I hope this email reaches you in spiritual peace and wellness. I want you to know that I pray for you just as I would my own brother. I have so much respect for what it is that you do not only for the LGBT community but for mankind as a whole. You really are a spiritual warrior and I know that God has amazing things in store for you. I am writing to you this afternoon because I am having a very difficult time trying to get through to my mother as of lately. Xem, my mother and I are extremely close, especially now that she and my father’s divorce has been finalized. I consider her to be one of my very best friends. It has been tough for her emotionally trying to accept the separation, as well as now living in our house alone. I recently moved out to live with my boyfriend, Troy. He and I are both grad students at UIC here in Chicago. I lived home during my undergraduate studies, which is when my father first moved out. My mother is very supportive of me and my relationship. She treats Troy (my boyfriend) just like her second son. His mother isn’t at all supportive of his sexuality. They have a very estranged relationship, so he and my mother have established their own special relationship. We usually invite her over to our place on Sundays for dinner. She and I will cook together, which is something we’ve done since I was probably thirteen years old. It’s my way of trying to maintain some consistency in her life now that she feels I’m all she has left. However, it irritates me so much Xem that my mother doesn’t seem to understand that just because I cook for Troy and I or she sees me wiping up the table once she comes over, that I am not the woman in my relationship. My mother raised me to be able to take care of myself. Before she knew I was gay she would always say that she never wanted me to have to rely on a woman to do everything the ways that she had to do for my father. So, for me it’s just natural to keep everything in a certain spot or to try new recipes and things. Troy does not know how to cook and when he does call himself cleaning, I end up having to go behind him to really CLEAN CLEAN if you know what I mean. LOL! Even though my mother and I discuss practically everything, I do not discuss my sex life with Troy, with her. Therefore, she doesn’t realize that Troy and I have always had a very equal relationship, if you know what I mean here as well. LOL! My mother is only 56, but her idea of gay relationships is so stuck on who plays the man role and who plays the woman. She always asks me ridiculous questions like, “if you and Troy get married, will both of you wear tuxedos or will you wear something else?” I fall out laughing at this lady because it’s like she expects me to come down the aisle in some ballroom gown or wedding dress. She will also joke but really being serious when she’ll tell me to just drop out of grad school to spend my days with her and let Troy take care of us once he graduates. It’s a little frustrating because I know she really means what she says. Now I will say that Troy is taller than me and he is thicker than me. I guess from the outside looking in, my mother and others may see us and assume that because of the physical differences, we have strict roles in our relationship. However, even if that were the case Xem, why is it that I would have to be looked upon as the “woman” or Troy’s wife. Do you know what I mean? I just really don’t know how to explain to my mother the difference between straight relationships and my relationship. As much as I truly love my mother and get along with her, it’s when she makes these comparisons that I sometimes just want to scream and throw my plate at the wall. I try not to get upset however because I know she means well. Troy thinks the entire situation is hilarious. Like yesterday when she came over and saw him watching the game and doing his homework while I was trying to change our bed. In her mind I think she sees Troy as the role of my father who would spend Sundays doing office work and me playing her role as my fathers wife, or ex wife now. That’s what it is. How can I possibly break things down to her in a way that she will finally understand? I look forward to hearing from you soon if you see this and can reply. Also, I don’t mind if you choose to post this on your Xem says site. I love reading your advice!
Believe it or not, your mother’s misguided idea of how gender roles shape same sex relationships isn’t so farfetched from how many others examine the romantic union between two men. Your mother only understands her position in the world as a woman, a mother and a wife. As a result, the traditional practices and values that have defined those positions since the beginning of time, frames her perception of how you are also to exist in this world. Your mother understands how a man typically acts as a husband to his wife based on her personal experiences living alongside your father. In contrast, your mother also understands how a woman typically acts as a wife to her husband. However, now that she witnesses you, her gay son, modeling some of those same actions alongside your live-in boyfriend, she only has her personal experiences to use as comparison. As a wife, she cooked for your father and cleaned the house while he watched television and worked from home on Sundays. When she visits you and Troy, she sees you changing the bed linens while Troy is doing his homework with the football game playing in the background. Your mother’s perception then is that you have taken on a traditional female role, and Troy is playing the traditional “man of the house”. Your romantic relationship with Troy is probably her first time ever witnessing two men living together and loving one another, up-close. At the age of fifty-six, your mother uses her past experiences to figure out present situations that are new and unfamiliar to her. She honestly thinks a label is supposed to exist on how you interact and engage with the man in your life.
