Lee Daniels-PFR-010698Lee Daniels is on an epic promotional tour. The filmmaker has been spreading the word about his latest—and most talked about—film, Lee Daniels The Butler, which claimed the number one spot during its opening weekend.

While many have praised the film for highlighting Eugene Allen, who served presidents in the White House from 1952 to 1986, others have criticized the film as being just another “Black servitude” narrative.

Recently, Daniels sat down with Larry King to talk about race, the film, and what it’s like to be Black and gay.

During one point in the interview, Daniels explains why being a gay Black man is sometimes seen as an affront to the Black community. To illustrate his point, Daniels recounts walking into the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center while researching the film Precious and finding a room full of Black women. Confused, Daniels told King he thought he’d walked into a welfare office.

Daniels explains:

“I walked into the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) Center and I expected to see a room full of gay men. Well, there are nothing but women there. And the reason why women are there–Black women with kids–I thought I had walked into the welfare office. They service Black women with AIDS. Why? Because Black men can’t come out. Why? Because you simply can’t do it.”


Daniels continues:

“Your family says it, your church says it, your teachers say it, your parents say it, your friends say it, your work says it. So you’re living on this DL thing and you’re infecting Black women, and so it’s killing us. The Black culture—and the Hispanic culture—have a thing about this.”

Now, I won’t pretend to know what it feels like to be a Black gay man. But as someone who has several close Black gay male friends, Daniels’ assertion that Black men simply cannot come out because Black folks (and apparently Latinos, too) are somehow more homophobic than their White counterparts is problematic.

Not only have scores of Black gay men come out and been supported by their friends, families, and communities, Daniels continue to malign the Black LGBTQ community by furthering the notion that Black women are contracting HIV at alarming rates from scary, “down low,” Black men. While this narrative is popular, research shows it’s just not true.

Being Black and gay is definitely difficult, but it’s not because African Americans are more homophobic than White folks. As a group, we tend to be more religious than Whites (which sometimes leads to strong beliefs about the LGBTQ community), but homophobia does not solely reside in Black neighborhoods. Restrictive anti-LGBTQ laws in Russia, and staunchly gay Republicans (and others) here in the U.S., show that Black folks don’t have a monopoly on homophobia.

Writer and cultural critic, Robert Jones, Jr., who runs the brilliant blog Son of Baldwin sums up my trepidation with Daniels’ comments beautifully:

I could have easily been the type of black gay man who suffered at the hands of black communities and, in ways that might not be entirely conscious, set out to exact a kind of vengeance through my art. And let us not pretend that this is a small thing: The black gay child, indeed, suffers; is pounded to bits under the fist of patriarchy and often has little choice but to collect the shattered pieces and try to puzzle together some semblance of order.

I suppose that instead of anger, I should be feeling sympathy for someone like Daniels, who performs, spectacle-like, before Whiteness as though it is, for him, catharsis. Each time he opens his mouth, I can see the wounds he thinks no one else can see. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the hurt as it bleeds all over his words.

This is the pathology inherent in his art that his supporters claim is not there–no matter how obvious and plain. They say this dysfunction must be ignored in the interest of tribe loyalty. They insist this psychosis must remain undiagnosed at the expense of healing and in the interest of entertainment. Our collective self-esteem, they believe, is tied inextricably to how successful a box office we can manage in a system that used to measure our asses for sale and now measures them profit.

But how long must we keep silent as this representative of black self-loathing takes the stage–because his proud subjugation has been rewarded with access and resources–and indicts entire communities as he gazes at them through the lens of white supremacy and spreads the white supremacist representation of us around the like a plague?

 What do you think of Lee Daniels’ comments?

  • Velociraptor

    I’ve learned there are people who simply don’t know how to eloquently translate their thoughts into words. Lee Daniels is one of those people.

  • Starla

    I am still stuck at “..Black women with kids–I thought I had walked into the welfare office…”.. Wow!!!

  • Misha

    I think I understand what he was trying to convey, but did a terrible job at properly articulating it. Either way it is obvious the he’s still battling some demons, I honestly hope that he seeks help so that he can heal and move forward.

