Unfortunately the media is filled with stereotypes. How people perceive men of any color is a guy lacking emotion, rough, most of the time an alpha with a bad attitude. Then there’s the gay man who is sometimes portrayed as overly girly, weak, and more often than not, a sex addict. In the early 2000’s we were blessed with Queer as Folk, showing beautiful gay men of all types, embracing their sexuality, dealing with the same issues as straight couples trying to survive in the modern era. As brilliant as QAF was, it was missing a key element. In my opinion, a gay man of color who was also a main character would’ve added something to the show.
Some time later, Noah’s Arc came along and I believed it only lasted two seasons. From the couple of episodes I did see, it portrayed gay men of color in a positive light. Seemingly, this series might not have been interesting enough to keep running so it disappeared without a trace.
What about in fiction? These days we have a wealth of colorful gay characters in many books. The question is how do we write them? Do we draw on the stereotypes? Black and or Hispanic men who are angry and always intense; Asian men who seem timid and weak. Those are just a couple of examples. Do we need to add this to our books for them to seem real? In my estimation we don’t. I often wondered why authors, whether it be books, TV, and or movies can’t make a character, especially a gay male character of color, who doesn’t fit that mold. Sure, you can add to the setting to make it more “real”; a young black man from a poorer neighborhood. Perhaps his family hates that he’s gay and his friends don’t accept him. Yes that’s all the reality I need and let me say, not every black man comes from a background like that. But with his attitude? Must he be overly angry at the world and seething all the time? Well hell, he could be a goth boy. That would make BL happy. *grins* Or could he be an intelligent scholar, from a not so poor neighborhood. Perhaps he was the rich one and his white counterpart the middle class working man. My favorite with that kind of background was Bonnie Dee’s Undeniable Magnetism which I enjoyed thoroughly.
What’s my point here? When I write a gay man of color, I try to avoid the stereotypes unless it is a central part of the plot. I feel people should be written as people, without pulling from the so called mold.
Regardless of race or nationality or orientation, we’re all human with unique traits and attitudes that make us stand out from others. Characters should be treated in the same fashion.
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Coming in late May I Love You Rhett Vorhees
BL's alter ego Rawiya has expanded on the Unforgettable Valentine story from the Only THAT Night Anthology. This story features a gay black man who doesn't fit the "mold"
“What? I didn’t hear what you said.” Darren spun around in his chair behind his desk and glanced out the window, admiring the beautiful Chicago skyline. He never wanted to move from this place despite the high cost of living because he loved his hometown. Besides, he still had family here who cared for him deeply. They were his rock when he needed someone to lean on.
At the moment, he was enjoying a conversation with his former lover, Terrell who’d moved on to play baseball for one of the minor league teams in the south. North Carolina to be exact. They’d broke it off when both realized they loved one another but weren’t in love. That’s why they stayed the best of friends.
“Yeah? And no prospects of fine men down there, huh? Like I said, you should’ve stayed here in Chi, my man.”
“Naw, naw.” His smile came through the phone. “We agreed it wouldn’t be good for us to live in the same town after breaking up. I love it here but I do miss home, especially the restaurants and nightlife. Damn.”
“Hey Terrell, I’m over you, okay? I can handle it. Like I said, it wasn’t your fault we didn’t work, it was all me...”
“And the love you had for a little boy you used to know in elementary school. Listen, you need to get over that, okay? You haven’t seen the man in years and you ain’t heard from him. For all you know he might be−”
“Don’t say it.” Darren cut him off and shifted his chair back around. “I know it could be a possibility he’s left the country, married, or hell he could be−” Darren couldn’t bring himself to say Rhett Vorhees could be dead. He blinked back the memory of the day at Rosner Elementary when he laughed at him and all his classmates teased him to no end. God, how he wished he could change that day for the better. He cared for Rhett immensely and never had the cojones to tell him so. Darren held out hope he’d meet Rhett Vorhees again.
“Darren? Darren you drifted out on me again didn’t you?”
Darren shook his head and rubbed his temple with one hand. “Yeah I did. Sorry. I was just thinking about Rhett. I wish we hadn’t made fun of him.”
“Yeah well. Heck, we were scared to take sides with him and show ourselves right? I mean imagine the hell we would’ve caught if all the boys found out we were into other boys, huh? They don’t really associate with us now after we came out and told them we were dating.”
“Screw ‘em, Terrell. I always told you not to worry about those fucks anyhow.” Darren opened the drawer and stared at the crumpled card he’d held onto for the last decade plus. It was his good luck charm, his memoir of a young boy he had the hots for and let him go because of stupid pride. A red heart with black scribble on the front, saying, To Darren from Rhetta. As an adult, Darren presumed he’d changed it to avoid any questions from Darren’s parents if they looked at it. So simple, beautiful, this was the only thing other than the picture of Rhett he cut out from the school graduation shot.
After that, Darren heard from a mutual female friend that Rhett and his family moved away to Texas. If only he had the chance to see Rhett again, just to tell him how very sorry he was, and possibly get to know him better. Darren would do just about anything for that opportunity.
“Darren? Damn, will you stop that?” he yelled through the headset. “You’re like a love sick puppy when we start talking about Rhett. The boy was strange as hell. Real pretty but way too quirky. Remember he used to like collecting just random stuff from people? Things they didn’t want, he’d ask for. I remember the one time he asked everybody if he could take a sample of hair to do some kind of study on the texture and why it was coarse as opposed to silky,” he laughed. “And he was a cross-dresser which wasn’t all that big of a deal but why his parents allowed him to wear skirts and kilts to school is beyond me.”
Darren turned up his lips and shook his head. “Wasn’t that for a science project? And as far as his way of dressing, obviously his parents supported him to be who he wanted to be. That’s commendable. Hey listen, I need to get going, all right? I got some last minute paperwork to finish before it’s time to head home.”
Silence. “Sure you do, Darren. You wanna sit back and stare at that card for a while, don’t you?”
“No.” Darren closed the drawer quickly, knowing he really did have stuff to do. “I got some work that needs my urgent attention. Thanks for the phone call. I’ll come down to see you play soon.”
“Alright then. You should go with me to Fall League. It’s usually spent in the Dominican or something. A lot of fine Latin boys to look at.” He grinned through the phone.
“Yeah maybe. I’ll see you later.” Darren pulled the phone away from his ear and put his finger on the disconnect button.
“See you Darren. And go out somewhere for Valentine’s Day. Get laid!” Right after that comment he hung up.
Darren sighed inwardly and pressed the button. He leaned back in the chair and yanked that same drawer open once more where he kept the familiar keepsake from the boy he used to know in elementary school.
“Where are you, Rhett?” Gently, he picked it up and gazed at it longingly, noticing the chicken scratch handwriting, the red heart that faded because of the time passed. The paper had been flattened in Darren’s journal and kept in a little wooden box with Rhett’s picture to protect it from harm. Through high school, college, grad school, and every dorm, apartment, he moved into, the tiny box went with him. He’d never discarded them because deep down, he just knew he’d get the chance to apologize. And even if Rhett hated his guts, he still craved to tell him how sorry he was for laughing at him.
Darren even told his mother how he’d kept the faith all these years, desperately wishing he’d be able to see Rhett’s face once again. He held out hope that Rhett was still alive and well. Even better, still single so they could explore the possibility of being together.