My Black Gay Life: Two Black Gay Series That Helped Shape My Experience, Do They Still Hold Up?
What’s the T, Gir??? It’s day two of Pride weekend, and while this writer is staying in this time (all while plotting a triumphant return next year after returning to the gym), I’m hopeful that I can provide some small thrills and entertainment from here, where you may be. Today I tell you about two of the hottest, sexiest, and most impactful series that both enlightened me and stoked some serious fires within my young self. Sexy Black & brown men living, loving, and displaying all manner of complexities, emotions, physicality, and expression. Humor, vulnerability, masculinity, femininity, lessons, and lewks galore!
There will be major spoilers for Logo’s Noah’s Arc as well as The DL Chronicles.
My Introduction to One of My Favorite Shows Ever
Noah’s Arc, created by Patrik-Ian Polk, has been a part of my life for so long, that I’m not fully sure when exactly I started watching it. I believe it might have been either my senior year of high school or maybe the fateful time I perused the gay and lesbian section of the DVD section at Rasputin Music. I also know that when I still had cable, I caught a couple of episodes on Logo and fell in love immediately. All that melanin, all those different types of gay Black men, all that phoine! And it wasn’t just Wade, Ricky, or Trey either! Noah himself was snatched! Chance was very handsome and intelligent with the nicest ass and tightest body! Alex was cute, funny as all hell, charismatic, and charming with a smile to light up a room! Plus talented as all get out!
Many have compared this series to Sex & the City, and while such a comparison is reasonable, Noah’s Arc stands completely on its own and is vastly different because it highlights the Black and LGBTQ experience specifically. And while Noah can be somewhat comparable to Carrie Bradshaw, both writers, and hopeless romantics, Alex is similar to Miranda Hobbs in that they tell it like it is, Chance to Charlotte are both more reserved and traditional, and of course, Ricky and Samantha are the more sexually-forward wild childs. But there’s so much more to the characters and to the story of Noah’s Arc.
While hot guys, sex, and romance are a big draw for many, myself included, to the series, the heart and soul of the story is the deep, unconditional love of friendship and family you choose. The core four laugh and kiki, they dance together, goof off, judge each other, and jab at one another, and yes they fight. We see them go through ups and downs, but at the end of the day, it’s clear that they have each other’s backs no matter what. One real testament to this is when it’s become clear that Noah has cheated on his boyfriend, but his friends stay by his side and ask no questions when Noah is clearly hurting and guilty over it. And while they generally rib Ricky for sleeping around, they still stay by his side. Another thing that is endearing is how, while the friends have loyalties to each other first before the others’ respective partners, we do see bonds slowly form between the friends and each respective partner, particularly the friends and Wade.
Noah & Wade aka The Dream Couple
This was definitely one of the first shows where, while I wasn’t involved with the fandom online, I was a very big shipper. Like most anyone who has seen the series, Noah and Wade are my favorite couple. They’re far from perfect: Wade is too new to his sexuality and not comfortable with people knowing that he and Noah are a couple, and Noah can be a bit controlling and must have his way all the time. Wade also feels inadequate because Noah’s friends don’t seem to like or trust Wade and they’re ever-present in his life. But we see a lot of development from them, messy as they can be. Perhaps the most important aspect of their love is the massive chemistry between the characters and their actors. The way they would positively smolder at each other, longing looks, every kiss, and love scene, just Black gay magic. It was clear from the start that these two were meant to last, the follow-up film Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom as well as the special Noah’s Arc: The Rona Chronicles show that they not only stayed together but have reached/are reaching more milestones in their relationship.
I normally despise straight actors playing LGBTQIA+ simply because Hollywood does not tend to open the doors for LGBTQIA+ actors to play themselves let alone the action stars, the romantic leads, the main love interests, and a number of roles cishet actors can play whenever they want on top of playing LGBTQIA+ roles. Nick Robinson from Love, Simon, and the lead actor from Love, Victor remain my main examples of this. However, Jensen Atwood (with his phoine ass) is different in not only does he sell his performances and fully commit to them, but he’s a Black American actor who we don’t get to see nearly as much as other actors who are straight and have played LGBTQIA+. I caught him in Dante’s Cove season 3 as a bisexual warlock and noticed when I was re-watching The Parkers season 1 that he was an extra there once. But it seems to me that his biggest role to date was Wade Robinson in this series. To be completely honest, I seriously doubt this series would have been nearly as successful without him as well as every other actor and crew member all coming together as well as they all did.
