"No Homo No Hetero": An interview with the bi+ documentary's creator

GLAAD recently interviewed Dr. H. Sharif "Herukhuti" Williams about his project, "No Homo No Hetero," a documentary about sexually fluid Black men in the United States. Dr. Herukhuti is the founder of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality, Editor-in-Chief of "Sacred Sexualities," co-editor of "Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men," and the author of Conjuring Black Funk: Volume One. He and David J. Cork, who is an actor, director, and writer, and co-founder and chief creative officer of BiUS Entertainment, have teamed up to make "No Homo No Hetero" a reality.

Their documentary will focus on the experiences and perspectives of fluid and/or bisexual+ Black men in New York, people who have been in relationships with bisexual+ Black men, and researchers who focus on the particular social stigma and health disparities of these men. The documentary is currently being crowdfunded on Indiegogo.com to expand the film to include the experiences of people living in Los Angeles and Atlanta.

While bisexual+ people make up the majority of the LGBTQ community, GLAAD's 2017 Where We Are On TV Report reports that film and television continuously underrepresent them, or portray bi+ characters as playing into harmful narratives and tropes. Of the 93 bi+ characters shown on TV in 2017, only 19 were men. According to the report, "Bisexual+ women far outnumber bisexual+ men on every platform." The report also finds that only 18% of all characters on TV were Black—the first time in three years there has not been an increased percentage of Black regular characters on TV. "No Homo No Hetero" aims to explore the lived truths of the many people in the U.S. with these intersecting identities whose stories are rarely told in the media.

 

Pictured: Dr. Herukhuti

 

Can you describe “No Homo | No Hetero”? Who do we meet through this film?

“No Homo | No Hetero” is documentary film that explores what it’s like to be Black, male, and sexually fluid—the beauty, complexity, and challenges of living at that intersection. It’s a multi-media conversation with the Black community that we hope will address the hatred toward and suspicion of sexually fluid Black men. We intend the film to include everyday sexually fluid Black men from across the United States, the people who love them, researchers who study bisexuality, and sexually fluid Black men who are celebrities and entertainers. We’re in production so the list of people who you’ll see is still in development.

Why do you think this project is important and that these particular narratives are vital to share?

This project is important because of the stigma associated with Black men being sexually fluid. Since the '90s when E. Lynn Harris created bisexual characters in his novels that were lying to their wives about their sexual fluidity and cheating on them in the process and later Oprah Winfrey gave J. L. King a platform to promote the simplistic, sensationalistic narrative of Black men on the down low, many people in the Black community have carried this stereotype of sexually fluid Black men who are ashamed of their same-sex desires, lying to their female sexual partners about those desires, exposing Black women to HIV, and having inhuman amounts of unprotected sex with men in dark, dank places all over the United States. We intend to dispel these myths with the truth of what it means to live and love as sexually fluid, cisgender and transgender Black men.

What were some memorable moments you have from creating this documentary?

The first moment that comes to mind is directing David J. Cork, the other executive producer and co-director of the film, in a movement performance with Kendra Holloway and J’Royce Jata. David’s an actor, writer, and director but he was hesitant about being in front of the camera on this project. But because he’s a Black bisexual man and I directed him previously in my play “My Brother’s a Keeper,” I knew he’d give us a performance that would have an impact on the audience.

 

Pictured: David J. Cork

What were some of the struggles you faced when creating this documentary?

The biggest challenge to making this film has been funding. Black folks rarely get funded by the major funders. Bisexuals receive even less. According to the Funders of LGBT Issues report, 40 Years of LGBT Philanthropy, 1970-2010, in 40 years funders only gave 2.5% of the total funding for projects specifically benefitting people of African descent and less than 0.1% specifically for bisexuals (despite the fact that there are slightly more bisexuals than gays and lesbians)! In applying for funding, we’ve been too queer for the traditional funders of Black independent film and too bisexual for traditional funders of LGBT projects.

This documentary focuses on the experiences of people living around the country, including in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. How did people’s experiences vary by city?

So far we’ve only documented the experiences of Black men in New York City. With a successful crowdfunding campaign, we’re looking forward to documenting the stories of Black men in Los Angeles and Atlanta. The men in NYC talked to us about feeling misunderstood and mistrusted. They talked to us about wanting to live their lives with dignity, authenticity, and justice. People can see some of the footage we’ve already shot in our crowdfunding campaign video.

Do you think the emergence of bisexual+ and fluid Black celebrities has changed the unique experiences that bi+ Black men have and how they’re treated by others?

Definitely. I wrote about the impact this is having in an article for my organization, the Center for Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality.  Sexually fluid Black boys and men are seeing each day that sexual fluidity exists, is a real thing, and that they are not alone as more and more Black celebrities publicly affirm their bisexuality. But what they are also seeing is how people are responding to these public affirmations—the relative silence on the part of LGBT media, the sarcasm and titillation on the part of Black media, and the suspicion and disbelief on the part of many in the Black community who have a one-drop rule when it comes to same-sex desire among men that means that any same-sex desire or experience automatically makes a man gay. The world is telling those men what’s in store for them as they stand in their truth and it’s very discouraging. 

What can the media do to best represent Black bisexual+ men fairly and accurately?

Hire producers, writers, directors, and other content producers who are bisexual+ Black men and love their Blackness and sexual fluidity. Give them the tools and support them to make engaging content that is also fair and accurate. Lastly, learn what Black bisexual+ men have to say about the truth about their lives in projects like ours and in books like Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men and Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality, Volume 1. I’m proud to be connected with all of those works.

Are there any movies or documentaries with bi+ representation that inspire you or that you would encourage viewers to seek out?

There’s a documentary done by European filmmakers of James Baldwin. I forget the name of it now. But in it Baldwin says, “I’ve loved some women, I’ve loved some men.” People want to erase Baldwin’s sexual fluidity but watching Baldwin speak his own truth is inspiring. In Spike Lee’s film, “She Hate Me,” Kerry Washington’s character comes to consciousness of her sexual fluidity culminating in a very moving scene between her and characters portrayed by Anthony Mackie and Dania Ramirez. More recently, AndrĂ© Holland’s character, Kevin, in “Moonlight” is sexually fluid. Holland’s performance at the table in the diner, in the ride to Black’s house, and in Black’s kitchen is #BlackBiBeauty.

How can people help support your film, “No Homo | No Hetero”?

People can support the film by helping us reach our $45K on our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign at https://igg.me/at/NoHomoNoHetero. We’ve raised over $30K so far and the campaign ends Wednesday, December 20th. We need the remaining funds so that our music supervisor, Juba Kalamka, co-founder and producer of the homohop group, Deep Dickollective, can produce the film soundtrack and so that we can create a final cut of the film and market it. We also want people to like and follow us on social media: TwitterFacebookTumblr, and Instagram.