Black, Queer & Here

From a book review of Thomas Glave’s book, Words to our Now: Imagination and Dissent:

“The word ‘faggot’ itself is to me as nasty a form of violence as the perennial spit-nastiness in that classic American word ‘nigger.’ As a black male who is also gay, I and my brothers and our black lesbian sisters are considered ‘disposables’ in our own black communities and in white ones.

To this day I’m still extremely wary and skeptical of those black men who in convenient circumstances glibly call themselves brothers… who then, in their own peculiar type of fear, loathing, and hypocrisy often inflict violence on black gay men and lesbians whenever we are found either not to be useful or, far worse, too close to home.”
—Excerpted from Chapter 1

If you think it’s tough enough being a black male in America, you might want to consider the plight of the gay black male. For as Thomas Glave describes it, he feels alienated not only from mainstream white society but rejected by blacks, too. Glave, a Professor of English at SUNY Binghampton happens to be particularly adept at describing that sense of isolation in Words to Our Now, a series of essays which condemn a variety of prejudices which have persisted not only in the U.S. but around the world.

Although he weighs in eloquently on an assortment of international concerns from ethnic cleansing to Abu Ghraib, the author is most effective when reporting on or recounting incidents of gay bashing, a subject with which he is well acquainted. For one cannot help but empathize when he recalls from childhood the “wicked pugnacity” of “boys my age and older.” He describes the daily slamming of fists into his face unleashed by the meanest hoodlums, beatings invariably accompanied by a long line of harsh expletives which began with the word “faggot.”

There is something truly touching and deeply saddening about a book which has to make a case for the embracing of black homosexuals by their own community, when acceptance has been the prevailing theme around which the rest of African-Americana has rallied for generations. Who knows, perhaps it is a holdover from mistreatment during slavery which causes his own people to exhibit such severe intolerance for a minority within their own minority.

As a consequence, guess who now has the highest AIDS rate transmission, due to so many scared brothers on the down low choosing to work both sides of the sexual-preference street?

Glave’s intriguing answer to the crisis arrives in the form of a clarion call for social change, arguing that we are at a critical crossroad, that we must all put our bigotries behind us, and that time is of the essence. If nothing else, in emerging from the shadows via such a compelling, well-written opus, he has succeeded in humanizing the issue by lending his face to it, and by proudly putting a personal spin on ACT-UP’s unequivocal, defiant anthem of liberation.

“I’m here! I’m black and queer! Get used to it! “

This evening, Glave launched his latest book, The Torturer’s Wife, at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore.  From the TWB website:

Author of the acclaimed story collection Whose Song?, award-winning Thomas Glave is known for his stylistic brio and courageous explorations into the heavily mined territories of race and sexuality. Here he expands and deepens his lyrical experimentation in stories that focus—explicitly and allegorically—on the horrors of dictatorships, war, anti-gay violence, the weight of traumatized memory, secret fetishes, erotic longing, desire and intimacy.

THOMAS GLAVE is an O. Henry award-winning author and was named a Village Voice Writer on the Verge in 2001. He is the author of Whose Song? and Other Stories, Words to Our Now:Imagination and Dissent (winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Nonfiction), and editor of Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles. He is the 2008-2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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