Xem VanAdams Responds To Derek J’s Facebook Post About The Dominant, Effeminate Image Of Gay Black Men In Mainstream Media


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.

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