The Scarlet 'L'

Dwight Patton, splintering ad hoc/half-activist member of Cincinnati Black United Front (BUF), spitted and sputtered his venomous way through outing me on 1480 Talk with Courtis Fuller on Aug. 5. I

Aug 14, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Dwight Patton, splintering ad hoc/half-activist member of Cincinnati Black United Front (BUF), spitted and sputtered his venomous way through outing me on 1480 Talk with Courtis Fuller on Aug. 5.

I was shocked but not surprised. Though winded from the punch in the gut, I was prepared.

Don't he know I've been blind-sided all my life? Been in sorrow's kitchen and licked out all the pots. Sticks and stones, brother, sticks and stones. I know I am, but what are you?

Patton can't hurt me. And to make absolutely certain, I stole his thunder. I snatched back my freedom. I came before him.

I got mine and rolled off.

My sexuality has long been among a grocery list of judgment-heavy words like speculation, discussion, debate, horror, fear, damnation and prayer. Perhaps yours as much as mine.

As such there are people who even think my sexuality invalidates my intellect; that it backspaces me to the child's table. Some people say I don't speak for Negroes or anyone else.

Why, they're absolutely right. I didn't sign up to be spokeswoman for anyone but myself. Nothing about me gets co-opted. Still, it's fodder.

"Eck! She's a dyke," they whisper. "Nobody's listening to her."

Most of these homophobic naysayers connecting the incorrect dots are Negroes. Many in that number are Christians. They've forgotten that we collectively and individually have so much work to do that fretting over who's in my bed is not only counterproductive but silly and dangerous. It shows a real lack of focus.

I do, however, understand such obsessive/ compulsive behavior. They're looking, turning over rocks hoping to find something. There's nothing in my closet but ugly clothes and too many pairs of black shoes. So I don't owe y'all anything.

I owe my family — especially my two young nephews and a sister 13 years younger — the benefit of certain truths. That is, when they look at me I want them to see me finally standing comfortably in my skin.

Two parents who labored in the church raised me in a nearly devout Christian home. They've made mistakes and woke the next day to try again. Save a prayer 'til the morning after. I know I live outside the full grace of God in more ways than one.

So drop those stones, 'cause your house is transparent, too — I see you. But I digress.

"I wanna ast you a question and you don't have to answer it. You can tell me it's none of my business," Patton said, sounding like a manic street preacher. "You don't have to answer."

Patton blathered something about the BUF and Stonewall, the largely gay and lesbian human rights group. My first red flag went up.

There are Negroes in the BUF who want no affiliation with the gays and lesbians in Stonewall. They think if homosexuals are in "the fight" they'll soak up some of that precious struggle spotlight from "black causes."

Black civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s stiff-armed James Baldwin back in the day. Forget that Baldwin was a pied piper for racial and social equality whose pen wielded significant influence. He was an ugly black faggot.

"I wanna know — you can tell me it's none of my business — with Stonewall, and it don't have nothing to do with the look," Patton said, getting excited.

Hmmmm. "The look." A second red flag.

"But are you a le-le-le-lesbianbisexual?"

I leaned into the microphone. My throat was relaxed, my voice clear. "Yes, I am," I said, while he tripped around, still muttering.

He muttered some more: "You don't have to answer."

"Yes, I am," I said again. He kept talking.

"The question has been asked and answered," I said. "We're talking today about terrorism, Lt. Col. Ron Twitty and the international ballet. What's the correlation between those three things and my sexuality?"

Then a tennis match ensued between Patton and Fuller. Fuller won, shutting Patton down and maintaining control of his show. Patton hung up in a huff.

I'm not gloating. Sarcasm is my defense mechanism. It's kept me from catching a case.

I respect and protect a person's right to express an opinion. But this was an ambush.

I am the O.G. Punxsutawney Phil, poking my nappy head from my hole only so far and exposing only so much. I'm normal that way.

But whom I love doesn't make me any less loyal as a friend, doting as an aunt, honest as an artist or devoted as a daughter and sister. Whom I love makes me a lover. Whom I love makes me fallible as a Christian.

Don't go yelling "Bingo!" so quickly. You still know only as much as I've let on. How you process the information is up to you.

I'm moving on. Except to say this.

Your plan worked, Mr. Patton, though I still wouldn't know you if you sat down beside me on the No. 69. Yep, it worked. I'm free.

But the scarlet "L" stands for "Loser." Guess which of us that is. Now look who's been outed.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.