Gay Racist, Two Minorities at Crossroads – Some parts of Alabama are no-go areas for me. I am white so I should have nothing to fear on that count but the cultural divide is too wide. For a start I am a gay man; so I am very much aware that I may not exactly be the ideal house guest for a bunch of ultra “Rednecks”. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered a surprisingly vibrant gay community in Alabama. Of course they do try to keep up appearances; but in reality they are going for one another with gusto, right in front of some of the most closed communities in the world.
Whilst in Alabama, I happened to meet two people I now consider to be good friends. Bez and Richie were in my age group. They were not obviously gay until we were in private. It seemed that the mask literally fell off the moment that we entered a private house or a building where they were not being observed. Bez was a bit camp and Richie tended towards the butch type. Anyway I got talking to them and the chance acquaintance ended up being a friendship.
When I returned to New York, I thought that it might be a good idea to invite them back for a weekend. They had taught me so much about the Alabama gay scene (some of which included serious Bible study and frantic religious adherence). I now wanted to introduce them to the New York scene with its frantic pace and notorious brashness. They were a bit reluctant to come at first…they had not really been to a big city in a big way. I insisted and they came.
Reversed Cultural Shock
To say that the Alabama gay scene had shocked me is an understatement. I had trouble imagining that any gay people could safely exist in Alabama; let alone develop their own scene, complete with underground and open nightclubs. They too had their own cultural shock when they visited me. For a start they imagined that everyone in New York was a Jew and filthy rich. They did not really talk about their views about a possible gay scene in NYC; but California (San Francisco specifically) was well in their sights as the gay capital of the world.
Listening them you would imagine that people in San Francisco did nothing but engage in gay sex. They assured me that the place was teeming with them and that they were a really decadent lot there. I put them up in my apartment and rolled the dice to see what would happen. They did not seem to mind living in my tiny living room but the television drove them mad. The liberal mainstream media was a favorite rallying cry. Their politics was so far right that I wondered whether they actually understood anything about current affairs. Otherwise they were great guys and for some reason seemed to excuse me from all the decadence that they thought prospered in New York city.
On Saturday we decided to go out…actually it was me that persuaded them. Bez and Richie were not exactly enthusiastic about going out. I understood their reticence. New York can seem menacing to outsiders. When we got there, I was rather taken aback when Bez marveled as to what “those N*****s there were doing here”. I told him not to say that again. He looked back at me with a mixture of surprise and shock. His question was asked more out of curiosity rather than anger but the words grated and I am sure if they were heard, we would be in some trouble.
I Begin to Understand My Gay Racist Friend
Richie told off Bez that he was not to call them N*****s here. Apparently he thought that this was one of “them liberal places where you had to be politically correct”. The rest of the night went well but I was dying to ask a few questions when we got home. I did and they told me things that opened my mind about the mindset of a gay racist man from the South. First of all; they did not really hate black people. They just thought they were different and were better off in Africa “or wherever they came from”. Apparently “all this mixing was bound to cause a fight sooner or later”.
I asked them whether they had any black friends. They said yes but that they were not really that close. Richie suggested that black people were slow and smelled funny. Bez chimed in that he thought Trump was right to start banning foreigners from the USA. He opined that there were far too many of them here and they were making the unemployment situation worse. When I pointed out that white people were also foreigners at some point in the USA; Richie responded that I was just being difficult. According to him it is the whites that built this nation and therefore their descendants had every right to it.
Bez was intrigued that there were “queers among the blacks”. He said that he never thought that they suffered such things. I told him that there were very many black gay people and that I could introduce him to some of them if he liked. He looked uncertain. Richie said that they did not want to cause trouble so it was best if we just stayed away. When I asked about their experience of the New York cubs, they said that they were very loud and that people were hitting on them. Someone even had the audacity to ask if they were in costume for something. They did not take offense but just laughed it off as one of the quirks of “weird liberals”.
How Can This Be?
In all my life in the gay community, I had never met anyone that was so innocently racist. The racists I knew were just nasty people generally. We would keep away from them because they were not pleasant to be with; racist or otherwise. Bez and Richie were very different. They were not hateful but definitely racist. The views that they espoused were stuck in the 1950s and to me they appeared to be completely illogical. Yet, Bez and Richie did not really seem as if they were the type of people who would jump black people if they had a chance and the numbers to support such an attack.
The bottom line was that they were undeniably prejudiced against people of color. Their arguments were a load of nonsense but I was intrigued by their casual (almost nonchalant) attitude. They could not quite see the contradiction between being gay racist and hating on someone who has suffered discrimination for no other reason other than the color of their skin. Perhaps it is the same way they were able to compartmentalize their faith in such a way as to sleep with men on Saturday and then go to Church on Sunday.
I always felt that Bez and Richie had a very strong sense of what was right or wrong, regardless of how skewed their views were. To them being a Christian was the only way to be. Muslims were going to hell and were responsible for lots of violence in the world. These guys even went a step further to assure me that the gay lifestyle was wrong but that they could not help it. They had tried to be into girls but it was not quite the same thing as being with a guy. However, they drew the line at going out with a black person. To them that would be crossing a racial line that was just beyond the pale.
Complex People in Complex Communities
I have always been an advocate of diversity within the LGBTIQ community. Sometimes that has gotten me into trouble because I am confronted with people that are out there in terms of my own understanding of things. Bez and Richie were a challenge that I found difficult to rationalize. However, I also accepted that they were part of the community and somehow had to be accommodated. I always wondered whether it was possible for either of them(Gay Racist) to fall in love with a black person.
They did return to New York several times and never used the N word in my presence. I also noted a thawing of relationships with people of color. They could actually chat with them when they came to visit. Somehow I still think that dating is out of the question. I know from experience that Bez and Richie are not bad people. They were just brought up that way.
I am certain that there are things that I do as a New Yorker which drive Bez and Richie absolutely bonkers but they are too polite to tell me about them. Perhaps it is a question of living and letting live. A racist person is hard to stomach but the feeling is even more heartbreaking when that person is a member of your own community; with all the problems that we have faced.