  • MimiLuvs

    “…While many have praised the film for highlighting Eugene Allen, who served presidents in the White House from 1952 to 1986, others have criticized the film as being just another “Black servitude” narrative…”

    I haven’t gone to the movies yet to see this film. But the statement above makes me think “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

  • JaeBee

    I know right?! The irony of him making such a statement amongst comments where he is denigrating black folks for their ignorant beliefs regarding homosexuality…

  • JaeBee

    I saw the movie, and to tell you the truth I’ll probably wait until it comes out on cable before seeing it again (and that will probably only happen if there’s nothing better on).

  • apple

    so its our fault that gay men give black women AIDS? how about you just be a man and own up to it? Instead of ruining people’s lives and killing them.. But what did I expect from a man who made a movie about a walking stereotype overweight black woman who is raped by her father,is on welfare,can’t read,has AIDS and steals chicken?

  • ruggie

    I absolutely saw nothing wrong with Lee Daniels’ remarks. The welfare office or any social service setting is his frame of reference (black, working class background) for an office full of black women and children. He could have said it with more nuance but this was not Ronald Reagan derisively talking welfare queens. Also the image struck me because I really didn’t know that GMHC served women and children, and I’m glad to hear that they do, AND it also shows you just how closeted men are for their gayness and HIV status. Do I “like” Lee Daniels or have a problem with his films and black pathology on screen? Those are different questions. But what he talks about here was very revealing.

  • mEE

    “Black women with kids–I thought I had walked into the welfare office”

  • http://gravatar.com/beejcee beejcee

    I am curious as to why a Doctor’s office did not come to mind?

  • A

    He sounds like he WANTS to know what he’s talking about, but DOESN’T.

  • Meme

    LOL- I know right? That comment alone had me dead to rights.

  • http://gravatar.com/beejcee beejcee

    Comment was lost in the clouds – again! I am curious as to why a doctor’s office did not come to mind?

  • donnadara

    Sorry, that was a slur. A room full of black women and children could be a PTA meeting, a church service, a college scholarship meeting… Why the hell would he say he thought it was a welfare office? I could think of a lot of offensive things that people can and have said about black gay men that he would not like. Are his mother, his sisters, his children on welfare? Shame on him.

  • Malik Hemmans

    I’m so tired of this dude…he need’s to go somewhere, anywhere

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    like don lemon, i think daniels has a hatred for black people. i believe this hatred may have stemmed from being gay and black. they are taking revenge on the black community for not accepting them.

  • http://gravatar.com/beejcee beejcee

    @mEE Why not doctor’s office? Why did it HAVE to think that he had walked into a welfare office?

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    daniels, simmons, lemon. are these who we want out front representing us?
    black people best get some control over our images.

  • http://gravatar.com/geenababe geenababe

    When I first saw this article I was thinking when doesn’t he throw black people under the bus?

  • 9Boots

    This is why I refuse to give my money to black men. They can’t wait to through black women under the bus.

  • Black Beauty

    Daniels and Simmons made remarks that are dmamging, however DON LEMON simply told the truth, and so many of us need to hear/see the truth! You may not like it, but there itis!

  • BuckwheatsMomma

    Mr. Daniels need to encourage other black men who are gay (likes to lay with men as he does), to stop using women to hide behind because they can’t or won’t come out.
    These types ruin lives, and cause pain to others because of their desires.
    I saw a video of two black men having sex and almost threw up! Just plain nasty and low down. I believe eveyone has their rights but please stop throwing your perversion up in others faces all the time to justify what you are doing. The black church is filled with homosexual males. This is nothing new.
    Black homosexual men, please stop living a lie and be who the hell you are.

  • Starla

    @ MimiLuvs
    I will not be paying to see the movie. It was at the top of my list to see next, but I just can’t support someone who despises what I am. I’ll go see Kick Ass 2 instead.

