I don’t write often on here about my sexual orientation because this blog focuses on my journeys through African American food history. I came out when I was 16 years old in my school newspaper, and I was scared but I was ready to stand up for being who I was.
Wow…I’ve been out for 23 years….
Over the years I waxed and waned in how open I was about my orientation because frankly there were people around whom it wasn’t particularly safe to be honest about who I was. But this is a moment where the word irrevocable is in order. I will never do that dance again to accommodate the weak sensibilities based on prejudice. Prejudice it has been said, is nothing more than an emotional commitment to ignorance. If you know anything about my work, I can’t countenance that. For the most part I have spent the past few years as an openly gay food writer, historical interpreter and activist–but now let’s make it official–I’m gay and that’s not going to change–and its a part of not merely my erotic or romantic sensibilities but also what I believe makes my soul’s recipe unique and powerful.
This isn’t about Michael Twitty, but I can only speak to you from my gut as a Black, Gay, Jewish man who loves his people. We have over 100 people dead or wounded because of one man’s (nation’s?) inner conflict–over his sexuality, over cultural identity, nationalism and masculinity–problems he (we) resolved (resolve) with a dangerous semi-automatic weapon that shouldn’t be on the streets. We are reeling–we are living in a world that is being ripped apart at the seams by baseless hatred and the human cost–in the lives of elementary school children, club goers, movie attendees and everyday people is real. We have thought it a luxury to study how we got here (knowing our history, being culturally literate and aware) –but in the meanwhile–the ancient prejudices, hatred and misunderstandings passed down through centuries of blood vengeance and angst have come to roost in a very 21st century way. We are not only an audience to tragedy but we are participants in a ritual of horror, disgust, shame followed by cycles of numbness, amnesia and nostalgia for pain. It is our special insanity that only technology and nihilism in a bitter marriage can produce.
The people who were murdered and injured were not as some demonic pseudo-pastors have suggested—“pedophiles,” and any suggestion from someone that human beings are trash to be taken out removes all doubt that the individual speaking is not only no longer themselves human, but has forsaken the gift of being made in the image of G-d. Among the dead were mothers who supported their sons, young men committed to the loves of their lives, women who loved women, transgendered people who were standing tall, productive members of society, straight friends and allies, bartenders, bouncers, people who sought the love and humor and light of their community space to sustain em through life’s troubles and the stress of another week. They were human. They were American. Many were Puerto Rican in heritage or Black American and Lord knows we cousins….have faced our trials… Those who did not fall face a lifetime of post-traumatic stress and depression, physical healing therapy, permanent mental and physical damage and the cyclical mourning of lost friends and family.
Before I say another word—I want to ask peace and healing upon the living and wish peace on those who were murdered:
–Stanley Almodovar III, Amanda Alvear, Oscar Aracena-Montero, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Antonio Davon Brown, Darryl Roman Burt II, Angel L. Candelario-Padro, Juan Chavez Martinez, Luis Daniel Conde, Cory James Connell, Tevin Eugene Crosby, Deonka Diedra Drayton, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Mercedez Marisol Flores, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Paul Terrel Henry, Frank Hernandez, Miguel Angel Honorato, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Jason Benjamin Josephat, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, Anthony Laureano Disla, Christopher “Drew” Andrew Leinonen, Alejandro Barrios Martinez, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, KJ Morris, Akyra Money Murray, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Joel Rayon Paniagua, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, Enrique L. Rios, Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, Yilmary Rodriguez-Solivan, Edward Sotomayor Jr. Shane Evan Tomlinson, Martin Benitez Torres, Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, Luis S. Vielma, Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velazquez, Luis Daniel Lestat Wilson-Leon, Jerald “Jerry” Arthur Wright.
May your names be etched forever upon our hearts with those of all who have been martyred for simply being themselves. We wish only peace and love and light on all those you have left behind, and we ask of us that we would be responsible for our brothers and sisters to come that such a thing will never happen again. We will do this not through merely words of faith but by action, activism, taking a stand and being courageous–our dedication to permanent positive change will be our prayer.
