Ahead of the return of #BlackGaySlay this October, HISKIND had the opportunity to talk with Mike Mason, the creator of the viral hashtag about his inspiration, the movement, and his hopes for the future of queer black representation.
What was the story behind you creating the ‘#BlackGaySlay’ hashtag?
The creation of the tag was an amalgam of three things: lack of Black Queer representation in Queer circles, wanting to reclaim Black Queer slang, and Beyoncé! I was getting very frustrated by the fact that whenever a similar tag is promoted on Twitter, the tag is 90% white gay men. It’s always bothered me, because the LGBTQIA+ community is much more diverse than that. Queer people of color have been the forefront of many of the LGBTQIA+ community’s biggest revolutions and movements, including Stonewall. Also, I’ve been seeing a lot of people use Black Queer vernacular without knowing its roots or its true meaning, and I wanted to put a stop to that. Plus, the song ‘Formation’ was stuck in my head—which I think is an anthem not only for Black women, but for Black LGBT+ folks. I brainstormed some ideas, came up with Black Gay Slay, and there you have it!
Where you surprised by the response and virality of the hashtag?
I was very, very surprised. I remember being extremely nervous that the tag wouldn’t do anything, that maybe a few of my close followers would participate and that it would fizzle out. I left Twitter briefly, to get some coffee. When I came back, it was trending #8 worldwide and so many huge accounts were participating. I was shocked; I couldn’t believe it. But honestly, the main thing that really surprised me, and made me emotional to some degree, was the response from Black Queer folks. I got so many messages saying, ‘Thank you or giving us visibility’. Something so simple made us all feel emboldened for a day. This just goes to show you how representation matters, and I am delighted to have been a part of making Black Queer culture be represented as vibrantly as it is in my daily life.
So tonight I learned of #blackgayslay Here is my submission. Because I've loved him for 25 yrs & counting… pic.twitter.com/4u9fsH25uN— Curtis Ross (@curtisrross) February 12, 2017
Though we are living in a Post-Moonlight world, there’s no doubt that the contemporary/mainstream representation of queer black people leaves a lot to be desired? Was this hashtag a way of bringing these images of black queerness to the fore?
Definitely. As I said, I was very concerned about the lack of representation for Black Queer folks. Moonlight is my favorite film of all time, and I think Chiron is literally me—the way that character is written is pretty much how my childhood occurred, save for a few differences. But I also recognize that there are many other different types of Queer folk that the movie didn’t represent.
Disabled. Queer. Black. Nerd. #BlackGaySlay pic.twitter.com/TRwAy3pHAO— TeeFranklin.com (@MizTeeFranklin) February 11, 2017
What’s made you most happy about the movement?
People were using the tag to come out of the closet, which is something I could’ve never expected in a million years. Again, it’s all about representation, so that’s what I was most expecting once the tag launched. But to see people announcing to the world that they were Queer, and using my tag as a platform to speak their truth—it made me cry, to be truthful. That’s the feeling I want to reclaim every time we do the tag.
What would you say to the young queer black people out there who are hesitant to get involved in the next #BlackGaySlay because they might not possess the typically glorified Instagram ‘aesthetic’?
I would tell them that the whole point of the tag is shattering that aesthetic. Anyone can participate. The tag, though it’s called Black ‘Gay’ Slay, includes anyone in the LGBT+ community—as a lot of people know, Gay is often used as a blanket statement and it’s a part of Black Queer slang, so as not to exclude anyone, I want to make it known that everyone Black and Queer is welcome. But also, people who are not traditionally attractive, are not cisgender, are not able-bodied, etc, are encouraged to participate. The key word of this tag is inclusive, and anyone who can identify with the tag should participate, no matter how you look or how big you are or whether or not you are able-bodied. However, I will say that those in the closet should only participate at their own will; coming out of the closet is something delicate that must be treated very carefully, and I am not urging or forcing anyone to do so. If you feel it is time to speak your truth, then speak it, but make sure you know yourself and are prepared to do so.
Also lemme give you that slight femme. #BlackGaySlay pic.twitter.com/RL8LcTjBhi— Jesús Hilario (@Art_Jesu) February 11, 2017
What would you like to see more of when the next #BlackGaySlay kicks off on October 6th?
It’s been a long time since we last did the tag—we revisited in April, and then I took a very long break to care for my mental health. I’m just excited to have it back again, and to see people participating. I’m very nervous—I don’t know if it will be as big this time as it was before, but I have faith that my Black Queer family will represent.
the #blackgayslay tag is one of the most beautiful tags i've seen on twitter. here's to my black trans fam ✨ pic.twitter.com/jFrxlEJh4Z— Tyler Ford (@tywrent) February 11, 2017
The next #BlackGaySlay will be taking place on Twitter on the 6th of October. You can follow Mikey on twitter here.