Alex & Trey aka The Longest Lasting Love
These two are just too effing cute together! From the start of the series, it’s established that they’ve been together for seven years, which more many is a lifetime, especially for a monogamous relationship. Though some might wonder how such a big and buff sensible and somewhat serious guy like Trey could stay with such a silly, sassy, and thick but average-built dude as Alex would work, it becomes clear that they just mesh well. They are polar opposites, but they balance each other out. Alex is chaotic but he shows Trey how to have fun and brings excitement. His personality is polarizing and magnetic. He’s got the moves and it’s clear that Alex just got it like that. Besides being a total babe, Trey keeps Alex in check when he starts to become a little too extra, a little too suspicious. And while Alex was 1000 percent right about Guy (who, while sexy as fuck, was no match for Alex for Trey’s heart), he was wrong to suspect that Trey would ever cheat on him. But Trey also rightfully apologized to Alex because he was wrong to refuse to trust and believe his partner, even though it looked like Alex was jealous and reaching. The two reach new heights as they decide to adopt a baby and by the Rona Chronicles special we learn how their child is non-binary and Alex is (hilariously) having trouble understanding it.
Ricky & Junito aka The Unexpectedly Sweet Couple
Ricky is an interesting character. He never wanted monogamy. He liked to have frequent fun, no strings attached. And it’s important to note that he never lied to anyone about wanting to keep things casual. He never led anyone on. Ricky was hot, with a body to die for, and wasn’t afraid to use it to get what he wanted. So when he met Junito who was working with Alex at his HIV clinic, he was ready to pounce once again. But Junito was clearly holding back and Ricky found himself intrigued. Ricky quickly learned that Junito was HIV positive and for a while, Ricky was hesitant to do anything with Junito. After getting his very first HIV test (yes, you heard that right… just like when Samantha had never gotten one on Sex & the City, people wilin’) and realizing he is negative, Ricky tries to avoid his growing feelings for Junito until he realizes he is falling for him.
The most beautiful part of Ricky and Junito’s relationship as well as the inclusion of Junito’s character is to highlight how being HIV positive is not (and wasn’t at the time of the show’s release) the death sentence it once was. Medicine has come a long way even back then and now today we have PrEP available which prevents the transmission of HIV through sex. Ricky’s initial fears and hesitancy, while unfortunate, are realistic, especially at the time. It was also through Junito we see an example of an open relationship, the first I had ever seen. Season two sadly ends with the pair breaking up as Junito starts to develop a connection with someone Ricky wanted him to hook up with (as Ricky was still hooking up but Junito wasn’t, and Ricky didn’t want to feel guilty). Junito returns and the pair rekindle their relationship, much to fan delight by the Rona Chronicles special after Junito was not shown or mentioned in the follow-up film.
Chance & Eddie aka The Family Men
We begin the series with the friends helping Chance move in with Eddie. They have been together for only six months and they consider each other married, off the market. Chance is playing house with Eddie and is playing stepfather to Eddie’s daughter Kenya. Chance’s first storyline is very fascinating and well done as it explores what a lot of gay men want, a family living out in the open with a man you love and who loves you back, while also showing how one might be afraid to lose one’s own identity in the process. This is extremely relatable for anyone reluctant to pursue serious relationships, move in with a partner, start a family, or get married, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person. Perhaps due to the speed at which the couple decided to settle down, the two were not prepared for the hardships they would face.