Lo’ ta’amod al dam reyecha! THOU SHALL NOT STAND IDLY BY THE BLOOD OF YOUR NEIGHBOR!
I will confess that nearly 400 years of lynchings, assassinations, targeted murders, domestic terrorism and the oppression of my people prepared me for this. That’s not bragging–that’s horrific–but it is my circumstance of birth. 300 here, 200 there…Fort Pillow, Rosewood, Charleston, Tulsa, Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis… I want you to understand I had a grandmother who remembered seeing the body parts of lynching victims displayed in store windows in Alabama as a grotesque and gruesome reminder to “keep the niggers down.” I had a great-grandfather who was jailed and almost lynched for being a Black man in a soldier’s suit in a town where a white woman had accused “a Negro” of being her assailant. I am the product of the children of multiple rapes against Black women by slaveholders and overseers. We were denied equal access to education, opportunity and the right to the wealth this country was built on. I was prepared for this moment by being a son of the African Diaspora, cast into the Atlantic world by circumstances beyond his control and beyond the control of those who came before me. Our story is not just our wounds but our armor–our resistance (in the words of William D. Piersen) too civilized to notice–of problems stated in terms of music and solved in dance–of thundering speeches of moral suasion, triumph despite adversity–strong women making strong daughters, strong sons with a charge to keep—of an enslaved people who turned the tables on their enslavers and with wit, humor and courage–enslaved the cultures that enslaved them with the breath and verve of ancient, enduring Africa–how she loved, how she prayed, how she danced, sang, spun words, walked, talked, felt and cooked.
I am by blood and by choice of a son of Israel. I cast my lot with a people who have wandered the earth driven by a will to survive the hatred against us for placing our faith in a singular, individual G-dhead. We were told we were destined for extermination not long after we were born, and many tried and often did exact terrible and bloody attacks–and still do–against us—none so awful as the Shoah–when nearly 6 million of us died, many of us affirming the oneness of our G-d and the oneness of our people. We are a long list of men and women, few in number with an impact as incalculable as the stars. Moses and Jonas, Jesus and Mel, Bella and Gilda and Golda and Julius and Angela and Juan and Ofra and Asenath Barzani and The Maid of Lublin…. We persevere–we place ourselves in the shoes of our Ancestors and reenact their footsteps across the globe in search of the days when Isaiah’s prophecies will come true and humanity with live in ethical and moral balance with the basic principle that we are indeed betzelem Elokim–made in the image of the Lord.
I am gay, I am a homosexual, I am a same-gender loving queer cisgendered nearly perfect Kinsey-6. I come from people burned at the stake, I come from people who were stoned, I come from men and women who were forced into loveless marriages, I come from hidden loves and love that dares not speak its name. I come from Michelangelo and DaVinci and James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin and Alexander the Great. Bessie Smith and Audre Lorde and Joan of Arc and Sappho and Lily Tomlin. I come from Rabbis who secretly wrote poems about how they wish they were born women and blues men who sang about having “sissy man” blues and berdaches, drag kings and drag queens. I am the burned out nightclub in New Orleans that left 43 dead, I am the Oscar Wilde going to jail and special ordering gay books by phone as a teenager, picnics at Roosevelt Island, kisses at the rain at the National Zoo, holding hands at an art museum, making dinner for his family, I am dancing at the gay club–and voguing–and walking runway and attempted death drops and blowing a whistle at 20, VIP at 25, dancing until I almost died at 39, making a happy fool out of myself at Pride.
Many wear the moniker of oppressed, of marginalized and downtrodden. We are not our scars, we are not our wounds, we are not bruises and broken parts–we are the healing after these, the strength assumed after centuries of defeat—the marches that paid off, the dream of praying without pogrom, kicking our legs up and scaring the hell out of the NYPD in 1969—that’s our culture–that’s our identity–that’s who we really are–we are getting back up one more time.
