The N-Word and the LGBT community (Philadelphia Tribune 3/26/2013)

On March 26 "The Philadelphia Tribune" published my article "The N-Word and the LGBT Community (see attachment). Below is a longer version of the article.

The N-word and the LGBTQI-BS community

By Cei Bell

Aaron Cody, a white gay man who performs in drag as Sharon Needles and who is a past winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, has caused controversy because of his defiant use of the “N” word. He has used the word in his act and referred to an African-American fan, Catarina Reyes, as a ni__er when he signed an autograph.

This caused a controversy within the LGBTQ communities that included protests occurring at his performances. While he met with activists, including the recipient of the “n” word addressed autograph, he refused to apologize for using the word. Cody/Needles doesn’t understand why there is this controversy about a white man using the word ni__er.

In a Youtube video he starts to make a personal apology to Ms. Reyes ( but is told that isn’t the point. He starts crying about being attacked and declares “I won’t be barked at to apologize.” As far as Cody can tell he is the victim in this situation.

Shirley Q. Liquor is a white man who does blackface drag and portrays a black woman with 19 children who doesn’t know their “baby daddies.”
( His portrayals are blatantly racist and he makes a living performing for primarily gay white male audiences.

RuPaul supports both Sharon Needles and Shirley Q. Liquor. He also thinks he can speak for the trans community in an ongoing dispute over the use of the word tranny. Gay men such as fashion designer Christian Siriano and singer Lance Bass have referred to transgender people as “trannies” and many people in the trans communities find it demeaning. RuPaul said during an interview in the Huffington Post regarding trans people being offended by the word tranny, “And listen, if you're offended by a name that somebody calls you, or something, whatever, you gotta take that up with your therapist, kiddo, cause you know what, you're not going to be able -- now you got me riled up!” So according to RuPaul if someone insults you that is your problem. But RuPaul isn’t transgender. He is a man who dresses as a woman on stage and on screen to make money. He doesn’t wear women’s clothes offstage in the real world. If he said anything challenging he would lose income. He performs not as a woman but as a clown and he has no interest in the political issues of transgender people. He is as relevant to transgender rights as Al Jolson in blackface singing “Mammy” is to black civil rights. So when he defends Sharon Needles and Shirley Q. Liquor, consider the source.

Almost everywhere else in America we are decades removed from it being acceptable for white people to use the “N” word and wearing blackface. In certain sectors of the gay community racist portrayals are applauded.

What is amazing are the comments from primarily gay male white people who support Cody/Needles using ni__er. They accuse people who are attacking Needles for using racist language as being PC and censoring him. I am certain that if a straight male comedian used the f_g word in a comedy routine they would not regard criticizing the performer as PC.

The “N” word represents white brutality and segregation in the recent memory of many black people. There are still many white supremacists and ordinary bigots who use the word. When a black person uses the “N” word in discourse with another black person there is a presumption that the other black person is not coming from a point of racism and is probably not intending to lynch that person for being black. There is no such presumption when a white person calls a black person the “N” word.

The problem with white gay men comparing gay oppression to black oppression is very often they neither comprehend racism nor respect black people. Being LGBT does not make a person automatically cognizant and understanding of all oppressed groups.

For example, in the original 1978 film La Cage aux Folles, Jacob, the black maid played by Benny Luke, was used to comment on French gay racism. The elegant maid does not want to be a maid and desires to be in the drag show. He doesn’t understand why he cannot be in the show. At one point he states that he has been called many things but never French. When Harvey Fierstein wrote the book for the Broadway musical version he created a buffoonish black man that wants to be a maid and it becomes a triumphant moment in the show when he is called a maid. With the well known history in movies and theater of African-Americans having to struggle to portray characters other than stereotypical depictions of domestics why did Fierstein write the maid character this way? How could this not be conscious or unconscious racism?

What I don’t understand is why with the well known hideous history of the word so many white people who don’t wish to be regarded as racist won’t let the word die? Why is it the first time some of these people have any interest in civil liberties is when they can’t say ni__er?

In recent years white people who think of themselves as hip (and those who don’t) have started using the “n” word again with the illogical reasoning that they are reclaiming it. There is no reclaiming of ni__er. It is not like the word black. There has never been a mass agreement within the African-American community about reclaiming the word because we never claimed it in the first place.

If you are a white person in this country and you do not understand why you cannot call black people ni__ers, then you are more than racist. You are uncouth and stupid. But these uncouth and stupid white people should embrace and reclaim their stupidity. They could join the LGBTQI community by adding B for backwards and S for stupid. Our long list of letters would be finally complete with LGBTQI-BS. The BS people can finally have their own designated place in our communities. They would have their own workshops, PACs, film festivals, bars and neighborhoods filled with BS. They could celebrate Stupid Pride with BS.

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Comment by Ron Powell on March 31, 2013 at 10:50am

The "N" word is used in my latest post for purposes of literary emphasis and historical accuracy...As a black man of substantial years and concomitant experience I wholeheartedly agree with the gist of your post...Well written; Well said; Well timed....


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