With Migos so openly homo/transphobic, one begins to realize that there is no intentionality to welcome gender and sexually variant Black folks to their party.
Migos are on top of the world. They have discovered the keys to success especially for three young Black men trying to create a reality for themselves outside of the hood and outside of poverty. They’re thriving out here. Ironically, their success has made them a hot topic lately since their sit down with the hosts of Everyday Struggle, Complex Magazines popular morning show engaging topics of hip-hop and pop culture.
Towards the end of the interview, DJ Akademiks raised the issue of Migos’ big hit Bad and Boujee and why Takeoff wasn’t on the record. Takeoff asked “Do it look like I’m left off Bad and Boujee?” about three times and we all know that this interaction then led to a near scuffle between the group and Joe Budden.
But my interrogation is less about the altercation and more about Takeoff’s question. Bad and Boujee has become a staple song for Black culture and a symbol of Black joy and celebration. One, it does look like Takeoff was left off of Bad and Boujee (but that’s neither here nor there). Two, who else is left off of it? This song is supposed to be a monumental moment for Black people, but the Black folks that were left off of Bad and Boujee seem to be Black LGBTQ+ folks. With Migos so openly homo/transphobic, one begins to realize that there is no intentionality to welcome gender and sexually variant Black folks to their party.
When Katy Perry’s career needed some revival, she decided to link up with Migos for her wanna be smash hit Bon Appetit. It was, of course, a flop and no one cares, but what’s important to note is what transpired when she was set to perform it live. She had a whole set of Drag Queens, and other gender variant folks, but her set and Migos refused to perform with her because they don’t fuck with that gay shit. So Katy removed some folks to appease Migos.
Of course, everyone went into an uproar, and Black LGBTQ+ folks demanded that Migos be “canceled” or that we cease supporting anything they ever do because of their “inherent” homophobia/transphobia. Same for artists like SZA, Cardi B, Lil Mama, Nicki Minaj, etc. But are these types of phobias inherent to Black people or are they things that have been taught to us since birth that we grow to believe are true?
Without addressing how anti-Blackness acts as a vehicle for perpetuating oppression, we will forever fail to understand the intricacies of state violence. Identifying as both Black and LGBT is antithetical to how whiteness had taught us to relate to LGBT identity – that you and your white comrade are fighting the same fight. It is coming to your realization that your Blackness is your nonconformity and that it is what informs how you relate to and navigate the world as an LGBT+ person that frees you.
Standing at the intersection of being Black and LGBT+ is a coming out process in and of itself since LGBT+ socialization is shaped by whiteness. Blackness is more than the color of your skin – it’s a culture; a lineage. It was my Blackness that was deemed unfit. It was my Blackness that was coded as queer because it didn’t align with white norms. It was my Blackness that didn’t make sense. My Blackness had always been trans – opposite of what “made sense.”
Our relationship to gender and sexuality is as intricate as our relationship to anti-Blackness in America. Gender essentialism is not so much inherent to us as it is what we’ve subscribed to in order to survive under capitalism. Our parents told us to “man up” or “put some clothes on” less because they are inherently misogynist or trans/homophobic but because they knew that they wanted their kids to be successful and in order to do that as a Black person, you had to go above and beyond.
That means that there isn’t room for us to deviate from norms because then we kill our chances of having a life of dignity. Through generations, we’ve subscribed to these standards to keep one another safe and to assimilate to the world around us so that we could achieve equal opportunity. Of course, now we know that’s bullshit, and we won’t ever raise our children that way, but we must acknowledge this truth before we can begin dismantling any systems and understanding how our community has been impacted.
One question that many organizers in the Movement for Black Lives ask is how do queer and trans people heal while dealing with mobilizing and politicizing folks who have lots of unlearning and unpacking to do, thus being catalysts for constant microaggressions? Do we stop the work of organizing and just cancel all of our people? When we’re in the hood politicking with folks in the community, do we pick and choose who is worth fighting for?
In the same vein, if one of the goals of movement work is to love black people and not throw anyone away, how do we stand in solidarity with those artists who haven’t unlearned anti-Black hate? Why are we immediately “cancelling” our people and not struggling with this question? What do we do for our folks when normativity has been the key to success?
We have to understand the complex cycles that many of our comrades find themselves in where whiteness brainwashes us to subscribe to particular beliefs (gender binary=good, capitalism=good) but then uses a few of us to perpetuate violence on our folks once they reach particular levels of success and attribute those beliefs as the keys. Black capitalism that especially operates out of ignorance of structural oppression is damaging for Black communities as those who reach that increased class status act as agents of whiteness to police our folks and uphold capitalist goals.
But what does cancelling them do for us? This double-edged sword of damned if I do, damned if I don’t is a clear exemplification of the pervasiveness of whiteness and thus “cancelling” our folks off isn’t the most productive. We have to add more nuance to these discussions.
It took me 20 years of life to finally head to an endocrinologist and begin hormone replacement therapy. It took me 20 years of unlearning to finally be who I can be. I am human so, even to this day, I live within complex contradictions and embody problematic viewpoints that I must work to unlearn each day. It’s an ongoing process. But I was gentle with myself through it because I knew that it was no fault of my own. So why can’t I extend this grace and gentleness to other Black folks needing to unlearn internalized oppression?
You can choose to cancel artists and other public figures if you want and even do so in the name of self-care. However, that approach seems more a form of SIB (self-injurious behavior) than protecting the growth and wellbeing of self. I am in no way excusing this fucked up behavior! I am just simply asking for us to have a deeper interrogation of how we address this harm that keeps in mind the historical and systemic context/implications of the cause of this toxicity.
Yes, Takeoff, it does look like you were left off Bad and Boujee. So were we. Now, let’s talk!
Featured Image: Chris Castillo, Creative Commons