Black Masculinity: Black Male Americans' 'Same-Gender-Loving'

Seminar Paper, 2002

16 Pages, Grade: Good


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Gay Movement: A Historical Background.

3. Dual Identities in Conflict: Black versus Gay
3.1. Sexual- Identity and Same- Sex Behaviour
3.2. “Triangularity”- Being Accepted as an American in the Black and in the Gay Community

4. “Same-Gender-Loving” and AIDS – “Same –Gender-Loving” Black Americans as Scapegoats

5. Supporting “Same-Gender-Loving” Black Americans – Empowerment Organisations


6. References and cited works

1. Introduction

Concerning the topic of masculinity the first and maybe the most important question is: What is masculinity ? – Defined as “the quality of being masculine,”[1] which means “having the qualities or appearance considered to be typical of men; connected with or like men,”[2] the term “Black Masculinity” refers to “the qualities of being masculine and black.” This definition sounds very logical at first sight. Moreover, when using this term as normative standard, “the asymmetrical pendant to the more critically investigated femininity,”[3] and therefore inventing fictional characters enacting or rejecting stereotypes of masculinity, it serves a certain order and makes life and abstract understanding easier.

But if you reflect on the analysis of masculinity which should not be limited to “typical male behaviour and sexuality” and which should not only be a matter of individual identity but the organisation and representation of the social, these formal definitions are too easy. Therefore masculinity in a wider sense is understood as a form of identity of men that cannot be isolated from other dimensions of identity. Social conditions of manliness and equality are always connected with issues of race, class, gender and sexuality.

Especially within the ideological structure of a patriarchal culture, heterosexual masculinity has traditionally been structured as the normative gender. Therefore patriarchal culture has a simple interpretation of gay men: “They lack masculinity,”[4] which is reinforced by the statement: “If someone is attracted to the masculine, then that person must be feminine.”[5] These beliefs create a dilemma about masculinity for men who are attracted to other men, that means homosexual white men, but also black men, if you think of living in a multicultural society and consider the colour of skin.

This paper about “Black Masculinity” and “Black Male Americans’ “Same –Gender- Loving” is intended to understand that there cannot be any discrete models for different masculinities. The situation of “Same-Gender-Loving” black male Americans and their problems of self-identity, same-sex behaviour and a certain feeling of “triangularity[6] ”as a result of the conflict of being black, gay and American will be discussed. Furthermore it explain the historical background referring to the gay movement, the problem of AIDS and the support by empowerment organisations that provide useful information in order to reveal the “category of masculinity as always ambivalent, always complicated, always dependent on the exigencies of personal and institutional power- an interplay of emotional and intellectual factors also mediated by sexuality and race.”[7]

2. The Gay Movement: A Historical Background

Even if homosexual identification in modern times in a modern society were regarded as “normal” as being heterosexual, the roots and something about the development of the “gay culture” should be explained shortly, especially with regard to the fact that being gay is still not as “normal” as being heterosexual.

Referring to the gay movement, “Same-Gender-Loving[8] ” African Americans have played a significant role in shaping society’s understanding and definition of homosexuality and gay politics from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement to the Stonewall Rebellion and the AIDS Crisis.

Given that homosexual identification and its frank discussion in the public can be considered a twentieth-century phenomenon, the Harlem Renaissance with a new-found openness, providing the chance to a more frank public conversation about sexuality, was very important for the early development of homosexual identification. Black lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals played a leading role in drama, music, literature and poetry of this time. Creative performances revealed a world of greater tolerance of sexual expression, so that well-known artists, such as Bessie Smith, Countee Cullen, Alain Locke, and Langston Hughes either wrote, talked, performed or thought about same-sex sexual behaviour.[9]

The Civil Rights Movement, especially from 1954 to 1968, provides another historical reminder of the role of African Americans in defining the gay rights movement by creating a climate for this movement and by producing black lesbian and gay heroes. Protests and civil disobedience tactics were intended to awaken America’s consciousness to unfulfilled promises of the early dreams of the republic. Therefore speeches of black civil rights activists reminded the country of its values and recalled a place where “everyone is endowed with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”[10] The climate itself was like a gift to American activism, so that besides the antiwar and women’s rights movements, the gay liberation movement could develop subsequently. It enabled the maturation of black lesbian and gay legends like Lorraine Hansberry, Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin. These challenged white America to accept black people and black America to accepts them as homosexuals in the black community.

The Stonewall Rebellion marked the defining moment in the modern gay rights era. It is an event widely considered as a major turning point in the history of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered civil rights movement. The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar at 51-52 Christopher Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, where on the night of 27/28th of June, 1969, the police carried out a routine raid. Serving a warrant charging that alcohol was being sold without a license, they announced that employees would be arested. Although raids were not unusual in 1969 and in fact, they were conducted regularly without much resistance, the patrones inside and the crowd that gathered outside the bar fought back against the police. Five days of rioting followed. The blacklash and the nights of protest have come to be known as the Stonewall Riots and it seems as if the oppression connected with the little public expression of the lives and experiences of gays and lesbians has transformed into calls for pride and action. This event has taken on a some kind of mythic significance as many organisations use Stonewall or Christopher Street in their names, and as a tradition demonstrations in commemoration of it take place in the United States and the whole world every year. Therefore the Stonewall Rebellion showed the need for gay and lesbian solidarity and so enabled the development of later empowernment organisations. Since the 1970s an interest in multiracial gay or lesbian organisations has been developed. Conferences and meetings took place, and commitments to develop decision-making processes including international participation. The aims of striving for gender parity, the representation of people of colour on decision- making bodies, and the adequate representation of the disabled, bisexuals, seniors etc., partly represented by today’s homosexual organisations, became fixed as the ideas of a “new” community. The need for multiracial organisations, which support the education about black experience and AIDS resulted from the recognition of AIDS in the 1980s. Since then many local, regional, and national empowernment organisations have developed in the 1980s and 1990s with the aims of serving gay men of African descent, lebians and bisexuals in order to help them in the search of identity, and in order to a general acceptance of partnership laws and anti- discimination statutes.


[1] Sally Wehmeier/ A S Hornby (1999), Oxford Advanced Learner´s Dictionary Sixth Edition (Oxford University Press), p.786.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maurice Berger et al. (1995), Constructing Masculinity (New York & London: Routledge) p. 2 f.

[4] R.W. Connell (1995), Masculinities ( Cambridge. Cambridge Polity Press, p. 143.

[5] Ibid, p. 143.

[6] Triangularity was mention in the article “Black like me” on the website of Blackstripe as a description for being black, gay and American.

[7] Berger et al, Constructing Masculinity, p. 6.

[8] “Gay” or “Lesbian” are perceived as vestiges of white European dominance by Black Americans. They tend to use “Same-Gender-Loving” in order to avoid the “oppressive” language of the white community.

[9] Furthermore many artists were known to have engaged in homosexual activity.

[10] Phillip Brian Harper (1996). Are we not Men? Masculine Anxiety and the Problem of African American Identity. ” Where Rhetoric meets Reality.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.81

Excerpt out of 16 pages


Black Masculinity: Black Male Americans' 'Same-Gender-Loving'
Martin Luther University  (Anglistics/ American Studies)
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Black, Masculinity, Black, Male, Americans, Same-Gender-Loving
Quote paper
Liane Weigel (Author), 2002, Black Masculinity: Black Male Americans' 'Same-Gender-Loving', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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