Casual Homophobia, again

“Where’s that faggot?” the black saleswoman asks, looking for a sales associate.

Why do such moments still reduce me to enraged silence, stump me, leave me shocked, violated into silence? What is that trigger that is so easily pressed? Why can’t I respond to casual homophobia? Is it because it is always like a trick punch? Unanticipated, and so always crippling?

Why, when I have learned to stop flinching, do I return to that cowed position, one in which, sadly, so many black women reduce me to, with their casual homophobia?

6 thoughts on “Casual Homophobia, again

  1. Is it mainly black women who seem to push your buttons? I’m not a psychologist but I guess something else is happening there!

  2. IF I dared to be more honest (a close friend tells me I am mostly already naked), I might probe, more deeply, the edges of the scab she disturbed, the complex psycho-social expectations I have of black women, the attachments I extend, the assumed gendered solidarities I desire, my unrealistic hope that Audre Lorde will always walk into my life.

    “Something else . . .happening there” is enough, even too much, for now.

  3. A white woman blogger, Daisy’s Dead Air wrote a post yesterday noting among other things that a post of hers (on having a black name) got linked to in a long discussion thread about racism. She wonders why a white person saying that racism is real seems to have some sort of authority. And then she asks a good question:

    “My question is, why the doubt? What exactly does it COST whites of good will, to take racism seriously? I am confused about the protesting.”

    I know this is off topic. I mention it because I’m startled you use “cowed” in your comment; it’s a bit hard for me to imagine you cowed. Daisy’s question prompted some comments. And I guess I wondered if perhaps framing the issue of casual homophobia in terms of “cost” sheds any light?

    I understand that it’s unrealistic to hope Audre Lorde will walk into your life. FWIW I smile that you are open and hoping.

  4. John,

    I’ll need to think some more about cost before I can attempt a semi-coherent answer.

    But I’ll note that my turn to Audre Lorde is similar to many other black gay men’s turn to black lesbians (Robert Reid-Pharr to Barbara Smith, for instance), and marks ambivalence toward other gay men, if not disappointment.

    Gay men have yet to address why we often expect so little from each other, besides fucks and catty comments. And those of us who embrace feminism have yet to speak more explicitly about what feminism offers that other forms of gay organizing do not.

    It is, in part, this turn to women and turning aslant toward gay men that undergirds the disappointment I feel when my optimism (what Lauren Berlant terms cruel optimism) is dashed.

    I am too often cowed for my taste. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  5. Pole sana, Keguro. I read this last night, didn’t really know what to say and determined that in the morning, I would come and apologise for the whole of my sex (and hope I didn’t sound facetious), and also ask why members of my sex affect you so. Of course, I had also come up with my own *pesa nane* psychological and otherwise explanations but it is an enlightening experience to hear your reasons. Write more about this when you can.

  6. Mshairi, how totally sweet–and unnecessary.

    It is one of those odd things about where we seek and find succor, in part because of histories. I mean, the women who were there for me when my father died I still owe debts I cannot repay. And, over the years, black women have done more for me, in personal terms, than I can remember, from ensuring I was fed over very lean summers to making sure I had places to go to celebrate holidays. Of course, this extends more generally to the women in my life who have enabled–and continue to enable–my thinking, my working, and my loving.

    And so the nexus of issues that come from my histories and expectations often collide. Some would call this inevitable. But inevitability does not ease the pain of sudden, unexpected stings. I remain hopeful and, perhaps, as John might suggest, open. Although that is for others to judge.

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