When I came across this meme of the “Gay Coon” on social media I was a bit taken aback because I hadn’t heard the term used in this capacity before concerning effeminate Black gay men.
The meme shows a picture of 1830’s Jim Crow black faced caricature next to a waifish Black fem appearing man. It looks like he is in the throws of voguing in front of a small audience of on lookers. His body positioned similar to that of the Jim Crow picture.
I have heard the term “Gay Coon” before, as spoken by some Black people (regardless of sexuality) when describing Black Gay celebrities like Don Lemon, Michael Sam or Lee Denials. I’m not saying I agree with their usage as it relates to these celebs’ point of view on certain issues but I understood the context when it was being used towards them.
With this meme, the author states:
“Be yourself and stop being their coon. Images of Black men as “Gay Coon” caricatures were popularized in the 20th century media. Even women do not naturally act this flamboyantly fem. You can be a proud same-gender-loving man without becoming a caricature of what you think will prove that you are not insecure. It is as unnatural as hyper-thug behavior. Both are expressions of insecurity. Be a secure same-gender-loving Black man, not a coon image.”
I understand and agree with the sentiments and framework. On many levels, outwardly appearances and mannerisms, homosexual male femininity surpasses female femininity. I feel what is being described here under the umbrella of “Gay Cooning” involves exaggerated hyper-effemininity, which to me are not necessarily the same things.
Coon (Zip Coon) was characterized by white performers in the 1830’s singing and dancing in black face to entertain white audiences. These performances were racially charged mockeries of stereotyped Black people of African decent living in America. These minstrel shows begin to employ actual Black people in the 1840’s. Even though these Black performers were declared “Real Coons”, (they were Black people to which the racial slur was intended) they still darkened their already dark skin and performed racist comedy routines for white and Black audiences.
As stated before I do agree with the meme that Gay Coonism was in heavy rotation in the 20th century as it is today but just like minstrel shows of the past, the Gay Coon performs and entertains for both white, Black gay and straight audiences.
Some would consider examples of Gay Cooning like the deeply stereotypical fictitious Antoine Merriweather and Blaine Edwards characters on In Living Color in the 1990’s to 2015’s Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Some would consider examples of actual real life Gay Coons, the almost “pet like” Black Gay sidekicks of female reality television personalities or the characters and personalities within Black Gay reality web series or vlogs. Even though the basis for these characters exist in everyday real Gay men, mainstream media has sold a bill of goods stating the overwhelming majority of homosexual men are effeminate. Even though over the years that have been a handful of more masculine leaning Black gay male characters represented; hetero and homosexual audiences have bought into the Gay = Feminine view of LGBT lifestyle and culture.
A more engrossing issue I feel at the core of the discussion is the adoption and performance of exaggerated hyper-effemininity. This topic is rarely (if ever) touched upon in mainstream popular Gay media. Gay mainstream media has unapologetically unwaveringly pushed and propagandized male effemininity and exaggerated hyper-effemininity as the day-to-day, normal representation of male homosexuality.
Many gay men exhibit exaggerated hyper-effemininity but are not performing for an audience or cooning for white people. Many have been conditioned due to environment, media narratives and influences that this is how the male homosexual is to behave or conduct themselves. This is what “living in your truth” is supposed to look, sound and act like. The pontifications state that gender norms and roles are destructive negative forces that are hindrances UNLESS the gender attribute is feminine. Feminine is empowering and embracing the fem element is the correct path to living your best Gay Queer Life as it’s really intended.
Mostly all mainstream popular Gay media will examine, question, dissect, vilify, demonize, psychoanalyze and provide details on the problems with masculine, normalized maleness and hyper-masculinity within male homosexuality; however they will never collectively scrutinize the possible negative attributes of hyper-effemininity and its destructive impacts on the LGBT community.
At no point have I witnessed the authenticity or naturalness of femininity being questioned in Gay media. Yet male homosexual masculinity routinely has its usefulness and legitimacy questioned and is quickly associated with internalized homophobia, used to mask one’s true genuine gay (fem) self.
I appreciate the Facebook group Kemetic Same Gender Loving Community, who to my understanding is where this meme originates. I’d be foolish to think it would cause a shift in the Black Gay community for self-reflection or even start a large scale discussion on the topic to change the perception dynamics. I just don’t see segments of the Black Gay mainstream holding up a mirror on itself and admitting, “I’m A Hyper-Effeminate Gay Coon.”