Last year, I wrote about a dress code Morehouse attempted to enforce that banned naughty t-shirts, jeans at fancy events, and “clothing associated with women’s garb (for example, dresses, tunics, purses, handbags, pumps, wigs, make-up, etc.).” Aliya S. King’s recent story for Vibe picks up where my annoyance left off, and she speaks to several young men who attended or currently attend Morehouse and dress in so-called “women’s garb”:
Built like an NFL linebacker, the 6’4” freshman politely turned down the Morehouse head football coach’s invite for a tryout soon after he arrived on campus. Phillip—who hails from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.—came to Morehouse in hopes of pleasing his father, a minister from Jamaica who he says is staunchly homophobic. “I’ve always wanted to be a man’s man,” says Phillip, with a sigh. “I wanted to be masculine. I thought by coming here to Morehouse I could be the masculine man my father wanted me to be. The first day I got to campus, I was a boy. I had my little dreads pulled back, jeans and all that. Trying to be this masculine boy, real cool and real quiet.”
It took exactly one day on campus for Phillip to see that this plan was not going to work. “The first time I walked from my dorm to student services, someone yelled out ‘faggot’ and a crew of boys started laughing at me.” Phillip throws his hands up dramatically. “That was it. I was going to have to be me. There was no hiding that I was not masculine. That I was not a boy. I went back to taking my female hormones and rocking my hair.”
King also talks to some members of Morehouse’s non-gender-bending gay community who explain: “In some ways, it’s like it’s okay to be gay. But not that gay. Or it’s okay to be queer. But not that queer. There is homophobia even within the gay community—which is something we have to deal with if Morehouse is going to progress.”
MC alumnus L’Heureux Dumi Lewis has a piece up at The Grio responding to the negative reactions to King’s story:
Many of the outcries I have read suggest the article is another stain on the legacy of Morehouse and a part of a larger project of tearing down black men. Near chants of, “why don’t you highlight something positive?” are flooding social media. While this perspective is common, it can only persist if we think being gay or being transgendered is bad. Over the past few years, Morehouse has entered the national spotlight for violence in the forms of gay bashing and shootings between students. These are serious problems that take lives not just at Morehouse but within our larger communities. Being androgynous or loving the same gender is not the problem. In fact, queer people are often at the receiving end of the problems of violence, bigotry, and harassment.
All these issues remain deeply tied to how we define black manhood and community. Rather than constructing an inclusive definition that centers on a healthy, functioning diversity of identity and responsibility, we quickly close ranks and try to exclude people who may not dress or love in ways that fit a neat image of a “real” black man.