I need to start this off with a personal-as-political moment: In 1998, when I first moved to New York City, I had a voice coach, Teddy B. (I sing and write songs in my alleged spare time). Teddy had a transcendent voice; his stage presence was legendary. At the always-packed open mic he hosted, this brother made everybody feel welcome, from indie R&B stalwart Abby Dobson to the middle-age white dude in mom jeans who tore down the house with his frenetic rendition of "Purple Rain." Another thing to note about Teddy: He was about 6-foot-5, from Flatbush, Brooklyn, and he rocked the tightest, gleaming-ist shoulder-length weave in follicular history. Teddy often spoke of his starring role in an independent biopic of gay icon Sylvester. Although we never discussed his love life, it seemed to me that Teddy was gay.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of the three disheveled boys who sidled up to us in Penn Station one day, Teddy B was a "fuckin' faggot ass nigga." That's what these preteens screamed at him. I don't remember how Teddy responded, but I do know he--the adoptive father of a son around their age--didn't beat the living, loving daylights out of them. Meanwhile I, who could have taken the scrawny one, stayed silent. I didn't want to mortify Teddy, and I feared those angry children would redirect their wrath to me.
Teddy B died a week later.
The day I didn't say shit was my last with him.
No one would say how or why Teddy died, just that he was sick. At his holy rolling Brooklyn funeral, I didn't recognize the man in the casket. Someone had haphazardly hacked off his epic weave and draped him in a baggy suit that he-of-the-sheer-black-muscle-shirt would never, ever choose. The sangin' at the service was sublime, but the words some spoke marred it. In death, they said, Teddy B.--hair shorn and skin gray--had returned to the man he truly was. The "thing" was gone.
I don't often think of Teddy; it hurts in a way I can't afford. But when I see a boy or man being a self his family, community and the public feels compelled to bludgeon, I tear up. That is happening right now, as I watch the degradation of the 20-year-old whom New York City police arrested for allegedly performing oral sex on Brooklyn DJ and producer Mister Cee. This young man calls himself Brooke-Lynn Pinklady.
Last night, the fine people at bossip.com posted a video of Brooke-Lynn with the headline, "Mr Cee's Tranny (That Was Arrested Giving Him Top) Speaks Out Clearing Air About Mr Cee's Gayness! [Video]"
In the video--which Brooke-Lynn shot at his computer after a weeklong detox--he states that he is not a transwoman, as I and others earnestly reported. He says he is a drag queen and that he doesn't always dress as a woman.
Perhaps more important, Brooke-Lynn denies committing the crime for which he was arrested and bristles at being branded a prostitute. "I don't have sex for money," he says. "I don't need to have sex for money. I make enough money on my own."
Brooke-Lynn admits that he's been "scarred" and feels his privacy has been invaded. "This whole thing was a big-ass entertainment scheme and I don't understand how I was brought into it," he says, perhaps alluding to a smaller site that first leaked news of the arrest. And for now, at least, the man who dreams of being a singer and rapper is declining offers to host parties and events stemming from his Internet infamy.
People are trying to make me into this Internet celebrity now, and while that would be nice, I would rather not be known for something I didn't do. And even if I was to do it ... who wants to be known for something like that?.
In the parlance of his attackers, Brooke-Lynn admits that he initially planned to "go off, and just act like a complete faggot, or whatever you want to call it, a total, complete bitch" in the video. But he reconsidered.
I just feel like I should be a bigger person about the situation. I don't have time to respond to ignorant people who don't know me.
Toward the end, you learn where Brooke-Lynn gets his fortitude--from the support of his "real" friends, his Pinklady crew and his family:
To those that know me, love you! Shout out to Pinklady; I hope y'all not mad at me. Shout out to all my friends that's helped me through this, I couldn't have done it without you, and family, [too]. Stupid shit like this is not going to deter me.
I salute Brooke-Lynn Pinklady for defining himself for himself. And I pray with my full heart that he never doubts his life's worth because others won't let him live.
Peace, power, joy.
Update: Video of an interview with Brooke-Lynn and a friend has surfaced here. In it, he displays a mixture of self-destructive braggadocio and seeming naivete about the reach and hunger of online media. Because he also reveals a failed plan to rob or trick the DJ out of $200, I pray for Brooke-Lynn's safety. I still feel the same about the importance of self-definition in this context. But I no longer salute him.