Chance not long after moving in discovers Eddie is cheating, the reason being that he craves a type of man that Chance simply is not. Eddie is into homothugs and Chance is an intellectual professor. Chance then by happenstance meets T-Money, a homothug who takes an interest in him and from whom Chance takes “thug lessons” to get into the psychology of the homothug phenomenon and make sense of Eddie’s preference. Chance and Eddie ultimately end up getting back together when they realize their love is too strong and they miss each other and the first season ends with their commitment ceremony. Season two sees them butt heads over whether or not to get involved with the wives of Eddie’s two bosses having an affair and later deciding to run away together, and the follow-up movie sees them struggling over simply not being happy. Chance cheats with one of his students attending Noah and Wade’s wedding as Ricky’s date, and in the heat of an argument, Eddie slaps Chance. The two reconcile by the film’s end and vow to make every day an adventure.
Looking Back in a 2021 Lens
Upon my re-watch, I realized how different attitudes were back then. For one, the slut shaming against Ricky, which I myself had judged him for back then, was very interesting to recognize now. As mentioned before, Ricky was upfront and never lied to anyone, never promised anything he wasn’t willing to give, but his desire for sex and a lot of it was seen as a bad thing by his friends. The only times, now, where Ricky’s sexual exploits were an issue were when he would choose to hook up over helping a friend in need, particularly when Ricky was supposed to pick up Chance who was stranded in a rough neighborhood. Ricky’s motivations and explanation for his sex life in the movie were very odd to me. While I could tell he had a lot of love for Noah and that he naturally distrusted Wade, even more so than the other friends even in season two when it was Noah and not Wade who was the one who had messed up, Ricky sleeping around because he couldn’t be with Noah didn’t add up to me. While sometimes it takes years for some of us to realize our feelings for some, it’s odd that Ricky didn’t realize he had feelings for Noah until he was no longer available. Also as mentioned before, Junito was not seen or mentioned in the movie so when Ricky tells Noah that all those other guys were “just bodies” to him and that he only loved Noah, immediately I thought of Junito. While it’s certainly possible that he didn’t love Junito as much as Noah, for he knew Noah better and longer, Junito was not just a body to Ricky. Junito was the first person he developed strong feelings for and the first person he told he loved.
In addition, episode 4 of season one was very rough to re-watch as we get a lot of fem-shaming, some subtle (if not overt, tell your opinion in the comments below) transphobia with the use of the T-slur. Mind you, the episode and season were released in 2005, but it’s still rough to see now. Ricky is also trying to figure out why his employee, Raphael, is interested in his fem-presenting associate, Romeo, and not him. He doesn’t understand the appeal of fem men and fem-presenting folks. He asks a beefy, masculine security guard if he would ever hook up with a drag queen. The security guard says no and that “it’s bad enough I gotta work around them”, which prompts Ricky to kiss him right there and wanna bang. Yikes. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with not being attracted to someone who is fem-presenting or whatnot, but framing it that way is very dubious. The episode ends with the entire core four dressing in drag for Alex who wanted to do it, and Trey showing up to show love and support and being all for it (awwww). I also personally felt like, while I understood the message that being feminine or dressing in drag doesn’t make them less of a man (depending on whether or not they identify as one), I felt like the episode treated feminine men, drag queens and trans women as the same thing, and they most certainly are not. A trans woman is 1000 percent a woman. But again this was 2005, so I definitely try to remember that. Later Ricky asks Raphael what Romeo has that he doesn’t (which is also crossing a line because that’s your employee and the power dynamics make it morally unethical, as it did when Ricky previously hooked up with employees), and Raphael tells him it’s because Ricky doesn’t date and jumps to sex. I personally was waiting for Romeo to admit that Romeo was more of his type and that he likes fem folks, but alas.
