DCP EP.93 Black and Biphobic: Tim’m West

Transcribed by: Sydney Henriques-Payne

Completion date: December 9, 2021

DCP EP 93: Black Biphobic: Tim’m West 

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:00:03] Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast that gives you news you can trust for the culture, I’m your co-host, Gerren Keith Gaynor, managing editor of Politics at theGrio. [00:00:12][9.1]

Shana Pinnock: [00:00:13] And I’m your co-host and social media director for theGrio. And this week we’re asking Dear Culture, does queer acceptance go both ways? But, you know, before we even go ahead and get into that, I read something that was pretty pivotal G, and I think is definitely going to be like some interesting information for our episode. So according to a recent Gallup poll, the number of people who identify as bisexual in the United States is rising. In fact, this number has increased from one percent to three percent in the last decade or so. More than half of adult LGBT identifying individuals, about 52 percent, self-described as bisexual and according to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 40 percent of queer folks of color identify as bisexual. But despite these numbers, the stigma around bisexuality still remains. On today’s showwe’ll zoom in on bisexual identity and the Black communities ongoing journey toward queer acceptance across identities. We’ll be joined by educator, advocate and hip hop artist Tim West, who has deep experience as an advocate for LGBTQ plus young people and young adults in and outside of their work as an educator. [00:01:35][81.8]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:01:36] You know, Shana, I’m really glad we’re talking about bisexuality and biphobia because as a member of the LGBTQ Plus community, I can honestly say that there is a lot of bi erasure out there. When I was coming up and trying to, I was… I always knew I was gay, but I definitely wanted to explore whether or not I was bisexual because the Black church was telling me that being gay was wrong and there was a sin. So, i’m like “OK, well, I can’t be gay, but I like men. I don’t find the attraction to women. I’m like, Well, maybe I do like women. Do I like women?” And we don’t create spaces for Black men to to really explore their sexuality and be open and honest. And if we’re being honest, a lot of gay men came out of the closet as bisexual as like a cover. Because it was, it felt safer to tell your family and friends that you’re bisexual… That you were bisexual because the people would be less. I guess it’ll be less stigmatizing. But the reality is that people who actually are bisexual and or and or a pansexual, they actually don’t come out of the closet. They actually have the same fears, if not more fears than we as homosexuals feel about coming out of the closet. You know, I think that I actually when I’m thinking about my social circle, I can’t think of one person I know who is openly bisexual. I went to Morehouse College, where I assume there are some people who are bisexual because I I’ve dated or I wouldn’t say dated dating loosely, but I dated young men at that time when the campus who today are not [openly] homosexual, they are married with children, some of them that they haven’t declared anything. And so but it was a it was an interesting experiment, if you will, on the campus of Morehouse. I think it was a microcosm of of the Black men in America who are trying to find their inner freedom and find liberation, but it can be difficult to do that even on the campus, a college campus where people are usually sexually explorative. I think it’s now’s the time, especially with Gen Z out here pushing the culture forward, forcing us to really confront what it means, what these terminologies mean and what it means to be… To identify how you identify whether it’s your pronouns or whether it’s your sexuality or gender expression. And I’m glad that we are here because it’s time that all people, all of us can be free and authentic and who we are, whatever we are, whoever we are. But Shana, what’s been your experience? I know that you’ve talked about this on their culture before, but tell us about your thoughts around bisexuality and biphobia. [00:04:22][165.8]

Shana Pinnock: [00:04:23] I mean, so for me, I typically tend to feel really bad for Black men because again, they’re not able to have the freedom of exploring their sexuality, right? Like for myself, I have had sexual experiences with women. I wouldn’t classify myself as bisexual. I don’t find myself particularly attracted to women. But you know, I’ve said on this show before, I usually prefer to date sexually fluid men. So whether they are pansexual, bisexual, whatever, I tend to find them a little bit less problematic. But one thing that I can say is, and it’s an it’s an issue as it relates to Black women, especially especially cisgender Black women, as it relates to biphobia by erasure. I’ve had conversations with, you know, my female friends who they’re like, “Oh, well, you know, you’re out here like dating these, these gay guys like, you got to be careful because you know, you might be you might catch something, that “house in Virginia.” And if you don’t know what that is, look at the acronym. But you know, you might you might catch something and it’s like, that is rooted in ignorance. That’s really rooted in. Biphobia, it’s rooted in homophobia, it’s rooted in just honestly just nonsense in general. You know, why is there this idea of someone who is bisexual who’s attracted to both genders or sexes that all of a sudden that they’re incredibly greedy, that they can’t be satiated, that they’re always going to cheat, that they’re always, you know, up to no good in some kind of way or form. There’s so many layers in a lot, all honesty to unpack. So I’m in all honesty, I’m just really looking forward to jumping into the conversation with today’s guest. [00:05:59][95.9]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:06:00] Yeah, me too. [00:06:00][0.4]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:06:09] Today’s guest is an advocate and activist in and outside the classroom. Tim’m West is an educator, author and performance artist. His work focuses on having a positive impact on the LGBTQ and Two Spirit community focused on young people and young adults. Wes has worked as an educator and activist in K through 12 public schools and at the post-secondary level, teaching and serving as department chair in Oakland and a D.C. where I reside. He has also taught at the new school, Stanford University and Humboldt State University, where he is currently a visiting lecturer in their Department of Critical Race, Gender, Sexuality Studies. He currently leads LGBTQ plus community initiatives at Teach for America, working nationally to advance safer and braver classrooms for LGBTQ plus students and their educators. Tim’m, welcome to Dear Culture, it’s a pleasure to have you. [00:07:07][58.3]

