Why Are So many black gay and lesbian stars still in the closet?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be cognizant of the fact that folk rock singer Tracy Chapman is a black lesbian. So why is Chapman still reticent about being a lesbian since her first album was released in 1988? Chapman has sold millions of albums, is a multiple Grammy award winner, and a black lesbian feminist icon. Chapman’s audience knows she is a lesbian yet she refuses to come out of the closet and declare she is gay.
Another interesting fact, Tracy Chapman’s core audience is white and not black. Even though, Chapman sings about racism and other forms of discrimination, she is still not accepted by the black community.
I think some black people just didn’t “connect” with Tracy Chapman due to homophobia and sexism.
I think most black people already know Tracy is a black lesbian woman.
Another reason, the black community can’t “connect” with Tracy Chapman is due to the fact she is a folk rock singer and not an R&B and soul singer.
Some blacks say Tracy Chapman is acting white and that’s such bullshit. Chapman is an individual and it is sad that the black race we don’t respect her.
Why can’t a black entertainer break the racist and sexist stereotypes? I applaud Tracy Chapman for having her own vision and being extremely successful. Why should all black singers just sound like Mary J Blige or Beyonce? Isn’t this boring? Musical taste is a personal choice and preference it’s just interesting that many blacks have shunned Chapman for so many years.
Why has Tracy Chapman been on the cover of Rolling Stone but not Essence, Upscale, or Ebony Magazine?
After all, Chapman is a multi platinum international superstar. Why is Chapman shunned by the black media ?
Although Tracy doesn’t discuss this it’s got to hurt, that her own race disrespect her this way. Tracy Chapman is a legend, it is so horrible that black people have no respect for this legend.
Chapman was never really embraced by the black media or black community for a plethora of reasons. The first obvious reason I believe Tracy Chapman wasn’t accepted by the black community is due to her androgynous appearance. Although Chapman has a feminine voice and personality, she is a butch lesbian. Chapman doesn’t wear seductive clothing or utilize her sexuality to sell records. Some heterosexual people of African descent are uncomfortable with Chapman’s masculine appearance.
Another point to consider, is the black media can be very myopic at times. Tracy Chapman was never treated fairly by the press in the black community. Tracy was often ignored on black radio, BET, black magazines and newspapers.
Tracy is an incredible artist a black woman who defied the odds.
She is a music superstar, she shattered through the pop world and claimed her place and audience. Chapman’s tours are very successful and yet the black race ignored her due to prejudice. Tracy has never denied her blackness she is a proud black woman and yet blacks still treat her badly.
Why is the representation of “black music” so limiting? I think there is more to black music then just R&B and hip hop. However, black radio and the people in the black media still promote less talented artists than Tracy Chapman. I think if the black media did make the effort Tracy Chapman could have had a larger black audience. I do wish black radio, black TV was a bit more open about different musical formats. I mean why isn’t Meshell N’Degeocello on BET more often?
Tracy Chapman has never denied she is a lesbian, but she hasn’t exactly been open about her sexuality either. I understand Tracy has a career and she has a right to a private life. However, given the fact that black gays and lesbians we have so little visibility in the mainstream it would be nice if Tracy was more open.
By now, I am sure, everyone knows that the bisexual feminist writer Alice Walker and Chapman were involved in a romantic relationship in the 1990s. Walker talked about her former lover Chapman in an interview with the UK newspaper The Guardian. Here is the link: http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1972800,00.html
Another black entertainer that lived in the closet is Luther Vandross. Luther Vandross situation is similar to Tracy Chapman, but Vandross was loved and respected in the black heterosexual community. Vandross was gay, yet he kept his secret leading all the way to his death. People will say “well the black audience didn’t care that Luther was gay we loved him anyway.” I disagree because I think the love the black audience had for Luther was not unconditional because if it was he would have come out. I think Luther remained in the closet not just because he feared about losing revenue by coming out but he also feared losing his place within the black community.