It is important that you explain to your mother, the way you stated to me – that you and Troy have established a very equal, romantic relationship. Make it clear to her that you label Troy as your boyfriend, as he labels you with the same title. Let her know that with those “titles”, the two of you expect the same levels of courtesy, consistency and commitment from one another. Remind your mother that she is the one who raised you to be able to prepare a meal and clean a house without the help of a spouse. Tell her that even if you were a straight man who was married to a woman, you would still be changing bed linens on Sundays and cooking dinner for the family if your wife was unable to. Remind her that your wife would then still consider you her husband, and would not alter her perception simply based on your ability to cook and clean. Your mother may not realize that Troy does indeed clean up on a regular basis even though he doesn’t necessarily do a good job. Explain that contemporary culture has widened the gap between what is considered traditional male roles in a relationship and what is seen as modern day, male performance.
To really lay the situation in her lap, talk to your mother about the “masculine work” you perform in your relationship, but compare it directly to the “masculine work” your father played as her husband. For example, inform her that there are times when you come home from class, take out the trash, plop in front of the TV and call Troy to bring home dinner. It may seem trivial to have to water the details of your love life down to such ground levels. However, older people sometimes have to see things from the very point where they stand.
I think people in general are more comfortable when they are able to specifically categorize other people. It’s a part of our human makeup to mentally make sense of how others operate in society by labeling the roles they play within it. You’re actually very blessed to have a mother who has the desire to understand the dynamic of your relationship with your boyfriend. You may want to consider the fact that your mother inquires about your gender role because she is afraid to directly ask you questions about your sex life. Because your mother obviously equates you doing the chores to a display of feminine behavior, she may also assume that you are always “biting the pillow” in the bedroom. You made it clear to me that you and Troy practice a very equal, versatile, sexual relationship. Possibly, it would blanket your mother’s understanding of your relationship if she knew that Troy wasn’t the strict, sexual aggressor between the two of you. It is universally understood that women traditionally “lay on their backs” to engage in sexual intercourse. Well, if your mother knew that you are sometimes on top of Troy as he lays on his back for you, she would be forced to erase the comparison between you as the “woman” or female figure. I know openly discussing your sex life with a parent or sibling can be extremely uncomfortable. However, since the two of you have established a close, best friend relationship, it may be easier to share those details with your mom.
I’m not sure how long you and Troy have been together, but over time, I truly believe your mother will witness the balance in your union. The more she sees the two of you engaging with one another in and outside of your home, the more she will begin to understand that a same sex relationship isn’t necessarily framed by traditional, gender roles. Be encouraged in knowing that you are one of the lucky few; having a mom who embraces not only your sexuality, but also your decision to live openly with the partner you love. Continue to cherish every moment that your mother spends alongside you and Troy, for it’s her silent prayers helping you two remain united. Believe me. She feels at peace knowing you have a special man in your life.
In early 2012, I began watching a new, CW series called, “The L.A. Complex”. The one-hour drama focused on the lives of a group of young adults who were all chasing their artistic dreams in Los Angeles, California. I was initially drawn to the showcase because of the central theme of twenty-something’s all residing in the same apartment complex; each aspiring to become the next big actor, actress, writer or music star. I could relate to the synopsis directly, as many of you know that I relocated to California six years ago in an effort to change the direction of my life as well. As I watched the first full season of “The L.A. Complex”, I never fell in love with the entire cast of characters. However, I was very drawn to the storyline that surrounded the personal and professional life of Benjamin Watson’s character, TARIQ MUHAMMAD.
Tariq works as an intern for a major music producer. With aspirations to create his own beats and establish himself as a heavyweight amongst the music industry, Tariq hustles his days away doing any and everything inside of a Hollywood, recording studio. While completing one of his assigned tasks to forward a series of beats to the team of famous rapper, Drake, Tariq intentionally sends one of his own creations along with the specified samples. Drake’s management team falls in love with Tariq’s work, which then prompts Tariq’s boss to request that the up-and-coming producer contribute to KALDRICK KING‘S forthcoming album. When Kal and Tariq meet for the first time, a flame is ignited that erupts into a bonfire of emotions. The series follows the complexities of their loving and tumultuous relationship.
