Everyone is entitled to a guilty pleasure. For some time, that had been the Love and Hip-Hop franchise. Every Monday night, I found myself entering a mythical reality of shade, lust, and comedy.
Sure, I knew the storyline was scripted and some of the imagery damaging to representations of people of color on television. I tried to tell myself that Love and Hip-Hop was a tragedy of already "hot mess" celebrities rather than a portrayal of everyday blacks in America. Like we already knew Ray J and Steevie J were a mess - what that had to do with me?
And then it did have something to do with me and now I want nothing to do with it all.
On this season of Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, executive producer Mona Scott-Young decided to finally give two (actual gay) characters a storyline. At first, I was intrigued because I was glad that we finally stopped being casted as the messy side-friend who was an accessory to vapid alpha-female archetypes.
But I digress; I was anticipating a meaningful side of real issues in our community with a twist of drama and humor. But then I forgot that Mona Scott-Young knows nothing about the LGBT community - so she most likely is going to exploit this like she already does with the subject matter she feels more comfortable with.
Enter Milan and Myles. Milan is a known out-gay black musician who has performed around the country and at some of the hottest LGBT clubs around. Myles is a closeted black gay rapper who is dating Milan and trying to keep the relationship on the down-low while Milan is emotionally trying to convince him to come out. Meanwhile, Myles is also entertaining the possibility of mending his relationship with his ex-girlfriend while secretly remaining intimate with Milan.
Translation: When Mona Scott-Young finally decided to put black gay male characters on her show - they had to be DL and pose a threat to a black woman's security of love.
And for that, I can no longer support this show. Yes, I'm late to the party, but this opened up a wound that reminded me why shows like this are problematic beyond just that one hour of laughs.
When I watched this plot-line unfold, I would usually tweet about it with friends and the world. As a queer man of color who lives my truth unapologetic and unbothered, to see people bash men like myself of social media due to the visibility that this women has put on national television hurt.
Our community hardly sees any lived romance between black gay men or women for that matter and often their knowledge has been stigmatized by this delusional sense that such love is marred with sin and deception. Women on social media have bashed Milan, looking at him as the reason why there are "no good brothers left in the world."
Some have even resorted to using homophobic slurs to generalize the "sinful" and "disgusting" nature of what they are witnessing on television. And as their anger grow each week with these queer men of color -- the conversation then carries into the workplace and social scene. When I was out drinking with a few colleagues, I had to be asked whether or not "I've been in a DL relationship" because that's what they hear -- and shows like Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood is part of where they get it.
In 2015, I see other writers and television producers advance the imagery of what LGBT is with variety and nuance. Unfortunately, our community still wants to hold on to the tired trope of placing black masculinity as a threat to all when it desires the same sex. We are pitted against our sisters and ignored by our straight brothers. It saddens me that Milan and Myles would even collect a check from Scott-Young only to be used as another vessel to perpetuate the public degrading of LGBT members.
But then again, money talks. These men are being exploited because they are black gay artists in an industry that hardly accepts them and barely puts them on a platform. So when given the opportunity to have some mainstream visibility on a hit show that spotlights major straight black stars, they made a career decision -- not a socially conscious one.
I understand the temptation, and it makes sense on the business standpoint. But what disgusts me the most is how a black women is doing it on a station that is white owned and lacks various representations of black LGBT experiences outside of what she is serving. Mona Scott-Young is what my grandmother would call "a rich fool" -- paid, but lost all wits in order to get there.
And of course I recognize these problems also stretch to straight black women and men on her programs, but they have had many allies stand up for them prior. Who is concerned for the black LGBT? Who is going to speak up for us? Who even understands why this is wrong beyond us? As a feminist, I have spoken up for black women every step of the way. I recognize the power of intersectionality in advancing all black lives, including my queer one. However, when I see my fellow sisters bashing my existence and faulting me for their intimate issues -- I have to take a step back and say, "hold up."
Because this movement will not tolerate your homophobia, if all of us have to rightfully disengage with the slut-shamming, the body shaming, and the policing of black woman's rights to be unapologetically sexual. Queer people of color deserve the same level of respect as anyone else in our community and we need to stop forgetting that with our programming.
I can no longer support and fund the "rich fool" that Mona Scott-Young continues to be. She has exploited nearly every subset our community with no sign of ever stopping or apologizing. As a fan of what I once though was a "guilty pleasure" has now become simply guilt.
No one should ever allow this toxic imagery to further divide and disrespect us. I just simply can't with Love & Hip Hop anymore.