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CORE ISSUES
by Jean Pierre Campbell
2007-01-01

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It wasn't a direct verbal attack. It was more subtle than that. In fact, you wouldn't have caught it unless you listened to his tone of superiority, as well as his language . Indeed, it was more than a declaration.

'I have always been out,' he began forcefully. 'And always been fierce. Everybody in my family knows and has always known. And they support me. And I wouldn't have it any other way cause I don't play that mess!'

I couldn't help but interrupt. 'So are you saying that you had a choice in the matter, or were you out because you really couldn't do anything about it?' Ignoring my question, he continued his tirade without ever considering my point. It was clear from his well-greased ponytail, manicured nails. and 'fierce' manner that he had always been a big queen. That was obvious. And my point was intended to illustrate that he really couldn't have been anything else in life.

His tirade was directed toward another brother in our discussion group, one whom you could tell had not always been out, which is why he was attacked. At one time or another, he ( let's call him Thug Life ) probably had a girlfriend and maybe a baby, too. He was rough and hard, definitely capable of being one of those brothers keepin' it on the DL ( that is, 'down low' ) , though it now appeared he was somewhat out, at least out-enough to come to our meeting. But Miss Thing let him have it anyway, the way we self-righteous sissies always do.

Symbolically, Thug Life was the kind of brother we've always adored and hated, all at the same time. Adored because he was masculine-enough to intrigue us. Hated because he was dating girls by day but secretly doin' us at night. Hated because, on a deeper political level, he held back the movement, because he wouldn't stand with us in the light of day. In fact, to many of us, Thug Life was a weak male, incapable of standing up for himself, choosing instead a fake hetero existence in order to be socially acceptable. In other words, he was a 'playa' who got played . . by his self.

In her own way, Miss Thing was claiming her superiority over him. She was, in fact, declaring who was the better man: her. Usually, I would've agreed--that she was the strong male and Thug Life, by extension, was a weaker example. After all, she'd always been a fierce ( that is, out and self-affirming ) queen and he, judging from his participation in our discussion group, hadn't always been as out or self-affirming. But in this culrture how could he?

When you're a queen or a rather effeminate male, like Miss Thing and I, a gay identity is always assumed. So it makes coming out virtually unnecessary, because queens are never really in the closet. For the most part, everybody already knows. In fact, not only will people take for granted that you're gay, they will often call you out. I've been called sissy since the age of 8, roughly. So by the time I got to high school, I knew exactly where I belonged. For me ( thanks to society ) , gay self-acceptance wasn't traumatic or difficult, because in a way I'd been prepped my whole life. Besides, for me, it was all just a natural process, a natural way of being, more so the inner core turned outward.

For Thug Life and those like him, the act of coming out is a more complex dilemma, as another brother on the DL helped me to understand. Speaking of a deep fear he still held, he said, 'I don't want people to look at me differently, not my family, not my brothers, my uncles . . . cause they will.' Suddenly, it became apparent that the risks for him and Thug Life were so much greater than for Miss Thing and me, because we never had to sacrifice a masculine identity: we didn't have one. Before and after, we would be seen the same way in the eyes of others. They, however, would be seen and judged quite differently afterwards.

After all, they'd spent a lifetime doing what boys do, honoring male protocol and rituals, making masculinity a cornerstone of their identity. It was in the way they probably chased girls vigorously, fought boys ruthlessly, played sports herocially, and even talked shit vulgarly.

For Thug Life, in particular, it was in the way he cocked his hat to the side, the way he pimped into the room, the way he sat with his legs open wide, commanding space for his superior endowment. Aggressive and atheletic, not to mention a bit thuggish round the edges, now his exposed sexual identity could erase that part of him that was at the core of who he was. Of course, he would be hesitant. Masculinity didn't just matter to him, it was a natural way of being, more so the inner core turned outward.

Like so many, Miss Thing is incorrect in assuming that coming out is simply a matter of courage, separating those who have it from those who don't. Or that just because we're all gay, we all face the same 'core' issues. It's not that simple. And it never was.


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