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  • Ennie Fakoya.

We need to address the double standard of Black Queer representation in Black culture.

Updated: Feb 28

Making Space: Black Culture and The Double Standard of Black Queer representation.

All images were sourced on Pinterest. Nightstand Service does not claim any ownership.

In exploring the dynamics of homophobia within the black community, it becomes evident that the perception of queerness within the black community is often entangled with traditional values, religious beliefs, and power imbalances. This article dives into the double standard of queerness in the context of black culture, dissecting how societal expectations, media representations, and internalized biases contribute to a complex web of challenges for the queer black community.

To start off it’s important to make it abundantly clear that black people aren’t disproportionately homophobic. It exists through every race, but the onus of how sexuality is perceived through masculinity is where the black community comes in. When I asked Ashely Allyene, a gay black man the same question, he replied, “I don't think so, but I think there are differences in expression and cultural pressures at play in the relationship between straight and queer Black people.”

Being inside the black community you begin to notice that homophobia is always rooted in the belief that queerness is a decision to stray from what we’ve been raised in, be it church, traditional nuclear households, or the imbalance of power dynamics, and therein lies the answer. The expectation for black men to embody a hyper-masculine ideal perpetuates a narrow definition of masculinity, contributing to the challenges faced by queer individuals.

Ernest Owens says it best in a 2016 article for The Huffington Post, “This problem isn't rooted in heightened doses of genetic homophobia -- but society's disproportional expectations of racial masculinity through pillars of class and privilege. The manufactured fragility of black masculinity creates disillusion.” Black men are told by women and other men to adhere to the traditional lifestyle of a provider, to be a wall that must not break. In the same way, institutional powers have played a hand in the firm westernization of black people, the current standard of black masculinity disadvantages the men it sought to empower.

But we shouldn’t be blind to the obvious. Men created a system that was horrible for everyone involved, including them. Ernest continues by saying “Since the beginning of mainstream media and culture, black male bodies have been exploited and mass-produced as hyper-masculine figures of sexuality, athleticism, and aggression.”

The Experiences of the Black Queer Community.

“I’ve had conversations with queer women about why their reactions to Bi or Queer men was negative“, says Taylor “Simmi” Romero, a multidisciplinary artist based in LA, laughing at my disbelief.

“I would ask them if they’d date bi men and it’d be an automatic no.” - Taylor “Simmi” Romero

In the same way, Insecure’s Molly was opposed to her entrepreneur boyfriend experimenting with men in college - art imitates life. Romero continues, “It’s always the bias that if a girl is bi it’s fine, but if it’s a man, he’s gay. There’s no in-between.”

The condition of bi-erasure isn’t new, and it hasn’t gone away, especially for men.

“I had a friend who experimented with his sexuality, found out he was straight, and has since been able to date multiple black women,” says Josh Akapo, researcher, and founder of Archtype, “Now if I, a bi-black man said the same thing, I get an ‘oh thanks for letting me know’ and I’m automatically coined as the gay best friend.”

The impact of bi-erasure on Black men forces them to fall back into boxed traditional gender roles during sex. By masking their sexuality with a forced sense of masculinity, they avoid discrimination. TherapyDen stated that “this can lead to a lack of authenticity in their relationships and may prevent them from fully expressing themselves and exploring their sexuality.”

This, of course, isn’t limited to just the aspect of sexuality. Black men have been commodified since slavery from being plantation workers to becoming the pinnacle of oiled-up, aggressive, women-hating masculinity.

With the critically acclaimed film Moonlight portraying a physically large, muscular actor like Trevante Rhodes as a struggling gay man that craves love and softness, the image of what a queer black man looks like is changing.

“Now we’re seeing the diversity of ‘suburban blacks’,” Josh continues to say, “We have Odd Future, we have Tyler the Creator, Steve Lacy, Frank Ocean.” Black men that are openly queer and accepted as such without adhering to hyper-masculinity. “But those men are usually well-liked or dating white men, and white people are famously afforded the luxury of not being hyper-anything.”

The conversation continues with an understanding that the issue of accepting blackness and queerness as coexisting cultures is still a problem for black people. The popular show Insecure exacerbates this, with Molly, when the protagonist Issa’s best friend, breaks up with a guy she was seeing because he had sex with a man in college. Molly, who’d also had a same-sex experience in college, did not see her double standard for what it was, and her friends outside of Issa, added to her biphobia by reinstating the idea that a bi-man is simply just gay.

“I hate the question of ‘Are you a bottom or a top?’ because people then think if you’ve ever bottomed you can never be with a woman again,” Josh says, and continues into the avoidance of bisexuality and the overcompensation of masculinity. “A lot of men that claim to be tops are in the opposite position when it comes down to it.”

Blackness has never been favored in the lens of patriarchy and white supremacy. They can’t be untangled because patriarchy was set up as a disservice to black people. Black men, despite fitting into the definition of patriarchy, don’t gain much from it. A paper by Crystal Bell states that the US is both “Enthralled and afraid of black men.” In the era of Obama’s presidency, Black men had the highest rates of incarceration in 2010.

Black men have been placed on proverbial chopping blocks, so much so that upon breaking out of boxes created to stifle them, they worry for their safety. Ashley added “Homophobia has cost me friends and led to alienation, bullying, and on rare occasions violence,” She says, “It also really drummed in stereotype threat, I was concerned about it happening far more than it actually happened, in retrospect.

In the case of black women and their relationship to queerness and queer black men, it’s not surprising that a lot of the issues surrounding their struggles are due to internalized misogyny. Ade Bakare, a bisexual black woman considers that “you often find it within a show like Insecure and black culture, that having a man that’s bi or queer somehow impacts their masculinity and the ‘traditional image you’re trying to uphold. The expectation of black men being providers and protectors doesn’t ring true for them when that man is bi or gay. It makes them more feminine.”

Men feel the need to assert their sexual identity way more than women. They are tied to this idea that femininity is a plethora of things they shouldn’t be. Gendering human emotions has been at the center of this, where men are considered ‘bitches’ for crying or enjoying hobbies. “Women kissing women is accepted by men because they find it attractive,” Ade says, “It doesn’t impact on a woman's sexuality the way it would on a man’s.” This leads very deeply into the conversation of the internalized misogyny a lot of women have. From early 2000s homophobia in a show like Bad Girls Club to Insecure, where Ashley concludes that “Molly's "husband" list included "has never been with a man", and she's really not flexible enough to interrogate that.``

The intersectionality of blackness and queerness brings forth a complex set of challenges rooted in societal expectations, media influence, and internalized biases. While progress is being made with the acceptance of openly queer black figures, there is still work to be done in dismantling the double standards that persist within the community.

By challenging ingrained stereotypes and fostering a more inclusive understanding of blackness and queerness, we can work towards creating a space where individuals are free to express their authentic selves without fear of discrimination or judgment.

Are you passionate about exploring the intricate worlds of beauty, sex, wellness and culture ? Do you belong to a marginalised community and have unique perspectives and stories to share? If so, Nightstand Service is eagerly seeking contributing writers like you! Get in touch:


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