Vandross was cognizant that he needed the black heterosexual audience to buy his CDs, concert tickets, DVDs. Vandross also was aware of the fact the white gay community certainly was not a market he could rely on to keep the revenue flowing. Luther had a “don’t ask don’t tell policy” with the black community.
An issue that is rarely discussed in the mainstream media is the fact to be “gay” means to be “white” this displaces queers of colour.
If you look at the gay magazines such as Advocate or Out Magazine or the LGBT movies being released the message is gay people are white people. The gay celebrities that come out of the closet are rich white gays and lesbians such as Ellen Degeneres or Rosie O Donnell.
Being black and gay is unique because we are a “double” or even “triple” minority.
Maybe some black gay and lesbian stars are correct in being fearful of the racism of the mainstream white gay community?
What is the point coming out as a black gay or lesbian star when you can be marginalized due to your race?
Next, black gay and lesbian stars have to worry about the entrenched homophobia in the heterosexual black community.
Some black heterosexuals believe black gays and lesbians we are going straight to hell they are very religious people.
So, the option for many black gays and lesbians is to remain in the closet because they are safe in the black community. Meanwhile, black gays and lesbians can surreptitiously explore their homosexuality in the gay community.
I think this is the quandary that hurt Luther Vandross. Luther had to negotiate between the white and black public spheres.
I think it’s so sad that Luther’s life was a tragedy he wasn’t able to really be himself in the public sphere. The black media did ask Luther numerous times in interviews about his sexual orientation and he always either ignored the question or just denied that he was gay. I wonder though, would the black community really turn on him? Everyone knew, Luther was the “eternal bachelor.”
It was the “fear”, I think that held Luther back the unknown. In some ways. Luther was a sex symbol for some black women he sang songs about heterosexual love. Vandross was the “classy” R&B singer he didn’t sing the bump and grind such as R Kelly and his clones.
Yet when a black entertainer does come out the black community and the mainstream white gay community either ignores or disrespect the artist.
For instance, bisexual singer Meshell N’Degeocello has been out for several years although she has never attained the success or respect she so richly deserved. I still believe there was a resistance to her work because she was so brash, bold, and outspoken. Meshell never denied or hid the fact she is bisexual.
I think this is part of the reason Queen Latifah refuses to come out of the closet. Queen Latifah has more to lose than someone like Meshell N’degeocello she is an A list black actress. Queen Latifah has numerous endorsements, high profile film roles, and she is loved by the black heterosexual community.
I think most black people “know” Queen Latifah is a lesbian but she has not declared she is gay due to fear. Perhaps Queen Latifah doesn’t want to come out because she is not interested in being a “role model” to the gay community or seen as a “spokesperson”?
When I was coming out as a teenager, in the mid 1990s, it really helped me a lot to accept my sexuality. I remember watching Meshell talk about her sexuality and life on Much Music. People that are not black and gay don’t understand what it feels like to invisible and be a double or even triple minority.
When K.D. Lang and Melissa Etheridge came out in the 1990s they did not register with me because they are white. I just couldn’t relate to them. Yet when I saw an interview with this courageous young black woman Meshell N’Degeocello on Much Music I felt empowered. Meshell she discussed her incredible second album the amazing “Peace Beyond Passion” and the song “Leviticus Faggot”.
I love Meshell! Meshell is one of my role models! It was incredible for me to see this black LGBT woman Meshell N’Degeocello on television talking about how wonderful it is to be black and an LGBT person.
It meant so much to me to see someone that looked like me on TV that was black and gay. It takes a lot of guts what Meshell did it really does.
Meshell never looked like the typical female black singer she has a shaved head, her music was not just soul, it was also rock, funk, pop, maybe even some folk too. Meshell was not a puppet controlled by the record company either. Although Meshell is slim she wasn’t a size two, she didn’t wear the designer clothes but she has a lot of natural talent and is a true multi instrumentalist musician. Meshell was radical in the sense she was proud of her sexual orientation and her blackness.