Looking Back At the Couples in 2021
I still love Noah and Wade but I think I didn’t realize how many times Noah was the one out of line, even before the infamous cheating. One episode sees Noah wanting to meet Wade’s friends. Wade is hesitant and soon it’s become clear that Wade hasn’t come out to them yet. Noah tells Wade that it’s taken a lifetime for him to be comfortable in his own skin and that he doesn’t want to go back into the closet, valid. However, Wade is not out yet and no one should have to come out until they’re ready. And Noah knew that Wade wasn’t out yet and that he was still figuring his sexuality out. Some of the whole “Noah is the very first guy” aspect of Wade and Noah’s relationship was attractive to Wade because Wade is the classic, masculine, sexy trade that a lot of gay men fantasize about all the time. But that comes with issues some people aren’t prepared to deal with. Wade also wanted to move in way too fast and Noah is understandably uncomfortable with this, though he really should have been more honest right away than agreeing to go house-hunting with Wade. The scene in which Noah cheats reads to me now as super predatory. One other man is pushing up on him really hard, and then the manager, Malik wards off the other man, before pushing up on Noah himself! Noah says no and he can’t more than once, but Malik won’t take no for an answer. Even though Noah is clearly attracted to Malik and eventually gives in to sex, the fact is he still said no and Malik was still being aggressive. It was very… questionable.
We have to discuss… Dre. Dre is Wade’s boyfriend in season two after Noah and Wade break up at the end of season one. Dre can clearly see that both Noah and Wade still have lingering feelings and seems determined to hold onto Wade. He tries setting up Noah with one of his friends, a super phoine journalist named Quincy, which ultimately doesn’t work out, as Noah still loves Wade. Noah and Wade succumb to their feelings and sleep together a couple of times while Wade is still with Dre, and the second time they are caught, post-cheating, by Dre, who storms off and demands Wade to go with him. This culminates in a serious car crash and a cliffhanger not revealing whether Wade or Dre survived. The movie addresses that Wade survived, obviously, but makes absolutely no mention of Dre and whether or not he made it. The problem is that Dre is so obviously little more than a plot device to throw a wrench on the road toward Noah and Wade. He’s incredibly underdeveloped and we don’t see much of him besides having lots of PDA and clinging to Wade and being very visibly upset when Noah and Wade seem to find each other or are always around each other. Most anyone would have wanted Noah and Wade together, myself included and even now, but I would certainly hope that Dre didn’t have to die in order for him to be with Noah. Dre deserved to be told the truth and released and free to move on to someone who loved and wanted him more.
For the other couples, Alex and Trey are my close second favorite couple, but I couldn’t believe how many times my precious Trey would make these big decisions and not consult with Alex first! He decided to buy two plane tickets to Africa to do charity work without telling Alex first or discussing it first. A trip for six months! He then gets upset that Alex was upset because he considers Alex selfish for being mad despite Trey going for charity. Six months is still a long time to go without the love of your life and without sex, and it’s still something that should have been brought up as a possibility, not sprung up on someone at the last minute. Worst of all he decides to go with Guy, who Alex clearly had issues he didn’t think would or should bother Alex.
I really didn’t like Eddie as a character, though his actor seems sweet and attractive and nice to look at, and I didn’t buy his and Chance’s love. The two look good on paper: two professional, family-oriented, high-value Black men looking to settle down together. But a lot of the time they either seemed bored together or like they didn’t like each other that much in certain instances. They were too similar for my tastes. Eddie’s cheating was reprehensible and I didn’t understand why Chance took him back besides history (though not even a particularly long history). I low-key wanna fight Patrik-Ian now for making me side with Eddie in season two when he didn’t want to get involved in his bosses and their wives’ business. I actually did not like the wives, Vonda and June, when I re-watched. While I felt sympathy for their wanting to be together and feel that everyone should live their truth and not live in quiet desperation, they were absolutely horrible to Chance when they met him! And maybe it was them either covering up their being gay (maybe, on June’s part at least) themselves or having internalized homophobia, but it was fucked up. And even though Vonda knew Chance didn’t tell her secret even though he caught them kissing, the fact that she showed up on his doorstep, bags in tow, was both unrealistic because they were essentially strangers, and selfish because she’s the wife of Eddie’s boss and never seemed to consider the kind of trouble Eddie could have gotten into. Eddie briefly gets fired over this, and as the female lovers leave together, Chance acts indignant when Vonda’s husband is being left. Was he being a jerk? Kind of for barking at her to get into the car and previously threatening that she couldn’t see their children, but as we see later, Clayton (Vonda’s husband) is both hurt and confused. Anyone whose significant other has been living on the down low would and should be hurt and confused, but it’s never so simple, including for the actual DL person in the relationship. Bottom line? Chance and Eddie, despite staying together, do not seem like they would last, in my opinion. I can see them staying friends, and Chance still being a part of Kenya’s life (I did like that when they broke up in season one, he said he made a promise to Kenya and wouldn’t abandon her, just because he and Eddie were broken up).