  • leelah

    The GMHC probably offers its services to anyone living with HIV, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. The fact that the office was full with women has little to do with black men with HIV being out of the closet. It has everything to do with women being more likely to actually go to the doctor and take care of their health, especially if they have kids or a kid who also has HIV. Nothing in this article indicates these women were infected by closeted gay men. The health center probably specializes in the treatment of HIV, and the women are trying to get the best treatment they can get. I know you didn’t imply black gay men are spreading Aids in the community but a lot of other comments is keeping with that lie

  • Child, Please

    Not to belittle your point, but in reference to: “But what did I expect from a man who made a movie about a walking stereotype overweight black woman who is raped by her father,is on welfare,can’t read,has AIDS and steals chicken?” —> His movie was actually based on a book and kept pretty much to how Sapphire wrote it. If anything, I’d take that up with the author (who is female in case you were wondering), not him.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    you should be very careful about who’s truth you are eating……..

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i would not think of daniels as a man……

  • Child, Please

    I get what he was trying to say, but he could have definitely worded it MUCH better; I was taken aback by his statements regarding black women and welfare. However, despite how I feel about Lee Daniels in general, I feel there is a certain reach in this article. Not once did Daniels say that black people were more homophobic than white people, which is the basis of this particular article. Was his example terrible? Yes. He could’ve illustrated it in a better way. But let’s not act as if there isn’t a push back toward black gay males in the black community. Let’s not.

    I think if one were to get mad at his statements, it’d be on the the line everyone seemed to trip over – women and kids correlating to the welfare line – not the conflict of being black, gay and male, something, naturally, you wouldn’t see on a site catered to African-American women. Further, it’s been published on this very site that gay rights can’t be compared to black rights; understandable, but how is a gay black individual supposed to feel when they see that? And it isn’t just here, but other black sites as well that reflect similar sentiments.

    I think what Daniels was trying to say, which was lost (knowing him) is part of the reason some of these black women are in there is because they were given the disease through a partner who lived his life on the down low – something many attribute to the increase in AIDS/HIV among black women. I believe his point is: If said woman was given the disease that way, her mindset/outlook may change on men who live a wreckless lifestyle or may harbor a dislike for gay males. Is it a stretch? Yes, but we don’t know Daniels experiences and as mentioned in the article we can’t pretend to know. But Many black gay male friends of mine detest that many jump to that conclusion, and unfortunately, they can attest to the strife of even telling someone they’re gay.

    No, I’m not saying Daniels was right and that Clutch is wrong, but I feel there should’ve been more analysis on Lee’s statements concerning why some gay black males feel they can’t “come out” while others feel they can. And I don’t think using Robert Jones, Jr. displayed the best sentiment on that subject.

  • Nadell

    For so long we assumed the enemy was the opposite sex who was of the opposite race. My goodness, we’ve been so off. It is our very own!
    It matters not if Daniels meant this or that but could not quite articulate it in the most precise way. He said what he said and he certainly believes it. His association pretty much stated BLACK WOMEN=WELFARE.
    I cannot get past his one statement:
    “And the reason why women are there–Black women with kids–I thought I had walked into the welfare office.”

    Daniels, no one is holding anyone hostage. It is that individuals choice to either come out or not. To remain silent or not. To be open or not. Black men CAN’T COME OUT….. Why it is certainly frowned upon and the worst a black man can do w/in the black community and there will be a great amount of backlash (disownment, isolation, threats, loss etc) it is an individual’s voluntary choice.
    Why do we deem the black community alone to be the worst community for a man to come out? I’m sure white males face similar opposition w/in their communities along with other ethnicities.

    The disdain for black women as of late is unbearable.

  • Laura Charles

    Stealing chicken was NOT in the book.

  • Laura Charles

    Yes, I agree. I also believes he hates black women which is why he attached himself to both Monsters Ball and Precious. Every time he opens his mouth, he proves he has hate in his heart for black people. He’s one shucking and jiving ass negro that loves throwing blk people far enough under the bus to make white people happy.

  • SayWhat

    The study did not disprove that black women are getting aids from down-low men. I went to the NPR site and read the story, he said it’s not fair and that it is a complex issue, but nowhere did I see a link to any of these ‘studies’. If I missed it, please post.

