I’ll explain what led me to choose what some consider such a controversial brand name as ‘Act Straight‘. I am a French black gay man. I don’t know which of the black or gay is more obvious but they are equally strong parts of my identity.
When I was a growing up in the French Caribbean, a small part of my family was ashamed to be black and spent their lives trying to prove they were, could do as well as, or were better than white people. During a heated argument, I remember my godmother angrily reproaching her husband for being ‘too black’. I am grateful that I was brought up by people in my family who had nothing to prove to anyone. Nonetheless, during my early teens, dark-skinned and coarse-haired people were routinely mocked, implying they were not as good looking as the ones with lighter complexion. Internalised racism. Just like femme shaming guys who proudly brand themselves ‘straight acting’ show their internalised homophobia.
I was never bullied for being dark. That’s probably because some people preferred teasing me for being gay . . . Please note I’m using the word teasing rather than bullying. I teased as much as I was teased and don’t feel like a victim of bullying at all, but I digress.
I’m not claiming any universal truth at all but by and large, I experience ethnicity and sexual orientation in a similar way. Probably because as a black man in the UK and Europe in general, I’m obviously part of a minority. I don’t think I need to go over LGBTQI as a minority… The similarity I see is the way some individuals in minorities tend to not only assimilate but reproduce some oppressing patterns.
Act Straight is intended to be a positive and light hearted invitation to self love and affirmation. We’ve paid attention to the environmental and social impact of the business; using only Organic Cotton, all garments are produced with renewable energy under the supervision of the Fair Wear Foundation which improves the labour conditions of the manufacturing workforce.
So the idea behind Act Straight is to use humour and irony to empower gay men and exorcise shame and internalised homophobia. Sorry to state the obvious, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no hierarchy whatsoever in terms of shades of masculinity, ethnicity or skin colour. Actually there’s no hierarchy in anything whatsoever.