african american man

I didn’t see the mass wedding of 33 straight and same-sex couples at the 56th GRAMMY Awards ceremony as it played out in real time. Officiated by the recently deputized Queen Latifah, the event was smartly packaged within a performance by America’s Apologetic Great White Hope, Macklemore, with appearances by Madonna and Mary Lambert. Unaware beforehand of the planned nuptials, based on the roster, I figured it would be nothing new: White guy gesticulating porcelainly with rapper hands as White America cries tears of joy, having found their truth teller, their Malcolm.

I did, however, see the play-by-play on Twitter. Even before Dana Owens and her fresh ass bob emphatically pronounced each pair “a married couple,” I noticed a uniquely nerve-grating line of commentary mixed in with the standard slurs, punch lines, and award-winning victimization that flood every corner of social media in these instances. A screen grab of a Black gay couple, dressed in white, rightfully emotional having just been hitched standing within feet of Beyoncé, began to circulate. The photo was of choreographer Jamal Sims and fashion designer Octavius Terry, who both happen to be quite attractive.

They were being called “a waste of good looks.” They were “too handsome” to be gay.

The abundance of euthanasia-resistant strains of stupidity in this world is alarming. My word.

I expected the bigots to mount up and open the floodgates of ignorance at the mere suggestion that there was something gay in the air. They didn’t disappoint me. This, though, is especially annoying, as those who engage in such backhanded praise truly believe it comes from a place of appreciation. They think are in fact flattering these poor, gay souls.

It’s a selfish thing to say at best. At worst, it’s an insult sprinkled with casual dehumanization, wrapped in a compliment and bedazzled with shards of kindhearted homophobia. Correlating sexuality and attractiveness implies that there’s a threshold on some arbitrary spectrum marking at what point a man or woman exceeds the beauty limits allowed by the rules of homosexuality. Not only is this logic faulty and asinine, it rests on the premise that straight folk are inherently more attractive. This is not a compliment. This is pure prejudice.

In the wake of the televised wedding, as photos and interview clips made their rounds, I saw women react in disbelief. “But they’re so cute!” some exclaimed.

I equate it to saying, “It is truly a shame that you are gay. If you weren’t gay, you could maximize the full potential of your beauty. But alas, you’re a gay and are therefore a fountain of squandered pretty potential, good for nothing.”

I equate it to saying, “It is truly a shame that you are gay. If you weren’t gay, you could maximize the full potential of your beauty. But alas, you’re a gay and are therefore a fountain of squandered pretty potential, good for nothing.”

And while this sentiment makes me wish I had asked Santa F. Baby for a flamethrower, this go-to response is hardly rare or new.

After being accused of having a sexual relationship with a female staffer in 2012, former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll laughed allegations off, saying, “Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”

Oh.

The same simpleminded drivel is routinely directed at sexually liberated singer and songwriter Frank Ocean by lusty fans whose fantasies prohibit them from celebrating his bravery.

I saw it with Travis Winfrey as “Omar” on Single Ladies, whose character women gushed over and deemed “too fine to be gay” in the same breath. The same happened with Gavin Houston as “Jeffrey Harrington” on The Haves and the Have Nots and Omari Hardwick as “Carl” in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls. All presumably crossed that acceptable threshold of homobeauty. Each time, close-fisted non-compliments rained down.

In a post called “9 Fine Men We Were Sad To Find Out Were Gay or Bisexual,” Clarke Gail Baines at Madame Noire waxed nostalgically homophobic with a nifty slideshow counting down her disappointments, lamenting the sexuality of their fantasies as if mourning loved ones.

I would be lying if I pretended like some of the men in Hollywood who’ve come out as gay or bisexual over the years didn’t have me shedding a single tear and doing the Florida Evans out here (“Damn, damn, DAMN!”). Of course, the chances of me getting with any of these men before I knew of their actual sexual orientation was slim, but I always had a crush or fascination with them to the point that I felt a little sad.

Baines then paints a vivid picture of her pity for these former imaginary baby daddies, each photo caption dripping with regret. Woe is she.

Pardon me, sister, your bonus level obliviousness is hanging out.

This covert anti-gay bias is of the most dangerous variety, as it’s often masked with a smile. It’s the same gleeful gut punch felt when you tell women they are “pretty for a dark-skinned girl’ or tell men they’re “cute for a chubby guy.” Again, this is not praise. Compliments should never be qualified.

Why is making the next man or woman’s sexuality about you so commonplace? Why do men perversely consider a woman being bisexual an invitation for their inclusion? The key point everyone is overlooking in these and all instances is the fact that most likely, even if this ultra fine man or bisexual woman’s orientation lined up with yours, you would have as much of a chance as R. Kelly does at sainthood. Don’t be so presumptuous to assume you’d be on this man’s radar were he in the market for what you’re selling.

It takes a special brand of terrible to label a happy Black man living his life out in the open—in the face an avalanche of vile thumb thuggery from thoroughly vile people, no less—a waste. Consider the strength demonstrated in opening up publicly, telling the world the very thing you would have likely called him DL and demonized him for had someone else beat him to the punch or had be been outed in a predictably scandalous way.

Fantasizing over that which you’ll never have is entirely okay. Try a bit of thoughtfulness along with your yearning, though. Rather than eschewing some unattainable man’s well-being and joy, placing parameters on his merits, tying his worth to his sexuality, consider that fine as hell is fine as hell and is unrelated to orientation. The same way you want to be seen as equal those unchosen, unchangeable attributes that may undeservingly render you less-than in the eyes of the next saint? Pay some of that forward and try being a less abysmal person.

Alexander Hardy is a writer and cultural critic living and working in Panama. He shares his experiences on his site, The Colored Boy. Tweet him at @chrisalexander_.