In philosophy and mathematical logic, Mereology is the theory of parthood relations. For all intents and purposes, mereology can be likened to the English language, where appropriately combined letters construct words that represent things. Mereology doesn’t simply look at the tree, but at the relationship existing between the bug on the feather and, the feather on the wing, and the wing on the bird, and the bird in the egg, and the egg in the nest, and the nest on the branch, and the branch on the limb, and the limb on the tree, and the tree in the hole, and the hole in the ground, where the green grass grows all around. The theory is actually a bit more complex than that, but we only need a simple definition as we explore the ways in which our parts (race, gender and sexuality) contribute to our whole.
Our gender can be read as early as seven weeks after conception, our race is assigned to us immediately after we are born, and our sexual orientation...well science is still out on that (and so are we). We’re going to assume that sexual orientation develops somewhere between birth and death just to make sure we’re giving it a fair enough range. The order in which our gender, race and sexual orientation develop align with the order in which they’re observed by those around us. People will see us as men before they see our race (it’s a tight race, but still), and for many of us, our sexual orientation can remain as obscure as the contents of the Mueller report. But what are their privileges? What are their disadvantages and what are their combined effects on us?
Outside of being expected to perform within gender roles and norms, maleness is lit! The expectations around masculinity can be side eyed, but they’re nothing compared to the expectations placed on women. The world pretty much revolves around our maleness, making it the least of our worries. It's similar to being white in America, where the entire “system” was made by and for us. Our male privilege exists in not having our masculinity questioned if we decide against having kids, being allowed to have a bad day without someone implying that it's our “time of the month”, and in not having our reproductive rights challenged. With regard to the disadvantages of being male, well, we tend to die earlier than women, so there’s that-- and only that.
Our blackness, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. We only benefit from our blackness when it benefits others. Our black-ass culture is as it will always remain- at the top of almost every wish list of almost every person who is not black. Regardless of how silly it may be to temporarily remove oneself from a position of privilege to one rife with disadvantage, it happens. We find examples of this in instances where white Americans use the same type of language we use and are looked down upon for using, and when they wear clothing in styles that were once disapprovingly deemed as “black”, but have somehow found themselves in white and Asian vogue. It’s Justin Bieber, circa 2014. Our blackness is, and you can argue with us about this on Twitter, only appreciated by the non black majorities when it suits their otherwise bland narratives. We appreciate our blackness from the inside out, whereas others appreciate (and appropriate, whenever possible) our blackness from the outside in.
While our sexuality still finds us in the cross hairs of discrimination, religious persecution, and exclusion, we’re also experiencing more visibility than we did twenty, or even ten years ago. And while that visibility doesn’t always perpetrate the kind of representation we can all relate to, slow motion is always better than no motion at all. As far as whether or not our sexuality is a privilege--well that depends on who you ask. Some have speculated that our affinity for cock and bussy allows us to stand out, and represents a form of social prestige [ insert eye roll here]. This mindset is accompanied by the thought that being visibly gay, and having that identity recognized and affirmed, is a form of social capital. This may be true in some circles, but we’re not in a place where we can say that it’s a valid when coupled with being black or of color, because- well, y’all know. Our sexuality comes with a burden of expectation, a burden that supposes that we’re all caught up on RHOA, the new Queer Eye, and that we’re all part of some secret Beyonce society. And even when these assumptions aren’t made, we’re sucked into situationships that, if we’re not careful, will lead to us being some raggity straight woman’s designer fag.
The socially prescribed ingredients of our lives can produce a multitude of flavors depending on where and how they are combined. Being a man comes with its own set of social expectations, as we’re expected to be successful in our career, physically attractive, emotionally strong and to not only be attracted to women, but to engage in the occasional boys-will-be-boys activity of sexually objectifying them as well. Marrying this with the presumption that our blackness foreshadows a life of poverty, being undereducated, and inherently violent can leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Beauxs who try to exist within one realm of existence while diligently working to avoid being associated with the other. And, as if chewing our way through these two parts of our wholes isn’t a reoccurring challenge, our sexual orientation doesn’t give us a flavorful option to wash these obstacles down with as we navigate through the social expectation of possessing demeanors that are as sweet as they are spicy.