Despite the fact that Andra Fuller’s character, KALDRICK KING is a famous rapper who doesn’t publicly acknowledge his same-sex attractions, his character isn’t treated to the typical, “down low” storyline. The internal struggles that Kal endures to balance the external challenges of his career and public persona are so poetically delivered on screen. The personal and professional dynamic that exists between he and Tariq plays against the sensationalized & over sexualized interests that often umbrella same sex couples.
It was also very refreshing for me to watch Tariq’s character especially, as he totally represents the ‘middle men’ in the black, gay community that are hardly ever portrayed in mainstream television or film. Tariq’s character is given three-dimensional development. The ‘L.A. Complex” audience is given an opportunity to peek behind Tariq’s artistic passions, professional endeavors, everyday friendships and romantic relationship with another black male.
I have never shared the below posted video footage previously because I assumed that the large majority of my audience had already been exposed to this on-screen relationship. However, as I was reading a message last night in response to my ‘Derek J Effeminate Gay Black Men In Mainstream Media’ post, I realized that many of my readers and viewers might not be familiar with this very intriguing storyline. I encourage you to spend some time today or this evening, just really watching the relationship that forms between Kal and Tariq. You will smile during some of their scenes together and you will certainly cringe while watching others. The acting is very fluid, the outpour of emotions is realistic and the structure of their relationship is quite infectious from afar.
I also think you will be very impressed by the way the series portrays the openly gay, black, male attorney, CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR. Played by Jarod Joseph, the attorney is very outspoken, confident, proud of who he is and desiring a monogamous relationship. For the first time ever, I saw certain elements of myself in this fictitious, television character.
Naturally, as with any scripted series that focuses on the lives of gay men of color, the show was canceled after only airing for two seasons. However, during the nineteen episodes, I think the writers did a great job of answering viewer questions and wrapping up solid plot points. Very little is left on the shelf about what happens between Kal & Tariq or how they face their personal challenges outside of their romantic relationship.
EPISODE 18 & EPISODE 19
BENJAMIN WATSON Discusses His Character of TARIQ MUHAMMAD
ANDRA FULLER Discusses His Character of KALDRICK KING
JAROD JOSEPH Discusses His Character of CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR
Please feel free, as always, to contact me via TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM or EMAIL – XemVanAdams@gmail.com to share your thoughts about the characters specifically and/or the relationship that exists between them.
This morning, I woke up to the Facebook post that has been embedded above. Written by an obviously frustrated, gay, black male, I certainly understand his point of view. While I do not agree with all of his piercing statements, I certainly empathize with his feelings regarding the image of gay, black men in mainstream media. Derek J, Atlanta based hairstylist and on-air, BRAVO personality, shared the online post via his Facebook wall. I read Derek J’s thoughts in response to the original writer, and have publicly replied to both. I am sharing my feelings with you below. If you have followed or supported my platform over the past six years, you’re already very familiar with my thoughts and ideas regarding this particular issue…
DEREK J’S POST: So this post by Trent Britian Jéter was brought to my attention. The points that are brought up in his post are valid and very well understood, but it always amazes me when people pick and choose what they want to support and stand for. You don’t want to support a feminine man in media because you feel like we are not a good representation of the black gay community. But on the other had you would support a black woman that has rape the gay culture for their lingo, fashion sense, and beauty creating skills. Or better yet you would support the rapper that don’t even see the lifestyle at all in a positive way for the black community. I can on speak for myself, before I was on tv I was and still a black gay business man who owns a successful salon, that also mentors gay youth and give back to the community. I am also a gay black man that’s not trying to be a woman, who is comfortable in his skin and don’t mind being who I am. So with that said I challenge all the “masculine” men that have a problem with the representation of black gay men on television to stand up and do something about it. Ooooooo I forgot you didn’t want anyone to know you were gay.