Revisiting the Movie in 2021
First and foremost, the positives. It was so satisfying to see Noah and Wade not only back together but getting married. It was great to see the crew once again, including favs Brandy and Baby Gat. Even Brandon, who I’m not sure I liked as much the first time around, was actually a delight upon re-watching. Yes, he was clearly Mr. Exposition, acting as an audience surrogate and asking questions for plot points from the series for anyone who hadn’t seen it or hadn’t remembered all the details, but his actor was adorable and charming, and his coming out storyline was well-done, if a but brief. Brandon’s parents’ reaction (if a bit comically over the top, the mother crying (“It’s a sin! a Siiiiiiiiiiiiin!!!” from the other end of the phone) was a sad reminder that not everyone’s family will be accepting of the news that their child is LGBTQIA+. The storylines were well fleshed out and despite Trey’s painful absence (though we got to see him on video, chatting with Alex), he and Alex and their love were clearly still there. Plus the baby was adorbs! The actual wedding ceremony was gorgeous, everyone looked really good (loved Noah and Alex’s outfits!) and it all came together very well. I loved that the tagline of the movie is jumping the broom and that Noah and Wade do so for their nuptials, with dialogue explaining the ritual and how it ties to Black American culture. Having come much stronger to love, appreciate and recognize my own Black American culture since seeing the movie for the first time, I really loved this about the movie. I myself would love to jump the broom, should I ever get married.
Now the negatives. Again, Ricky’s storyline didn’t make sense to me personally and while everyone knew he and Brandon weren’t serious, it was rude that he kept hooking up with people in front of him when he invited Brandon as his date. Casual or not, it’s kinda rude, just focus on smashing the one you brought with you. Chance hooking up with Brandon was, in my opinion, completely out of character because someone as intelligent as Chance and who seems aware of certain ethics, should be fully aware why sleeping with a student, even if they’re not on campus at the time, is completely out of line. And while I personally did not care for Eddie as a character or his relationship with Chance, I felt like Eddie was completely correct to be against the obvious boundaries being broken between student and professor. Unfortunately, this objection seems to be framed more so as jealousy over his husband than it simply being morally wrong. I also think that, once again, while you can’t force anyone to come out, Wade should have at least told Noah, that he hadn’t come out to his parents yet and that they didn’t know about the wedding. That’s not the way to start a marriage. But despite these negatives, I loved the movie. I loved this series and the special that came out after, and I pray that someday this show continues once again. We need more Black LGBTQIA+ series.
The DL Chronicles
As this was a miniseries, my opinions on it will be briefer. I found this around the same time as Noah’s Arc and I loved it. I loved the sexy men getting it on. Seeing Black men being sexual and looking good while also being LGBTQ was very important to me because it was not something I really saw on my screens coming up. While Noah’s Arc discussed and featured DL men in characters like Wade or Guy, this miniseries really delved into how deep the psychology of some men living on the DL can be, including the ways in which this life can impact people and loved ones around them.
My favorite episodes were 3: Boo, 4: Mark, 1: Wes, and 2: Robert in that order. I have not yet seen the return special from 2012, though it’s cued up on my Fire Stick. Boo was, quite frankly, the hottest episode, with the sexiest protagonist and the most nudity. Re-watching in 2021 was also the most fascinating. Boo is the quintessential homothug I’ve touched upon before. He runs game, talks shit, and casually hooks up with men and women alike. In my honest opinion, I believe Boo was bisexual. Funny enough, both in this series and Noah’s Arc, bisexuality in men is not nearly brought up as much as a possibility, even for characters who previously were involved with women. For Boo, in particular, he’s shown sleeping with men and women in a way where he wants all his partners to keep it on the low, even the women, for he is meant to be in a relationship with the otherwise unaware Keisha. After learning that his homie, whom he just slept with raw at his own insistence, has come down with HIV or perhaps AIDS, Boo starts to realize that his reckless unprotected sex (also prior to the days of PrEP) might have endangered not only himself but Keisha and everyone else they’ve all slept with.