  • http://gravatar.com/jswindell Nean

    I think that statement alone is reason enough to not support his future works.

  • 9Boots

    oops *throw

  • Pepper

    What?? To Robert Jones, Jr. I again say What??!! Very deep comments. And who is “they?” I think Roberts needs to chill!!

  • Pepper

    Child: I agree with your comment…. “I don’t think using Robert Jones, Jr. displayed the best sentiment on that subject.” Exactly what I thought when I read Jones’ analysis.

  • Pepper

    Buck my question is why were you watching a video of two men having sex?? I don’t have a problem with gay men, or women. They are who they are. But I would never knowingly watch a video

  • Pepper

    Really??!! Seriously!?? Kickass 2?? You have got to be kidding. Like, or agree with Daniels’ personal analogy of the gay community’s relationship with black people, or not….The Butler is a great movie. Full of history, and a LOVE story!! Yes the comment about welfare was wrong, and uncalled for….but it didn’t make me think he disdains women. It made me think he sure used a poor choice of words.

  • Pepper

    Who is “us?” Neither Daniels, nor Simmons, nor Lemons represents all Black people. They are just (3) of many successful Black people. Black people are not monolithic. No (1) one Black person represents ALL Black people when that person speaks out on a subject.. Black people are comprised of poor, middle class, wealthy, uneducated, and educated people. All with varying thoughts.

  • Starla

    @ Pepper..Yes, Kick Ass 2, because I liked the first one! I never said I would not see The Butler, I said I will not be paying to see it. My money, my choice!

  • Winni

    Gosh, I have sooo many problems with Lee Daniels after reading this article. Thank you for writing it, Britni. To answer your question – hell YES he did throw black folks under the bus.
    I would like to say to Mr Daniels- it is not that black gay men can’t come out- it is that they CHOOSE not to. You CHOOSE to live your life as a openly gay man and that is fine- for you! People who choose to conceal part(s) of their sexuality will deal with the repercussions of their behavior in due time. As my mother tells me: “What happens in the dark will eventually come to light.” The fact is, the notion that black women are getting AIDS primarily from black gay men on the DL is not true! Daniels needs to be held accountable for maligning the community in such an egregious way. And his reference to mistaking a room full of black women and children for a welfare office reveals how he really feels about the average black woman in today’s society! I’m at a loss. I personally REFUSE to pay to watch this movie and I wish that every black person would open their third EYE and see this sick, woman hating (but really wishing he was a woman – something all his money still can’t make TRULY happen) for what he is and boycott this and all of his movies. I’d also like to ask Mr. Daniels, when are you going to make a film that features a black woman who is shown in a positive light??
    The quote from the writer/critic Robert Jones Jr. was so poignant and thought provoking. I absolutely agree that Daniels’ words are singed with pain and hurt he experienced from the black community. It IS hard to come out to your family and friends when they all believe you living in sin and are going to hell. The black community – along with the rest of the country -is getting SO much more accepting though! Daniels needs to go sit down somewhere and stop trying to make it seem like he is the chosen one to call the black community to court or expose our dirty secrets. We really don’t need him making it any harder than it already is to overcome the black stereotypes in today’s highly racially sensitive society.
    SN: According to the clip of Daniels’ interview with Larry King- he knew he was gay when he was five years old and came down the stairs in his house wearing his mother’s red pumps. He was “severely beaten” as a result of it. Oh please- that is when he knew he was gay? Just because a little boy likes to put on his mother’s heels or purse does not a gay boy make. Lord please hasten the day when people come to realize that sexuality is more fluid than we could ever admit- not just for women, but for men too.

  • Pepper

    Jae: I’m not questioning your choice to “wait until it comes out on cable.” But what could be better that’s on? One of the reality shows? I don’t know….I’m just asking

  • Pepper

    Child: Good point about the fact that a woman wrote the book. Of course Daniels had the choice not to be involved with the movie; but lots of writers/directors/producers bring movies to the screen based on books. That’s what they do….a lot.

