THE ICON­O­CLAST Be­ing thrice as good

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

At­lanta is the city of per­fect black gay men, or rather the il­lu­sion of per­fec­tion. Per­fect bod­ies. Per­fect jobs. Per­fect homes. Per­fect cars. Per­fect clothes. Per­fect cre­den­tials. Per­fect boyfriends. And if you’re not yet per­fect, you bet­ter be work­ing to­ward it, al­ways.

But the thing with unattain­able ideals is that you even­tu­ally dis­cover that they are unattain­able for a rea­son, which is why I think some of us be­come very dis­il­lu­sioned and ex­pe­ri­ence sig­nif­i­cant de­spair along the way.

Not all of us are driven to­ward per­fec­tion. Of course not. I imag­ine most of us just try to live our lives the best we can. But like a shadow, this ideal of per­fec­tion still fol­lows us

July 24, 2015

around. It haunts us. It’s a voice we in­ter­nal­ize, a voice that is very much rooted in the racist, mas­culin­ist, het­ero­sex­ist cul­ture we live in, and sur­vive. A voice that Toni Mor­ri­son once de­scribed as the “master nar­ra­tive.”

Part of our quest for per­fec­tion, or pro­ject­ing the per­fect im­age, is it pro­vides us with a weapon. In a world that de­spises us for be­ing black and gay, maybe we think if we are just as good, if not bet­ter, we have a chance. Maybe we think only through per­fec­tion, can we be loved.

As lit­tle boys we imag­ine that if we are just good enough, we can be ac­cepted. If we are just smart enough we can de­flect the dis­ap­point­ment of our par­ents, once they dis­cover our sing-song voices or the slight swish in our walk. We can hide be­hind our ac­com­plish­ments: grades, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, awards.

When I was in high school for ex­am­ple, all of the other black gay boys I knew were over­achiev­ers. It’s of­ten how we found each other. Then we would come out, of­ten into black gay men’s com­mu­ni­ties where we strug­gled again not so much for ac­cep­tance but for recog­ni­tion and af­fir­ma­tion. The most painful thing is to be around other black gay men and feel com­pletely in­vis­i­ble.

Struc­tural vi­o­lence isn’t just about down­ward so­cial mo­bil­ity, it’s also about up­ward so­cial mo­bil­ity. Both are con­nected to the same sys­tem. This no­tion, which is in fact a re­al­ity, that we have to work twice as hard and be twice as good in a cul­ture that de­spises us is very much linked to struc­tural vi­o­lence. And if you are black and gay, you have to be thrice as good, a kind of triple­con­scious­ness.

Black gay men are far from the only group that seeks to use so­cial sta­tus sym­bols as weapons and for pro­tec­tion. But I of­ten won­der if for us, the con­se­quences of such a course of ac­tion, are more se­vere. No mat­ter how per­fect we at­tempt to be­come, we will never em­body the ideal that these no­tions of per­fec­tion are based on. And so per­fec­tion for us is the sword that cuts both ways.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.