We live in a world that celebrates being white, male and heterosexual above all else. This has not made it easy for us as black men to come out as “gay” in a world that worships heteronormativity.
Since we don’t confirm to heteronormative behaviour, we are constantly forced to explain ourselves and our sexuality, while cisgender heterosexuals don’t have to explain themselves. We still struggle with the problem of prejudice and stigma when we try to be open about our sexuality.
Social media, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, has become a platform for us to openly express ourselves on many things concerning race, sexuality, identity and political beliefs. In recent times, there have been hashtags on social media that trended like #BlackLivesMatter, #QueerLivesMatter, and #BringBackOurGirls to create awareness and to drive some sort of campaign.
I believe that the celebration of “black love” is underrepresented in the media and more so the visibility and celebration of black queer love. The visual representation of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) love that is of colour is what will assist us in dismantling many of the stereotypes and homophobia that we are faced with in our society.
The visibility of black gay love in an African context is severely underrepresented in mainstream media. The narrative that says being gay is unAfrican and is a white European concept still persists and it needs to be debunked. Stereotypes and prejudice are fuelled by ignorance and lack of visibility of our love as gay people. We need to be more open about who we are and be visible.
Some black gay couples have been visible on Instagram and Facebook by sharing their most beautiful and intimate moments through pictures. By being publicly visible we challenge the assumptions that black gay love doesn’t exist and doesn’t last. We should ensure that we tell our stories by changing the narrative of black gay love and ensure that we are seen and visible in society. Our faces should be seen and our voices shouldn’t be silenced by fear of people finding out about our sexuality.
This Valentine’s Day, I encourage all gay people of colour to go on romantic dinner dates, hold hands in the streets, malls or parks, take beautiful selfies and share all those beautiful moments on social media. When we express our love in public, we are helping our society to lose their prejudices through exposure and visibility of black gay people beyond the stereotypes and the binary gender identity.
Hiding “in the closet” and invisibility are so much more dangerous than the alternative as they take us backwards in our struggle for recognition and equality. Personally, coming out made me more visible and I live an authentic life as a black gay man. When we are being seen in our society and in mainstream media, it changes the world around us.
Some gay couples use Instagram as a showcase for their relationship and there is a growing trend of gay couples starting joint accounts and making money on their relationship’s “brand.” These couples have started joining their Instagram accounts to maximise followers and brand potential and in hope to lure lucrative deals from big corporate companies. Some couples share their intimate selfies, shirtless photos, brunch selfies, photos on holiday at the beach and basic photos of their lives together celebrating their love on social media.
Hashtags like #RelationshipGoals, #LoveLivesHere, #SameLove and #LoveIsLove have trended with romantic love posts on social media. Internationally, there are some gay couples who have landed modelling contracts, some get endorsement deals with major sporting brands like Nike and other male grooming products. Some big corporates are starting to see the value and power of “Pink Money” and want to be associated with the gay community in marketing some of their products.
In South Africa, there have been some black gay couples who have attempted this trend of having a joint Instagram account but it hasn’t reached too much prominence as yet. But as more and more of us do this, there’s great potential to make huge sums of money while we are celebrating our love and creating visibility of black gay love.
I have seen a few black gay couples on Instagram who started selling designer sunglasses, designer clothes; and some displaying workout videos and pictures pushing a fitness and healthy lifestyle. As this trend continues it will surely create more “Black Gaylebrity Couples” who will be an inspiration to the rest of us.
Some couples might struggle with the idea of turning their relationship into a brand but it surely does go a long way into creating visibility and pushing boundaries to be in mainstream media as black gay couples. Finding true love is beautiful thing that’s worth celebrating and even sharing with world. A relationship can remain private and sharing beautiful romantic pictures even on Valentine’s Day doesn’t necessarily make it a public relationship.
Love takes many forms and expressions and we shouldn’t be shy to express our love as gay people of colour. We should not be shy to write our love stories because a beautiful love affair has potential to change the course of history and how the world views us as gay people.