These mereological elements, when combined, have the potential to create internal storms powerful enough to give Ororo pause. Maneuvering through life under these (very) specific identities has its effects. Our maleness not only effects our attitude towards our blackness, but our attitudes towards our sexuality as well. As a matter of fact, these three parts are almost always in conflict with one another. As men we’re raised to be tough, and anyone, regardless of gender, who’s been raised in a black household will be quick to tell you about how “momma ain’t raise no punk”. The expectation of masculinity hits a little different when it comes to black boys as we only emerge after being double dipped in maleness and blackness. This might explain the prevalence of toxic masculinity within the community.
Black and brown Beauxs the world over can attest to the reoccurring clash between our race and sexual orientation. Black and brown communities are, by far, the worst when it comes to recognizing and accepting “gay”. Homophobia runs rampant in these communities, leading many to exist as far beneath the gaydar as possible. Additionally, as masculinity is always in play, and black and brown Beauxs are often otherized as a consequence of their sexuality, it shouldn’t be too surprising that those who can, choose to keep their sexual orientation under wraps. Failure to do so can (and still does) lead to mental, emotional and physical dangers because we’re just not there yet. Our culture’s ties to hyper and toxic masculinity, religion and stigma make existing while black or brown and SGL complicated and dangerous. This is why we’re so big on representation, because the more we normalize our normal-ass existances, the less these instances will occur.
The expectations of masculinity strikes (yet) again as the SGL community’s obsession with it adds yet another bundle to the burdensome expectations of our maleness and black or brownness. The result of this finds those who don’t overtly project it to feign it whenever possible. Our obsession with masculinity impacts the way we see ourselves and others. It's reflected the fem part of “no fats no fems”, the “straight-acting”, the “trade”, and the “normal” Masculinity, and the high regard many of us hold it in, has done nothing more than to create an additional otherization. We can see the effects of this every time we police our mannerisms, and the sad part is that we do this even when in good company. We can’t be black and gay because gay is white and weak, and because black is supposed to be strong. We can’t be gay and men, because gayness is associated with being less than a man, which essentially makes us women. White America tells us that we can’t be black and male because the combination is seen as a threat. Toxic masculinity tells us we can’t be black, gay, and male, because the gay cancels both. What the fuck, man?
There might--no, there will definitely be times when our parts don’t always agree with one another, which is where the conflict comes into play. Our mission is to either find or create a balance between them. The quickest way for us to create this balance is to exist in places where we’re appreciated. This might be easier for a black, same gender loving man living in Atlanta or Chicago than it is for someone living in Americus, Kansas, but the internet is the one tool we have to counter that little roadblock. We can strive to find further balance between our identities by amalgamating their best aspects to create a more satisfying whole for ourselves similar to the way the planeteers summon Captain Planet.
If we are to believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts then we should also be inclined to believe that our gender, race and sexuality (our parts) are but the branches of our tree. The privileges and disadvantages of our parts vary. Gender notwithstanding (because this is a man’s world), our blackness and gayness allow us certain privileges in good context and company. No, we can’t barbecue in the local park or enjoy the caffeinated ambiance of a Philadelphian Starbucks, but we can enter certain spaces with the comfort of knowing that we can openly spew hatred towards white people with little to no consequence....and that’s only if you consider Urban Dictionary’s definition of black privilege as one that holds any weight. Our sexuality, well, again, that depends on who you ask as it can be (and has been) seen as a deficit within communities of color. To assume that it comes with any form of privilege would be asinine, to say the least.
If you’ve been keeping score up until now, you’ll see that we’re at a two to one loss. But don’t trip, because what we lack in privilege, we make up in character, and this character puts us at a two to one advantage. Anyone born with a penis and a set of XY chromosomes can be classified as male, and while the experiences in being male don’t hinder character building, maleness alone doesn’t build nearly as much character as it does with the black (or of color) and gay additives. In these instances our character is built on the foundation of these two parts, specifically.
Every instance of discrimination, rejection, and otherization creates internal and external conflicts, and successfully making it through these conflicts is how we flourish. Conflict teaches us how to verbalize our needs, helps us to set limits and (most importantly) helps us to practice emotional control. We can do all of these things as men, but we have to do them more as men who are black and same gender loving. And if perfect practice makes perfect, we possess more of an edge than our white heterosexual counterparts, at least in this aspect. Our parts are our parts, and despite the heartache they cause, they’re still a part of a greater whole. Without them, the green grass wouldn’t have anything to grow around but a hole in the ground, and there’s nothing interesting about that.