Just a few months ago, the Internets nearly imploded after a photo of two Black gay dads—or, dads—getting their daughters ready for school began making its rounds online. The photo, uploaded to the joint Instagram account of Atlanta-based couple Kaleb and Kordale, brought all the scripture slingers to the yard. Kindhearted bigotry, think pieces, and unsolicited and terrible parenting advice rained from the sky.
It was the worst of times.
Everyone who had ever written anything for anyone felt obligated to publish their opinion on this family, their assumed perversions and parenting, and the arbitrarily strewn boundaries of decency. A roller derby of wrongheaded f*ckery, if you will.
Now that the fiery plague of locusts and murderous Black Gay Love has faded, Kordale Lewis, one half of the couple, has released a memoir, Picture Perfect?, urging readers to challenge their definition of a perfect family. The Concern Police have clocked in and are on the damn case.
“Ugh. Why is this news? #IHaveKidsToo,” these concern police will cry. As always, they will descend Mt. Moral Superiority, bibles, night sticks and sacks of I-don’t-have-a-problem-with-gays-but in hand, ready for battle. They will then deflect like nobody has ever deflected before. And at no point in their valiant journey toward Despicable Personhood shall they enter the Land of Logical Thinking.
The Point shall remain undiscovered.
With this book, Lewis aims to tell his story, to convey (and control) the narrative of his life. The memoir was his chance to explore childhood sexual abuse, teenage fatherhood, and other personal trials. Here, he was able to share a sliver of his family life with the world, on his own terms, months after his family was thrust into the spotlight.
Regardless of how they make you feel, these types of images matter. They may make you uncomfortable, but this is reality. The lived daily experiences of your gay daughter, cousin and co-workers are reality. So, yes, chuckle at Cameron and Mitchell on Modern Family being zany, gay, and great for ratings. With time, once you get your mind right, perhaps the photos from my gay marriage to taller, burlier Anthony Mackie clone won’t cause you an aneurysm.
Like Pit Bull, gay folks are not going anywhere—and you must make your peace with that. We up in here, okay? And, just like the lush love sagas featuring White same sex couples loving and being loved in primetime television slots eventually helped to sop up some of that bigotry, more mainstream images of Black gay dads (aka dads) would lessen the shock felt after the next Kaleb and Kordale step forward.
This visibility is important for curious, queer, and fabulous sons and daughters of all ages. Diverse media representation and visibility offer validation and hope to young, confused gay boys like myself whose first time seeing two men with my skin color being affectionate and romantic was via porn at age 15. It’s now trendy to make a sport (and a career) of lamenting the scarcity of suitable decent-faced unincarcerated Black men. Seeing private worlds like the one Kaleb and Kordale share helps combat the complaints that Black gay men are, as a whole, promiscuous and not concerned with building healthy relationships. Images of Black gay men being Black, gay, human, humane and loving do matter.
This is news because, in the year 2014, the idea of an athlete who is a homosexual who is Colored who is not ashamed of or running from his sexuality can spawn 35 hundred dozen thousand think pieces.
If it weren’t news, it wouldn’t be news.
That these two dads felt compelled to defend their suitability as dads, and that I am writing these words, should show why this memoir and these images are significant for the sopping up of bigotry.
Here’s a secret: Gay people enjoy and play sports. We are parents with bad-ass kids. We, too, have Negro siblings who wear blue contacts. We do rappity rap and we overspend at Target. Gay folks do all types of mundane things aside from thriving in the dehumanizing banalities of reality television sidekicking. You know why? Because gay people, even the Black ones, are people, too. Gasp!
Gay people have imperfect families and tame rebellious Black girl curls with love and Blue Magic grease, too. You don’t have to be enthusiastic about gay dads, but this is the new normal, whether you have hate in your blood or not.
So, because the image of these two beautiful Black men documenting a moment as familiar and as Black as a lecture from Cliff and Clair still causes a downpour of rage and thumb thuggery in the Age of Obama, memoirs like Lewis’ are necessary, are news.
They matter because after seeing enough positive Black gay imagery, the idea is that your cousins won’t set fire to the rain inside her feelings whenever presented with this imagery that doesn’t align with their hyper-narrow vision of “normal.”
Considering the shockwaves caused by athletes Michael Sam and Derrick Gordon both coming out as gay, it’s clear the world still isn’t prepared for a “regular” Black gay dude. Seeing Don Lemon stir the pot on CNN nightly is one thing. Seeing Don Lemon embrace his partner and build a family is another. Just like Ellen DeGeneres danced her way into millions of frigid hearts, these dads and others like them deserve that same opportunity and humanity.
In an ideal world, two dads battling Black girl curls in the morning with love and hair grease would be cute, not controversial. Ideally, it would lead to nostalgia rather than a debate over whether these happy Black kids need a mom. (They have one.) Until that day arrives, this is news.