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Black Male Singers and Homosexuality


Thursday, September 13, 2007.


By Keith Boykin


A few months ago I found myself talking to a group of friends who were pondering why gay men seem to love female recording artists so much more than male artists.


Because gay men are attracted to other men, you might expect them to fawn over attractive male singers instead of female divas. And I know lots of gay men who have the hots for LL Cool J, Nelly or Tyrese. But it's the Beyonce, the Patti Le Belle, the Mariah Carrey and the Whitney Houston of this world who really get the gay world attention.


I've never had a good answer for this phenomenon but it seems that part of the explanation is that most of the popular male recording artists don't seem to want our attention. While the female divas openly acknowledge their gay fan bases, the men seem afraid to admit that they have gay fans. That's why I was encouraged to see that the Latin pop star Enrique Iglesias recently performed in in London and gave a mostly gay audience a special treat.


During Iglesias's performance of his hit song "Hero," he usually brings a female audience member on stage to serenade her. Since the crowd was mostly gay that night, Iglesias brought a male audience member on stage and sang to him instead.


"Would you dance if I asked you to dance? " the song begins. "Would you tremble if I touched your lips?" he sings to the man. "Hold me in your arms tonight," Iglesias says. Then in the famous chorus to the song, Iglesias sang to the man:


I can be you hero baby
I can kiss away the pain
I will stand by you forever
You can take my breath away


Iglesias, the son of the legendary romantic crooner Julio Iglesias, seemed to seduce the smitten young fan on stage, wrapped his arms around the man, and kissed him on his forehead at the end of the song.


I don't expect any popular black male singers to do that on stage. Bobby Brown went apologetic when a British male interviewer hinted about homosexuality recently.


And Tyrese showed his own true colors when he performed at a concert recently where he reportedly threw his shirt into the audience and a gay fan caught it. Tyrese then stopped the concert and said "Naw, dawg, that was for the ladies," according to Blogcritics magazine. "He made the guy give it to a girl. What a way to embarrass someone who is spending their hard-earned money to support you," writes the piece author Chris Evans.


Ironically, Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank, three sexy black male recording artists known for their bodies as much as their music, have recently formed an all-male group called TGT. The new group members are in the studio recording an album and planning a tour called "The Shirts Off Tour." Do they really think that gay men won't be in the stands for those concerts?


We can't sweep it under the rug any longer. There are lots of gay men out there who are buying music these guys are producing, and the artists would do well not to upset their gay fans. I remember back in the 90s when I walked in a record store and bought a CD from Chico DeBarge and one from Eric Benet solely based on the sexy cover images. As it turned out, I liked the music too. Gay men sometime make some of the same shallow purchasing decisions that others do.


And from what I can tell about Tank, he's also selling his sexuality in every performance. In his newest music video, he's shown in one scene after another with various tank tops to accentuate his body as he poses in front of a Bentley or inside a house.


Let's face it. Will Smith, Omarion and a lot of these other male recording artists have to know that some gay men like them and think they're hot. I remember when D'Angelo's hot "Untitled" music video hit the airwaves and every gay man I know called me up to tell me to check out D'Angelo in the buff. It's an open secret that gay men are big fans and big consumers of some popular black male artists.


But here's the rub. Nobody ever talks about it or really acknowledges it. Former B2K boy band member Raz B has performed at black gay pride events and appeared in the black gay TV series Noah's Arc. I can think of one or two more examples if I really tried, but there's only a few.


One of the reasons Luther Vandross may not have come out when he was alive was because of his concern that he might lose support among his fans if they discovered his own sexuality. So that too became an open secret. Similarly, the now openly gay Johnny Mathis must have faced the issue in his generation.


The point is that gay and bisexual men are a part of the black community. They are musicians, recording artists, pop stars, rappers and hip hop artists. And just as importantly, they are fans too. Gay black men buy much of the same music that the rest of black world buys. So let's not treat the gay fans as second-class citizens. It's time for the artists to respect them and embrace them.

Enrique Iglesias has set the bar pretty high.


Tyrese, on the other hand, has set the bar way too low. Meanwhile, there's a huge market of gay male consumers who would love to embrace a male singer or an artist who isn't afraid to embrace them. If the male singers don't get it, then gay men will just go and spend their money on the next Whitney Houston CD instead.


Main picture: Rapper 50 Cent with female fans.



Keith Boykin is a writer, broadcaster, journalist and political commentator. He blogs at Keithboykin.com


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