XEM SAYS: I partially AGREE with the writer, Trent Britain Jeter. The mainstream media carefully and very specifically features gay men of color on nationally televised platforms who wear high heels, carry handbags, adorn makeup, work as cosmetologists and hail Beyonce as their holy grail. While the effeminate male is a very necessary and immediate figure amongst the black, gay community, he is always only painted as a one dimensional caricature. The viewing audience is NEVER given any real insight into his romantic life, relationships with biological family or his lifestyle outside of doing hair, makeup or styling for the lead, female characters. THAT IS MY PROBLEM. The focus of his character is centered on his over-the-top, outlandish antics, and never geared towards the struggles he has faced to feel safe in being so open or free. I love effeminate men, as I too possess feminine and masculine qualities. However, when placed on a television screen, gay men of color are ONLY EVER cast as the over-the-top, “clown-characters” – mostly one dimensional and realistically flawed. The writer wants a bit of what I’ve been fighting and pushing for over the past few years. WE should have the privilege of seeing ourselves in the light under which many of us live on a daily basis. I have been pushing forever to have gay men of color centered in media as three dimensional characters who have healthy relationships with both parents, professional jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with fashion, makeup or hair, working out at the gym, studying in a typical, college setting, enjoying happy hour and brunch with male friends or interacting with our female counterparts who don’t snap and label us “miss hunni” or “gwarl” upon greeting. I want to see the representation of myself and the others I’ve met over the past 13 years featured on screen; those who fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. I believe THAT is why so many individuals are creating these online reality and scripted, web series showcases. It’s because the black, gay community overall does not identify with the lineup of televised, minstrel acts that are shoved down our throats. When young boys growing up in small, rural communities are ONLY exposed to the individuals mentioned in the writers post, it gives them a very false sense of who they are & what it means to be a gay man of color in 2014. If their idea of homosexuality is solely based upon what’s televised under the powerful, media umbrella, they begin to question whether or not they really are gay. WHY? Simply because…as human beings, visual representation and imagery dictates a great deal of how we see ourselves and how we are viewed by others. If I were a 15 year old boy, questioning my sexuality, living in a small, remote area of Mississippi, I’d be a bit puzzled and confused if my acceptance of being gay meant that I was supposed to dress in women’s clothing and carry myself like one of E! Televisions, spoiled rich kids. White gay men are given a balance of images to identify themselves with. The white, male teen characters on the new 90210, Glee & various soap opera’s, combined with the images of white homosexuality on Showtime, HBO, ABC, NBC and CBS allows for white, gay men to be represented in a way that’s balanced, seasoned and three dimensional. We are emasculated on-screen, and I’ve watched it unfold since I began sharing my voice online 6 years ago. I’m tired and frustrated with having my ideas rejected, as I continue to fight for the change that our black, gay community is ready to see. It’s network executives and production companies who band together in an effort to maintain the one-sided, foofoo image of black, gay men that dominates mainstream media. It’s frustrating and completely unfair. I certainly don’t want to see a cast of gay characters that are all hyper masculine, but we do NEED scripted and non-scripted shows that portray the reality of who most of us are – the ones standing in the middle.
He and I have a longstanding, Saturday morning date. I arrive fifteen minutes to eight and park my car directly behind his copper-colored, Infiniti Q70 Hybrid. He owns the popular, mid-city barbershop – Perry’s Place. The modern, two-level building sits on the corner of Sedgewood and Middleton Parkway. It’s directly across the street from Gino’s infamous, pizza & sub shop. I’m always the first customer to arrive, as to secure my spot as Perry’s first cut of the day. He unlocks the glass door as he sees me coming, flipping the white, cardboard sign from CLOSE to OPEN. I greet him with a bass filled, ‘good morning’, and he replies, ‘wassup’. Between the heavy bites he takes from his sausage, egg and cheese, sour dough biscuit, Perry sips from a sixteen ounce bottle of water. He always offers me the half of his breakfast sandwich that is still wrapped. I routinely decline. We’ve never discussed the fact that I’m a vegetarian, but then again, there are a lot of details about my life that I don’t go out of my way to share at the barbershop.
Inhaling the aroma of wintergreen skin oils blended with musk-like pomades and lemon based Lysol, I take the empty seat in front of Perry’s barber chair. A crinkled, five by seven photograph of his daughter hangs above the row of dangling, gray and black clippers. Beside a collection of white, hand mirrors, Perry has a copy of his owner’s permit and license that are framed and on display. His center booth is always the cleanest and most organized amongst the other barbers who tend to stroll in around nine o’clock or nine thirty.
