How Moonlight Speaks Up For the Black Queer Experience

Why it's important to have more movies that represents us

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| February 24 2017,

8:29 pm

*Contains some spoilers* 

The total weight of Moonlight didn’t hit me until hours after watching it. 

I expected to feel some parallels with the main character, but l didn't expect to barely make it through the movie I hounded my friends for weeks to come see.  

Even now as I reflect,  I can’t help but think of my own dating life as a queer black man. 

One scene in particular, when the main character (Chiron) talks about never being with anyone other than his present love interest (Kevin), not only resonated with me, but for the first time ever, gave an accurate reference to my own dating experience.  

I often jokingly label myself as the “designated single person” in my friend group. I date occasionally, but for the most part, I'm single.  

While probably influenced by the couple I saw the movie with or the fact that it was just a few days after Valentine’s Day, I couldn't help but reminisce on my own dating life.  In fact, it brought back past conversations about love that I’ve had with fellow queer men of color.

Back during my senior year of college, after realizing that very few of us had actually ever been in a long-term relationship,  one friend expressed his frustration with seeing so many of his (mostly straight) friends get in and out of relationships over, while his dating life remained stagnant. 

This brought me back to Moonlight's main character and his similar sense of helplessness when hearing Kevin talk about his sexual escapades with women. Although Kevin didn’t mean any harm, it was clear that Chiron felt like a bystander while everyone else’s lives progressed, and that was precisely the feeling my friend was experiencing.  

Ultimately, so many people, no matter their sexuality, can understand the frustration of having bad luck when it comes to dating.  But the pressure to conform to the stereotype of a tough, emotionless black man, a pressure that kept Chiron in the closet for years, the same pressure that I feel while navigating the dating world, is especially damaging. 

There’s an idea that because we’re members of the LGBT community, we don’t feel pressure to uphold these stereotypes, but that's not true. Often people think we try to uphold these standards to avoid discrimination from the community, but I feel pressure elsewhere, too.  I often feel like I have to pass a black masculinity test on dates and constantly feel a need to live up to the stereotypes on TV, news, and even porn. 

I’m not at all saying that these negative experiences should keep us from trying to find love, I just think we should be aware of these damaging stereotypes while dating. 

I can honestly say I've never seen a movie that so accurately explores the themes of black queer men, themes that are important for the general public to see. 

At the end of the day, it’s a beautiful story about acceptance that needed to be told. And, although I don’t consider this a movie review, I believe that Moonlight deserves all the accolades it's been receiving and even more.



Janelle Monae
Movies
queer black folks
Homophobia
Moonlight
Oscar Nominations 2017
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