Friday, March 16, 2007

Story 4: Reflections On Race, Gays & Connecting

Continued from Story 3...

Even though I have come to understand perfectly that having race and/or sexual orientation in common don't always bring people together--or mean that people who don't have these things in common can't be good friends--I have really been thinking that I need to find some black lesbian friends whom I can talk to about things I can't really talk to others about and have them completely understand. The funny thing is LA Girl was always talking about how there's a sense of family among the GLBT community. I responded a couple times that it just depends who you are. She hasn't treated me like family. I guess I didn't treat her like family. Several other gays have told me there's no such thing as a "GLBT community," which I think of as synonymous with the idea of "family" among gays. Most other gays I've met have not treated me like family or like we're a community. I have yet to find that kind of "family"--like I said, my straight white friends have been more of a family to me than gays have.

Although I would love to have a friendship with LA Girl, I see problems with that. I don't think she's willing to give me another chance. And I think I've had a "once you go black, you don't go back" kind of moment with the white friends I have. In other words, now that I'm used to having white friends who are open to listening to my ranting and raving about race and who can comment--and even join in--in an extraordinarily knowledgeable, non-offensive manner, I don't know how high my tolerance level is for white people who aren't like this.

As mentioned before, the lack of knowledge is not so much of a problem as not being willing to listen and learn--and getting defensive--is. And my white friends aren't perfect--I must be clear. But when they don't know something, they listen to me rather than argue with or try to contradict me, as if they somehow know more than I do about being black in America. Obviously, I like LA Girl, but she has done this quite a few times. Aside from that, I'm finding white gays pretty frustrating. I've written about some of the reasons why before.

I've mentioned in other posts this group that I participated in which was for people who are not out. Obviously, clicking with white gays has not been working out for me. Besides me, there was one other black person in the group--a black male. There was also a Latino in the group who later revealed that one of his parents is black, but he doesn't consider himself black. He's not from the US, and race is a different subject in other nations than it is here.

I want to discuss the Latino first. I know that this might sound offensive, but I know for a fact that there are some other blacks out there who basically agree with me on this--I've spoken with them about this. To me, there are only two races--black or white. If you're not black, you're white. I know there are some Latinos who have African ancestry, and I know there are some Latinos who do feel some sort of solidarity with blacks. When I go to the extreme of breaking races down into two's, I define them according to how you get along in the world in a variety of ways, mainly, but also partially based on looks.

The Latino in our group didn't "look black," except for he was one of those Latinos who has darker skin color, unlike a Ricky Martin or Gloria Estefan. But what really makes me include him--and other Latinos, as well as Asians--among whites is that the whites in our group seemed to accept him in a way that they didn't really accept the black guy and me. It was the same situation as always--the white people in the group were nice enough to us, but you know how you can just feel the difference between how white people treat you and how they treat others. They were more comfortable with the Latino, and he was more comfortable with them than with me and the black guy or than the black guy and I were with everyone else in the group.

I will back up and say that I have met one white gay person whom I really do get along with, and he happened to be the other leader of our group. I absolutely love him. We would have good conversations, and we clicked early on, I think. I could start ranting to him about race, and it was okay. He would respond in a way that showed he was listening to me and really thinking about what I was saying. I could talk to him about not fitting in with gay people, and, again, he was giving good feedback and validating me. The kicker is this is what he does for a living--he's a psychologist.

Anyway, I draw these weird racial lines as a way of thinking about who white people accept today in America. There are black people who appear to be accepted, sure, but I don't think a black person can ever truly be accepted (and, obviously, I'm speaking of the white race in general, not every white person). It's a shame that you have to be a black female celebrity with white features before you can be considered a beautiful woman worthy of acknowledgement in the same categories as Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie and whatever other homely or average-looking white woman America is making a big deal out of. There are plenty of hot black women in America, but you wouldn't know it because you're just going to hear about Halle, Beyonce, Mariah...maybe Rosario Dawson and Janet, as well as a couple others who are not as universally agreed upon as Halle and Beyonce are.

But as America has shown us with Vanessa Williams, OJ Simpson and Kobe Bryant, get accused of doing something wrong as a black person and see if you don't turn back into a nigger. Not convicted...accused. It doesn't even have to be something that serious. You could just stop walking on glass around whites or trying to prove you're a "good black," and they'll disown you. We're never really accepted.

I've said all this to say that I view Latinos and Asians and others you might think of as diverse, such as people from other countries, really no differently than I view whites. To me, these are people who don't like blacks--sometimes more so than white people don't. They want to fit in with whites, not us. They want to date whites, not us (and from what I've seen, not each other, either). They want to live around and attend school with whites, not us. In short, these are not people I feel that I can connect with in the GLBT or any other community, and I don't really think they want to connect with me. And if I don't embrace them, white GLBTs will. So they are not being left out.