Do you feel better now, do you feel magnanimous and heroic, do you feel stronger and proud? Well I’m about to make you feel like shit, not because I’m a jerk–but because I have to.
Intersectionality is not just some buzz word that came from the trickle down from a liberal college’s syllabus…it is my life. I live this word everyday. You probably do to…
It is a reality many of us live–including the negative one responsible for this tragedy–may his name be erased. Our ability to navigate and negotiate the fine lines created by our bordercrossing is what keeps us sane or causes us to lose all sense of truth.
I have been on this planet about 40 years. I am green–and in the long stretch of cells, rocks, patches of sky and tree rings–young, an infant, insignificant.
I was born 8 years after Stonewall. I was born 5 years after the New Orleans club arson attack. I was a kid when AIDS first reared its head. I have seen and touched the quilt on the national Mall–I have marched with people who didn’t know me—I remember the big march in 2000–I was at the national vigil for Matthew Shepard–I remember both Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and its repeal. I was there when that bastard child DOMA was born. In the shadow of the Charleston church attack I remember the day marriage equality was finally achieved. I hugged Margaret Cho in a DC dance club, saw Willie Ninja work a ballroom floor, and stuck dollar bills into the jockstraps of many of my favorite——well–“actors…”
I know we can vote, I know we can fight for gun control laws, I know we can advocate that anti-discrimination laws be codified and that parental equality and bathrooms be resolved. We can shout from the rooftops we are mad, angry, heartbroken and sad. We are reeling and hurt and feel as though we personally have been affected. But then there’s tomorrow and the day after that….and we are right back to…..
NO BLACKS ITS JUST A PREFERENCE DUDE. SORRY, GOOD LUCK….
GAYS ARE JUST WHITE MEN TRYING TO GET OVER ON US.
ITS GETTING TOO DARK IN HERE–TOO MANY BLACK GUYS IN THIS CLUB>.
HOMOSEXUALITY IS FORBIDDEN BY THE TORAH IN FACT A HOMOSEXUAL IS LIKE AN ORANGE ON A SEDER PLATE…
NO ASIANS, NO FATS, NO FEMMES.
AIDS IS NOT A BLACK PROBLEM.
THESE PEOPLE ARE IMMORAL AND THEY ARE TRYING TO TAKE OUR CHILDREN, NO JEW WAS EVER GAY.
CAN I SEE TWO FORMS OF ID BEFORE I LET YOU IN OUR LILY WHITE GAY CLUB?
LETS MAKE A STONEWALL MOVIE THAT DOESN’T REFLECT AT ALL THE ETHNIC DIVERSITY AND GENDER SPECTRUM THAT WAS ACTUALLY AT STONEWALL…
GAYNESS IS A WHITE SICKNESS SENT TO DESTROY BLACK MEN AND TURN OUR WOMEN INTO MEN.
IN AFRICA THEY DIDN”T TOLERATE HOMOSEXUALS, LESBIANS AND FAGGOTS–THEY WERE PUT TO DEATH.
MASC FOR MASC ONLY, QUEENY GUYS AND LEATHER GUYS ARE AN EMBARASSMENT–WHY CAN”T WE JUST BE NORMAL AND STRAIGHT ACTING AND APPEARING?
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT BLACKS–THEY ARE ALL HOMOPHOBIC ANYWAY…THEY DON’T SUPPORT US AND THEY ARE BACKWARDS ANYWAYS…
THE JEWS ARE JUST WHITE PEOPLE CLAIMING TO BE HEBREWS.
YOU’RE NOT REALLY JEWISH–YOU”RE JUST A CONVERT.
JEWS-AND THEIR BOOK OF JEWISH FAIRY TALES AND THEIR SILLY MADE UP GOD AND ABUSIVE PRACTICE OF CIRCUMCISION IS THE REASON WHY. ..
