Tunde Olaniran: Is He Gay? Why Do You Care?

Tunde Olaniran

Tunde Olaniran

“Weird, soulful, old school, catchy, uplifting. All of these words have been used by listeners to describe Tunde’s style. One moment, a chorus of vocals soar over a sitar raga, the next, he sings quietly over a spare Casio keyboard, 808, and gulping tablas. Armed with a strange, wonderful new sound, solid vocals, and commanding stage presence, Tunde is prepared to share his music with the world.”

Many people also use the word “gay” to describe Tunde. Why is it that a gay man is only thought to be one way, feminine or androgynous? Why is it that a straight man is only seen as one way, butch or thuggish? Would people be worried about Tunde’s sexuality if he were a White man?

Tunde Olaniran

Dangerous Lee at Tunde’s Cobra music video premiere in March 2010.


Dangerous: Many times I am often asked by others in the community, “What’s up with your boy, Tunde? Is he gay?” Do you have to deal with people questioning your sexuality often? If so, how do you react?

Side note: Before I knew the answer to this question, I would simply answer that I did not know, but I would inquire why they asked or why they cared. Basically it was Black men or other men of color who have asked. They respect Tunde’s talent but felt that his style of dress and overall demeanor was not typical of what they were used to as far as straight men are concerned.

When I learned the answer to the question, I would further explain that he’s an artist, as an artist myself I am often misjudged or misunderstood and I often find that people do not “get me” at all. A persons sexuality is a non factor to me. Tunde is an awesome person and  that’s all I care about in anyone.


Tunde Olaniran

Tunde: It’s interesting because people pretty much make up their minds without ever directly asking me. It’s not really a “question” for them as much as it’s like them being sure already! It’s very rare that someone asks me.

So, even though there might not really be a point because people think what they want to think, I’ll answer the inferred question: I’m a weird, androgynous heterosexual (lol). I express my “gender” and “race” in a way that’s atypical, or queer. I don’t mean queer as in “gay;” I mean queer as in just really freaking strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint. In terms of my personal practices/preferences, I don’t have/want same-sex romantic or physical relationships.

In some ways, people assuming I’m gay helps me know *their* true colors more than anything else. If they assume I’m gay and treat me well, then I know they are probably good people! The funniest part is when I’ve had to “come out” to LGBTQ friends as heterosexual; or guys have asked my gay friends if I’m gay because they want to ask me out!

All in all, I don’t have an issue with questions about my sexuality. As long as someone’s uncertainty doesn’t stop them from treating me with respect, then I’m good.




14 Replies to “Tunde Olaniran: Is He Gay? Why Do You Care?”

  1. Rest assured, there are plenty of artists in this community who are “White men”, who have their sexuality questioned. I don’t think it’s an issue only within the black race.

  2. Then why bring it up at all? If thats where the focus is then where does the whole “What if he was *gasp* WHITE?” business? I read it a few times, both before I posted and after and still can’t see where that belongs in the discussion.

    1. I brought it up because I can! It’s my website, but also, in Black culture a mans sexuality and how he chooses to display it is a big deal. It’s why many men are on the down low and why many Black men or other men of color believe that only certain behavior is associated with being gay. Tell me, what is your ethnicity? I often find that White men and women seem to be more threatened when race is brought up as an issue.

  3. Thanks so much both of you for this excellent piece! Loved it.

    @anonymous & Kevin: it seems important here to remember that gender and sexuality are *never* isolated from race. In the US, of course, racism means that Black and white genders and sexualities are perceived and policed in different ways.

    (And, btw, mainstream pop music has, since at least the 1960s, embraced a wide range of gender identities and expression from white, male-bodied performers whom critics and fans have assumed to be hetero.)

  4. I am white and I doubt you’re surprised but you are confusing being threatened with the “Oh, here we go again” sentiment I felt. “If a white man is queer its OK in public, but if a BLACK man is queer, blah blah.” You get the picture. Being gay isn’t readily and widely accepted within any race, regardless of class. There are whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians and otherwise world over afraid of coming out their family and friends. Its the great equalizer.

    1. True, being gay is frowned upon all over by everyone, but White people are more accepting than Black people in regards to the gay lifestyle. This is just a fact. No need for a large debate or to make this post focused on race. That was not the intention.

  5. The only reason people should care is if they’re interested in asking him out for a date. Other than that I say… mind your business 😉

  6. It seems there are really 2 issues being addressed in regards to race and sexual preference and I feel it is helpful to make a clear distinction.
    On a personal level for any individual to live contrary to the commonly excepted social norm present within their Family, Community, State, Country, and or Religion their will always be consequences. The consequences are far reaching and varied. They could be as innocuous as a confused and questioning stare or manifest themselves in violence, family disownment, or religious persecution. In this sense the issue of race is only relavent when you consider situations like; A “GLBTQ” individual also living in a community where they are (and are made to feel like) a racial minority as well. So then the opposition to self they experience from their community becomes two fold.
    On a different but not unrelated level is how this same rejection or lack of acceptance can and does occur with in the art world. Though, when we see it in art an artist’s persona can act as a buffer and there is a suspension of disbelief because we can rationalize that “It’s just part of the show.”. The problem is that while this works to allow people to be homophobic and still listen to Elton John it does not have the same effect when our brains are forced to evaluate something contrary to our artistic expectation and stereotype. In these cases we have to examine our artistic prejudices and understand how they impact our subjectivity and not assume that our ability to accept peoples differences on a personal level translates to an artistic open-mindedness as well. Most simply put there is less of a history of African American artists manipulating gender and sexuality perception within popular music. Most notably Hip Hop, Soul, and R&B. People don’t have an understanding of what that is or what that looks like. So on an artistic level we have a harder time understanding it. Not because we are bigoted, but because we are forced to form our own opinion based on what is presented as opposed to adopting an opinion all ready understood and agreed upon by the larger artistic community.
    I hope that all makes sense and sparks some interesting conversation not only about social prejudices in our personal lives but also in our artistic ones. Big respect to Tunde keep doing your thing bro!

  7. Any trend is worth noting and I think the trend here was exactly what Lee stated: “Basically it was Black men or other men of color, who respect Tunde’s talent but felt that his style of dress and overall demeanor was not typical of what they were used to as far as straight men are concerned.”

    Those were the men that were asking. If it was constantly red-headed middle-aged short women that were always inquiring, then she would report that trend as well. It is an interesting thing to mention and discuss. Am I right?

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