Tim’m West: [00:07:08] It’s good to be here. [00:07:09][0.7]

Shana Pinnock: [00:07:10] It’s awesome. I’m so excited for you to be here because this is it’s going to be a very educational episode, quite frankly. So, Tim’m, I know you personally identify as pansexual. And so I recently was educated on what that means by my 14 year old niece– shout out to my baby –But for those of us who may not be, as you know, not knowledgeable in the nuances, can you can you educate us and the audience on what what exactly are the differences between pansexuality versus bisexuality? [00:07:42][32.2]

Tim’m West: [00:07:43] Absolutely. And I think pansexuality was kind of a new identity for me. You know, I understood and had some recognition of what it meant to be both attracted to men and women. But then as we begin to actually see other gender identities emerge, people that are non-binary, people that are transgender, pansexual Identification just suggests that like you can be attracted to people. You were saying earlier sort of this idea of like, if I vibe with you, I vibe with you, right? Like if I feel your energy. And I think on occasion, as I’ve gotten more in tune with my freedom and my own attractions, I encounter people that I’m attracted to that fit outside of that binary of like cisgender woman or cis gender guy. And and so that is a way of acknowledging that like I can be attracted to a lot of things. One way of saying it was like, you know, I’m not heterosexual, but don’t assume anything else, you know, you could. I could be attracted to a woman. I could be attracted to a trans woman, a trans guy or someone who is non-binary. So it’s just a more expansive notion of sexual attraction and also emotional attraction. I think often we only think about it in terms of sex, you know, and if I’m abstinent and I ain’t even having sex or I guess I’m nobody’s sexual, I don’t know. But I think that people fail to remember that it’s emotional connections and relationships that also make up this this matrix of sexuality that we talk about. [00:09:12][88.6]

Shana Pinnock: [00:09:13] Oh, well, see again, Gen Z, be educated and I’m trying to tell you, shout out to you, Loni, if you ever listen to this, baby. So, you know, and I want to make sure that we’re educating our audience because language is changing so quickly these days. And you know, if you if you’re not paying attention, you will get left behind. So I think our our audience and particular, like they’re so familiar with the word like homophobia, right? So what can you define for us –Like what is biphobia and how do you distinguish how do you how do you distinguish homophobia from biphobia? [00:09:47][34.0]

Tim’m West: [00:09:49] Well, I’ll just say it this way. You know, I think as someone that has identified as Pan, you know, it’s interesting because there are circles in spaces where I don’t because the best way to put to explain biphobia is that we get it on both sides. There are there are cultural mythologies about people who are bisexual and in particular Black men who are who are bisexual. There’s a double standard where women can sometimes be self celebrated a lot, and I thought, Oh, that’s really a great thing. If a woman can acknowledge both an attraction to to men and women, which is often an extension of hetero sexism and sexism, like because it’s really for them like, “Oh, this is about the man’s pleasure,” right? Mm hmm. But I think, you know, in particular when it comes to men like, I think one of the reasons I was even afraid to acknowledge my at one point bisexuality was because, you know, people thought of bisexual men as greedy. And I have people say, confuse what you sort of make up your mind, right? I even had. But that was on the straight side of things. On the gay side of things I had people say I was confused are that I’m actually really, really gay, but I just can’t admit it to myself. Right. So there’s almost a doubt and the suspicion that if you acknowledge attraction to both. That there’s some dishonesty there, there’s some confusion there. And I think it really goes against all the science that we know about sexuality in the continuum, right? And I finally got to a point where I stopped hiding the fact that I was attracted to women, to my gay friends, right? And they will say things like I had. I had a friend tell me, actually, just last year, “Tim;m When was the last time you’ve been with the woman sexually?” As if, like bisexuality has an expiration date. It’s like everyone’s like if I’m in a primary relationship with a guy, I got to go deep on the women’s side just to sort of authenticate my bisexuality doesn’t work that way. Similarly, you have women that are in primary relationships with men. Right? They may have been married, but it doesn’t mean that they are straight. You know they may be bisexual, but they may be in a monogamous relationship with an opposite sex partner. So there’s a lot of assumptions that we make about sexuality, and they’re probably a lot more people who identify as somewhere in the continuum, even if they are in opposite sex relationships. Are same sex relationships, right? But they don’t have to go test it to make sure it’s still there. Right? But I think that’s an understanding. We understand things better if it’s like Black or white, and we really struggle with those grays in the middle. And it’s interesting because I had a conversation with a friend who said he was he feared admitting to women that were interested in him, that he had experimented with male sex back in college. Right. He hasn’t since then, it’s been like 30 years. But that’s a secret that he has the whole because he’s like, Oh, if you admit that, then you miss missed what we get. Yep. Right. Whereas a woman can can say, Oh, I went through an experimental phase or I kissed a girl and I liked it, going all Katy Perry like and it’s no big deal, right? She can have multiple kids and can be completely considered heterosexual and, you know, and all that. So I think we really have to question these double standards in our community that are associated with a lot of toxic masculinity and that actually ultimately, no, I hate to say this, but we complain about the DL (the down low), but our community created the DL [00:13:17][208.7]