I LOVE BLACK WOMEN BECAUSE THEY ARE SASSY AND FUN AND COOL BUT BLACK MEN ARE DIRTY AND THEY HAVE AIDS AND THEY STEAL YOUR STUFF…
I LOVE GAY HAIRDRESSERS AND CHOIR DIRECTORS, ITS A SHAME THEY ARE GOING TO HELL.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TALKING TO THAT BLACK GUY–PEOPLE MIGHT THINK YOU LIKE “DARK MEAT….”
SOME OF OUR BLACK WOMEN HAD TO BE THE MAN OF THE HOUSE SO LONG THEY BECAME LESBIANS.
JEWS ARE JUST BLOODSUCKERS…
“SCHWARTZES” (YIDDISH FOR BLACK) ARE NICE WHEN THEY KNOW THEIR PLACE.
WHO CARES IF THEY HAVE TO MOVE OUT OF THIS NEIGBORHOOD?–WE MAKE IT BETTER.
HEY MICHAEL—“So are you actually Jewish? Why can’t you just be Black?”
HEY MICHAEL—“You’re the whitest Black guy I know….”
HEY MICHAEL—“You’re not really a bear–because you don’t have enough hair–and besides thats why I don’t find African American men as attractive…”
HEY MICHAEL—-“ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE GAY BECAUSE I DON’T THINK YOU’RE GAY ENOUGH…”
HEY MICHAEL—“You’re too smart to be that fat.”
HEY MICHAEL—“WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE THE F_____ING ODDBALL OF THE FAMILY” (Signed Mom 1994)
HEY MICHAEL—“What do you want me to do to support you? Buy you a dress?” (Signed Dad 1995)
HEY MICHAEL–“PEOPLE JUST AREN’T GOING TO ACCEPT YOU–YOU’RE JUST NOT AN OFF THE SHELF TYPE JEW…”
HEY MICHAEL—“WHY ARE ARABS BEING BROUGHT IN TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN ABOUT ISLAM” (Concerned parent on my first day teaching in a Hebrew School high school program…note I am not Arab or Muslim…and neither are a negative.)
HEY MICHAEL—“You can’t be Black, gay and Jewish–America isn’t ready for you.”
HEY MICHAEL—–“WHY ARE YOU WITH THAT WHITE BOY?”
This is what also has to stop.
I come from three of the strongest peoples on earth–and I’ve heard variations on hate like you wouldn’t believe. And its not just us–its the whole planet. It’s the mood of our country–we honestly believe we have to hate to be whole, to stand up, to be counted.
Don’t just be angry at homophobia that kills–be mad at white supremacy that kills–about homophobia in the Black community that isolates and destroys families and corrupts houses of worship into houses of hate–honor Black ministers and civil rights leaders and promote their profile of those who work towards bridging the gap and bringing us all together. Be angry at racism in the gay community and stop telling me to get over it. Be angry at gay misogyny and universal transphobia and work against anti-Jewish attitudes and beliefs and the silencing of Jewish diversity–because Jewish people of color exist and we don’t have to get your validation–be furious at homophobia in the Jewish community and racism in the Jewish community, cut that nonsense out that says Black people belong in a box and can’t be anything we want–cut that nonsense out that says gay is or can only be one thing and everything else is useless–cut that nonsense out that posits over privileges only one kind of gay person of a certain class and color and look and appearance.
You can throw in gender and sex, Latinx, physical ability, economic class, creed, nationality, language, ethnicity, religion, absence of religion, politics–and people will find a way. STOP IT.
If you say love wins over all–then do it–mean it–live it. Stop the lip service. Stop being apolitical and apathetic, lazy–nope–stop making excuses for internalized hatred and outward expressions of chauvinism.
We have to pledge to work on ourselves–not just shouting down the neighbor whose voice we don’t like. We owe it to the many dead and the many wounded to be better to one another and to ourselves. If we are truly all Orlando then our shoulders must be willing to bear the serious burdens of complexity and the willingness to give up our emotional attachment to ignorance.