On to black gay males. Hmmm. Remember all the stuff I wrote in Story 1 about gender? Once again, it's not my intention to be offensive, but...I think effeminate black gay males know they are effeminate black gay males. I just don't relate to femininity. The black male in our group was, I'd say, a rather controlled feminine male. By that, I mean he wasn't a flamer. But he obviously cared a lot about how he looked and liked to shop a lot. He dressed kind of preppy, and he likes things that the average female in her 20s would like. He tended to be quiet, and when he spoke he didn't necessarily "sound gay." I'm sorry, but we all know gay guys who just start speaking and you know. There's this one guy in one of my classes who is a flamer but not to the extent represented on TV. He does the head movements, and he talks like...and he walks like...ya know? These guys would make great friends for the average female, but not for me.

I actually tried to go back to that organization I mentioned in Story 2 recently, hoping things would be different this year and that I could find some people "of color" to talk to. The guy from class is in that organization (he's Asian, which means--to me, but not the rest of the organization--he's white). Well...things were different, but not necessarily in a good way. There was one--count 'em, one--other black person at the meeting, and he seemed a bit "white" to me. Boo me, black people. Hey, I know I'm "white," too...I admit it. I'm just trying to give you a context, nothing more. I don't care about the false standards of blackness. I just mean this guy is way more comfortable around non-blacks than I am, so it wasn't like I was going to be able to sit down with him and get the kind of scoop I was looking for.

But he was also "girly." So were all the other dudes. And there weren't very many women there to begin with, so I actually ended up hanging with the dudes from the meeting that afternoon (the woman had to split). It's a perfect example of what I meant when I said hanging out with gays makes me feel as if I'm talking to people from another planet. I mean, I was sitting with a bunch of guys who were being as snotty as heterosexual women can be--uh, the kind of heterosexual women I really don't like--and worshipping all this "girly" stuff, etc. It was crazy. Normally, I can talk to guys. Remember, I preferred talking to guys as I grew up. Apparently, those guys have to be straight, though. Please understand I'm neither calling all gay black males effeminate, nor ruling them out as friends. I'm just explaining why I've decided I should focus on black lesbians, at least for right now, considering where I'm at in my process.

So we've narrowed it down, I suppose. But I've got to tell you. I don't know what to expect from black lesbians. I really have no preconceived notions. I only know maybe two black lesbians, and they actually seem very cool. Both of them are brilliant, I can tell that much. One is kind of soft butch, if we're going to put labels on these people. The other one is a bit more feminine, but I can tell we have a lot in common. I would love to get to know both of them better.

The problem is, being in graduate school, it's hard to get to know people because everyone is so busy. Well...except me. I mean, "busy" doesn't exist to me, and I guess that's why I am always suspicious of people who claim to be busy. Maybe I am just superhuman. I can write blogs, read blogs, work a job, attend law school (and actually get most of my assignments done...well, the ones that necessitate getting done), have plenty of time to talk to or hang out with my friends/family, get lots of sleep, watch tons of TV, travel, work on a prestigious law journal at my school, be involved in several activities and still manage to be bored out of my mind half the time because I have absolutely nothing to do. Maybe I have gotten to that place where I am used to--maybe even like--being busy and know how to handle it very well? I never would have seen that one coming.

The second thing I must admit--I've always had a hard time fitting in with black people. I mean, I have never really fit in with anybody. But of all the fitting-in struggles I've had to endure, the struggle with black people has been the absolute worst. Around junior high or so, I basically gave up and distanced myself from blacks because I was tired of it, tired of the way black people--particularly black girls--treated me. As I mentioned in Story 1, black women have always been mean to me. And what I've noticed about black women is that as you move upward in your socioeconomic status and the black people you're surrounded by by are right there with you, they are still judging you as a black person but they are doing it more quietly. They don't have the guts to challenge you to your face, probably because they have also been challenged and they know their challenging another black person is hypocritical. But they still have expectations for you.

So, much of my blog has been about not fitting in with gays, some has been about not fitting in with women, and now I'm saying I don't fit in with black people. Yet, here I am wanting to connect with black lesbians. Do you kind of see my dilemma? Other than the facts that I'm almost always in white environments, and that the environments that I find for blacks or black gays have, thus far, been disappointing? Going back to the idea mentioned at the beginning of this story about "family" alienated as I have felt by blacks, I have felt more of a sense of "family" with blacks than with gays. And most blacks around me have always been heterosexual...but I don't think there's a such thing as a "black community" anymore than there is a such thing as a "GLBT community."

I feel as if I'm too old for this "fitting in" nonsense. I do not want another community that I'm supposed to be this or that for. I'm tired of communities that don't really exist. A lot of the things I've expressed in this entry have so much to do with my not wanting to come out and feeling like I'd either be in the exact same place or worse off if I did.