A White Gays Guide on How to Deal with the Black Community for Dummies: Chapter 11- Leave the Sexuality of Historic Black Leaders Alone

Apparently, it’s Black History Month in the U.K. and who better to hear from on the subject that a white gay man because of course there are no Black people in the U.K. qualified to speak on the subject. And what better way to honor the history of Black people than to suggest that El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, more commonly referred to as Malcolm X, was bisexual.

Now there are so many things wrong with this, I don’t know where to start.

To begin, that a news publication would look to someone who is not Black to write on the importance and relevance of Black History Month is a bit perplexing. It’s even more problematic when the author has no intention of honoring or respecting the history of Black people but would rather use the platform to further push the cause of white gays, because really, that’s what Black History Month is all about.

Second, it can’t be overlooked that most white people, gay or otherwise, have never been fans of Malcolm X. Let’s face it, he’s always been a little to controversial for them. They much preferred Black people’s “non-violent” Civil Rights Movement to the “by any means necessary” method that Malcolm X subscribed to at one time. So I am not surprised that 45 years after the murder of Malcolm X, they are still finding ways to smear his name.

But what I am surprised by is the continued audacity that white gay people have when it comes to Black people.

And I quote:

“Malcolm X’s bisexuality is more than just a question of truth and historical fact. There has never been any black person of similar global prominence and recognition who has been publicly known to be gay or bisexual. Young black lesbian, gay and bisexual people can, like their white counterparts, often feel isolated, guilty and insecure about their sexuality. They could benefit from positive, high-achieving role models, to give them confidence and inspiration. Who better than Malcolm X? He inspired my human rights activism and was a trailblazer in the black freedom struggle. He can inspire other LGBT people too.”

It’s clear the author knows little about Malcolm X or what he stood for because Malcolm X would have never written such an article about someone’s alleged sexuality to further the cause. It’s also clear that the author knows little about being Black, I mean how could he, he’s white. To insinuate that Malcolm X was both closeted and bisexual and missed the opportunity to inspire Black gay people because of it is as ludicrous as the idea of a white person trying to explain to me the history of Black people. I am both Black and lesbian and let me tell you, Malcolm X still continues to inspire me and it has nothing to do with his sexuality.

Suggesting that Malcolm X is bisexual is going to do nothing to mend relationships between white gays and Black people, if anything, the author just made that division a deeper.

Even if Malcolm X was bisexual, of what relevance is it to us today? None.

“Perhaps it is unintentional but Black History Month sometimes feels like Straight Black History Month.”

I’m sorry, but sleeping with Black people, befriending Black people, and listening to Black music, doesn’t make you Black. It just means that you’re having great sex, you have good friends, and that you listen to excellent music. Period. So I find it hard to believe that for a white person Black History Month feels like Straight Black History Month.

White gay people need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to Blacks and take some other Black people with them. The kind of Blacks who they aren’t sleeping with and who will have no problem saying to them, you might not want to right an article entitled “Malcolm X is bisexual. Get over it.” I’m just saying.

I guess I’ll just be thankful for the small things. Like the fact that the author and the paper that published his ridiculousness are both in the U.K. and not America. See we don’t play that shit here and unless our white gay marriage zealots want to see a repeat of California’s Proposition 8, they’ll heed my words and leave historic Black leaders and their sexuality alone.

A White Gay’s Guide on How to Deal with the Black Community for Dummies

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The Court of Public Opinion

  • johnny t malice

    To be fair though, the story that Malcolm was, back in the day, a bisexual hustler, was raised in Bruce Perry’s biography (published in 1992), & was referenced (albeit only through a fleeting look between Malcolm & another character) in Spike Lee’s biopic, so in fact it’s old news. However, there is generally an intellectually lax habit amongst gay folks (of whatever race) to claim anyone who was to any degree bisexual as a gay forebear: Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Michelangelo & so on. A gay Zulu chum of mine claims Shaka Zulu as a gay forebear. While these mostly white commentators have a somewhat cockamamie & at times inappropriately proprietorial take on Malcolm X, as a gay person I do find it affirming that such a striking & remarkable human being as Malcolm was, amongst many other things &, even though he never spoke about it, to some degree bisexual.

  • The other day a white gay man in my office said that he was tired of black people because they are hypocrites. Being black myself, I was totally offended and asked him why he would say such a thing. He explained that it was hypocritical of blacks, who have a legacy of oppression, to oppose gay marriage. Then he went on to say that black men are hypocrites because they are on the down-low spreading HIV/AIDS in the black community.

    I told him that it was rude to categorize an entire race of people has hypocrites. I even went on to counter his arguments by saying that many black people support gay rights and that HIV/AIDS is just as much of a straight disease as a gay one, but there was no talking to him. His mind was made up, probably like a lot of people with white male priviledge who happen to be gay. I guess being gay doesn’t necessarily make one culturally sensitive.

    It sounds like the Brittish guy you mentioned may have been trying to teach blacks a lesson about their own history, but instead ended up supporting the dominant western view that blacks and their leaders are inherently perverse and inferior.

