No Homo | No Hetero Film Proposal

synopsis

Too Black and too sexually fluid for mainstream LGBT culture and the Black community simultaneously, Black bisexual men are the invisible man of the Black community and the LGBT community. In No Homo | No Hetero, the roots and fruits of this invisibility are highlighted for viewers. We will use the words of Ralph Ellison’s classic text, Invisible Man, spoken by a narrator and displayed on screen, because of how they reach into a truth about Black men who are sexually fluid in their love, affection, desires, and relationships: “I am an invisible man…. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me…. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality…. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren’t simply a phantom in other people’s minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy…. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world…”

We will use archival footage of various media representations of Black bisexual men over time e.g., the success of E. Lynn Harris’ novels, the appearance of J. L. King on the Oprah show, the cheating husband who gives Janet Jackson’s character HIV in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, and more contemporary examples crowdsourced from the people who we have interviewed and filmed such as the self- confident, sex positive members of a group of Black millennials on the BET show Boomerang and the husband of one of the daughters of a family leading a mega church on the OWN show Greenleaf . Our narrator continues with Ellison’s words, “When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”

Like Ellison’s narrator/protagonist, our narrator will invite our viewers on a difficult but necessary journey. He will introduce viewers to Dwight (18 y. o.), Walter (28 y. o.), Kai (33 y. o.), Robert (35 y. o.), and James (44 y. o.) as they participate in a two-day retreat to explore what it means to be Black and sexually fluid. During the retreat, the men engage in various forms of storytelling using a number of artistic practices. The men build an altar to their Black bisexual male ancestors. They create and share maps of their lives. With each other’s help and a group of women brought together to assist them, they recreate experiences with family members, lovers, and members of their communities that have caused them trauma using techniques from a methodology called Theatre of the Oppressed.

We will use their stories and experiences over the course of the retreat as launching pads into reflections and commentary by other Black bisexual men with whom we conducted interviews, footage from a year of public performances and speeches by one of a handful of Black men who are thought leaders and activists on bisexuality, footage of a Black bisexual painter as he finishes a painting reflecting his ideas on Black male bisexuality, and footage of dance and movement performances shot specifically for the film. Themes will include the hostilities and tensions born from the role of biphobia, cisgenderism, patriarchy, and heterosexism in the Black church, the challenge of developing concepts of manhood and masculinity as bisexual Black men that were liberating rather than limiting or limited, forming authentic, nurturing relationships with family and partners that overcame prevailing prejudices and stereotypes, and the loneliness and isolation of learning what it means to be sexually fluid alone given the lack of readily available resources, role models, or peers.

The perspectives we will share are compelling and articulate. For example, Cedric (54 y. o.), one of our interviewees, discusses the power of bisexuality with tears in his eyes: “…we occupy these bodies, we live in this world, and all of us really wanna be seen… And I know for me that the experience of seeing another person, of seeing the depth of another person, affords me the opportunity in the moment to also see myself… So you know, in that way, for me, bisexuality is just so much truer than all of these little boxes that we’ve come up with… All those limitations are some social effort to constrain this being that is me, that is you, that is way bigger than all of this.” And Norman (73 y. o.), another interviewee, smiles luminously as he says, “I believe that we’re a powerful essence that has yet to be discovered.”

Our narrator and original soundtrack will create linkages between the interspersed retreat footage, interview footage, and archival footage. We will use the archival footage to highlight and contextual statements by the retreat participants and interviewees. For example, we will use archival footage of religious leaders in the Black community giving sermons and interviews discussing their views on homosexuality and bisexuality to provide the social and cultural context for the men’s statements about the Black church.

We will end the film by asking the question, “what is next?” In doing so, we will consider the work of Black bisexual men in the entertainment industry who have either declared their bisexuality publicly and/or are creating work that reflects their experiences as sexually fluid Black men. We will consider how these men are contributing to moment that might make it possible for sexually fluid to live and love between the poles of heterosexuality and homosexuality with dignity and community— choosing the level of visibility that makes sense for them. Being recognized for who they are. Not trapped in invisibilities made by others nor themselves.

topic

Sexual fluidity among Black men is an extremely taboo and controversial topic in Black communities. The existence of bisexual Black men disrupts strongly held beliefs about Black manhood and masculinity. Additionally, a consequence of increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the Black community has been a prevailing belief that bisexuality is a sign of internalized homophobia or an avoidance of personal acceptance of one’s homosexuality. Bisexuals risk labeling as confused, deceitful, and/or self-delusional.

Upon identifying as bisexual, Black men frequently experience biphobia, suspicion, fetishization, and hostility from gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual people. When you live at the margins of your community, life can be a soul-murdering, spirit-crushing journey from one moment of structural or social violence to the next. Stigma serves to both maintain and justify these inequities.

Making up a little over 50% of cisgender and transgender people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual according to the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the University of California at Los Angeles, bisexuals are an invisibilized majority of the LGBT population in the United States. But according to a report by Funders for LGBTQ Issues, a group that advocates for institutional funding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, over a forty year period less than 1 percent of the total funding in that period went to bisexual- specific programs.

According to the Movement Advancement Project’s report, Invisible Majority: The Disparities Facing Bisexual People and How to Remedy Them: bisexual youth are more likely than other youth to experience dating violence and to think about or attempt suicide; bisexual workers experience high levels of workplace discrimination; bisexual people are more likely to live on less than $30,000/year than anyone else; bisexual people are more likely than anyone else to live with anxiety and mood disorders; bisexual men experience higher rates of intimate partner violence than gay and straight men and straight women; and bisexual students face higher rates of sexual assault than other students.

