Thursday we watched a film called Tongues Untied in my Advanced Video Production class, and given the subject matter of the film I was sort of shocked I had not only never seen it, but I'd never heard of it either. In addition to the fact that it was extremely helpful by aiding me in determining how exactly I was going to use mostly stock footage to demonstrate how unequally we judge male and female sexuality, it's a beautiful film that addressed issues of internalized racism and self-hatred among black gay men.
It was made by Marlon Riggs, who unfortunately died of an AIDS-related illness in 1994. He was a black poet, educator, and filmmaker who went on to make other films like Affirmation, Anthem, Color Adjustment, and Black Is...Black Ain't (which he unfortunately didn't finish working on before his untimely death, but was posthumously released in 1995). The film is not a typical documentary in the sense that it has a purpose and it has a topic, but it doesn't say "I am a documentary and I'm now going to tell you about something." It knows its message, it knows its audience, and once it starts it just goes.
The filmmaker himself is present in the film as is a prominent gay black poet named Essex Hemphill whose poetry essentially scores the film. Riggs' own personal story of experiencing violent homophobia only to be rescued by a white man acts as a through line for the documentary which features many different types of gay black men, from transvestite prostitutes to stocky, middle-aged men with dreads (who undoubtedly know how to "z-snap") to passionate voguers who unabashedly embrace the dance created by gay men in 1930s Harlem ballrooms. But most importantly, it just shows black gay men, being with each other and loving each other. Unfortunately, Riggs' message is one that is missing for an entire generation of gay men of color, who are frustrated with the lack of support they have from either community that they are a part of.
Generally, I think minority communities are less accepting of individuality than mainstream white culture. Maybe it's because we've been oppressed and thus feel a certain sense of unity and cohesion is necessary to achieve equality. Black, Latino, and Asian culture is very much about family, honor, and often religion. Unfortunately according to many people these are attributes that homosexuality negates. Just ask Will Smith who, when asking for advice from Denzel Washington about whether or not to do a gay kiss in the film version of Six Degrees of Separation, was given a resounding "No." Why, you ask?