BY JEANETTE LENOIR
Anthony Emeka is an accomplished gay man of color who’s had it with the stereotypes, the club scenes, the intolerance, and the preconceived notions of the gay community. And, he’s doing something about it. He says in addition to dealing with societal pressures and the tribulations affecting the gay community, there’s something else that persistently rears its ugly head within the LGBTQ world; bigotry. “There’s a lot of racism within the gay community and we have to create our own space outside of White gay men,” he explains.
The new space he’s referring to is called The Baldwin Gentlemen, a social organization exclusively for professional gay men of color, defined as Black, Latino, Asian, South Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern men and also those who racially or ethnically identify as being a man of color. “Essentially, any man who has been on the receiving end of racial discrimination or bigotry within the LGBTQ community,” and who identifies with the prolific author, civil rights icon and powerful orator James Baldwin. Emeka says the aim is not just to host social events but to raise awareness about what gay men of color experience specifically in LA, but also across America within the gay community. “I’m really hoping that not only are we able to educate people and tell them the specifics and anything in between of the professional gay men of color but also to let individuals know that we are far, far from solving the societal situation. We’re dealing with issues like homosexuality and race and we don’t have a handle on either of these issues so we hope to raise awareness while also simultaneously developing and educating people what this community of Baldwin will look like moving forward,” he says.
So, what’s it like being a professional Black gay man in LA, and perhaps all across America, within the LGBTQ community? Emeka compares it to being invisible. “I’m clearly invisible. I’m not a White male. And that’s what Baldwin is here to address…often times we are not received in the community because we are gay and often times even within the LGBTQ community we aren’t received because we are of color. That’s what we want to address; the intersection of what it means to be a gay male and what it means to be a gay man of color.” He says it means seeing the world and experiencing the world in a unique way because often times it’s lonely, especially when he finds himself being the only Black male in a professional setting or role, but also the only gay Black man in that professional role or setting. “I feel a sense of loneliness; I feel a sense of indirectly being represented negatively of this community that is still so foreign to people. They’re like, ‘oh we know Black people, we don’t know gay Black people’ and so often times I did find myself feeling alone.”
He says there is a lot of emotional trauma that goes along with being gay, whether it’s coming out to your family, or living a life that isn’t necessarily easy to come out, or coming out and being rejected. “Losing friends, losing family because of coming out.” He says even having to put on a facade when applying for a job, going to school, or simply being in a room full of people can be stressful. “It’s all about how am I going to present myself to not be scary, to not be foreign, to not be other.” Adding to the emotional trauma many Black gay men experience is the conservative stance within the Black community on the subject of homosexuality. “It’s not something we really talk about because it’s not very comfortable. I think as it relates to racial equality and racial equity, that’s something that Black people wanted, but anything outside of that specifically there’s a lot of contentious thinking within the Black community and it stems from the role of Christianity within our community,” he says.
The Baldwin Gentlemen is a member’s only club exclusively for gay men of color and Emeka says it’s specifically designated as such to combat the racism many of them experience within the LGBTQ community. He says, “We talk about gay rights but that doesn’t necessarily include me.” He says even with California’s leading status in the push for gay rights with groups like Log Cabin Republicans the concern was “about these White gay men in San Francisco. They weren’t concerned about Latinos, Asians or Blacks who were also going to benefit from that.” He says even gay women often times don’t feel welcomed in the spaces supposedly designated for the gay community because it’s all about the gay White men. “When we talk about LGBTQ, we’re not talking about anything other than the G.”
A June 2016 article by Queerty aptly titled, “Is This The Brutal Truth White Gay Men Refuse To Hear?” addresses this very issue. The article also highlights a report by Matthew Rodriguez, a gay Latino man who talks about the blatant racism he experiences on dating sites like Grindr. The messages shared on some of these dating sites explicitly express a disdain for mainly Black and Asian men. “Not Into Black or Asian” or “Let’s keep it White or Latin, Thanks,” are just a couple of examples on these dating sites of the blatant rejection Emeka is describing and hoping to combat by creating a space exclusively for those on the outside of the gay community that touts itself as accepting and inclusive of all gay people. It’s one thing to have a certain preference in lovers but it’s another thing all together when these preferences are hurled like Molotov cocktails at people already dealing with a cruel and intolerable world.
“We have to create our own space. We have to tell our own stories. We have to be able to come together as a collective, as a group of people who are outside of the LGBTQ community, which are typically White gay men. And, we have to do things for ourselves and this is what it’s about,” Emeka said. In addition to raising awareness about the plights of gay men of color within the LGBTQ community, the group says the club is also about developing organic relationship that are largely missing from the social media space, the bar and club space and the app hook-up culture. “We’re creating an alternative base for professional gay men of color to get together and be amongst people like themselves.”
There is an annual cost to join The Baldwin Gentlemen including a smaller cost to attend events. The official launch of The Baldwin Gentlemen is taking place on Thursday in LA. The View From Here: Experiences of Gay Men of Color in LA kicks off at 7:00 pm in Santa Monica with a panel discussion with the following prominent and accomplished speakers: Yolo Akili Robinson, Nijeul X. Porter, Dominick Bailey and Thornell Jones, Jr. “The event itself is really just to get the word out about Baldwin; who we are, what we stand for, and how we intent to develop our community,” Emeka says. The event is sponsored by Philosophie, Revry, and Alloy Wine Works. Additional Baldwin groups led by ambassadors will be opening up in Oakland, Montreal and Toronto.