  • Pepper

    Nean I can think of a lot more things not to support. I’m not saying that you do; but I for one would never support the Rush card

  • Mademoiselle

    What the high fuck?! You walk into a room full of black women, and your immediate thought is “welfare office?” Are you kidding me?? I didn’t even finish the article. Good luck convincing me to see your movie jackass!

  • Creepy

    All of comments weren’t good but you refuse to see the forest from the trees. This does happen in the community allot. What he saw were TOO many black women in this community place. That is a problem and almost an epidemic. Many men don’t come out for fear of losing family members or friends. So, they continue to date women. Do they all do that? No, but the overall issue is that a large portion of black women are being infected. That is a problem. Another problem is the fact that are you going to attack every comment you don’t like. When will we be wrong? When will we have to face that everyone does have problems but using examples from other races doesn’t erase ours. I have heard of some sad stories about men being gay and women contracting Aides, it happens all over but we have a large number. When will we take criticism? Just because you get tired of hearing about won’t make it go away. Can they come with solutions? Yes, but after the 24hr black twitter complaints about even mentioning it; I doubt many will listen. I’ll just pray because people have major issues with differing opinions. It’s crazy. I can’t see how many people make it through their performance evaluations. DO they argue the entire time not focusing on what they need to repair to excel. I can only imagine….lol..whew..
    Done with the blogs…just sad all around.

  • http://www.lillian-mae.com Knotty Natural

    RE: Many men don’t come out for fear of losing family members or friends.

    Sounds weak to me…stay in the closet, but don’t continue to sex black women in an effort to keep up an appearance.

  • http://www.lillian-mae.com Knotty Natural

    RE: Mr. Daniels need to encourage other black men who are gay (likes to lay with men as he does), to stop using women to hide behind because they can’t or won’t come out.

    Nuff said!

  • http://changeistheconstant.com jayellemarie007

    I can understand your frustration wit his generalized comment, especially with nothing else supporting it, but I will say as a lesbian West Indian American that I do believe blacks are less tolerant of homosexuality. As far as Latino’s go their need to asset machismo is just another example of how much they aren’t in favor. Not to say that black and Latino men “cannot” come out, but they do feel more pressure to stay in that dreadful closet. In general, we all need to be more vocal about how we feel and most people aren’t.

  • Marie

    So he walks into a room filled with black women and children and his mind thinks welfare office? Hopefully, AIDS won’t kill him, but IGNORANCE will.

  • RaiseTheBar

    “…Did He Throw Black Folks Under the Bus?”

    He threw black women under the bus, but far more troubling, he threw innocent black CHILDREN under the bus.

    To me, a room full of black women with children would say, pediatrician’s office, dance school, etc. (a children’s venue) accompanied by a parent=mother. Truly don’t believe “welfare office” would have occurred to me.

    He was “trying’ to tell his “Personal Truth”; but, because Lee Daniels was traumatized by the severe beating by his father for displaying what was considered gay behavior does not automatically translate into, “Poor black gay men having to resort to irresponsible behavior out of fear of being ostracized.”

    Too many damn “VICTIMS” for my taste — NEED more personal RESPONSIBILITY. Because I’m 1,000 lbs. overweight, I, I, I, I, I, need to take responsibility for “MY” morbid obesity, NOT blame McD’s for supersizing it and throw SuzyQ and all those folks on Avenue”You” under the bus who are 1,001 lbs. overweight.

  • cb


  • http://gravatar.com/jswindell Nean

    Pepper, those Rush car commercials used to make me sick. Especially the ones with Kimora (his ex). Not only because he used to prey on folks affected by the economy but his cards. in particular, have been rated the worst when it comes to charging fees, etc. I was hoping that Bounce TV would drop his ad campaign but I see that it only slowed.

  • http://gravatar.com/ceecollegegal CeeCee

    Hm .. m.. (scratches noggin). I knew there was something off about The Butler; now I know what it is, I mean…who it is. Thank goodness, I decided not to waste any of my hard earned dollars on this fool’s movie.

