|Manning Marable's exhaustive biography of Malcolm X has heterosexists in a panic; they're trying to ignore and diminish revelations about Malcolm's sexuality.|
Malcolm X engaged in homosexual activity.
That was the bombshell dropped into the laps of heterosexists everywhere with the release of the already bestselling Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, written by noted (and recently deceased) scholar Manning Marable.
Whether this means that Malcolm actually identified as homosexual or bisexual or gay-for-pay or closeted or not-heterosexual (or felt free enough--under the purview of the Nation of Islam, the black community, and the eras in which he lived--to do so) is a subject for debate. But what is not debatable is that he was queer.
And it is that fact that has thrown the heterosexist worldview into a shambles.
The Grio's Javier E. David is one of those individuals who feel the revelation is, at best, irrelevant.
The possibility of Malcolm X's bisexuality begs the obvious question: so what? In the current environment, there seems to be a prurient temptation to refract the legacies of historical figures through a prism of modern-day sexual mores. Such notions, however, are devoid of the necessary context. Although his biography can polarize, Malcolm continues to be a world-bestriding historical figure, and by all accounts was a devoted husband and father. The example that he set, as a family man and a person of deeply held principle, is one that can be emulated by anyone, regardless of their race, creed or sexuality.
It seems that David is completely unaware of the inconsistencies in his response. On the one end, he argues that Malcolm's sexuality is irrelevant, but then immediately follows up by noting that, "by all accounts," Malcolm "was a devoted husband and father." So, sexuality matters only when it is heterosexual? I see.
And this, of course, spurred me to respond in the comments section:
Sisters and Brothers,
Help me with something:
Why is it that when we overtly talk about heterosexuality (vis-à-vis marriage) or covertly talk about heterosexuality (vis-à-vis progeny), no one complains or remarks that one's sexuality has nothing to do with one's historical accomplishments, but the moment that sexuality is revealed to be, possibly, something other than heterosexuality, people find a billion different excuses/ways to express how irrelevant the historical figure's sexuality is?
Why is there always this push to keep history as white, male, and straight as possible? And why is it that so many of us who are not white or male or straight so complicit in that paradigm? Has white supremacy and its awful puritanism been so successful that we want to pretend like a person's sex life is irrelevant or, worse, doesn't exist--particularly if they are queer?
The idea that Malcolm X might have been gay/bisexual/not-straight absolutely makes a difference in the same way that discovering that Africans made vast contributions to society makes a difference: It shatters the myth of heterosexual superiority in the same way African excavation shattered the myth of white superiority. It serves as a small piece of evidence against those heterosexists and their supporters who claim--with their brutal propaganda and endless self-loathing--that queers are nothing more than deviants who have done little to contribute positively to the human race. (Malcolm X may have sucked a few penises and had anal sex with men during his lifetime: Can you now remain homophobic in light of that? And if you can, there's some serious cognitive dissonance going on. Seek help.)
And while some of us might feel as though they don't need any historical figures/great leaders/celebrities to be homosexual in order to validate/feel good about their own sexuality, millions, maybe billions, do. And I'm not so much thinking about those who claim to be self-sufficient as I am about the homosexual child who has no support, has to endure relentless abuse, and has no way and no place to build their esteem.
People who wish to regard Malcolm's homosexual encounters as irrelevant simply want to keep their own fantasies about him intact. (They are also deathly afraid of facing the prospect that, for all of these years, they have admired, emulated, and loved a queer man.) I say: The world has too many fantasies already--and has suffered terribly for them. It is time we grow up and face reality.
Quite frankly, I grow tired of those members of our community who feel so comfortable as to complain about the other members of the community in that way that each and every one of us has heard countless times:
"Man, I hate gay folk. They always want somebody else to be gay!" (News flash: A great many of your icons, whom you believe to be heterosexual because of your own blinders, are closeted homosexuals precisely because of your blinders.)
Never mind the fact that a great many heterosexuals want everyone else to be heterosexual--and some of them will hit you over the head with their religious documents, beat the shit out of you, or murder you to have it their way. No complaints about that, though. Nah. Instead, it's the homosexuals that should be hated.
I wish I had a cure for conscious, subconscious, and unconscious homophobia (and an antidote for heteronormative dogma) but I do not. In the meantime, however, I will stand behind anyone who wishes to reveal the truth about history and its players--no matter how uncomfortable that truth might make me, no matter how it might force me to let go of my preconceived notions about the world. Because I'm the type of person that values truth, the WHOLE truth, even when it contradicts my opinions or worldview.
I find that there isn't any other way to grow or evolve.
You are going to hear many defensive explanations for this aspect of Malcolm's life: "He was tricked by the white man!" "They made this up to undermine his legacy!" Believe none of it. Instead, let the evidence speak for itself even if you do not wish to hear it.
We must not tolerate historical erasure.