There’s a reclined manliness that shapes Perry’s Place. I never feel as if I have to go out of my way to butch up before coming to get my haircut. I wear my favorite, yellow flip-flops from Abercrombie & Fitch, paired with light denim shorts that are cuffed at the knee. Though I have friends and associates who put on their baggy, high top, colorless boy-drag before they go to the barbershop on Saturday mornings, I’m comfortable wearing the same clothing I run my errands in. Sometimes, tension mounts between the neighborhood boys and myself, as they walk in with no appointments, wearing sweats and other nonnegotiable, masculine attire. I know they see me in my foofoo accouterments of style and wonder where I get the guts to ingrain my expression of manliness into their urban dwelling. Visually digging for the pink cues and soft hues that would normally color a black man queer, these locals aren’t able to make sense of the easy back and forth that flows between Perry and I. Perry is the razor sharp alpha male; father, business owner and big brother figure to many of the patrons.
He scurries around the shop in his black, Adidas flip-flops. Carrying a broom in one hand and his partially eaten sandwich in the other, I watch Perry slide between stations. The telephone has already begun to sound off. Perry dashes into the back of the shop to take the calls. He tosses me the television remote and asks if I can power on the flat screen that hangs above the wall mirror. I always turn to CNN in an effort to create a moment where Perry and I aren’t forced to negotiate conversations that either focus on my love life or his affection for sports. He is more intriguing to me when openly expressing his views about Obama’s most recent executive orders, than he is when he discusses the pre-season, football lineup.
Perry heated the white towels by the deep, basin sink. He raised his voice over the CNN correspondent to tell me how crazy he thinks people are for even talking about impeaching President Obama. I responded, telling Perry that Obama will forever be chastised for basically being a civil rights politician. At that moment, one of the young, neighborhood guys sitting two seats down from me jumped up and shoved his iphone in Perry’s face. He’s one of many who respects Perry’s hustle. “This the bitch I smashed two weeks ago…the one I was telling you about!”, the boy shouted. Perry laughed out loud, covering his mouth with a bald up fist. He then joked in response, “if she has an older sister, you need to find out and give me her name on Instagram”.
Perry is a typical guy on the surface, but then again, he isn’t. His only tattoo is of praying hands, inked onto his upper, right arm. The tiny, black diamond studs he wears in each ear compliment his basic, tee shirt and basketball shorts style. We’re just about the same height, maybe five-eleven. He’s six feet tall at the most. His face is clean-shaven and butternut smooth. Aside from the thin, dark brown hairs that coil beneath his chin and strap across his top lip, his facial hair is barely there. Perry is an attractive man, but seemingly unaware of his physical appeal.
In the eight months that he has cut my hair, I’ve seen a side of Perry’s character that makes me believe it’s possible for gay men to form healthy relationships with our straight, male allies. He and I share similar political views, and are able to discuss our thoughts and ideas every Saturday morning. Perry and I never discuss women or sex, but more so because he doesn’t bring up those topics with me. He may sense that my sexual interest in women crossed the finish line over ten years ago. I just appreciate the fact that Perry does not make me feel like I have to be silent in order to blend in with his other customers.
Despite my attractions towards Perry, when I take a seat in his chair, and he wraps his black, barber cloth around my neck, our interaction is social and professional. (B)efore (A)ll (E)lse, we are two men who have established a mutually respectful relationship. Sexuality does not hinder our ability to openly engage with one another in an environment known to strictly tolerate traditional forms of masculinity. When Perry is done cutting and lining my hair, I pay him twenty-two dollars and I tip him five. I leave his barbershop as a customer who has been provided the type of safe space service that makes me want to uphold my longstanding, Saturday morning date.
Over the past thirteen years, I have witnessed some of my associates and other contemporaries wear their light skin as a public badge of honor. I’ve known guys to hand select their friends and associates solely based upon complexion, and other surface qualities as well. Each of us has also engaged with men who strictly date and involve themselves intimately with other black dudes who look to be biracial or ‘mixed with something’. Despite the fact that darker skinned men have become the premiere sex symbols of our generation, there still exists this preference for light-brights amongst the minority, LGBT community.
I was raised in a pan African household. This means that from a very early age, the values, principles and teachings of Marcus Garvey and Patrice Lumumba framed my upbringings. I was taught everyday of my young life that black people needed to unite socially, politically and economically in order to remain strong and reach our ultimate destiny. It was made very clear to me that my presence in this world did not begin with the slave trade, but instead as a descendent of royalty. I was made aware of Queen Hatshepsut and King Thutmose long before my preschool teacher would hail Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta as the mother and father of our Civil Rights movement. Having pride in my blackness and understanding the struggles I would face living in America framed the lessons I learned outside of the conventional classroom setting. I was never aware of the fact that my complexion, eye color or other physical attributes would cripple my credibility amongst the black community or somehow allow me to coast along within mainstream, American society. As a result, I didn’t grow up with a superiority complex pertaining to my physical attributes. All I knew was that I was one of only four other black boys in my class, and it was imperative that I master the principles of math and science. I did, however, come of age feeling as if I was better equipped to face the world when compared to my classmates and other peers. I was introduced to the dynamics of race, class, gender and sexuality long before I would sit in college level courses that were focused around such concepts.
