Morehouse College, the nation’s only all-male HBCU, put its biases on Front Street when the school’s dress code changed last year in response to cross-dressing and non-traditionally attired Morehouse men. Recently the Vibe “Mean Girls of Morehouse” article by Aliya S. King incited many to address longstanding homophobia, patriarchy and generational biases in the Black community.
Supposedly the changes were designed to keep the college’s name in good graces; however, to assume that the flamboyance of a school’s students automatically compromises a university’s image is foolish and, frankly, bigotry.
With few exceptions there has been a code of silence from Morehouse men on the issue. It’s only not about HBCUs and branding, but also perceptions of manhood.
Oftentimes men are only received well when they subscribe to heteronormative and formulaic Western ideals.
Men bring home the bread, wear the pants and make the decisions. Throw some Bible verses in there and it’s a done deal.
But, what happens when a man uses his bread to purchase pedal pushers and decides to live openly, sexuality notwithstanding?
Should schools respond unfavorably to this? What about the separation between church and state?
While men who straddle the gender issue might confuse some, their identities do not make them any less human or worthy of their rights.
“Until these institutions acknowledge the inseparable links between freedom and expression, the same forces that suppress free thought and progressive change will suppress art and the evolving consciousness surrounding it,” poet Saul Williams wrote for www.essence.com.
How can one learn in an environment that is oppositional to one’s existence? How does one person’s identity adversely affect his/her neighbors?
Why not use diverse identities as teachable moments in institutions of higher learning? Can we live and let live?
By not accepting the spectrum of our people, we do not make complex issues dissipate. Instead the floodgates open for everything, including downlow men.
A real man’s identity is independent of his attire. He accepts himself and lives honestly, even if that truth has multiple layers.
For many homosexual, bisexual and transgender men, appearance is an opportunity to project their identity into the world.
Some happen to have male reproductive organs, but do not identify that way.
This issue hits close to home because countless Gramblinites routinely display how conservative and closed-minded they are regarding people deemed too different for social norms.
Something about watching another person live authentically is unsettling to some. As a result, too many want to suppress diversity by asking people to play their roles without understanding the nuances of diverse scripts.
I befriend homosexual and bisexual men, in addition to a transgender (wo)man. The lessons I’ve learned about their bravery – and quest for acceptance in humanity remain unrivaled.
When my heterosexual female friends went straight malicious on me, the outcasts and misunderstood embraced me.
They championed my individuality. In exchange, I champion their right to the same freedoms and expression as everyone else.
Basically, many Morehouse “men” and their supporters need to suck it up. Wearing a purse no more compromises one’s manhood, than wearing a weave invalidates one’s Blackness.
Changing dress codes does not reverse lifestyles and creating hostile environments will cause some of the misunderstood to leave.
But their departure will only cause them to flower elsewhere and color the comprehension of people who affirm their rights.