Shana Pinnock: [00:13:18] Absolutely. [00:13:18][0.0]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:13:19] Say that this is a this is a really good conversation, Tim’m. I’m like, I’m really glad that you are being open and honest because I think there’s not enough Black men as a representation for people who identify as pansexual or bisexual. I went to Morehouse College, so I definitely know what you’re talking about when it comes to men who experimented. Some of them experimented with me. And… they are not gay and I presume not bisexual. They are married. They have children, and we don’t allow Black men to safely explore their sexuality. And I think it’s really important. But I also want to touch more on on terminology because he writes, our culture is really important that we really set the tone for what words mean and two words I really want to hone in on are heteronormativity and queerness. I tend to look at the world through the lens of a queerness lens. But can you just quickly describe to our listeners what we mean by heteronormativity and queerness? [00:14:25][65.9]

Tim’m West: [00:14:26] Oh, absolutely. But two important terms, and one of the best ways to explain heteronormativity for me is just when people hear the term “straight privilege,” right? This idea that, you know, if if I have a picture of me and my partner, I’m single, you also buy a butt. But my hypothetical part, and if I had a picture of them on my desk at work, someone might say to me, Why do you have to put that in my face? Why do you always have to, you know? And they may be having a picture on their desk of them, in their wife or their kids or their family. So this idea that like the the default assumption for everybody is that we’re straight and anything outside of straightness is kind of interrupting our lives in some kind of way, right? When in fact, the reality is like, I’m not doing anything different than what you’re doing. But I said we’ve established heterosexuality as a norm and hetero sexism is that default assumption that like, “I’m going to assume everyone straight until they tell me otherwise.” Right? And when they tell me that it’s somehow an affront to, like my sense of normalcy. And so it’s really getting to a place. I a really powerful experience with a um, with a youth leader many, many moons ago. Derrick Candy does a lot of youth development work and, you know. A straight guy. And we were sitting in the van and it was a group of young brothers that we were. I think we just played basketball or something. I used to be a basketball coach, and he was talking about a relationship and that relationship kind of coming to an end. And I was talking about my breakup and it was just kind of back and forth. And, you know, one of the young men in the back said, “Wow, that was so normal.” And it was almost like a shock to them that, like me and the straight brother could be having a conversation about breakups. Right? That were that seemed really normal to them. Right. Which I thought was really it said a lot about our culture in terms of like hetero sexism would say that like, that’s a different conversation than the straight conversation about a breakup with some of those same dynamics and elements are all the same. So I think it’s that idea that, like homosexual or anything outside of that is just freakish, different thing over here and that I can’t touch it. One of the things that challenged people and when the movie Moonlight came out and I had friends, like “I can’t see that.” Like, why can’t you see it? Like, it’s a coming of age story. Why can’t you see it? And it was like there was this terror and fear of like, somehow contagion. Where could these two men kiss? Is that somehow going to make you want to kiss the guy? Probably watching that gay stuff? You know, it’s it’s ridiculous. I mean, look at all the heterosexual films and kisses I’ve seen all my life did not influence me one bit, so I don’t think it really works that way. The other term queerness, I like queerness because in some ways and I, you know, I like to point attention to it e. Patrick Johnson, who is, like, seen as sort of the father of Black queer studies, it’s important to mention that the scholarly body of work around this and you know, he uses a term called “quare” and it’s actually rooted in Black southern. Colloquial experience, and it’s different than queer, because I think queer sometimes for a lot of people like, oh, that’s that white people term that we’ve used, right? And we’ve even seen instances where, you know, I think even in The Closer right, like when when Dave Chappelle is talking about like LGBT people, I was like, “He ain’ttalking about me? Make. He wasn’t talking about me. He was talking about the white queer folks,” right? Because I’m Black, just like other Black people. You know, when I walk out my door, when I’m walking in my neighborhood at dusk in an integrated neighborhood, I keep my hands visible because I’m concerned if I have to put my hands out my pocket just like any other Black man that I’m subject to the same things that they are experiencing. And so I think but I do think the power of queer as a as a term, as if one is politicized. It’s the reclaiming of a term that was seen as negative as positive. And it also there is something called Homo normatively, which I think is important for us to talk about, right? If you have heteronormativity in the assumption that everything is as heterosexual, you get this thing of Homo normatively. We’re like, it’s OK if you’re gay, if you look a certain way and if you are married with like 2.5 kids with the picket fence. So there are a lot of people that have come to accept LGBT identity only if it looks just like straight people, right? Like, “Oh, you know, you’re just like us, you’re just gay.” And I’m like, “Well, no, it’s a little bit different than that, right? “Because you know, my my experience and my queerness for me informs how I think about things and informs my sense of justice and activism. It’s not just about who I sleep with in the bed, which is why it’s always insulting me because ‘I, well, I don’t need to know who you’re sleeping with in the bed.’ I’m like, My identity is so much more than what I do in a bed at any given time.” And so it’s about a way of seeing the world. And I see queerness as that is a way of really shaking that up, particularly for people of African descent who have bought into a lot of colonial mindsets of what the perfect nuclear 2.5– that is. Not that is not us. That’s not us from an indigenous perspective and where we come from and even spirituality. But we’ve embraced that and we’ve held on to it because it gives us access to power in a white supremacist culture. And I think it’s important to interrogate that, right? Like what does it mean as free Black people to interrogate all of these structures and norms that we’ve been taught are the right way to do things? And it’s a white way. I think that was a… [00:20:09][342.9]