Meshell has spoken honestly about the pernicious racism, hypocrisy, and bigotry of the mainstream white gay community. When Meshell came out she didn’t receive that much press in the white gay media either. Meshell she was ignored by the mainstream white gay magazines such as Out or Advocate. The white gay media treated Meshell as though she was just an afterthought. However, I felt Meshell was so incredibly talented and her talent allowed her to rise to the top.
There was an indifference and ambivalence the white gay press had for her because she is an outspoken black bisexual woman. Meshell refused to play the racist game of ignoring her “blackness” to just focus on her “sexuality.” Meshell she was cognizant of the fact there is an intersection of race, sexuality, and gender.
Meshell let it be known that just because she is bisexual does not mean she didn’t care about black issues or the black community. Some heterosexual black people still believe this fallacy that just because a black person is gay that means we don’t care about black issues and that’s false.
I know for a fact that although there is homophobia in the black community the racism in the mainstream white gay community is so rampant and so obvious. It’s the reason why I couldn’t be bothered with the gay pride events in Toronto, I don’t read the gay newspapers because they never write about issues or things I am interested in. I don’t go to the gay bars in Toronto either.
Some people say Meshell’s music was too ”preachy” meaning too “black” but I loved it! Meshell should of sold millions of albums she should of become a bigger star. Meshell can play several instruments and she also is a very good singer/songwriter. Meshell basically started the “Neo Soul” movement all by herself in 1993 with her first album”Plantation Lullabies.”
Yet black heterosexual singers Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and Jill Scott get all the credit. Meshell released five albums on the Maverick label yet not one album went gold or platinum. Meshell never even won a Grammy award. How could such a talented artist be so disrespected? I think part of the reason Meshell wasn’t more successful was because she was honest about her sexual orientation.
I remember when I was sixteen back in the year 1993 and I had the biggest crush on Tevin Campbell I absolutely adored him. A lot of people I talk to these days say they always knew Tevin was gay. I recall rushing home from school and tape recording Tevin’s hit songs “I’m Ready”, “Always in my heart”, “Can we talk” and playing the videos over and over and over again. I just loved him! I still believe Tevin’s second album “I’m Ready” is one of the best R&B albums of the 1990s.
Tevin as everyone knows got caught a few years back trying to solicit gay sex with an undercover police officer. Tevin has never officially come out of the closet but its well-known he’s gay. Tevin is trying to make a comeback he’s in the musical “Hairspray” and he’s working on a new album.
So is Tevin going to be singing about loving a woman when everyone knows he prefers men? I understand the music business is after all a business but shouldn’t music be made from the heart? Why do so many closeted black gay and lesbian singers sing about the opposite sex when everyone knows they are gay?
There are a few black rappers that everybody knows are lesbians yet they will continue saying in the press that they aren’t gay. I mean people aren’t stupid people can put it together. I am not going to mention the names of these black lesbian rappers because anyone that’s paid attention to hip hop music can figure it out.
There are also some black entertainers everyone knows are bisexual or gay yet its another one of those “don’t ask don’t tell” policies. I can understand if the black gay actor was a leading man it could perhaps shatter the mystique the female audience has with this entertainer. I think that could be a reason some of the black gay male actors in Hollywood remain in the closet. Also, there is the issue of being typecast.
I wonder if we will ever be honest with each other? Anyone that’s been to the black church knows there is always the ubiquitous choir director, gay piano player, or gay pastor. Everybody knows somebody that’s gay whether it is a realtive or a friend.
The easiest way fans can figure out if an artist is indeed gay is not by what they say but by what the entertainer doesn’t say. Actions speak louder than words. Whenever you read an interview about your favourite black star think to yourself why does this black celebrity never talk about his or her’s love life? Why is the topic off limits during the interview?
Whether people want to admit it or not the public wants a connection with stars. It is the human connection that not only attracts people to the star but also gets people to go see their movies, buy their CDs, DVDs, or got to their concerts. If society is so accepting of homosexuality these days why is there an imbalance in the type of stars coming out and those that remain in the closet?