It was with much hesitation that I finally opened the link to the New York Times article yesterday that had been sent to me by a number of my readers on married gay couples by Benoit Denzit-Lewis. Before I read a single word I was hoping that I would be pleasantly surprised to find the inclusion of a black gay couple, but as always it seemed like this would be too much to ask of the mainstream media and we were once again left out.
The article profiles white upper-to-middle class gay couples who have taken advantage of the right to marry in the state of Massachusetts. To Denzit Lewis' credit he swears he searched high and low to find a black gay couple but could not find a single married male couple of color in their twenties in Massachusetts to write about. "I spent a month looking, and I was only able to find one couple of color (both men are Asian). But they were in a long-distance relationship (one lived in Boston, the other in California), and I was not able to spend time with them together before my deadline",said Benoit.
Fair enough. I guess we really can't blame him for excluding us if we didn't exist in Massachusetts to begin with, right? Wrong. I just refuse to believe that every single couple that lined up to legalize their unions in Massachusetts were all of "European-descent". I'm perplexed why Denzit- Lewis didn't go beyond Massachusetts to study subjects for his piece. At least for the sake of having a fair and balanced article that represents more than the commonly seen images of white gay men. The obvious choice would have been New Jersey where civil unions are offered and where black gays and lesbians were highly visible in the fight for marriage equality.
Upon further research I came across a 2003 article Denzit-Lewis wrote about black gay men on the down low. Go figure our existence is acknowledged when addressing a phenomenon that is blamed for the destruction of the black family and an increase in HIV infections in black women.
But what I found to be rather disturbing is Denzit-Lewis' willingness to travel outside of his home in Boston to meet authentic "DL brothers" to research his story, from a bathouse in Cleveland, to the "corporate office" of a DL internet sex site, to the now closed Palace nightclub in Atlanta. Why couldn't he have done the same for the article on gay married couples?
While I don't think Denzit-Lewis is racist by any means, this is clearly another example of white gay privilege. And people wonder why magazines like CLIK and BLEU exist or why we have our own Black Gay Pride Celebrations. Sometimes you just get tired of being ignored by the gay community because of your race and shunned by the black community because of who you love.
Queerty has Denzit-Lewis' response to the reaction from his article here.
Read the article that started the controversy: Young Gay Rites
Double Lives On The Down Low-2003