Friday, June 22, 2007

Why Isaiah Washington is just the tip of the iceberg

Isaiah Washington is livid over being fired from Grey's Anatomy for calling a cast member a "faggot". He has said he apologized enough and now he's even saying that they fired the wrong guy. Sadly he just doesn't get it. However this is not suprising it speaks to a bigger issue - homophobia in the black community.

This struck me the other day when I realized that I had seen the musical The Color Purple, had read the brilliant book and seen the movie. It got me thinking about all the documentaries, television shows and books I have read about the black experience in America. Does the African American community do the same for gay people? I think not. I know who Emmet Till is - does the majority of black americans know who Harvey Milk is? I don't think so.

Homophobia is deeply ingrained in the Black Community. Black men are taught that they have to be real men and not "punks". Being gay is not only against the religious beliefs but also the societal norms of the community. This causes the most flamboyant gay black men to exist in a "don't ask, don't tell" aspect of their community. The gay black men who can "pass" are often on the down low - pretending to be straight but having gay sex. This has ramifications for the entire community.

Exploring the "down low" issue shows how homophobic the African American community really is. The gay men in this situation are treated as evil men doing wrong to black women. What is not brought up is the reason these men are on the "down low" in the first place. It's because of the oppression they are facing from their own community to not be able to live their true life. Pointing their fingers at the men in this scenario and treating the women as victims are not taking acceptance for their own actions. It is the communities homophobia that is causing this to happen - its time to stop the blame and start taking responsilbity for the situation society has created for them.

You would think when you are a minority who is oppressed you would be more sympathetic towards others in the situation. However this is clearly not the case. I have often heard black public figures trying to distance themselves from comparing racism to homophobia. They don't want to compare the struggles because of their own bias.

You often see gay jokes in shows created by the black community. Lots of the gospel musicals have gay comic relief, skits on shows like In Living Color with feminine gay characters and most of the black comedians do some sort of gay schtick. Since gay people are oppressed in the community I think this should be compared to white "minstrel shows" of the past. Bring out the gays for a little humor.

The simple fact of the matter is that in the black community it is perfectly acceptable to be homophobic. Just look at the comments when former NBA player John Amechi came out of the closet. Player Tim Hardaway said "Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people." That he felt it was ok to say this in public and on the radio shows how deeply ingrained the homophobia is in his daily life and interactions.

This is not to say all African Americans are homophobic. When Coretta Scott King passed away I was visibly upset by the loss. She spoke out against homophobia despite pressure from her community and some members of her family. She was for civil rights of all people, no matter who they are. A true beacon of light and a great woman. Too bad more African American people can't live by her example.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My evening at the Gay Porn awards! (gasp!)

My neighbors are both porn reviewers for a local gay publication. This consists of mainly watching gay porn and writing a review of the movie. This sounds like a fun job but they actually have to sit through the entire movie. (meaning the plot and dialogue - the parts most people don't watch) They also have to come up with multiple acronyms for the penis and gay sex acts which I'm sure gets old. They invited me to the GRABBYS - Chicago's annual award show for gay porn. I wasn't sure what to expect.

I knew the reception was starting at 6pm and I was running a little late so I grabbed a cab there. When the cab pulled up I looked out the window and my mouth literally dropped open. All these gay porn stars whom I had only seen on film before were in front of the theatre hugging each other and saying hello. I didn't expect to be starstruck but I definately was. (some were shorter & smaller than they look on film)

Once I got out I saw different entrances to the venue. One was red carpeted and someone in drag (a famous porn editor I found out) was interviewing the stars on camera one by one. I gave my ticket to the usher and decided to get a drink and hang out in the lobby and stare. All around were faces I recognized - I knew them but they didn't know me.

I saw Barrett Long who is one of my favorite performers. He's a baby faced jock looking guy with an enormous.....talent. I wanted to talk to him badly but what should I say? He seemed a little shy and I think he noticed me hovering. Luckily my neighbor came to get me and show me where we were sitting.

I found my neighbors private table and the crowd started to filter in. I was thrilled to discover that our table was next to the TITAN studios table. Titan specializes in very muscular hairy aggressive performers. The stars all filled in and they did not disappoint. All muscular wearing black TITAN wife beater t-shirts. They had muscular arms and chests but tiny waists. Real live action figures.

I didn't realize my neighbors actually voted for the winners. So the porn stars were coming over to say hello to them. This meant I got to meet some of them and luckily I brought my camera to capture this. They were very happy to be in fan photos and I got to put my arms around them...not bad. Very friendly guys who appreciate their fans. (Colin O'Neal - star & director - is a real nice guy)

The show started and it was hosted by Chi Chi LaRue - a famous porn director who dresses in drag (kinda looks like Divine) and co-hosted by local chicago drag diva Honey West. (who actually sings unlike usual lip synching drag queens) They made several crazy and wonderful costume changes throughout the evening. They kept the show moving along and several porn stars came out to present the awards. (Best C*ck, Best threesome, Best Supporting get the idea) The people who won the awards seemed genrally pleased to have won and grateful. They didn't mock them despite the hilarious nature of some of the nomination titles. (There was one crazy moment where a porn star read a nominee's name wrong - one of the Titan stars yelled out "I'm gonna knock you out!" and he was not kidding.)

Just like any awards show it went on about 20-30 minutes too long but you exepect that. The most humorous part was that the "Best Picture" nominees all had film clips shown. The Park West won't allow porn to be shown so the film clips were all "acting" or suggestive clips - no nudity. This editing was hilarious! Another highlight was famous comedy writer (and hollywood square) Bruce Vilanch getting an honorary award for attending the awards all these years. He gave a great funny speech as only he can do. (wish I could remember it)

At the intermission I finally worked up my nerve to ask Barrett Long if I could get a picture with him. He ended up being very friendly and told me "anytime" so I guess he was just shy after all. He's very handsome in person and no I didn't see his "talent". (some of the performers were in suits, others tank tops - just depended on their mood - the California awards are more formal I hear) Who wants formal porn stars????

Another favorite Jake Deckard actually said from the stage "this is what you want to see" and made out with another star onstage and rolled around on the ground with him. Later I asked him for a pic, he was super nice and ended up kissing my cheek for the photo. I felt like Marcia Brady meeting Davey Jones.

I realized that the Gay Porn awards have a different feel than the Straight Porn awards. (not that I've been there) This is because no matter how much women say they love doing it - straight porn is inherently misogynisitic. The women are being "used" for male entertainment by males running the show. At the Grabby awards you feel like everyone involved is having a fun time. Men who love having sex with Men doing it on camera and becoming "celebrities" in the process. The Grabbys feel like one big party.

I bet there's fighting, bickering and drama involved. (these are gay men after all) I'm sure it's 'All about Steve' backstage but from the audience it was all fun!

For more info go to