Backlash Over ‘Housewives’, Tamar Braxton’s Exploitation Of Black Gay Culture

I knew there’d be a backlash to these shenanigans! I’ve been saying this about these Atlanta-based-reality-show themes of misappropriating Black gay culture for some time now.  And I’m not the only one…

Journalist Clay Kane recently wrote an article in The Root that reflected my exact sentiments. “There is an unexplored theme in reality TV that features black women: the criminalization of black male sexuality, blatant homophobia and the misappropriation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender culture.”

Michael Arceneaux wrote on his ‘Weekly Read’ column for Ebony on a similar issue, stating, “For a show that likes to parade itself as gay friendly, this entire season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta has been an exhaustive exercise in casual homophobia. Of course, the minute you throw out a term like “homophobia,” the guilty parties will be quick to shout, “I’m not homophobic! I have plenty of gay friends.” But, homophobia, like any prejudice, has levels to the s*it.”

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The Root article goes on the point out specific instances, “On season 4, one of NeNe Leakes’ TV BFFs, Marlo Hampton, hurled the word “f–got” during a trip to South Africa. None of the ladies corrected her. On season 3, there was buzz that Phaedra Parks’ husband, Apollo, might be gay because he was incarcerated. When Kenya Moore joined the cast, she stated that Phaedra should get an AIDS test because he’d served time in jail. This week’s episode hit an all-time ratchet low due to some he-said, she-said reality-TV foolery. A fight broke out, with the men and women throwing punches. Brandon, Kenya’s openly gay friend, caught a few blows. NeNe, who once referred to herself as a “gay magnet,” spat about Brandon, “He jumped up like a queen!” Nearly everyone jumped, pushed and yelled, so why is Brandon branded a queen? Oh … because he’s gay.”

Clay continues, “most of the women on RHOA talk, walk and snap their way through each episode, cheaply imitating a community they know nothing about. Their drag performance is as inauthentic as when whites try to “act black.” The ladies’ misappropriation of LGBT culture and, more specifically, black and Latino drag culture is embarrassing to watch. Hearing terms like “get your life” (used incorrectly), “shady boots” or “hunty,” which are directly stolen from LGBT people of color, is equal to hearing white people babble urban slang to sound “down.”

MESS!!  “But isn’t Andy Cohen, RHOA creator, gay?” Yes. 

In another sad episode this season, model Cynthia Bailey insisted that Mynique Smith hunt down “gay-guy friends—queens” to get some pizzazz. “Friends” is a bizarre choice of words. These men aren’t confidants or members of their family (at least on television)—they are used as gay mammies to affirm the housewives’ imaginary diva status.

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Arceneaux’s Ebony article doesn’t cut these housewives much slack either! He writes, “In the same way that racism isn’t solely determined by whether or not one hangs up nooses, shouts “Sieg heil!” in secret, or dons Blackface, one doesn’t have to call a gay person a faggot to know that not-so-deep down, there’s some level of intolerance inside of you. One thing that’s been clear about this show all season long is that in terms of weaponry, one’s sexual orientation is just another easy tool to pull out when trying to inflict pain.”

What’s most grating about NeNe’s contempt for queens, though, is the fact that she along with some of the other cast members, owe so much of their success to biting the ever-living hell out of gay Black men, and in particular, those “queens” NeNe speaks so sorely about. On another cringe-worthy episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta that aired in December, Cynthia Williams tries to explain the concepts of “shade” and “reading” to would be new show regular, Mynique. Cynthia asks, “Do you have any gay friends? Like gay guy friends, like queens or anything. That’s good ‘cause you gonna need those.” The show’s usage of gay Black men as accessories has always been an annoyance, but season six has taken many to a new level of frustration with the outright expression of disdain for gay men when seeking retaliation.”

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Everything about Tamar Braxton minus those “dot coms” can be traced to some Black person who’s been serving on the stoop of the big gay rainbow. And yet, on the first season of Tamar & Vince, when she had a disagreement with a gay magazine editor, what did she do? Make fun of his lisp, naturally. More, during the test run of The Real, she spoke of her disdain of dressing up little boys as “girls” – on more than one occasion. Yeah, a purple onesie on a baby boy doesn’t mean he’s going to grow up to want a Quanell over a Quisha, and even if he did, if you have no problem building the popularity that gave you a second chance of a music career off the mores of effeminate men, why so worried when it looked to be all good a week ago during the taping schedule.

Rashid Darden, in a post for the blog Dopalicious District, titled Culture Shock: How Straight Black Women Steal Black Gay Men’s Slanguage, writes: “This week’s Real Housewives of Atlanta was quite eventful, and other blogs will give you a proper recap.  For me, seeing Cynthia Bailey give Mynique Smith an “education” in gay black slang made me uncomfortable. I am a black gay man and for years I’ve seen our culture and language appropriated by white people and by women.  On one hand, I can’t be too mad because that’s just the way culture and language works.  On the other hand, stop stealing our sh*t.”

As Darden points out, both Porsha Stewart and Kenya Moore have engaged in some pretty homo-antagonistic behavior, particularly publicly shaming their ex-lovers for being allegedly gay. Likewise, all the gay characters, which made up the RHOA supporting cast in the first few seasons, have been virtually erased. According to Darden, this form of misappropriation is an “insidious form of homophobia.”

I see it in my daily life also, not just on RHOA.  I see the most virulently homophobic black women pepper their language with “yes gawds” and “hunties” and more, all the while being unaware of the black gay origins of these terms, and clearly not respecting the culture from which they arose.

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Well damn! I guess can be said about gay men wearing heels and make-up and snapping their necks like hoodrat bitches from the 90s? Who’s zoomin’ who?

Sources: Ebony, The Root, Madam Noire, Dopalicious District

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Posted in Gay & Lesbian, Television
  • BlackCanseco

    Madonna built an empire co-opting Black Gay culture… So did A LOTTA white artists from 1970 to RIGHT NOW to very little outrage… But now we comin for the necks of Tamar Braxton/Straight Black Women on Reality TV? Um, ok… carry on.

    • starr

      This is strictly about black on black hate. Lilly white Madonna can never do any wrong- I bet the ones who are complianing NEVER even thought about Madonna and her effect on the gay community, because black people are trained to attack eachother, like pittbulls
      #Slave Master Still Crackin That Whip

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