Shana Pinnock: [00:20:10] So you know, well, first of I — say that! OK? And I just the I the ideology of, you know, the whole idea of homonormativity. I just had to educate my grandmother this past Sunday or last week, Sunday. I’m a huge 90 Day Fiancé fan. There’s a great gay couple on there like a white guy, and it’s like Mexican man and my grandmother calls, who’s also a fan. She’s like, “Well, which one is the woman?” Miss Miss Mamas. Please don’t let me have to curse you out, like, like, come on, [00:20:44][34.6]

Tim’m West: [00:20:45] that’s how we that’s how we understand it, right? Like we understand we we can we can understand gayness as if we can somehow map it onto us. And, you know, as I had, I had a relative say to me, You know, Tim’m, I’m one of the one of the most powerful things about seeing you in relationship with men, many of whom show up very masculine as you do. Is y’all do what you like. It was like, I don’t like cooking. He like cooking so he can’t cook and I’m boatyard because I like being out in the yard. And so I think we actually she was like heterosexist. I’m and heteronormativity doesn’t work for a lot of heterosexuals. So even I see a lot of my heterosexual friends really challenging some of these norms around how they’re supposed to show up, right? Men who were saying, You know what? My wife is making good money. You know, I’m going through a tough time, but I’m going to stay home and take care of the kids and not feeling shame. Right? Or emasculation as a part of that. But then like, no, this is my responsibility. As someone who partners with my partner and relationship. We are in relationship together. We do what’s necessary to make this family work. So I think all people can really gain something from to that point of queerness as a mindset and as a way of really disturbing the norm of how people think things should be [00:21:58][73.2]

Shana Pinnock: [00:22:00] See Ok, and so I wanted to ask. You know, heteronormativity definitely keeps us, I believe, from seeing biphobia. What do you think are…. And this is the thing there are people who like to say, you know, well, it’s just a preference that I don’t date someone who is bisexual or anything like that, right? You always hear the the preference and when. But when you peel back the layers, it’s biphobia, right? So can you give us what are some more examples of biphobia? [00:22:28][28.2]

Tim’m West: [00:22:29] I was dating. I was dating a woman probably about 10 years ago, and she told me she needed to break up with me because I was just too comfortable with my bisexuality or pansexuality. And one of the phrases she uses, “you know, you have double the options.” And I said, Well, we’re in a monogamous dating situation. I don’t have any options. Like, Would you feel better if I cheated with another woman as opposed to a man?” Like, I just didn’t quite understand the logic of that. But again, it goes back to these these mythologies of being greedy, insatiable like you, not you’re not going to be able to handle that. And I and I think it’s just really interesting in terms of that biphobia stemming from which I think is also toxic masculinity. We talk about toxic masculinity as it relates to men. We don’t often challenge women in our community on the ways that they also perpetuate toxic masculinity. Sometimes. [00:23:26][56.7]

