Laughing At The Absurdities of Black Homophobia

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Laughing At The Absurdities of Black Homophobia

in honor of the  Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.) In a later vignette Genitalia is all grown up, a lesbian and standing before a minister with her soon to be ex-girlfriend, Intifada, in an official  break up  “non-commitment ceremony.”

The lesbians’ “conscious uncoupling” (Not my term. It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s in announcing the separation and then divorce of her spouse, Chris Martin.) vignette is a holds no barred repartee that in the end leaves both women utterly and irrevocably each other’s exes.

You cannot be LGBTQ of African descent and not have a personal yet all too familiar narrative about black church homophobia. O’Hara’s Reverend Benson is your assumed classic fire and brimstone exhorter, especially with his “call and response” homily.  But Benson has a secret of his own.

Preaching a black queer liberation theology that excoriates the church’s gossip mongers (the “I Heard Folks” who congregate and become the “They Heard Folks”) in defense of its gay choir boys, Benson finally discloses his secret by disrobing and revealing what’s underneath his vestment.

While homophobia is a running thread in many of the vignettes, particularly the Black Church and black cultural  brand of it, the story line makes you laugh to keep from crying in order to look at hard and unresolved issues a young gay black male coming out confronts,  like racism, homophobia, sexual abuse, rape, poverty  to name a few -and at their intersections-   and how that might shape one’s self-esteem and further social sexual relationships. 

I surmise the best way to depict “BootyCandy” is to call it a tragicomedy, a play  that uses humor and comedic moments to obfuscate not only one’s painful personal journey of coming out, but, also, one’s  unresolved pain and trauma from sexual abuse. One of the  dark and most disturbing moments in the play is the last of  several gay bar cruising scenes. Sutter and his friend pick up a drunken white “supposedly  straight” male who solicit  the two men  to follow him home to sexually humiliate him. Sutter’s eagerness and cold indifference to fulfill the man’s request disturbingly suggests both racial and psychosexual revenge for his childhood sexual seduction by an older white man.

In the vignette “Conference” there is a mock panel discussion  between  four African American playwrights, each of whom has written one of the previous vignettes the audience has  seen, and  a clueless white moderator who condescendingly asks the writers, “I’m wondering what you are hoping the audience comes away with after seeing your work?”

Sutter: I think the audience should choke.
Moderator: Choke?
Sutter: Asphyxiate.
WRITER 1: I don’t want them to digest it easily.

And “BootyCandy” isn’t easy to digest.

You leave “BootyCandy” knowing O’Hara’s journey was difficult -like that of so many LGBTQ of African descent. O’Hara didn’t touch on HIV/AIDS ravaging our communities, and the Black Church continued  silence on it. O’Hara masterfully shows that  only through humor could the absurdities of black homophobia keep you laughing from crying.