Sex, Drugs, and Cynicism

In his first column for SF Weekly, one of the Bay Area's most prolific Renaissance Men offers a queer-punk take on the movement for Black lives.

I write memoirs, direct films, and make critically acclaimed performance art in San Francisco and Oakland. I also spend a lot of time doing drugs, practicing witchcraft, and playing in a punk band called the Younger Lovers.

A few weeks ago, my band returned from a monthlong tour through the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates. Aside from the fact that the whole trip was a low-key disaster and I only have $300 to my name, it was an awesome experience.

The whole time we were traveling — particularly in France and the Netherlands — I was subjected to endless press interviews, conversations at gay bars and saunas, and general unwanted commentary about the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

I answered as honestly as I knew how, saying, “I feel like my Black life mattered well before there was a hashtag about it, but you should still probably go buy a T-shirt to make yourself feel better — if you must.” The person asking the question would then quickly move on to asking about Donald Trump, and I would have to sit there for another 45 minutes listening to a European condescend to me about American politics.

To clarify, I’m not a total bitch about this Black Lives Matter — I’m just a fatigued bitch about it. Like the scores of movements before it, #BLM started from a heartfelt place, galvanized into a well-deserved public conversation, and then, when we noticed that things weren’t changing fast enough, it morphed into a campaign to sell T-shirts and all other sorts of bullshit.

I have often wondered where all this money is going, and I’m not exactly sure it is going straight into the hands of the people who really need it. I feel dubious, but usually I keep my mouth shut.

While on tour, I noticed in online posts that there was a local party for Black Lives Matter at some club and a whole conflict over how the proceeds were misspent. Everyone was pointing fingers, and I sat there wondering how a group of people really thought they were going to go to a club to binge-drink for Black rights.

All I could think about was how the Black Lives Matter movement was affecting my dating life. (Gross, right?)

I feel like Black Lives Matter is too tied up in notions of Black respectability for my tastes, and there are definitely people who are a lot more qualified to write about that than me. I like to leave those topics to the scores of other Black writers who care about stuff like that. I am violently uninterested. If “being respectable” and writing impassioned articles advocating for our survival (which we’ve been writing for, like, a couple hundred years now) were going to save us — wouldn’t the world look different by now? I don’t go in too hard, though, because I fear to think what everything look like if those articles weren’t being written.

I once had dreams of Black respectability. They included moving to Atlanta, getting a Masters degree in political science from Morehouse College, finding a preacher husband, and even sometimes attending church. But at some point, I was like, “Nah, dude, fuck that noise.” I feel it’s been a better choice overall.

I still fight for Black Rights in my own way: I shoplift at Whole Foods, listen to Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” on repeat, and I scream “PRIVILEGED WHITE BITCH!” at all Caucasians who rudely cut in front of me in BART lines.

I almost got my ass beat a couple of times for the last one but created a diversion by crying uncontrollably and humming “Lift Every Voice and Sing” really really loudly just long enough so I could run away before the BART police were called. I rarely have these outbursts, though, and in the interest of self-preservation, I mostly just stay at home, snort drugs peacefully, read

SCUM Manifesto, and wonder (obsessively) if I’ll ever find true love … which brings me back to the topic of my dating life.

When I moved to the Bay Area 15 years ago, the only white people that I ran into were punk rockers, metal heads, and junkies. That shit was fun. Now it’s degenerated into a bunch of Codys. (A cody is a white boy who is exactly what that name would imply.) I wouldn’t feel so bitter about it, but in an era of my “Black Life Mattering” so goddamned much, why am I not getting laid more?

They clutch their faggy tote bags when I walk by them at night. They don’t say hi on Grindr (yeah, the dating app). And they outbid me on apartments. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Surely, I should be getting a dick-down from these boys as part of my reparations, right? But I don’t say that out loud because I don’t like arguing with people. I do what any reasonable black punk boy in my situation should do — I side-eye those Codys into oblivion, and I fuck kinky Black Daddies instead.

Brontez Purnell has been publishing, performing, and curating in the Bay Area for more than 10 years. He is the author of  Johnny Would You Love Me … (If My Dick Were Bigger)? (Rudos and Rubes, 2015). Follow him on Twitter at @youngerlovers and on Instagram at @brontezpurnell.

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