Shana Pinnock: [00:23:26] I do. [00:23:26][0.1]

Tim’m West: [00:23:27] Sometimes the women telling the boy to set up and not cry is not a man saying that. So a lot of Black women have also internalized these norms. And I see it because I have straight friends, straight male Black friends who are also living in what I call a very constrictive male-box. I call it the male-box, where anything you do outside the mailbox is like, makes you suspect, right? You can’t see another man is handsome. You can’t say you like that shirt except for saying no homo or pause. There are all these rules and it’s it’s it’s tiring. So I’m glad that I’ve created a space in my relationships with with men both gay and straight and in between. Well, we create these spaces where we can show up and really challenge some of those norms. But I also think that biphobia really prevents that right? Like how many men might be more honest and authentic with women if they felt that there was a space to do so without being judged? Because on the other side of that, which is really scary, is like if you don’t create that opportunity, then you can’t get mad. You know, when he decides not to tell you about this deep, dark secret because you somehow feel like that makes them less of a man. He can’t be a good father or all these other things that kind of come along with that. [00:24:42][75.2]

Shana Pinnock: [00:24:43] Hell the old people have been arguing on Facebook about little boys having kitchen sets, okay? [00:24:46][3.1]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:24:48] Right, right? We have a long way to go when it comes to just sexuality and gender understandings. But Tim’m, you mentioned earlier you touched on the biphobia within the LGBTQ Plus community. And I really want to really want to do a deeper dove into this because I’ve seen it firsthand. I can admit when I was younger, I think I contributed to that as well. I really want you to kind of map it out for us about the overt and maybe not so overt ways in which we perpetuate biphobia within the community. And also a second part of that question is how does it make you feel? Do you feel a part of the community given the biphobia that often shows up in our community? [00:25:30][41.9]

Tim’m West: [00:25:31] Well, it’s interesting. I have to add to one I’m a Gen-Xer, so you know, I’ll be 50 next year. I know Black don’t crack. You can go,. [00:25:37][5.9]

Shana Pinnock: [00:25:37] Oh, you dont look it! [00:25:37][0.3]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:25:38] AMEN. [00:25:38][0.0]

Tim’m West: [00:25:39] So but yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I’m thankful for millennials and Gen Xers because they have actually resisted some of that generational stuff that like makes us fit into these boxes and have enabled us to have nuanced and more complex identities. You know, I have a daughter that’s a millennial, right? So we’re not that far an age, and she has taught me so much more about what it means to be a free Black person period, right? But I think the way that that shows up in our community is that we also, I think for a lot of people in the LGBT community wanting and desiring so much to be normal right means that you also identified those people in the community that you don’t see as normal. It contributes to cisgender Black men being very transphobic, like some of the most transphobic things I’ve ever heard said came from gay men about trans women. I’m like, Hold on, she’s doing too much? Who are they saying that? About about 15 years ago, they were saying you was doing too much, right? And so like people not seeing the patterns of it was Audre Lorde. At one point they said something about like, sometimes the oppressed become the most, you know, the best oppressors because they learned the the oppression game super well. And so I think the idea is that control, right? Like if? And is interested in me, and I happen to see a woman that I’m like, “Oh, you know, damn. All right.” You know, does that make me less capable of being committed just because I can acknowledge that I am attracted? Or do I have to hide that? And I think hiding it and pushing it down creates more issues in our community than sort of living authentically and really owning our stuff. And I would love to see Black people do that better than everybody else, has you know. And so that’s that’s that’s a part of it. I do think that the younger generations are seeing more instances of them dating women. And I will say this, like millennial and especially Gen Z, Black women are more open to the idea. I might meet a guy that’s actually had experiences with men, and that’s something I might be willing to explore. But sometimes they’re going to come under scrutiny by other Black women. Right? I dated… I dated a woman. I came out in college and the first person I dated was a woman. Confused everybody. But me and this particular woman bonded around the conversations we were having about my sexuality. And I think once I was able to fully embrace that, I was attracted to men. Match reaction to her wasn’t that I had to, but that I wanted to. And and I was drawn to her compassion and her open mindedness. I wasn’t hiding from her. But the Black Women Collective got in her ear and they was like, You know, you got to be careful because, you know, he’s going to give you something. All of these things, and she broke up with me. Heart is still a little broken by, but I decided after them for a while that I can’t do. The biceps were being, you know, I was like, It’s easier to just be gay because I like trying to actually own both aspects of your identity. It’s just too hard when you’re giving criticisms from the gay guys and you’re not really bi. You know you’re not really bisexual. You just haven’t fully owned all of your gayness. And on the straight side saying that you’re out trying to manipulate or be confused as opposed to, you know, what, like, people are capable of having an attraction that is broad and expansive. [00:29:06][207.5]

