Opinion: So About Dwight Howard And His Accuser

Opinion: So About Dwight Howard And His Accuser

I have a lot of unsettling feelings over the story surrounding Masin Elijè’s claims that a secret intimate relationship with NBA star Dwight Howard ultimately led to Elijè facing imminent danger from members of Howard’s camp, but my discomfort is not one-sided.

To be clear, if members of the Washington Wizards player’s entourage — including an alleged pastor — threatened Elijè’s life, they deserve to be prosecuted. Albeit unsurprising, it remains a shame that the idea of two Black men engaging in a consensual intimate relationship would result in such a violent, cowardly reaction. As others have recently highlighted, there is currently no openly gay player in the NBA, and one assumes that those close to Howard accused of promising harm to Elijè were trying to prevent any assignment of him as the league’s successor to Jason Collins. As Howard became a trending topic on Twitter after Elijè’s tweets, homophobia and transphobia, too, flooded timelines, largely masquerading as “jokes” about Dwight Howard.

Still, you can’t allow worries over others’ ignorance result in another fearing for their life; if true, those people in Howard’s camp are punks and whatever punishment comes their way as a result of their alleged antics can’t come soon enough.

Yet, although Elijè should not have to worry about his safety over uneasiness with the reductive attitudes some have about human sexuality, the manner in which he revealed his plight both puzzles and perturbs me. In Elijè’s exhaustive Twitter thread detailing his apparent tryst with Royce Reed’s ex, he manages to out another trans woman whom he believes Howard cheated on him with, while also going out of his way to malign those living with HIV by insulting Magic Johnson. For someone who wants his own life to be treated with sanctity, it’s a peculiar way to treat people.

Elijè claims that this is “really about his team and his crooked PASTOR threatening my life over an unsigned NDA and he has been trying to intimidate ME into taking ‘hush money’ for what they did to me.” So why out a trans sex worker? And why talk about “transgender sex parties” in a way that sensationalizes trans women and those attracted to them? What is the purpose behind the salaciousness? Elijè does this at a time when Black trans women are the most vulnerable communities among us.

It is despicable to malign anyone over their HIV status, as it’s not something to be ashamed of. For a Black gay man to even “jest” in that way is reprehensible — particularly when there is an HIV crisis among Black gay men.

What does any of this have to do with the allegations of physical intimidation anyway? Could this not have started and ended with “I was threatened?” What else did we need to know? Certainly not all of that.

Although one can understand why a fearful Elijè might have gone public with threats, the delivery of said worries warrants question of intent. Or, to be as blunt as he was, he comes across as someone trying to capitalize off of the template set by Karrine Steffans, whose New York Times bestseller, Confessions of a Video Vixen, included stories of Steffans’ affairs with famous men in sports and entertainment and made her a household name. Since its 2005 release, several others have gone on to “out” famous men, regardless of sexual orientation (both confirmed and perceived), as a means of attaining their own notoriety.

In the midst of storytime, Elijè did curiously promote his book, Industry Hoe.

To his credit, he does not deny promoting his book while accusing members of Dwight Howard’s camp of threatening his life, but while I can understand how the hustle never stops, author to author, if someone was threatening my life, I wouldn’t be out here like, “Yeah, I Can’t Date Jesus but I do need him to save me from these death threats. It’s on sale, too, y’all!”

While everyone may not agree on that kind of shtick (I personally weep for none of these people), we should all be able to agree that it’s an outdated model. What many of these types fail to see is that the days are gone in which you can share sordid details about sex with a famous person and cash in like the artists formerly known as “Superhead.” I mean, maybe you can get on a few minutes on Love & Hip Hop Wherever, Basketball Wives and Adjacents, or Keeping Up with Who The Hell Knows Anymore, but that’s a big if. More likely, though, one can score a post on The Shade Room, The YBF, and The Jasmine Brand — and that’s even a big maybe on at least two of these outlets.

Basically, like many dying industries, blast culture doesn’t yield the same fruitful results it once used to. Unfortunately, some love attention and that is more than enough. To get it in this manner comes at a cost, though, and in this instance, I worry most about the trans woman Elijè outed in what came across as retaliation.

Elijè has not received similar criticisms well thus far. Ironically, when he responds by insulting men and calling them a “queen,” he reinforces the very queer antagonism that can give way to the threats he now wants to alert us to. Neither Howard nor the Washington Wizards have responded to reporters about this debacle. It’s highly unlikely either ever will.

Elijè is still tweeting, and while I do not fault him for the threats he says he has endured and hope he remains safe, I will say the more he speaks on the matter, the clearer it becomes that he has not lessened the stigmatization of queer and trans people. If anything, with the outing of others, the insulting of HIV positive people, and the way in which he essentially weaponized someone’s sexuality purportedly out of concern for his own physical well being, this all comes across as a missed opportunity. But at least he got to be part of a trending topic on Twitter, though. Maybe that boosted his book sales.

There are no perfect victims, but there is something to be said for tact, sensitivity, and making sure that in trying to protect yourself, you don’t go out of your way to potentially harm others.

[Originally published on INTO]

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