I don’t have all the answers–but when this news begins to fade–I want you to have a take-away that you’ll never forget–and never forget to act on. Love thy neigbor as thyself, and don’t forget to love thyself. How we have survived our oppression is our greatest form of cultural capital–and the greatest gift we have to tell each other.
I don’t want this tragedy to ever happen again, to anyone.
A great post
Incredibly moving and powerful piece, Michael. I can certainly relate. Thank you for standing so boldly and firmly in who you are. Thank you for refusing to dull yourself down or become less multidimensional, less yourself in order to be palatable to dominant culture. It is incredibly difficult to belong to so many marginalized communities, and to be further marginalized within each one of them. Sending peace and love your way.
PS: Please write a memoir.
Bravo! A powerful and soul stirring piece of writing. Thank you for sharing such a gripping and such a personal picture of yourself. Bless you..sending loving vibrations to you.
Brilliant and beautiful. Thank you
Michael, you are a beautiful writer and a beautiful person. I, too, ask when this will stop!
It will stop when we pray with righteous actions.
Thank You Michael – Thank you from all of my being.
You’re welcome, much love and respect.
That was amazing, brave, and beautiful. Good luck and love to you.
Thank you my brother!
I read every word. I hear you. I see you. I would hug you if you were here. I am a straight white Jewish female. I am alive. You are alive. That’s all that should matter, not the modifiers applied to us. I’m saddened that I may not see this in my lifetime but I pray for a world where all people respect and support each other, no matter what their modifiers are. I also vote, and I vote for people who support this view. In the US that is a tangible way to effect change, be it ever so slowly. I encourage caring people to vote, and do not stand by when you see firstname.lastname@example.org. Speak up, speak out.
Hugs to all who are hurting….
All of us are in this together
Great article Michael. I too get so frustrated with my friends over these very topics. Hard to always be teaching about what Black is and is not. Or why lack of positive depictions in movies and TV add to this problem of hate. The I don’t like black men statement is so on point. Amazing that people will complain about discrimination n then tell you s black man they don’t find you’re type attractive. Thanks
Thank you. This should be required reading for almost everyone. Yasher koach. (And as this southpaw likes to say) Left on!
Rise up. Love.
I may be an aging white over-privileged guy, but I have a dog in this fight. Until all my brothers and sisters of any color, creed, belief system, or societal stratum have all the rights and privileges I do, I’m going to push my discomfort onto those in authority and speak truth to power. I’ve been this way all my life and I’m too old to change. Bet your fur on it
Thank you my brother!
Incredibly powerful. Thanks for writing.
HEY MICHAEL- You’re a wonderful human being. Keep up the good work. You are loved, you are human, labels don’t define you. And oranges are on our Sedar plate every year to say “fuck you” to all those who feel that you need to be something to fit in.
☮ Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michael. Take care.
Amen and Amen.
And Love. Heaps of it.
And thank you.
yep. Standing with every one who is broken and then rebuilds in the face of horror We come back stronger. We come back more resolute, We have no other option.. White, or not, straight, or not, jewish, islamic, christian,… this or that, or not… HUMAN, Yes. Yes we are. Undivided, un separated. Un labeled. Just us. Justice. For all.
So much truth. So much I recognize in so many forms. Thank you for this. Of the above, may their names be for a blessing. For the rest of us, may we learn to overcome fear and may we confront and overcome hatred with love.
I LOVE YOU Michael…with everything within ME, about YOU! ❤️
Love you back! 🙂
Dearest Michael, toda raba for your gift of eloquent & thoughtful writing. It is so easy to to fall to the yetzer hara when expressing frustration & anger but you show all of us how to be a mensch. Every time you post or lecture, your words confound the haters, destroying their stereotypes.
