You were watching ESPN, probably swallowing a beer, when suddenly two gay dudes—one black, one white!—started making out. C’mon, vanilla swirl! A gay kiss on national television in America is one thing, but an interracial gay kiss, too? Oh, Lord. Somebody break out the prayer oil! For many the kiss was too hot to handle, and it left many news anchors disgusted (and probably horny, too). "I'm sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national tv," former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward said on Twitter. "Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can't believe ESPN even allowed that to happen," he said.
People were freaked out less for the gayness of the kiss and more because some of us still believe that rough sports and homosexuality don’t mix, but obviously these people have never been to an Abercrombie and Fitch. While some Americans lost their shit over a hot gay kiss, others in the black gay community actually wondered why Michael Sam wasn’t dating a black guy. If you’re a black person, gay or straight, you’ve heard someone in your inner circle wonder why a high-profile or otherwise successful black man or woman was dating someone who wasn’t black. “They’re taking all our men/women,” it’s said. There’s a long-standing idea that black people who have white partners have taken the final leap away from “authentic” blackness and into white society, the final marker of economic success. They’re just trying to be white. Many of my black gay friends, particularly those who think critically about race, desire and culture, which are essentially all of my black gay friends, wondered why that infamous Michael Sam kiss wasn’t with a hot black dude.
But why is that the first question we ask? For one thing, Sam is tired of being asked about it, so stop. In a recent appearance at Quinnipiac University, he talked about his upcoming role on Dancing With the Stars, not being the only gay in the NFL but the only “out” one, and his relationship with fiancé Vito Cammisano. “The challenge I get now is, why are you not dating a gay black guy? Why are you dating a white guy?” Sam said. “Why would I do that? Why would I leave someone I fell in love with and have been through so many challenges with.”
In a mainstream gay male culture where white male beauty ideals are the norm, many black and brown gay men have proclaimed an active politics of black or brown self-love by vowing to only date other black men. For some, it’s a good strategy. There are only so many times you can deal with that whole “you’re cute… for a black guy” thing or the “I don’t usually date black but you’re cute,” or any of the other micro aggressions ain’t nobody got time for. When a positive representation of black men and black gay men in particular makes it to the airwaves, it’s bittersweet when the person looks like you but maybe wouldn’t fuck you.
There’s an idea that if you’re black and your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t, then obviously you hate black people. But that’s nonsense. Well, sometimes, because there are plenty of misguided black folks who date outside of their race because they can’t be bothered to look at their own reflection, because they think black isn’t good enough. These are the people who need Jesus, because baby, no matter how white your partner is, you’re still going to be black boo boo. Even my sister, who has a mixed race son, has been called an “N” by her white father-in-law. And my nephew is cute as shit!
Black self-love, I think, has to come from within, not from the people you date. What is it that RuPaul always says? If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love someone else? You don’t need two black people to love you. You need to love you. Black self-love is about having a black community somewhere, but it’s also about loving yourself first in spite of daily racism and powering through when you feel like you’re not good or attractive enough. Black self-love is going for drinks after work with friends to a bar that is full of white gay men, not being hit on once and still loving yourself on the way back out. If you can love yourself through all the cultural messages that black isn’t beautiful, that’s black self-love.
I don’t want to criticize how authentically black someone is based on who they date, and I don’t want to know why a black person would date outside of their race. Don’t question love. Give it the benefit of the doubt, at least until someone says something stupid.
—Follow Madison Moore on Twitter: @pomomad