According to “Health Disparities in Boys and Men.,” an American Journal of Public Health article in 2012, Black men are 30% more likely to die from heart disease and 60% more likely to die from stroke and nine times more likely to die from AIDS than are non-Hispanic white men. “The rates of prostate cancer and related deaths in African American men are among the highest in the world…. homicide is the main killer of African American men 15 to 34 years old. African American males are 53 times more likely to be murdered than are White males.”

Because of the multiple layers of erasure and invisibilization, to be Black and bisexual is to live in a dark continent of no history, legacy, ancestors, and elders to be your compass or roadmap. With few authentic representations of their experiences, sexually fluid Black men have limited possibility models to draw upon to help them chart paths for survival in the midst of the prejudice, discrimination, and invisibilization they experience. Living as a Black bisexual person means you’re making the road by walking it because everyone around you tells you that all the LGBTs are gay and all the gays are white or whitewashed.

This film will make an important contribution to helping bisexual Black men recognize themselves and building a more understanding and nurturing Black community.

artistic vision

We combine the performative and poetic forms of documentary filmmaking in No Homo | No Hetero. Our intent is to reveal to the audience the nature of living and loving at the intersections of sexual fluidity, manhood, and Blackness through the montage editing, sound, and visual imagery. We want to appeal to the audience’s affective and emotional intelligence to convey the realities we are exploring. Biphobia and stigma are irrational processes. Therefore, we have chosen to rely on affective transference of information rather than the rational. We want to bring an audience into an experience and through that experience bring them closer to understanding.

Because no individual sexually fluid, Black man can represent the diverse ways of being a sexually fluid Black man, we have chosen a non-narrative aesthetic that does not have a singular protagonist. Instead, the audience will experience multiple perspectives as context for our topic. We are interested in the ways Black bodies move through space and time to pursue meaning, love, pleasure, and purpose. Drawing upon ideas from grounded theory, performance auto/ethnography, Boalian theatre, and The Black Aesthetic, we are creating space for Black bodies to communicate truths that are meta-rational, embodied, and situated. The patchwork of visual text will be woven together in the editing process with the aid of background and interstitial music. Music will provide rhythm and pacing for the montage of juxtaposed scenes to form a complex, non-linear unity that resists simple narrative structure in pursuit of affective knowledge and truth-telling.

Our narrator, who the audience never sees, is observant, very observant. His invisibility allows him to observe all that his happening around him and in him. He’s speaking to the audience and to himself through the documentary, which makes the documentary his speaking voice. He is providing the images/footage as evidence and examples of the concepts he’s discussing with the audience and himself.

The tone of the narrator will be at times skeptical, pessimistic and poetic like that of Lawrence Fishburne’s character in Deep Cover. We also like the use of an author’s text in the documentary film Concerning Violence.

principal crew

H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams, PhD., M.Ed. known as Dr. Herukhuti (Executive Producer/ Co-Director) is a sexologist, theatre artist, filmmaker, and educator. He is the author of Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality, Volume 1 and co-editor of the anthologies Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men and Sexuality, Religion, and The Sacred: Bisexual, Pansexual, and Polysexual Perspectives. He’s a member of the governing board of the Association of Black Sexologists and Clinicians and the editorial boards of the Journal of Bisexuality and Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships. He holds faculty appointments at Goddard College, where he co-founded an undergraduate sexuality studies concentration, and the applied theatre graduate program in the School of Professional Studies at City University of New York. He’s a former production fellow at Third World Newsreel (TWN) and playwriting fellow at Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF).

David J. Cork (Executive Producer/ Co- Director) is an actor, writer, and creator from Indianapolis, Indiana. After transferring from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA, to New York University, he completed his BFA in drama from Tisch School of the Arts. After graduation, David has gone on to appear in numbers commercials, plays, film and television productions. Some of his most notable credits include, Zoohouse (National Black Theater), Gun Hill (BET), The Breeding (NovoNovus), All Things Considered (Society B. Productions), and Mapplethorpe (prod. by Eliza Dushku). As a writer and creator, David and his production company BiUS Entertainment have released Bi: The Webseries, with David staring as Alex Walker, a young black bisexual man looking for love in New York City. The series has been featured in NBC OUT, LGBT Update, Huffington Post, and Now This Entertainment highlighting the show’s unique and fresh point of view. Producer highlights include Carrington’s Rules and In the Paint, which was featured at MCNY International Short Film Festival, Out Here Now Kansas City LGBT Film Festival, and HBO Outfest Fusion.

Glenn Quentin (producer) is an award-winning artist, writer and producer based in New York City. Past producer credits include Red, White and Detroit (Crownwheel Pictures) A Walk Within (Media Filmz) and Shampagne (Miami Webfest/ Hip Hop Film Festival Feature). Some past writer credits include Dinner with the Stevensons awarded Most Innovative Script from the 2013 Thespis Festival, CrackBaby (The Griot Festival) and Carrignton’s Rules (Higher Vibrations Collective.)

Paul A. Notice II (cinematographer/DP) graduated from Georgetown University and earned his MFA from New York University in playwriting. Now working as a freelance journalist/video producer, his work has been seen on MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner and Societal Causes, which earned him an Emmy award in 2016 for “Best Segment”. He currently produces videos for OkayAfrica and OkayPlayer, while executive producing his investigative reporting series, The Notice Blog.

Sikay Tang (editor) has edited numerous documentary films including Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, Parliament Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove, Against All Odds: The Fight for a Black Middle Class, #MeToo, Now What?, Raul Julia: The World’s a Stage, Spies Like Us.

Denzil Xavier (sound recordist) has worked as a boom operator, sound mixer, and sound recordist for numerous projects including Daddy’s Girl, Spiritual Liberation, Eggsploitation, Harlem USA, Breeders: A Subclass of Women, Policy of Truth, and Jim: The James Foley Story.