There is no blueprint that exists to help produce young black men in America who are even remotely sensitive to the differing realities of women, particularly black women, and especially if those young black men are asked to venture beyond the most simplistic and obvious markers of gender difference. And of course as part of a community of folk struggling within a racist and racially defined society, there was rarely an instance when we even remotely thought about how gender, or even sexuality, complicated the experience of those of us who weren’t
male. Because my father-a strong black man in his own rightoften marked his worth to me as a father and as a man in the larger society with the number of hours he put in at work (trying to create some semblance of lower middle-class existence for his family), homie was a real ghost throughout much of my youth. Not that I begrudged his absence. I always understood he was hustling the only way he knew how and the only way he could with a tenth-grade education. What it meant was that my mother was the most imposing figure in my life, courtesy of her constant presence in my daily life and her forceful personality.