Opinion: Dear (Gay) White People, This Black WeHo Resident Has a Story to Tell

Tod Hallman

Dear White people. No, scratch that. Dear gay White people. We need to chat.

I’m a gay Black man, 58 years old, and a 30-year plus resident of West Hollywood, so I feel I’m a pretty good authority on the topic of racism within our community, yes within the LGBTQ Los Angeles community.

When I moved to WeHo in the mid-eighties, you could count the number of Black gay men in Boystown on one hand minus your thumb, and I was one of them. It was overtly apparent that gay Black men weren’t welcomed, especially in the bars and night clubs, and if a White guy started chatting with you the conversation would quickly turn to “are you selling.” Referring to drugs. I remember the first time it happened to me I was beyond furious and insulted. Unfortunately it happened more times then I care to remember. In the mid-’90s this great new music wave hit the scene called House Music and almost overnight White West Hollywood flocked to the biggest gay-owned Black night club, Jewel’s Catch One, located at Pico and Crenshaw. The Catch, as we called it, became predominantly White leaving many in the Black gay community angry as we were losing the one place that we could call our own to the crowd who wasn’t as welcoming to us in WeHo. But that’s a topic for another time.

On Sunday, June 14, the day that would have been our LA Gay Pride Parade, I marched in an event that was organized by Black LGBTQ leaders as a solidarity march in support of All Black Lives Matter, which was truly an amazing multicultural and multigenerational march. But the event got off to a rocky start when CSW (Christoper Street West), which produces LA Pride, felt it was the organization to spearhead such an event. Now I can’t say that CSW’s intentions weren’t good. However, when I heard about its plans, I questioned the motivation as holding the march on the same day that would have been our LA Pride parade seemed too coincidental. So, I asked CSW what I felt were key and very important questions: Which Black gay organizations are you partnering with, and which prominent Black community leaders were speaking? I was puzzled by the answers received as the event seemed rushed and hurried, and once again it made me feel that this was another situation of White people or an organization doing for Black people what they felt Black people needed without including our voice, which is part of the damn problem.

We are a community that since the Black Cat and Stonewall protests have fought for equality as LGBTQ individuals. But for me, as a gay Black man, I’ve always questioned if the fight included the Black gay community. We are a community that has its own race issues silently buried within because — news flash — just because you’re gay and White doesn’t mean you’re not a racist.

Now I know what some of you are probably thinking. Oh, he’s just another angry Black man. But let me assure you that is the furthest thing from the truth, nor do I believe that all White people in our community are racist. I’m just a gay Black man who’s seen it, witnessed it, and lived it.

We are living in a time when the genie is finally out of the bottle. George Floyd wasn’t the first Black man or woman killed at the hands of the police. But he’s the first who’s death unfolded before our eyes for 8 minutes 46 seconds thanks to a video shot by a brave young 17-year-old whose life will never be the same. A video that has sparked a long-overdue movement and call to action and change! I’m hopeful that as a community we will open our own dialogue and look at the prejudices within and take a serious look as to who we are as LGBTQ individuals and come together and celebrate our diversity. How can we demand a seat at the table when some of us are still sitting at the proverbial kid’s table?

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Tod Hallman
About Tod Hallman
Tod Hallman is a fashion stylist who has styled such talents as the cast of Desperate Housewives, Samuel L. Jackson, Britney Spears, and Alanis Morrisette, and is known as a producer of fashion shoots for magazines and as a producer of fashion shows. Hallman also is captain of West Hollywood's Eastside Neighborhood Watch.

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Vigilant
Vigilant
21 days ago

It is not WHAT you are
It is WHO you are.

James
James
21 days ago

Why are we fighting to be part of a community that doesn’t value our lives? Are there any American Africans on the board of directors of the LGBTQ organization? Can you really say “our” community? Us as American African homosexuals aren’t important to majority of the population. Majority of the white homosexuals come from small racist towns and take that mentality wherever they go. Why are we surprised?   The fact that we have to label something black is ridiculous and creates more division. As an American African man, I don’t want to hear white lives matter, asian lives matter… Read more »

David Gordon
David Gordon
27 days ago

I lived in hollywood for 19 years,mostly west hollywood.
I had the same kind of experiences.
Yes, gay white males that are racist exist, but i was fortunate enough to have a great small group of friends to shield me from that and the white friends i had and still do have are amazing. Theres good in Hollywood, you just have to be fortunate enough to land in the right place and it can happen.