Shana Pinnock: [00:29:07] Hmm. So as a person who I’ve said on the show numerous times, I typically prefer to date cis men that are fluid in their sexuality, and I too have heard the Black women collective of like, “Girl… be careful!” You know, but it’s so funny. I think a lot of that has to do with the representation, especially of like bisexual folks in the media, particularly like Black media. And when we talk about Black media, I’m talking about lets think of Insecure. Let’s think of, you know, Amazon has this new show called Harlem and, you know, all of these things. And so one thing that I can say, so I’m a huge, Insecure fan. I love it. But I remember that storyline from, I believe, this season one or season two where Molly was dating Jared. I believe his name was and he turned out it wasn’t for him and it created this. I remember Twitter blew up. And what’s so funny? The juxtaposition for that is, you know, with this new show on Harlem. So let me just say two things. One, Amazon is not paying us for this. This Is not an addand two no spoilers. I will not say who these people are, the characters or anything like that, but you’ll see it in anyway. It’s there. But yes, in the show Harlem, there is a particular character who is who identifies as bisexual, and it’s revolutionary almost in the way in which they represented him in this in this show. Because every time I’ve seen bisexual men identified in Black media, Black films, Black television has always been. It’s a huge secret and they’ve been doing something on the DL. Or he’s like super hyper mass, hyper masculine. And even on the other side of that, the woman who’s dealing with this bisexual man. It’s not a crisis of Let me go, talk to my friends about it and unpack it” and, you know, all this other stuff. And it’s not a big, oh god, this is a huge deal. I’m so terrified now or anything like that. This is a completely different representation of that. So I would ask, how do you feel about like the current representation of queer and bisexual folks in the media and kind of like, what could we be doing better? Or is it the fact the more progressive, you know, Black sexuality representations like can this actually be the thing that helps change hearts and minds and possibly drive up a little bit of that ignorance? [00:31:42][154.4]

Tim’m West: [00:31:42] I think it is. What you just mentioned is in my way, in my mind, pretty revolutionary, right? Just sort of the not so much the normalcy of it in the way that I was talking about normal before, but like. It’s exposing and exposing relationships, Black relationships, Black love in the full diversity that actually exist, right? Because I think part of what I didn’t have access to was what can Black love look like? You know, when I was exploring or considering who I was as a pre-teen or a teenager, I had zero models for what that could look like. It led to a lot of dangerous experimentation. The worst of which landed me in testing HIV positive in ’99. At 26 years of age, I am almost 50 now. I didn’t imagine that I would live to get 50. But I also say, because I’m an educator in our education system, that we need to tell our young people that we need to give them models for how they can explore sexuality and not just sexually. But like, what does it mean to have relationships? What is consent look like, right? If the only way you’re talking about consent is like a girl and a guy and getting pregnant, you’re leaving out a lot of other stuff, right? Even for heterosexual, right consent is also at play when other kinds of sex are happening that are not that are not pregnancy related. And so I think it’s really important for us to think about as a community how we can be more honest and authentic with people and like at what age appropriate times would it be worth having conversations with our young people about who they are and the way that they can experience sex in a way that’s sort of healthy and affirming for all the parties involved? [00:33:23][100.5]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:33:24] Yeah, conversation is important because also bisexual women, I presume pansexual of men or people are less likely to come out because of the fear of the stigma that they will face. Research shows that bisexual men may be more likely than gay men to anticipate stigmatizing reactions from others and just don’t share their sexuality. And only 20 percent of bisexual will say that the important people in their life that they are bisexual. While seventy seven percent of gay men and seventy one percent of lesbians have come out to their loved ones. So my question to you, Tim’m, is what can we do to help to destigmatize what it means to be bisexual and pansexual and make it make safer spaces for people to come out and be their authentic selves? [00:34:15][51.8]

