The Skin Deep Anti-Manifesto

I do not live a life where racism, prejudice, and discrimination are a daily part of my existence. I live an affluent lifestyle; I have a good job, an education, and a great deal of disposable income. It is only in the leather community that I have experienced any sort of negative treatment. Case in point…

Dateline: The Fall of 2003, the DC Eagle

It was my first time there. It was certainly not my first time around leatherfolk, but it was my first time at a leather bar. I took several moments to take it all in: the men in jocks, the easy sexual nature of the interactions, and the smell. It was the aroma of adventure. Then the owner came up to me and my friend, another budding leather man, and said, “Buy a drink or get the fuck out!” We hadn’t even been there 15 minutes. Was it the cut of our jib? Was our cologne too strong? Did they have a strict “buy a drink immediately or get out” policy? Or was it (PAUSE) something (LONG PAUSE) else?

Some will point out, correctly, that the management of the bar has long since shifted, but that is really beside the point isn’t it? The damage had been done. It’s dismissive to imply that my feelings don’t matter because the situation is not happening now. I’m tired of the suggestion that the indignities that black people face daily are exceptions. How many times must a thing happen before it becomes the rule? How many times must black gay and bisexual men be treated with disrespect before the community acknowledges that there is a problem?

It’s unlikely that my friend and I were the only two black men ever subjected to such treatment. I am annoyed every time I think of that night. The bar was packed, and yet, out of all the people there, he singled out my friend and I as not having bought a drink. How could he have known that, unless he had marked us from the moment we entered? How many men had he treated that way? How many men will not return to the Eagle to this day because of such incidents? What I do know is that it was years before I set foot inside that place again.

Dateline: IML 2014, post-contest.

We stood outside the Harris Theatre, celebrating Ramien’s win. A guy came up to us and congratulated our club (ONYX) on producing a winner. We smiled and all was well until he said, “…and you know I love me some chocolate!” Thank goodness for my Resting Bitch Face, which clearly conveyed my displeasure at the remark and he departed quickly. Now what the hell did that have to do with anything? Did he think that such a statement was going to get him laid? Did he think we were so easy that some flattery and mention of his black fetish would have us pulling our dicks out right in front of the Bean?

SOME CHOCOLATE! Like we were pieces of goddamn candy on the shelf waiting to be picked up and consumed. There were ten of us standing there, a plethora of skin tones, heights, weights, and eye colors arrayed before him, but he couldn’t, or didn’t want to see all of that. All he saw was the color of our skin. All he wanted was “some chocolate”.

Why must I endure ridiculous conversations about how hip you are? How “down for the cause” you are? I don’t care that you grew up in Detroit/ Chicago/ LA/ Brooklyn and have “a lot of black friends”. You know why I don’t care? Because they are always, WITHOUT FAIL, the clumsy opening gambits leading to uninvited touches, invasions of my personal space, and sexual propositions. Many men have talked themselves right out of some good sex by saying stupid and passively racist things. I mean, would you mention to an Asian man that you love General Tso’s Chicken right before you suggest that you head back to his place? Yeah, some of you probably would.

Just so that we are all on the same page, let me be clear about a few things…

I am not your Mandingo fantasy. I am not your sexy chocolate bar or a black stud. I am more than a big black cock. I will not be reduced to a sex toy for you to use then discard until you need a fix. I am strong and weak. I am hard and soft. I am pleasure and pain. I will not be lumped in with every other black man. I am not your black flesh fetish. I am not a commodity. I am not goods for sale. Do not touch me without permission. Do not intrude on my personal space unbidden. What is mine is not yours. What is yours is not my affair.

I wish I could say that such incidents were rare; that they represented anomalies in the leather community, but they are distressingly common. I often endure interactions that, at a minimum, deserve a stink eye, and sometimes, a punch in the fucking mouth. Some might say these are just cases of people saying stupid shit. That may be true, but as I said before, I am more than a little tired of my experiences being diminished as mere aberrations in the grand scheme of things. I can tell you with absolute certainty that these stories are not unique to me. They are not a result of how I interact with people. It’s not because I am an “Angry Negro”; I am actually a ray of goddamn sunshine!

These experiences are the result the color of my skin and what others perceive that to mean about me. I am so much more than just the color of my skin.

Get into it!

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