“I dealt with a lot of repressive attitudes growing up Southern Black and Catholic, and I wrote this book because I want anyone who needs to hear it to know that what you are told early in your life does not have to define your life,” Michael Arceneaux tells NewNowNext about his debut memoir, I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé.
The book’s title comes from conversations Arceneaux says he had with his mother about religion and sexuality.
“When I talked to my mother, there was this idea that, yeah I may be gay, but I shouldn’t act on it because it’s some perceived affront to God,” he said. “In other words, I shouldn’t lead a full, authentic life because when I die, I might not get into heaven. So, I’d be like, well Jesus is wonderful and seems like a great guy, but I can’t date him. We are all humans and we all have human needs.”
Although Arceneaux addresses faith, sexuality, and race in his memoir, he says he didn’t want to write another “sad, gay, Black book.”
“A lot of people said, ’oh you’re Black, and gay, so it must be so hard for you’ and while yes, that is true for those us who hold multiple marginalized identities, and yes, I wish religion was more accepting of queer people, I still wanted to have fun,” says Arceneaux. “There are white gay authors who have been able to do that, why can’t a Black queer person?”
And while Arceneaux definitely stans for fellow Houstonian, the Queen Bey, he cites female musicians as his teachers in how to find himself—and his inner hoe.
“I love Beyoncé for so many reasons, she’s my lord and gyrator, but to paraphrase something Janet Mock once said, for marginalized people and people who aren’t of a lot of means, pop culture is an access point. Pop culture taught me how to be myself. It was Janet Jackson and Lil’ Kim who taught me about sex. Female performers helped me see that sex was natural, vital, and could be even more beautiful when it came with a particular type of connection.”
I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé is out now.