Tim’m West: [00:34:16] Yeah, I mean, I made that statement earlier that like, you know, the Black community often verifies the DL, but we created the DL and I think about friends of mine that I know would have now who are men who were and you know, there’s a group of guys that I hang with and most of them have probably come out and we were talking like, half of us are dads, right? Half of us had been in relationships with women at some point in our lives are are something of the sort. And but there are others who are terrified of being thought of as less than a man if they own or admit an attraction to a man. We have this idea and I see even in education and school settings where we need more strong Black men. Right? And when we have that idea of a strong Black man in our head, there are a lot of people in our community who believe that strong Black man can’t be a man that same sex attracted or can’t be a man that’s effeminate, right? And I think that effeminate brothers show a strength and confidence that I admire, even though that’s not my walk. You know, I don’t I’m not threatened or bothered by Billy Porter or a little Nas X when they do something like this, I’m Like “That’s a free Black man, and that takes a lot of courage to do that.” I don’t show up that way, but I’m not threatened by someone showing up that way, and I think that we really have that challenge and create opportunities. And I think that that that idea exists because we still have a tendency to to act as if the worst thing a man can be is gay are the worst thing a man can do is have an attraction to another man and we we duplicate that message among boys when they’re growing that right that like, you know, “Do this, be a man. And I think that we’ve seen different kind of men. If we created a kind of culture that says, ‘Hey, you know, being a man is about being responsible, being accountable, being kind. Being vulnerable, it doesn’t mean…,’” you know, I think one of the one of the roles that I played personally is as a teacher and an educator who was out. I was out as a as a teacher, as one of the few Black men teachers. When I taught in D.C., I was a system varsity basketball coach and I was out as someone. And so I think a lot of those young people, their notions of masculinity, of of who a Black man could be. And I was probably for some of them, the strongest Black man that they knew. And so I’ve gotten emails and letters and saying, You know, Mr. West, you taught me so much and you know, I’m raising my son differently because I had an example of somebody like that. It’s like, You know what? Like, “if my son tells me he’s gay. I’ll beat anybody’s whatever. You know, that tries to mess with them” because they actually have been educated, they have proximity to someone in their life who they respect and that they honor. As someone who is a part of the LGBTQ community. So I think that’s what we need more of. I also, you know, as someone that also does stuff in hip hop, I came out in hip hop because I wanted people not to equate queer masculinity with D.L. and I remember doing a presentation for a middle school in D.C. and the girl was said, “Well, what’s it like being on the D.L.?” And I was like, I’m here telling you about my sexuality. So I’m not on the DL, but per her DL mean, she said. “But I can’t tell.” in her mind, DL man, you are a man who does not show up in ways that we consider stereotypical, but that’s what we… [00:37:43][206.9]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:37:43] That’s just trade. [00:37:43][0.0]

Tim’m West: [00:37:46] that’s just trade. That’s all it is. That is. That’s all it is. And in some cases, trade-wind, right? You know, because I mean, you know, I may opinions and sometimes I even forget. But like when I go into a new space that people are mapping certain ideas onto my body because I show up in particular ways, I’m like, “Oh, wow.” Like, I remember when the superintendent asked me if I was bringing my wife to like a holiday party and I was like, Actually, now I’m bringing Eric. And she was like, You know, she had a moment. But I think from now on, she won’t make that assumption. You know, when she’s when she’s asking about things, I’ll also just say this, and this is a personal charge of mine. You know, I think one of the biggest like, you know, ways that we can contest global white supremacy is to actually be more inclusive. Right? Like, I want Black people to get inclusion right before anybody else gets it right. Call it a superiority complex. When I when I saw Wakanda in the movie, I was like, “That’s an inclusive place where, like all the Black people are like living their best lives and thriving,” right? And that’s the place that I imagined as opposed to why we continue to knock each other down and create these divisions when we’re up under, we’re under so much right now the way that white supremacy is rearing its ugly head that we can’t afford to sit around and complain about somebody like him, a guy versus a girl, or he wore a dress. I’m like, “Hey, you want to dress? Come on like we got, we got to be in this revolution together.” It doesn’t matter to me, you know, are you willing to be on the front lines of fight if it comes down to that to protect our people, our children and our community? And so that’s that’s kind of how I think of it. And I think it’s also we have to challenge sexism at the same time because I think so much of toxic masculinity. One of the points I made once is that I’ve always struggled with the term emasculation. Because I don’t think women are bad. And so this idea that, like some aspect of me, is being compared to a woman, I think women are amazing. So I don’t I don’t feel like I can be emasculated because if someone’s comparing an attribute of me to a Black woman, I think that’s magical. I think it’s fierce. I think it’s resilient. I think all of these positive things. And so what does that mean when we start also challenging men around their opinions and beliefs about Black women? Right? Because Black women aren’t less than Black men, they’re not less anything than Black men. And we begin to see the relationship between sexism and and heteros sexism and homophobia in the Black community because those two things are connected, [00:40:24][157.3]

Shana Pinnock: [00:40:26] Listen, I can talk to you all day! But. Final question, because I also want to give you an opportunity to, you know, shout out anybody who’s doing dope work in this space. For folks who are looking to do, you know, more advocacy work or looking for additional resources trying to educate themselves, what recommendations do you have for them as they’re working towards, you know, creating safe spaces for the by community as allies? Or, you know, if you want to call them co-conspirators, especially within the Black community? [00:40:55][28.5]

