Worshipping Each Other: Public Possibility Models of Black Queer Love
By Audrey Cash
Let me start by quoting the infamous Will Smith who told us he liked “Spanish, Haitian, Indian, Jamaican. Black, White, Cuban and Asian.” I feel you Fresh Prince. I really do. I say this to make it very clear that I have no issue with interracial couples. None at all. Date whomever you fall in love with, no matter their race, ethnic background or any other classification that may make you different. I support it. With that said, don’t come for me on Twitter saying I have a problem with interracial dating. That is not what this is about. So let’s begin…
I would like to propose a question: If you believe art imitates life, do you think your coming out journey would have been different had you seen Black gay, lesbian, trans, and queer couples on network television or in Hollywood, in general? For me, growing up as a television-obsessed ’80s baby, I believe I would have been able to accept my queerness much sooner had I seen other identities play out on screen. Of course, we will never know for sure, but could the lack of loving Black LGBT relationships on TV and in Hollywood make us feel unrepresented, and therefore not have an example of what our love could/should look like?
I bring all of this to the forefront to examine how this then crosses over to real life. Where are the public examples of Black love within the LGBTQ community? Wanda Sykes? No. Michael Sam? No. Angel Haze? No. Robin Roberts? No. While I admire the relationships these couples show publicly, I have always wanted to see a Black couple that is out and in the public eye (so not Queen Latifah or Raven Symone) to show how beautiful our love is. I live in Los Angeles and have witnessed firsthand white couples who are celebrated as pillars in the community, but where is the Black love? Well, we found it in writer Kim Crosby and trans activist Tiq Milan.
Saying that my stomach felt butterflies when I saw the Instagram photo on their wedding day last week would be an understatement. Seeing this beautiful brown man and woman officially uniting their queer love through matrimony sent chills down my body. I felt a part of their day as they let their love shine for the world to see. I also saw it as a moment for Black queer love, and I wasn’t the only one.
In response to out college basketball star Derrick Gordon’s “debut” of his white partner (what sparked a community dialogue about the predominance of high profile interracial pairings), Tiq took to Facebook and addressed everyone that thought it was crucial to see his and Kim’s testament that Black queer love does indeed exist:
Black love is revolutionary and I think it’s important to embody that and not just talk about it at panels and conferences. It’s amazing and sad how many black gay and queer people have reached out to me and my wife just to say that they needed to see black love…to feel loved and desired…that it gives them hope that we can still love each other…glad people support our union…but it’s heartbreaking that people need to see it to feel loved around their black gay/queer existence.
Kim posted a video on YouTube showing their pure happiness moments after saying “I do.” Acknowledging how quickly and intensely their romance unfolded (as well as naysayers), Kim shared, “Why won’t we trust ourselves, like our intuitions and our gut as opposed to any other institution or idea that tell us love cannot exist and be this grand between Black people? We know ourselves and know how capable we are of loving that big.”
It is affirming to see a Black couple in the public eye that fully understands the responsibility they have to not only spread awareness, but recognize that we see their love as tangible, in a world where there are so few couples we can look to.
The thing with TV and film is that you usually like a show or movie because you identify with the overall theme or a character. Take the (overused) examples Scandal and Being Mary Jane. While you may not identify with fixing elections or sleeping with married men, seeing Black women as the lead in a drama series is gratifying. Both Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union are slaying the screen, and I feel so connected to the fact that I can at least watch a brown face dominate these shows. Then, how powerful would it be if their characters were lesbian, bisexual, trans or queer? I certainly know I would get my life every single week.
Why is it that network television has yet to take this leap and will only show queer relationships in interracial unions? In fact, the only Black gay couple on broadcast television was Tariq and Kal from The CW’s The L.A. Complex and I’m pretty positive most people haven’t heard of it. On cable network HBO, The Wire (which went off air in 2008) featured Black lesbian couple Kima and Cheryl. More recently, Orange Is the New Black‘s Sophia Burset (played by Laverne Cox) serves as a refreshing relationship depiction on Netflix, where Sophia (a Black transgender character) and her African American wife stay together throughout her transition and gender affirmation surgery. However, currently, the coupled up LGBTQ people of color characters on the small screen (this excludes online streamed content) are all in interracial relationships. Why is that? We’ve seen the Will-and-Lisas, Sinclair-and-Overtons, and Dwayne-and-Whitleys of the world countless times, but it would be nice to get my truth told.
TV and film are ever-evolving. And one day I know we will have an LGBT couple that speaks more fully to Black and brown girls and bois and our diverse experiences of dealing with love. For now, I acknowledge the queer writers, directors, and producers that are fighting to get our stories told and working to bring more diversity to scripts. You are celebrated. Here’s to hoping this leads to more couples that we can proudly look to as the model for Black queer love.
Tiq and Kim, we recognize you as influential figures and will continue to get our lives with your super cute posts and public displays of what our love could (and does) look like.
Deaundra Audrey Cash is a queer-thinking writer who has penned pieces for AccessHollywood.com, OMG! Yahoo, AOL and E! Online. With a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and an M.A. in Journalism from Syracuse University, she likes to push the boundaries on conversations about sexuality, identity, and the best taco food trucks in Los Angeles. She is an obsessive “Game of Thrones” fan who loves to watch movies in her free time. For all “Love and Hip Hop” commentary and cupcake reviews, follow her on Twitter @fallforaudrey.