We have no power, so we have to hide everything…Because society puts us down…”

Facilitator says, “That’s a powerful notion…The notion that, because we have no power…or, perceive ourselves as having no power, that we have to hide…The notion of love and power…Or. Love and powerlessness…Is powerlessness loveable?...And, if I believe I’m powerless, can I attract love?...Or love?...”

“When I leave here, I’m not part of the group…[And, I may have] a little bit of power, [but,] I’m by myself…A lot of people want to look at me [as if I have power] but, they fear it…It’s like a love/hate thing…They want to look at you and [put you down for your differentness]…”
“Yes, fear and love don’t occupy the same space, [so if we’re in fear] how do we find love?...It could be an elusive concept [love]…How do you do it in the face of all that’s coming at you?...That’s where the work is, in sustaining it…How do you sustain it without support…What is it that’s preventing us from sustaining  that energy?...”
“Maybe it’s fear…”

“Seventy percent of children coming up in NYCHA housing without fathers…Thinking about that, I remembered my father never hugged me, or said he loved me…”

“A lot of these men have had issues with their fathers…I too don’t remember my father saying he loved me…But, now, even the way he calls my name is so loving…Whenever he’s getting in the car to go, and I reach out, I don’t know whether to shake his hand or hug him, and we wind up doing some weird combination of the two…But, I feel his love…”

“When somebody that brings the breakfast, the lunch, and the dinner day after day, after day… the one time they don’t, we hold that against them…when someone else right next to us has never brought us anything…and, we don’t even notice…Your father gave you all the love he had…the way he knew how…I think a mistake we make is to require you to love like I do…Maybe love has a lot do with allowing people to be as they are…”

What does Black male love look like?

“When I saw Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored I started to realize that guys I’ve dated were looking for father figures, and I don’t want that…I want there to be equality [in the relationship]…”

“In those projects with no fathers, they have gangs, and they’re tight gangs… there’s a lot of loyalty…My son joined a gang in LA because he was angry at his stepfather who taunted him because he was gay… [But, because our sex is] frowned on, that’s why we have to be on the down low…”

Facilitator says, “That notion seems problematic…To begin with, the idea of the down low is a stereotype…Like having sex surreptitiously, or undercover, or hiding, or cheating on somebody else is particular to one race or group of people…It’s not. More than that, our believing or buying into the notion that, because people say it’s wrong, that we have to hide our love may be key to the Black male love vacuum we’re attempting to resolve…There again lies that notion of powerlessness…If we give into it, fear renders us powerless… If we believe our love has to be hidden…And, at the same time, fancy ourselves in the market for love, [we should be clear that] powerlessness is not attractive…”

“There are people who seek that healing [fleetingly]…That sexual urge is not happening in the same space as the support and caring that we call love…We tend not to lust after the people that love us…”
“Is that true?...”

 “If I think I’m not deserving of a certain kind of love…If I don’t think I’m worthy, I’m going to find it [wherever I can]…Who you choose for your partner says miles about you…If I choose to be with abuse…”
“I take exception to that…I think we’re conflating lust and love…and, I have sex in parks, and I don’t think I’m unworthy of anything…People go where they can meet people…”

Facilitator says, “Yes, like ‘D’ mentioned in the beginning, how, when a lot of people think of Black men who have sex with men, they think of pornography…That may be part of our challenge…While there is certainly overlap, it’s important for us not to conflate or confuse lust and love…”

I just left a meeting at GMAD where [the invited speaker] was saying that, finding those qualities in yourself that you seek in others may be a prerequisite to finding love…First, falling in love with yourself…”
“A lot of people become more loving of their fathers when they become fathers…It’s only when we try [to do] it that we can understand [how challenging it is]…Until one can try to do it for themselves, maybe they won’t be able to understand [what it takes]…”

“This issue of love that’s so elusive…Most of us will never find love…That is the reality for most of us…”

Facilitator says, “As scary, and possibly cynical, a proposition as that is, if we’re operating off of beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts that include that we are in any way undeserving, or unworthy, or are less than loveable, or are lacking power, or are showing up in the world fearing revealing how we really feel, or who we really are… he’s right…He’s right, we are very likely to never find the love we seek…It’s important to remember, as we give into it, fear renders us powerless, and, again, powerlessness is not a good look…It’s just not attractive…except to a predator…So, this is good…to the extent that any of us may still be operating from any of these beliefs, attitudes, or ideas, we should continue to explore this question towards the possibility that we might fall in love with ourselves…Would you agree?”

A consensus is formed.



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