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Waiting to Exhale (1995)

JOSEPH as portrayed by Lamont Johnson and DAVID MATTHEWS as portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito in Waiting to Exhale (1995)

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This movie is a favorite of mine, probably in top 10. I watched it incessantly as a kid on VHS. It's a beautiful time capsule of an important moment and it explores some very universal and timeless themes, and for those reasons I think it still holds up, overall. But nothing is perfect. Although directed by a man, Waiting to Exhale is unapologetically about Black women's stories so it's not surprising that the male characters are not explored in depth, and very rarely are they in more than one scene. Still, this film gave us two presentations of Black gay men: First we meet Joseph, the hair dresser who spills the tea about Bernie's husband leaving her. In the book he plays a much more important role in the women's lives and that moment at the Circle K is much bigger than explored here. Then, we encounter David, Gloria's ex-husband and Tarik's dad. The scene with David was the first time I'd seen a man "come out", and I bought into the idea that bisexual was a pre-gay phase. One day, you can read my memoir to see how that played out in my own life. It was also through David that we get to see how the community-at-large was struggling with embracing men with gay identities. In the second scene posted here, Gloria slips up and says she's not comfortable sending Tarik to stay with David because David is gay. Tarik responds to realizing his father is gay with a slur filled tirade, and Gloria politely checks him for using the "F-word". But he still boldly asserts "my dad's a fucking queer". Statements like this are why I struggled so long with the acceptance of the term "queer". In my formative years it was not a good thing, and I associated it with the white academy, not the lived experience of Black folk. But now, it's the word dujour and here we are -- LGBTQ. But back to the gay menses, I will always wonder if Joseph and David ever met at one of Phoenix's gay clubs? Did Joseph know David was gay before Gloria? How could he not? Do you think he ever told Gloria? .

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