When guys meet me, especially the ones who are unfamiliar with ‘Xem VanAdams’, they are often taken aback by my organic nature. Within our same gender loving community, light skin men are assumed to be arrogant, standoffish, consumed by their physical appearance and lacking any real, intellectual or cultural depth. Lighter skinned men are seen in our community as being soft, sexually submissive, and surface minded as it pertains to character and integrity. Until a lot of men listen to me speak or express myself otherwise, I am already tapped as another card-carrying member of the ‘PINK CREW’.
While I certainly don’t judge or chastise other individuals for their preferences, I refuse to allow myself to be added to a collection of types. If I can look through photos of every dude that a man has dated, and most of them could pass for my twin brother, I often lose interest in pursuing romantic possibilities. A lot of people say that they don’t want to be chosen for their physical appearance, but I am one of the few who genuinely means it.
When guys tell you that you are beautiful, I believe they are making reference to the framework of your mind, spirit, energy and overall aura. When dudes say that you’re sexy or hot, they are solely focused on the flesh; your face, body and dominate, physical appeal. Sure, as it pertains to too many light skin men in our community, the surface attractions that stem from others are enough to validate their position in the world. For me, contrary to the beliefs of some, I don’t seek that level of acceptance. There’s nothing cute or admirable about being added to a long line of others, simply based upon the fact that your look matches their prototype. In life, when you allow your physical characteristics to define your worth to another man, or a specific social group, you are devaluing your purpose and presence in the world at large.
I may ‘look the part’, but you will never catch me playing it.
During the first week in March, 2014, I was approached by Khary Steph to contribute an original written piece to the first volume of his team’s new publication, ‘The Tenth’. This particular magazine has been created by industry art directors, Khary Steph, Kyle Banks and Andre Verdun Jones to express queer, black identity through various forms of artistry. The project was released publicly on April 10, 2014 in New York City. Since many of you will not have direct access to the catalogue of work, Ive elected to share my written piece with you.
As I have previously shared via my Twitter HERE and both Facebook pages, HERE and HERE, ‘The Tenth’ has been reviewed by several top tier press platforms; including The Huffington Post, HERE, as well as BlackBook, HERE.
It was requested that the piece be a short, but analytical article that tackled the issue of gay black men and the contemporary role we play in media. Since I have spoken in great detail regarding that particular issue, I asked Khary if I could approach the piece from a ‘social media’ point of view. I wanted to dissect some of the reasons WHY this generation is so obsessed with their social media timelines. Specifically, I needed to focus on gay men of color and how the types of photos we post online are subconsciously used to give ourselves identity in a world that seems to ignore our presence. I was very surprised by my own interpretations as I began to analyze the tumblr photos & instagram pics; somehow having to create a parallel between similar visuals and the social atmosphere of present day.
The Tenth Promo Video (ABOVE)
THIS IS WHAT I CAME UP WITH…
A Brief Look At The Contemporary Gay Man Of Color In Social Media
The sun peers through the muddy frame of another mid-week morning. A 21 year old, gay black man is positioning himself between where he needs to be at 9 o’clock am and the place in the world he hopes to reach before his 30th birthday. Standing shirtless in front of his bathroom mirror, wearing bright colored boxer-briefs and holding an iphone to match, he snaps a series of photos of himself. Each shot is captured at the same side view angle. However, he distorts his facial expressions to exude a combination of silly, sad, and sensual emotions. He shifts through his photo library and selects the pic that best highlights his latest efforts in the gym. Now cropping out the background mess that is piled on the floor, the young man adds a filter and simultaneously uploads the shot to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It’s his first selfie of the day; punctuated by a subconscious desire for social validation.
The selfie is a clear representation of the present generation that is forced into heavy-duty moments of solitude. Rejected for being outspoken, abandoned for being attracted to the same sex, distrusted for unwrapping oneself from the fibers that categorize human nature, the selfie is taken to declare a sense of dominance. We all want to feel in control of how we are seen and judged by the outside world. As a result, selfie’s and other social media posts exist to dictate our positions in the world.
