Tamar’s statement goes beyond harming cishet men, it opens up a particular kind of violence against Queer Black people.
This essay contains discussions of sexual violence and r/pe culture
Recently, recording artist and television personality, Tamar Braxton, made a post on her Instagram story where she essentially claims that the one and only reason a man would be uninterested in having sex with a woman for more than a day is that he is gay.
Without fully detailing what her statement said, I want to discuss the blatant queer-antagonism in her words that also make room for sexually violent behavior.
I define rape culture as the artistic, cultural, social, political, and educational practices/expressions which create conditions suitable for sexual violence and are enlivened by sexual violence. Put in conversation with queer-antagonism, which I define as cultural and sociopolitical malevolence towards Queer people, Tamar’s words—perhaps, inadvertently—advocate for the preservation of rape culture through sacrificing Black gay men, bisexual men, asexual men, and otherwise Black Queer people. Her words suggest that Black men do not have the option to consent or to abstain from sex, and that, more specifically, Black Queer people should never have the right to refrain from consenting to sex because we are always already hypersexual.
What do we make of the cisgender, heterosexual man who is tired or simply uninterested in having sex? To Tamar, and women like Tamar, we project gayness onto them because anti-Blackness and queer-antagonism “coerces us,” as Damani Warren would say, into believing that sex must revolve around the phallus; that to be Black, one must be invested always in penetrative sex; that hypersexuality is innate to the being of Blackness; that to be Black and a Queer man means to never be sexually interested in women or wanting to always have sex, and only with men.
What Tamar does not realize, however, is that by pushing these straight men into Queerness, unbeknown to her, she opens actual Queer people up to a particular type of violence informed by queer-antagonism. In 2017, I wrote a piece titled “Rape Culture, DL Men, and the Carcerality of The Closet.” In this piece, I talk very candidly about my multiple experiences with sexual violence at the hands of DL and straight-assumed men, otherwise known as “trade.”
Related: How The Colonial History of Hypersexualization Obscures the Possibility of Black Asexuality
We are oftentimes abused sexually and physically by men too afraid of Queerness; men bound by the religiosity of sexuality; men who don’t care to know a world without cages who are only ever interested in keeping us caged with them.
By using this language to describe the men who seemingly are uninterested in having sex with her, Tamar not only attempts to hypersexualize Queer people, but she also further stigmatizes Queerness which only pushes these men who may be interested in other men deeper into their already-too-suffocating prison cell.
The irony in all of this is that Tamar has built her entire career from biting off of Black Queer culture. From using our language, like “shade,” “read,” “tea,” and “gagging” on her former talk show and in interviews, to making music videos that make conventionally beautiful Black gay men hypersexual props to her cis womanhood.
Twitter user Kimberly Foster posed a question which states: “I’m a straight woman, so it’s none of my business, but how do Tamar and Nene say all that homophobic shit and still get invited to all the gay pride events.” The answer to this is two-fold.
For any Black cisgender, heterosexual woman who claims to care about Black Queer people, it is always their business to care about how other women like them show up in spaces that are said to be curated by and for Black LGBTQ+ people. That is not a suggestion; that is a requirement.
Because of the complicated history between Black gay men and Black women, many times Black women show up in Black Queer spaces with the belief that Black gay men as their accessories make them an “ally.” It is therefore always the job of every cisheterosexual woman who understands this to show up for Queer folks by correcting their counterparts. “Good” cishet women should stop positioning themselves away from the “bad” ones. The bad is 100% of their business, too.
The other answer to this question, however, is that Pride is a capitalist money-grab for everyone involved. It has less to do with celebrating and affirming [Black] LGBTQ+ people, and more to do with funding major corporations who only have a vested interest in thin, white cis gay men and lesbian women. Part of that means being in proximity to celebrities, as Celebrity—as an institution—means to be in proximity to social, political, and socioeconomic capital. So women like Tamar and Nene—while using our language, employing many Black gay people, and remaining queer-antagonistic—are able to exist in these spaces, often unchecked, because there is capital associated with their name. And in a world where people genuinely loathe Black Queer people, the Tamars and Nenes of the world—with all of their benevolent violence—feel safe to many.
The question really should be: why are women like Nene and Tamar allowed to appropriate (and never cite) our culture while continuing to be queer-antagonistic? And why is it that so many Black gay men have to live in a world where they feel this is the only affirmation they deserve?