The slave metaphor is tired, but it's true.
I thought I was doing a good thing by offering myself 'at auction' to benefit a reading program of the Unity House World Peace Center in Northside. Dianna Brewer, Unity House Jillito-of-all-trades, asked some months ago. To add leg irons to injury, she'd planned the event at that bastion of white, gay male divadom -- The Dock, or 'The Dick' as its known around these parts.
'You know the irony is not lost on me that I am being sold in front of a bunch of white men at a white, gay male club?' I asked Brewer, not altogether rhetorically.
I waffled, laughed, hemmed, hawed and finally I said yes. I wanted to use my powers for good. I admire Brewer for the work she does and the woman she is.
You might remember Brewer as that loud-mouthed black lesbian who last fall blew pepper in the faces of the mainly white, mainly male board of Stonewall Cincinnati (see Under the Rainbow issue of Jan. 31-Feb. 6). She demanded inclusion and got it.
Well, we both got it. The ink on that cover story wasn't dry yet when, in a torrent of electronic tirades, white gay men from every corner of Cincinnati outed themselves as misconstrued, hostile and bitchy.
They internalized the story's every damning observation. They reminded me of some straight black men I know. And who can blame them? Who wants the world to know when your paradigm has more holes than a wedge of Swiss cheese?
As usual, few complained about the facts of the story detailing racial tension and class separation among black and white gays and lesbians.
Dread and fatigue conspired against me and, on the night of the auction, I fell ill. My dead-end obsessing over not being able to justify traipsing the catwalk in front of people, some of whom had declared themselves my mortal enemies, got to me.
But still I was bought. By a white man.
From what I hear around town, he's cool enough -- politically active, with all the 'correct' boxes checked on his membership forms. I'll be the guest of honor at a small dinner party in his home this week.
I'm expecting it to actually be an honor.
During our two or three phone conversations, he's sounded reasonable and open-minded. He reads my column, laughing and taking offense in all the right places.
This weekend is Gay Pride in Cincinnati, a time when mainly white gay and lesbians line parade routes through Clifton and Northside and party in a street-festival atmosphere as a show of, well, gay pride. When I say such events are mainly white, the included majority mistakenly takes offense, and no one bothers to consider that the absent minority bears as much, if not more, accountability for their exclusion as the people reveling in their privilege.
When segments of Cincinnati are broken down in specialty groups -- gay, Latin, Catholic, black, poor, etc. -- it's plaintively obvious how separated we are once we try to reconvene around issues of humanity.
Witness the Black United Front's near repulsion at welcoming Stonewall into its fold and, likewise, the foot-dragging when it came to Stonewall -- which calls itself a human rights organization -- getting behind issues not solely based on gay and lesbian concerns.
The body is only as healthy as the head, and our head's pretty sick. There has, however, been fragile, almost tenuous progress in mending our specific relationships.
It's hilarious to me that we have to go so far backward to come only slightly forward. That is, Negroes in the fight for racial equity crave the privilege and organizing tactics white gays and lesbians utilize, while white gays and lesbians covet the scratch-off instant angst and attention Negroes garner when we gather to sing our collective tales of woe.
See, people more readily believe and are attentive to racism, whereas people still blame the victim in order to perpetuate homophobia and the defensive stance against it.
When I walk into this dinner party, I will not behave like commodity, like property. 'Course not.
I will give the host his money's worth. I will be the me of these columns -- appropriately impolite.
Maybe more of us from different camps should have dinner at one another's homes. Maybe we could all stand to buy and sell one another for a night, metaphorically speaking. It's not like anyone is suggesting we live together.
I'm looking forward to walking away a free slave.