  • Wonderlove

    Saartjie, I commend you for opening a dialogue as I’m experiencing the same thing at work and I listen and move on.

    Great post, Jasmyne!

    This is CLASSIC!!!!

    I’m sorry, but sleeping with Black people, befriending Black people, and listening to Black music, doesn’t make you Black. It just means that you’re having great sex, you have good friends, and that you listen to excellent music. Period.

  • GayTradeUnionist

    Hello!

    @Saartjie—that guy sounds like a jackass. I hope that if I were there I would have told him that. whereas i can’t apologize for something he did, I can try to distance myself from it, and hope I don’t get prejudged for his being a jackass.

    @jasmyne–i see your point totally. I went and searched the Guardian website and saw that basically they hadn’t published anything else about black history month (who knew it was in october in the uk?), and that this was the one piece the editors picked. That said, I thought it was interesting to learn about the debate over whether malcolm x was gay, and spent some time reading at wikipedia and other sites reading and thinking about his life ‘n’ times.

    i know the world is full of harsh words, always offline and sometimes on here, but i did appreciate that your blog, and that column, reminded me of a list of some of the people that I, as a white gay married san francisco social justice advocate, consider my brothers and sisters:

    “It is also worth celebrating that many leading black icons have been lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), most notably the US black liberation hero Malcolm X. Other prominent black LGBTs include jazz singer Billie Holiday, author and civil rights activist James Baldwin, soul singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, blues singer Bessie Smith, poet and short story writer Langston Hughes, singer Johnny Mathis, novelist Alice Walker, civil rights activist and organiser of the 1963 March on Washington Bayard Rustin, blues singer Ma Rainey, dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, actress, singer and dancer Josephine Baker, Olympic diving gold medallist Greg Louganis, singer and songwriter Little Richard, political activist and philosopher Angela Davis, singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman and drag performer and singer RuPaul.”

    Of course we in San Francisco would add Sylvester to that list, and I have always taken as a personal inspiration Bayard Rustin, and almost as much, Paul Robeson, and i will never forget meeting Barbara Jordan and realizing that she had been blessed with the voice of god.

  • GayTradeUnionist

    *bisexual, i meant to type, not gay

  • Well Jasmyne, you know how some (white) LGBTs are when it comes to black history and the Civil Right Movement. Those types are so delusional when it comes to things of the past that white privilege almost always overwhelms whatever point they attempted to make. I think it is best that people stop dwelling on the sexuality of the past prominent figures since there is no way of knowing because they are now DECEASED.

    I think more LGBT leaders would be taken more serious of they would try to tackle the issues of racial bias that plagues the fold. Until those issues are resolved I highly doubt that there will be much of anything productive occurring other than short-term alliances…

  • Mosh

    I was mostly annoyed by this:

    “There has never been any black person of similar global prominence and recognition who has been publicly known to be gay or bisexual.”

    It’s a twisted assertion, cause to refute it means one is saying Malcom X wasn’t as uniquely prominent and recognized globally as the author claimed. But yeah, there are other famous and important public figures who were gay, and thankfully GayTradeUnionist provided that list.

  • Mosh

    To add more people: basketball player John Amaechi, singer-songwriter Me’shell Ndegeocello, Vogue editor at large Andre Leon Talley, actor Darryl Stephens, etc

    Plus there are many suspected-to-be-gay-or-bisexual blacks in Hollywood and the music industry as well, but that’s another story..

  • johnosahon

    Jasmyne, i would be using this line from now on:

    “I’m sorry, but sleeping with Black people, befriending Black people, and listening to Black music, doesn’t make you Black. It just means that you’re having great sex, you have good friends, and that you listen to excellent music. Period.”

    thanks.

  • Christian

    Your suggestion that the author was attempting to “smear” Malcolm X’s name by claiming he was bisexual, speaks volumes about your own attitude toward homosexuality. I don’t believe in psychoanalyzing people through their blogs, but that definitely suggests to me a degree of self-loathing.on your part.

    If Malcolm X’s sexual orientation is irrelevant today, then the gender, religion, age, and racial/ethnic background, etc. of other historical figures is similarly irrelevant. After all, what does blackness have to do with peanut butter, open-heart surgery, traffic lights and other inventions African-Americans pioneered? I guess about as much as Malcolm X’s accomplishments had to do with being bisexual.

    I doubt that you believe it’s unimportant for youth, especially black youth, to see and learn about the contributions black historical figures have made to society, not only sociopolitical, but literary, scientific, and artistic. Yet, you suggest that it means nothing for youth, especially GLBT youth, to have similar knowledge about GLBT history. That shows significant lack of understanding and/or acceptance of the difficulty GLBT people face for being GLBT. Instead of working so hard to tell everyone how much more important your black identity is than your lesbian identity, and how good all the GLBTs have things in comparison, even the school children being tormented and committing suicide, the mentally wounded survivors of the ex-gay movement, the fairy boys and trans girls getting raped and chopped up in dark allies, you should recognize that suffering and adversity is great and varied in the black community as well as in others, and that every group has an important story.