Every ‘like’ that the selfie receives over the next few hours somehow contributes to this young man’s mental journey towards achieving fame, fortune and inclusion into the American establishment of success.
We live in a culture that promotes division between people. Specifically, gay men of color are forced into a social dynamic where their images, ideas, and experiences are disconnected from others and everyday surroundings as well. As a result, the gay man of color tends to overcompensate for this mainstream divide by utilizing social media as his stage to say, ‘LOOK AT ME’. The ‘LOOK AT ME’, male performance is often labeled as being extra, over-the-top, flamboyant, conceited or even narcissistic. However, it’s important to realize that some of these verbal and visual routines aren’t as much self-obsessive, as they are self-empowering.
This generation has been taught to make things happen for themselves. Modern-day dreams no longer have to be postponed until after a casting agent falls in love with an audition or a network executive decides to green light a new pilot. Since gay men of color are seemingly absent from mainstream television, film, radio and other media outlets, this same gender-loving community has begun to create their own, online platforms. From the various scripted and non-scripted series that are distributed on youtube, to the weekly showcases that are broadcast via Blog Talk Radio, gay men of color are utilizing all available resources to publicly feature and market themselves. The tweets, blog stories, status messages and selfies that are posted between each media release, serve to promote a sense of identity in a world that doesn’t seem to celebrate the individual or collective gay, black experience.
As the sun sets and the dawn of a new day is on the horizon, an entire generation will capture new images of themselves to share throughout the night. Standing in front of their mirrors with an iphone in one hand and hopes of stardom clasped in the other, another series of selfies will make way onto various, social media timelines. For gay men of color who are often marginalized and disenfranchised from the mainstream ‘American Dream’, the silent pictures intentionally scream, LOOK AT ME! It’s a visual declaration of individuality where each person creates, contours and controls their spotlight.
On Friday, March 28, 2014, I sat down with MICAH DIXON at a private home located in downtown Baltimore. The purpose of our sit down was to give Micah an opportunity to share his side of the story regarding the public breakup between he and openly transgender model, AMIYAH SCOTT.
EXCLUSIVE NEW Xem VanAdams VIDEO! Micah Dixon, military ex-boyfriend of the most beautiful, sought after, transgender model of our generation, Amiyah Scott, sits down with Xem to tell one side of their very public breakup. Over the past few weeks, a scandal has been brewing between Micah and Amiyah. Social Media has been used as a stage for the former lovers to express their hurt, anger and disappointment in front of their thousands of individual and joint fans. Recently, a third party has added themselves into the mix of what is already a very vulnerable period for the beloved, separated couple.
Thrust into the spotlight a year ago, Micah, along with a mutual friend asked if he could share his story and his truth using the Xem VanAdams online media platform. I obliged…
On Friday, March 28, 2014, I sat down with MICAH DIXON at a private home located in downtown Baltimore. The purpose of our sit down was to give Micah an opportunity to share his side of the story regarding the public breakup between he and openly transgender model, AMIYAH SCOTT.
BELOW, take a sneak peek at some of the more difficult questions that I presented to Micah; inquiries that will certainly give the public a clearer understanding of their relationship dynamic.
EXCLUSIVE NEW Xem VanAdams VIDEO! Micah Dixon, military ex-boyfriend of the most beautiful, sought after, transgender model of our generation, Amiyah Scott, sits down with Xem to tell one side of their very public breakup. Over the past few weeks, a scandal has been brewing between Micah and Amiyah. Social Media has been used as a stage for the former lovers to express their hurt, anger and disappointment in front of their thousands of individual and joint fans. Recently, a third party has added themselves into the mix of what is already a very vulnerable period for the beloved, separated couple. Thrust into the spotlight a year ago, Micah, along with a mutual friend asked if he could share his story and his truth using the Xem VanAdams online media platform. The tell-all interview will be shared in 2 parts via youtube.com/XemVanAdams on the night of Sunday, March 30, 2014. STAY TUNED…
Nene Leakes is self absorbed, condescending and destructive. She does very little to promote positivity and cohesiveness amongst her Real Housewives Of Atlanta cast mates, or the African American community at large. Her demeanor is brash and her manner is that of a brute. She has reached a point in her career where her attitude clearly reveals a sense of entitlement and superiority. This is what happens when individuals forget the fact that God can snatch blessings as quickly as he gifted them.