In episode 4 “Mark”, we meet a paramedic and his partner living a nice and quiet life together, though Mark himself is still in the closet even in front of random neighbors. He promises to his partner that he’ll come out but that he wants to come out to his mother first, on his terms. He gets an unexpected visit from his cousin who doesn’t know he’s gay and wants his partner to play straight along with him until his cousin leaves. Needless to say, it all falls apart and not only does the cousin find out, but Mark finds out that his cousin and an old friend of theirs who also visits are also secretly gay. I found the episode to be charming if a bit convenient that everyone was gay all along.
Episode 1 “Wes”, dealt with this professional, well-off man, with a beautiful wife and lifestyle who clearly is unhappy. His wife’s gay brother comes to visit and the two end up sleeping together. The wife never finds out and he later gives in to her desire to have sex with her so they can have a baby. Oh yeah, he’s not sleeping with her because he doesn’t want children. She tells him it’s his duty to make love to her and have children with her… where to even begin… For one, if your spouse doesn’t want to have sex with you, assuming neither of you is asexual, that should be a red flag. Secondly, regardless of gender, you should never marry someone if you don’t both know you one day want children. I don’t understand how folks be deciding to get married without knowing these things!
Episode 2, Robert, was my least favorite, which isn’t to say it’s bad, it just wasn’t my favorite. I felt that despite Robert being DL, he was really bad at it because he practically had googly eyes for his love interest all in public. This isn’t a critique on the episode or even the actor and how he played those scenes, but it’s an observation. I felt that while, yes, you can most certainly revoke your consent at any time and/or decide the terms of the meetup for a hookup online, it was a little odd that Austin (the love interest) was stripping for him and then him that he doesn’t just hop into bed with strangers… First of all, there’s nothing wrong with hopping into bed with strangers as long as people are being responsible and upfront. Also, it’s reasonable for Robert to assume they would be sleeping together since Austin didn’t tell him he didn’t want to have sex before having Robert go to his place, and previously he was stripping right before. But that’s just me, and that’s also why I find making intentions very clear is the best way to go so no one’s time is wasted or expectations are broken. I also do feel that anyone has the right to change their mind at any point before or even during sex or the lead-up to it, but I wish the plot made that clearer in the dialogue. But part of why this was my least favorite episode was that the stakes felt small. Robert didn’t want his adult daughter to know because he was afraid she wouldn’t speak to him again, which, while valid and possible, wasn’t all that likely because she knew him all her life and it was unlikely she’d stay gone forever in my opinion anyway. It wasn’t like Robert was hiding from a wife or significant other. This was his daughter who was also in college. College, for me, suggests a likely liberal viewpoint, but of course, that’s not always the case. His daughter is uncomfortable with his being gay and crying saying “it’s not that I have a problem with gays” (not gays…) “it’s that my dad is!”. This was both frustrating to watch and also unfortunately realistic. A lot of people have no issue with LGBTQIA+ people and issues, so long as they don’t have to see them or deal with them themselves too closely. But she comes around, Robert and Austin get together and stay together, and it’s a happy ending.
I think for me, the miniseries really helped hammer home the importance of living my truth, of not harming anyone (not leading anyone on, living a lie or forcing anyone to help me do so, or putting anyone’s health at risk including my own) and showed me that men living on the DL are not inherently selfish or villainous. It’s all complicated and we all deserve the space to live openly or to come out when we are ready, and not a moment sooner. As of 2021, society has improved, but we are still not there yet. I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to disclose their sexuality or status just yet. I am fortunate to live in an area where my being openly gay is not an issue, but not everyone has that luxury.
Are you familiar with these series? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Feel free to comment below and also look for the series online wherever DVDs are sold. You can also buy Noah’s Arc and The DL Chronicles as well as The DL Chronicles Returns on iTunes/Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video.