Timothy Dean via Facebook

Culture

ed buck’s house and the vulnerability of black gay men

January 10, 2019
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Last year, I wrote about a young man named Gemmel Moore who was found dead in the home of Ed Buck, an American political activist and major Democratic Party donor. In the that essay, I candidly discussed how often sensationalism around sex work and meth use might cloud the more static realities around what endangers the lives, bodies and minds of Black gay men. Reducing any horror to the easily changeable variables helps facilitate the idea that monsters are born and not created. That tragedies are simply the dark side of miracles, just as unexplainable, random and unpreventable. It’s becoming imperative that we acknowledge there will be different icons and symbols for the same old things we’ve always grappled with, but we must also remember that the circumstances themselves are not new and that we have a new opportunity to bring hard, often overlooked truths into the public discourse.

When reports earlier this week came out that a second victim, later identified as Timothy Dean, was found at Ed Buck’s home, who also died under the same conditions that caused the 26-year-old Moore’s death, I was afraid the drug use — and drug of choice — would be the focus, not the culture and circumstances that create addiction and risky behavior around sex and drugs.

The rather flat image of Black gay men on television between public political analysts and journalists like Don Lemon or the supremely talented actor Tituss Burgess would make one suggest that Black gay life is some campy adventure through exceptionalism and public displays of intelligence and artistic gifts. This is but a loud minority. Discussing only the Black gay lives that are rendered exceptional and pleasurable to consume makes us forget more how incredibly vulnerable a social status “Black and gay” is in this country, especially when not empowered by white supremacist capitalism.

Despite the ambiguity around what’s been happening in Ed Buck’s home, one thing remains clear: vulnerable Black gay men are needed for his particular perversion. It should alarm us that somebody’s erotic pleasure is reached by giving lethal amounts of drugs — any drug — to a vulnerable Black gay man. Out of context, it could sound like a mistake that two consenting adults agreed to before engaging in risky behavior. But we also know that when race, money and power interplay with sexual requests in even the most mature circumstances, ‘no’ becomes hard to articulate — especially when one is hungry, or concerned about housing. I struggle to believe consent can even exist when we examining the extreme socioeconomic gaps between Buck and both of his alleged victims.

Witnessing this conversation being absorbed into America’s current focus on the opioid crisis or the Black gay community’s very legitimate concern about a spike in meth use, it would be a failure in my opinion to exclusively focus on these topics.  Because it could be any drug and any man interested in exploiting (and possibly disposing of) Black gay men.

Wherever society others or erases the poor and the queer, there will be people looking to intimately exploit them in order to express their own patriarchal fantasies. This can happen on any drug, with any person interested in wielding power through dangerous ways. To solely focus on the individuals or drugs of this specific occasion is to let the culture that birthed escape unquestioned.

There is a specific nihilism conjured when one is erased and left to their own devices, to find both pleasure and survival. There is always predatory potential when it’s communicated to society that there exists a class of people who are ghosts, wandering but invisible; and when this happens, these ghosts become hyper-visible to predators with the ability to harm and terrorize yet avoid accountability, make groups of some marginalized communities especially vulnerable. Today, the conversation is Black gay men, drugs and sex work. Tomorrow it can be single mothers and their children, or trans Black women and sex work, or Black boys left alone in public in hoodies, or young Black girls and R. Kelly. The common thread is that if we keep rendering people invisible because of their failure to achieve American exceptionalism, then they will continuously be treated as if they do not exist.

The police are opening an investigation into Timothy Dean’s death in Ed Buck’s home, but I’m not optimistic about the future. I’m afraid that because of the victim’s race, sexuality and line of work, that their own abject position in society will render them at fault for their own death. Not knowing that when society treats you as if you are dead, you make deadly decisions.

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