WE MUST STOP CELEBRATING INDIVIDUALS LIKE NENE LEAKES who do not genuinely embrace the struggles or strides of the LGBT community. Though Nene starred on FOX’s, ‘Glee’ and NBC’s, ‘The New Normal’, two mainstream series that rest on the shoulders of gay creators, advertisers and story lines, she does not support the everyday lives of same gender loving men and women.
During last nights episode of ‘Real Housewives Of Atlanta’, I watched Nene call Kenya Moore’s friend, Brandon DeShay, a ‘Queen’ and/or ‘Woman’ on numerous occasions. While some of US may use ‘Queen/Kween’ as a term of endearment when engaging amongst one another, Nene used the word on national television to defame the character of another gay man of color. Nene has spent the past five seasons, publicly praising her love for ‘the gays'; a watered down expression that diminishes the role of gay men as nothing more than accessories to her ‘fabulous’ life. While you all latched on to her coattails and held her up as the new holy grail for ‘the gays’, I knew from her phrasing how she REALLY felt towards my LGBT community. Gay men could exist in her space for as long as we were styling her hair, painting her face, dressing her for events and trailing slightly behind her as she walked numerous red carpets. We in turn, embraced her antics; making it even more comfortable for Nene to use our likeness to further push her brand awareness.
Nene is a woman whose core fan-base is comprised of gay men. She has built her reality television persona by mimicking many of the phrases and mannerisms that make black ‘Kweens’ especially, so ‘entertaining’ to the outside world.
Many people foolishly tuned into ‘Watch What Happens Live’ last night with the expectation that the host would address Nene’s character assassination of Brandon DeShay. Personally, I am not shocked or surprised by the fact that Bravo’s head honcho, Andy Cohen has not addressed the issue publicly. He too represents the contemporary club of television executives that contribute to the emasculation of the gay, black man. Ridiculous shows like ‘Fashion Queens’ exist on Bravo to further perpetuate the notion that all gay men of color are over-the-top flamboyant and interested in nothing more than style, hair, makeup, gossip and glam. These are the only images that are being spoon fed to mainstream America; hence Nene’s comfort in labeling US as ‘Queens’. Andy can’t very well chastise Nene for using ‘Queen’ as a derogatory slur, when an entire series has been created on his network that centers around the stereotypes attached to the word. Think about it….
If you ever wonder WHY I invest so much of my time and energy on trying to secure a television platform for brothers like myself and others to express themselves in a panel or other non-scripted format, its to address concerns such as these. At this point in my life, I need my brothers and sisters to be seen and heard on-screen in such a way that gives multi layers and dimensions to who we are behind closed doors.
The REAL Nene Leakes has indeed ‘ARRIVED’ and she needs to be held accountable for her recent on-screen behavior. IT’S DISGUSTING.
Many of you who have followed my online platform over the past 6 years, are well aware of the fact that I am a major supporter of the Ballroom community. I began studying about houses and ballroom culture in my senior year of college after my senior thesis film professor introduced me to Jennie Livingston’s ‘Paris Is Burning’. I attended my first MAJOR ball in Baltimore, MD during the summer after I graduated from college. I have enjoyed the scene ever since. In the past ten years that I have attended balls in DC, New York and Atlanta, I have always been fascinated by the Fem Queens (transgender women). Im very much intrigued by their stunning beauty, curves, femininity and overall, eccentric nature.
In 2013, KATRINA EBONY truly began to transition and evolve into her womanhood. Her status amongst the ballroom circuit has skyrocketed as her fem queen vogue performances have stunned audiences across the country. Katrina is considered to be one of the fairly ‘new girls’. However, her performances are quickly being hailed by ballroom Legends and Icons as the new standard. Katrina’s confidence and poise on the ballroom floor gives her a certain ‘IT’ factor above her contemporaries. She vogues soft and dramatic when the moment calls. Lately, whenever Im surfing through the amazing videos filmed by Ceasar of BallroomThrowbacks, Im zoned into the new clips that surface of Katrina.
EVERYONE seems to be well versed in the art and performance of Mother Leyomi Prodigy. However, there are indeed other talented ladies on the scene who are putting the crowds on notice. Get into Miss. Katrina Ebony, below…