Tim’m West: [00:40:56] Yes, it’s really interesting because I don’t think there are enough of those resources that explicitly sort of name bisexuality, pansexuality. You know, one thing I can see is like, I’m looking to the generation of people in the arts who are coming up and actually forging a lot of this work. And so to your point, like shows like Harlem and Insecure are really giving us portraits of Black experience that are a lot more, I think, realistic quite honestly, right? It wasn’t as if bisexuality, pansexuality, polyamory, all these other things weren’t happening before, you know, the boomers in particular, they were just like, “We ain’t talking about this,” you know? And the Xers like me were like, “Well, you know, we’ll talk about it a little bit.” And then the millennials just came down and knocked down the door. It’s like, “Now we’re going to talk about this, right?” Because I think it’s all in the service of healing our community in terms of resources. You know, I don’t have like a book list of things that people can read, but I think that people can can follow like Darnell Moore is someone that I find is really interesting and nuanced in terms of what he does. Native Son Now is an Instagram channel. Our page Emil Wilbekin, my fellow Cincinnatian is doing that work, and I think it’s just really interesting. I think the more proximity and exposure people have to other identities, the less odd and weird it seems. I think people live in a world where they they think a lot of people think just like them. And so I challenge those who are pansexual, bisexual or gay. But you know, I challenge you to be more visible. I think the greatest lessons people have learned has been through my own courage to speak my truth, and I speak it in the barbershop. I don’t know. Maybe they say, Tim’m’s coming, you know, it’s like “Jesus is coming to be good.” You know, “Tim’m’a, coming like, let’s not be sexist and homophobic,” but they know, like when I’m in the barbershop, I don’t hear the toxic stuff because I’m like, “Hey, you know, I got a daughter. You know, we start talking about her like that when you walk by and you know what? You’re going to call somebody the F-word, and you want to let me give you a good tip. Nah, nah, we’re not doing that right?” And that’s about accountability. A lot of what we call cancel culture is really about accountability culture. How can we help us as a Black community, be better, do better? You know, I think Black love if we love each other as fiercely as we, we focus on some of the divisions. You know, white supremacy would be scared as hell of what we can do. And I think that’s that’s the train that I’m more blessed, that freedom train, I’m on. [00:43:27][150.8]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:43:27] Amen. Amen. Absolutely. Love love is. I can always say that people love is expansive and it’s not limiting. And as we open up our hearts, I think we’ll open up our minds too. But thank you so much for joining us here in our culture. This is a very riveting conversation [00:43:44][17.1]

Tim’m West: [00:43:45] and thank and thank you. Thank you. Thank you for showing up. Brother, I’m like, you know, like, OK, I’m bringing it, I’m bringing it. And I think that’s important too, right? That we have. Shana, that both of you can be leading this conversation in a way that’s not like spooky or abnormal, but it’s the way that we show up. This is Blackness and this is Black empowerment and this is Black love. And so thank you both for having me on the show, and I hope I say something worth noting that it made some sense. [00:44:14][28.5]

Shana Pinnock: [00:44:14] I know, you dropped gems. It was. You drop gems. [00:44:16][1.8]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:44:17] Oh, you dropped all the gems. [00:44:19][1.9]

Tim’m West: [00:44:20] I got a few gems. I have a I have a I have a friend that calls us, he sais, “Tim’m .. , you’re like everybody’s favorite Black gay uncle.” It’s just you just want me at the cookout so I could drop some gems of knowledge, you know? So hey, and I do east so any of yall that want to Invite me to the cookout. I’ll show up with my gems. [00:44:38][17.4]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:44:39] Yes, yes. And if you want to hear or learn more about Tim’m, Then you can visit his website at WWW dot brave educator dot COM. That’s b r a v e, Educator dot com or follow him @BraveEducator. And also be sure to check out the Brave Educator podcast. For more information, please check out his website and his social. [00:45:02][23.3]

Shana Pinnock: [00:45:11] We want to remind our listeners to support your local Black businesses and donate to your local organizations and religious institutions. The business that we will highlight this week is Henry Masks. Founded in 2020. Henry Mask Co is a Black owned mask company that launched to supply the general public with the best personal protection travel masks through a subscription service. The Henry Mask team prides themselves on being a community focused organization. They actively work to create jobs in their local community and donate one mask to health care workers and families in need with every sale. To learn more about Henry Mask Co or toplace an order, visit Henry Mask dot com. That’s H e and R Y, M A S K dot com. theGrio has published a list of 50 plus Black businesses support during the coronavirus pandemic. If you’d like your business to be featured. Email us at Info at theGrio dot com. That’s G R I O dot com. [00:46:05][53.8]

Gerron Keith Gaynor: [00:46:07] Thank you for listening to Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review and subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts and share it with everyone you know, [00:46:15][8.3]

Shana Pinnock: [00:46:15] and please email all questions, suggestions and compliments –We love those — to podcasts at theGrio Dot com. The Dear Culture podcast is brought to you by theGrio and co-produced by Taji Senior Sydney Henriques-Payne and Abdul-Quddas. [00:46:15][0.0]


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