Wednesday, June 06, 2007

no homo... black male intimacy

So for the past few years nearly every time I hear Black men nearing a point of emotional intimacy two words quickly have haunted the moment, "no homo." Picture this Sicily... err, I mean, so picture this, you've mentored a brother for the past 5 years, talked him through some major life issues: college, divorce, depression, women, etc. and he's about to take off for a far off land. He takes a moment to express his thanks for the love that you've showed him over the years and how you've improved his life and he punctuates his statement with "no homo." Not only has it happened once, but it's happened multiple times with the brothas that I've worked with. But the reason it urks me so much, is that so many of these brothas are the "good brothas", the brothas who have attempted to push on issues of gender, inequality at large and sexuality... well maybe not so much the latter.

The "no homo" movement seems to have grown directly out of Hip-Hop's obsession with hyper-masculinity. As Hip-Hop has pushed the masculine through performance of actions, be they violent or non-violent, the realm of intragender intimacy has consistently been silent. Now of course there are songs for my crew, my niggas, even back in the day my posse, but these songs fall far from carving out a space to discuss close relationships between Black men (except when the subject of the song is dead, then you can talk freely). But this is nothing new to our community, as Black men at large, and those embedded within the Hip-Hop generation.

Now to be clear, I don't think Black men lack intimacy, I think we simply truncate it for the "sexuality safety." To me sexuality safety is about the maintenance of an image of heterosexuality (meaning: I'm a guy, I mess with women); and a by extension a vehement rejection of homosexuality (meaning: I'm a guy, I'm not for that gay shit). They are two sides of the same coin in our music. While some are already chomping at the bit to say, not all of Hip-Hop is like this, let me take this moment to pre-emptively strike like GWB and douse some of your righteous indignation and remind you that many of our favorite rappers follow this logic. Nas, Common, Andre 3000, the list goes on. Just search through their catalogs, it's there!

Hip-Hop's response has been to dodge or turn a blind eye to homoeroticism, but sometimes it comes full frontal. While rumors about rappers being homosexual have long directed Hip-Hop (check out Marc Lamont Hill's forthcoming book on more of this). In recent months, rumors have become specters. The Lil' Wayne and Baby kiss started a firestorm, that I hoped would have lead to a different discussion of male intimacy, but lord knows that fire burned out as quickly as it went ablaze, leaving most people with the same ideas of equating black male intimacy with sexuality. In recent days T-Pain has gained significant attention regarding his comments about Ray J's sex tape and endowment. After making multiple comments about penis size he attempts to absolve himself of homoerotic overtones by saying "no homo." See, no harm, no foul. No way in hell. Most folks who read his comments and reacted offered up their own theories of the boundaries of masculinity and appropriate references to another man's physique. The bottom line that could be taken from most comments that I could stomach was "a real man never even notices another man's penis", sure, right.

While the popular attention that Wayne and T-Pain garnered is important, it tells us little about how Black folks, and Black men in particular, understand the boundaries between intimacy and sexuality. I'm most concerned with the use of "no homo" when it comes to interpersonal intimacy. I know that we as Black men have historically bottled emotion, but punctuating our sharing with "no homo" is troubling. By using "no homo" are brothas saying the only men who share emotions are homosexual? Are brothas saying that sharing emotions will immediately lead to some form of sexual encounter? And more importantly, to myself I've asked and am asking, do I create an environment with my brothas where they think I'm so anti-gay that they need to qualify their emotions and distinguish them from sexuality?

P.s. Sorry I accidently had the comments turned off on this post, now they're on!


Anonymous said...

This is one of those topics that gets swept under the rug during a conversation amongst brothas. If a brotha ends a sentence with "no homo", that conversation should end there. In T.Pain's case he just kept talking about it, that was kinda homo.

Hip Hop is homophobic but is willing to make exceptions. For example Omar (from The Wire) and Lil' Wayne. The rule seems to be the more up front you are about it, without beating around the bush (no pun intended), the more accepted you will be.

Anonymous said...

im struck by the similarity between "black america" and "rural america" regarding homosexuality.

I grew up on a reservation but my highschool was still about 80% white... rural white (screw it, we're rednecks OK?! i guess it only follows that if your skin is red your neck will be...) and homophobia is the rule there.

this "man's man" idea seems to be a part of both hip-hop and metal cultures. (much to the chagrine of both sets of fans, i imagine). you nailed it when you said that its not for lack of intimacy, just this bizarre need for sexual safety. that safety is most easily found in death.

couple examples: i go home for a funeral of a friend of mine who died in a tragic ATV accident. i see some of the hardest sumsabitches ive ever known, weeping and holding each other for support over somebody who they would NEVER have told how they really felt about him while he was alive. im guessing this experience isnt 100% unique.

Dimebag Darrel (lead guitar, Pantera, death of dimebag is to metal as death of biggy/pac is to hip-hop, or something similar anyway) gets shot at a show in 2004. suddenly the baddest of the baddest baddasses of metal are penning tributes.

James Lynn Strait, lead singer of Snot, dies in a car accident in 98, Sevendust's lead singer Lajon Witherspoon contributes a truly heartfelt song "Angel's Son" to his tribute album. (sevendust is to metal as eminem is to hip-hop, though i would argue that sevendust has much more credibility amongst metal fans than em has amongst hip-hop fans) theres other songs on that album by like incubus and korn but i only remember this one.

all this is acceptable, but say this to a dude who is still breathing and we have to do the "no homo" (pronounced: im not a queer or nuthin, or im not gay but... to metal fans) thing too.

similar to hip-hop, metal will make exceptions for those bold enough to come clean (dont start...). Rob Halford of Judas Priest is the clearest example. As i understand it, it was known when they started in the 70s that he was gay, so i dont think many were shocked when he came out in the late 90s and i really dont think he lost too many fans. but he also had like 20 years worth of cred...

point is, this phenom isnt at all unique to black folks or even hip-hop culture. i think it mostly has to do with religion and education. think about it, the archtypes for both cultures are not exactly the most educated and enlightened cats on earth, and they typically have at least a childhood connection to one of the big 3 religions. none of which are particularly accepting of homosexuality.

i know this is "blackatmichigan". but the brothas arent alone on this one. how do we reconcile this? i say fuck what they know, if i see one of my bros from way back, hes getting a hug (and not one of those ones where you pat them really hard so its like your hugging and hitting them at the same time either) and aint sayin "no homo" afterwords either. and ill try to stop cringing when i see 2 dudes kiss (can i still cringe when a dude kisses an ugly girl? or 2 ugly girls kiss? work with me here)

-andy chosa

Anonymous said...

pass the nuts. no homo

Anonymous said...

yoooo, i was fukkin this guy so hard in the ass. no homo

Anonymous said...

i never claimed to be tough, hard -- no homo --, gangsta, none of the above

Anonymous said...

no homo, but we cockin em

Dumi said...

Al Bundy said...

great stuff BaM. linked your article, thanks.

Anonymous said...

(LOL) Great blog, but "NO HOMO"