WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

PIMP JUICE (excerpt)

by JDGuilford

     He sat on the curb, wearing baggy sweats and a triple-X T-shirt. A mass of dreadlocks fell around his face and over his shoulders, framing his head like a pharaoh's nemes. I watched him talk emphatically, waving his hands and palming his fist. His two boys stood on either side of him like brothers from the Nation of Islam flanking Minister Farrakhan. Their red, black, and yellow bandanas announced that they were Rastafarian. As I approached, Pharaoh stopped mid-sentence. His eyes landed on me and I became aware, agonizingly aware, of my fitted jeans, my sparkly bracelets and my French-cuffed shirt, which was pulled corset-tight across my chest. Walking through Crown Heights—a hip-hop haven, a black thug Mecca—I stood out like a pink pumpkin, dressed as I was like some Seventies homo-pimp. Pharaoh's eyes grimaced and something inside me shivered. My clothes, my bracelets, and the swivel of my walk took Pharaoh aback. But what most caught his attention was my dreadlocked hair.
     Stemming from Marcus Garvey's 1920s prophesy that an African King would be crowned, which was evidenced with the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of Ethiopia, dreadlocks originated as a radical political statement. Emperor Selassie I, formerly Ras Tafari Makonnen, garnered the moniker "The Conquering Lion of Zion," Selassie being the Lion and colonized black Africa being the Zion he would reclaim. Many black people who believed Ras Tafari to be the messiah began growing locks, a lion's mane of sorts, as a symbol of black strength and unity. At its inception, dreadlocked hair was more than mere fashion flare. It came about as a refutation of colonization, the establishment and Eurocentric standards of beauty. Those conscious of its origin considered locked hair the ultimate assertion of militant black politics. Unfortunately, homosexuality had no place in Rasta doctrine. In fact, many dreadheads posit homosexuality a disease, a by-product of slavery and European colonization, an infestation, like typhoid fever.


     In my ten years as a gay black man with locks, I have noticed the shaking of heads and clicking of tongues issued to me by other dreads. "Another black man lost," a Rasta woman once commented. It was as if I were a crack-addicted uncle who, despite all efforts at rehabilitation, continued to smoke his life away; as if I were a lunatic covered in puss-filled sores, wandering the streets, babbling to myself. This same look of reproach shadowed Pharaoh's face.