I will still be adding Wilton gel colors to my challah dough tomorrow. This shabbat my partner & I will nosh on a rainbow, raisin, challah, as planned. Despite our sorrow–Shabbat Shalom & Hag Pride Same’ach!!!!!!!!!
P.S. will you be making any trips to New Orleans in the future?
That’s really beautiful. Bevakasha!
The melange of ingredients from which you are comprised creates the perfect dish, spicy, sassy, intriguing, instructive, complex, complicated, and satisfying. The are no acceptable substitutions for your recipe.
late night monster turkey roaster
Beautifully written. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing this, its truly powerful. Nothing changes if we are “apolitical and apathetic”, THAT is the truth
It seems like the divisiveness that people are trying to cleave you with is the same tactic that gets people to turn their heads in progressive movements as they fade out. Stay pragmatic and thank you for this reminder.
Thank you for this post. And thank you for being you.
Kol ha k’vod! You and your voice are so welcome and needed.
Amen and Ase! Thank you for sharing from your heart.
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Beautifully written. I’m with you, brother.
Thanks for your truth. It hurts my heart whenever I hear people speak ill of the LGBT+ community and act as if we are not human. If only people would treat each other with dignity and respect, would this world be a better place. Being a black lesbian, I’m too familiar with the blunt hatred on both sides, but I continue to move forward. We must stand together and lean on each other. There is still strength in numbers.
WONDERFUL THANK YOU LOVE
This beautiful, tender, angry essay speaks right to the place in my soul that is hurting. Thank you for telling this mouthful of truth. It is a profoundly loving act.
Reblogged this on Mariposaoro and commented:
Black,Jewish and Gay man baring his soul and on stereotypes!
A magnificent posting, Michael. I want to share this on Facebook because it’s a message that my friends need to hear, and to know that I agree with. You and I come from very different places. I’m white, straight, and from the generation before yours, and worst of all I can’t cook. Seriously, if it’s more complicated than warming up something out of a can, I’m hopeless at it. But none of that matters in the end (except possibly the cooking…) You have written the truth in such a powerful way that I feel a kinship with you. Yours is a universal message to all who would hear the truth: that all of us are in this world together and the lessons we’re here to learn don’t involve money or power or controlling anyone else. The winners in this world are those who learn that love matters more than anything else. Why is that such a hard lesson to learn?
This was such a powerful piece. I was in tears by the end. Shabbat Shalom fro a fellow member of the tribe.
Well said. Thank you for this brilliant, beautiful post.
You are my hero for this post. We chatted a lot when you are in GR and I could tell you were something special. I hope I get the chance to tell you in person one of these days.
Gotta get back to Michigan! Come visit DC!
A brilliant piece that I am forwarding to my colleagues at NPS and the
A brilliant piece that I am forwarding to my colleagues at NPS and the LGBTQ Initiative. Thank you, Michael and Shalom.
Thank you, this is a great piece of writing.
This post is inspired by something truly authentic, beautiful and insatiably true.
A real work of art.
This was amazing. You are so poignant and well written. As a black gay man, this resonated with me on all levels. You touched me deep. Thank you.
Reblogged this on cmortalx and commented:
Kim Burrell and her public lynching has taken away the voices of many black gay SGL men. Those of us who have to live at intersections. Intersections where not just one identity defines us and defines how people interact with us but where multiple identities creates the lens in which people view us. With all the acts of racism and white supremacy, we may just want to get our voice back from the mainstream’s fire raid of this black woman.
“Don’t just be angry at homophobia that kills–be mad at white supremacy that kills–about homophobia in the Black community that isolates and destroys families and corrupts houses of worship into houses of hate–honor Black ministers and civil rights leaders and promote their profile of those who work towards bridging the gap and bringing us all together. Be angry at racism in the gay community and stop telling me to get over it. Be angry at gay misogyny and universal transphobia and work against anti-Jewish attitudes and beliefs and the silencing of Jewish diversity…” – Afroculnaria
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