Renee
Renee
28 days ago

Scratch That: Dear White gay MEN.

Aaron
Aaron
22 days ago
Reply to  Renee

Agreed, I have never felt uncomfortable around our lesbian and trans community but there are a great deal of gay white men who come off as entitled in this city – I have lived here for over 20yrs and sadly have learned to assimilate in order to be in a place that feels safe. What is more shocking is that they are the same men holding up the black lives matter posters yet often exhibit internalized racism in everyday life.

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
28 days ago

Tod, thanks, excellent insight into West Hollywood. Please run for the city council!   I had a black gay actor friend from South Africa who was working here in a movie. He had the same reception that Tod had from individual bars and clubs. He was surprised how provincial West Hollywood was. Not like Berlin, New Orleans, or even Capetown.   A friend of my mother’s grandson, from Cleveland, A grad of Columbia, father esteemed black surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, mother white, also felt very uncomfortable in some bars and clubs. He was in his 20s, was modeling. He… Read more »

Rudi Logan
Rudi Logan
28 days ago

I’d appreciate someone providing a timeline of the 6/14 event because it’s never really been clear who first proposed the march — CSW or ABLM. Is it coincidence that for all the conflict, the protest wound up being held on the same date that would have been the Pride parade anyway? How much interplay was there between the two groups that something so large was organized so quickly? The fact that the march was peaceful and orderly is reflective of whoever put it together, but it wasn’t sui generis. It’s been fashionable to dump on CSW for a couple of… Read more »

hifi5000
hifi5000
29 days ago

Today’s column by Tod Hallman is spot on.I am Latino and on occasion will get some hussy responses when I visit West Hollywood,but for the most part,I hardly have any problems.   However,West Hollywood can feel like a island onto its own,but its residents need to remember that there are visitors different from them and that they are gay as well(surprise!!).   I think if an effort is made to slow down and think of the other person,a lot of the racial difficulties being experienced can be handled.If we can do this,West Hollywood can be a more fun city than… Read more »

Joshua88
Joshua88
29 days ago

It is about time.

Hard to not see that the City Council does not integrate.
The voters do not engage.
There is no outreach that I can see.

Thank you for your post Mr Hallman.

SLH
SLH
29 days ago

Listen I went to Weho Bars in the late 1990’s and he is right I hardly saw any black men but I was just coming out myself. I can honestly say I was too scared not to approach any man, black or white. I hung out with my gay cousin. I had so much fun with him. THIS is a truthful statement “I have never asked any black person anywhere if there were selling”. That was not my deal. (I loved booze). Sad that this happened to him. I will also say had he approached me in a bar I… Read more »

Stanton Heck
Stanton Heck
29 days ago

AS much I want the world to change I don’t think it will. The 1991 Rodney King Video did not change anything. The cops got off (2 of them were later convicted) but the other 2 from what I was told they went to other police departments. That is a crime as well!

Glenn Hendricks
Glenn Hendricks
29 days ago

This is my life long friend Tod. I’ve known Tod for most of the 30 years he talks about. He has always spoken the truth and has a point of view. He helped me grow as a human. I’ve always loved him for that and will forever. Listen to Tod.
 

Last edited 29 days ago by Glenn Hendricks
jjabely
jjabely
29 days ago

Superb article. Thank for this, especially: “News flash — just because you’re gay and White doesn’t mean you’re not a racist.” This cannot be said enough.

JF1
JF1
24 days ago
Reply to  jjabely

And just because you’re gay and black doesn’t mean you’re not racist. This cannot be said enough. Racists come in ALL colors. Not just white. Don’t judge all white people by the actions of some. Just like you wouldn’t judge some blacks by the actions of some. Stop separating people and unite!

Last edited 24 days ago by JF1
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