  • http://gravatar.com/smith27k And Another Thing

    Can I just point out that it’s always black men (gay or what have you) talking about black women? We don’t expect anything less from white media, but to have black men who come from black wombs say talk ish about is is beyond bewildering to me. I’m always concerned when a black man (Miguel, Asap Celie, Lee Daniels, Rick Ross, and a whole host of them mofos including D.L. Hugley) jumps up and talks about black women in such generalities. “Dark women can’t wear red lipstick” “Black people are judgmental”

    There has to be some undercover hatred some where. Like black women have vented about problems in the home: lack of fathers, drugs and etc-social issues in the community. But never have I heard black women entertainers and moguls come out and say the shit these black men entertainers/media moguls say; Lee Daniels says, what Asap Celie said about dark skin women/red lipstick, and what Miguel said about black people more judgmental than others (does he have Asian friends? Asian parents are sooo strict!)

  • http://gravatar.com/tellmesumtingood TajMarie

    Why did he assume that a place was a welfare office because there were many Black Women and Children? This speaks volume about him and his mentality as well as self-hatred. And can we put the pervasive DL myth to risk? Yes, this does occur — but not with the pervasiveness and frequency that people have claimed in the past. The reason why there is a high ratio of Black Women with HIV/AIDS is because the number of female partners to one man is probably lower than the number of male partners to a woman. Therefore, there are probably a large number of men still acting as carriers of the disease. Therefore, let’s put the DL myth to rest and start looking at the role of heterosexual men in the spread of HIV and AIDS.

  • Jai

    Are we really going to argue that the Black community isn’t one of the most homophobic groups today? Dont’ get me wrong there has been a lot of progress, but that progress is very new and wasn’t/isn’t easily cultivated.

  • http://gravatar.com/memeisme81 meme

    I agree there is homophobia in the Black community(as well as
    with many others)–but at a certain point in a person’s life-people need to stand up and be who they want to be without blaming others. I know that’s easier said than done, but we ALL have issues to overcome. And blaming ‘society’ or others for our issues isn’t going to change some people’s minds. Being a good representation of the person you truly are, might.

  • Blvdjewel

    My thoughts exactly. Thank you!

  • Blvdjewel

    Maybe the welfare office was a more common environment to HIM as a reference than a PTA meeting, church or an academic event. Just a thought.

  • Nakia

    However, we in live in a society (America) where, as a minority of the population, and a vast minority in many places, the many are representd by the few. In an ideal world, we would each represent self. That is not the case. People outside of the community make judgments, decisions and accusations based on what they believe to be true and they learn those tings from our reps: the famous. Those who are given a voice.

  • Nakia

    You said: “Not once did Daniels say that black people were more homophobic than white people”

    He said: “The Black culture—and the Hispanic culture—have a thing about this” which implies that the “white culture” does not have the same “thing” about this.

  • Nakia

    Right! The article states “Our research suggests that about two percent of black men will report being bisexually active”. Um, of course, that’s why they are called DL. Not to mention the whole incarceration discussion. This is difficult research, like any other medical study because disclosure, even when folks are assured of anonymity, is an issue. If these men were out as bisexual, we wouldn’t be having these conversations and I’d guess that most black women wouldn’t engage in the first place.

  • didnt pa

    If Daniels walked in a welfare office in California or NYC, it would be hard to find an African American face, welfare offices in NYC and Cali are often filled with spanish speaking folks.Mr. Daniels should visit one before assuming they are filled with african american women.

  • cheeky

    I saw the movie (THE BUTLER) and it’s actually pretty good. And,yeah, Daniels could have used a better choice of words (as if a place full of black women with their kids could only mean that it couldn’t be nothing but a ‘welfare office’ as he put it.) And,a lot black gay men choose not to come out because they either get too much damn grief about it, or have too much to lose over doing that. Or they come out, deal with the consequences, and find someplace where they can live their life as a gay person without worrying getting backlash for it.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about folks saying Daniels has issues—he’s been accused of having all of the good people in Precious’ life in PRECIOUS only be the light-skinned ones–even though I never even saw the film that way. I also have to admit that’s it’s getting tiring jumping all over every little comment a black person in the media makes, and picking it to death. I mean, damn, no one’s perfect. Let’s go on to more important things.

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