Gay people of color “struggle to fend off the false competition between racial and sexual belonging,” declares the author, who delves into this paradox in three case studies.
Wright (Soldiers of Freedom: An Illustrated History of African-Americans in the Armed Forces, 2002, etc.) follows his subjects, all young gay men, as they navigate personal, social and familial relationships. Julius, a foster kid and AP student, flees a stifling community in Florida and heads for New York City. Carlos, a Puerto Rican caught at the busy center of an extended family in his East New York neighborhood, must find the courage to deal with his burgeoning sexuality. Manny drops out of a Brooklyn high school and starts to work as a political activist after his best friend and lover commits suicide. Prostitution, homelessness, drugs and violence against gay men of color are all discussed in unflinching, at times wrenchingly intimate detail, alongside touching reminiscences of first love and the initial realization of a “different” sexuality. Wright criticizes such public-policy initiatives as web-filtering software, meant to block “obscene” websites, which frequently blocks nonsexual sites that provide gay youth access to important information. That’s a particular problem, Wright posits, because so many of these young men have no mentors to turn to for advice. He closes with an account of the struggle between the largely Latino and African-American GLBT community members who hang out on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village and the neighborhood’s wealthy property owners as they battle over what has become an iconic public space. The narrative structure is frequently confusing, but the respect Wright feels for his subjects shines through.
An important book about an often-marginalized group.