Hi. So I’ve been mostly silent for a lot of reasons. I’ve found it very difficult to write much of anything creatively in the past few weeks for obvious reasons. If it wasn’t COVID-19 anxiety, it was sending myself spiraling into a hypochondriacal coma or, ya know, racial injustice. As a black man, a gay black man, I kinda feel like I could die at any minute. But I mean, that’s not news. I won’t speak for every other black person in America. However, that thought crosses my mind practically every time I see a cop. Literally.
So, I have for you some things that I would just like to get off my chest. For those of you that haven’t time or the energy to read all the way through, here’s the TL;DR and I’ll even number the sections for you if you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing. I mean, it’s a lot. I get it. There’s some humor toward the end if that’s any motivation to get you to tough it out though.
TL;DR: 1) Stop killing us for no reason, please and thank you. 2) I’m gay. 3) Put on a mask and stay six feet away from me.
1) I have lived a fairly fortunate life. I am a light-skinned black man. My grandmother is white. We’re not in poverty. I grew up with just enough to be poor around my white friends. Because that’s just how it is. My household consisted of my mom, my uncle, and myself. My mom had to work so damn hard to get to where she is now in her 60s, about to retire. Straight out of college, with a master’s degree in business, she was reduced to working in a grocery store deli. For years. My uncle, now deceased, was an award-winning photographer, very well-known and loved among the community. He just barely managed to make it out debt-free before he passed. Unless you count funeral costs. Both of these individuals lived through segregation. I will never forget a story my mom told of the day her teachers, her teachers, stood outside her school, the very same high school that I attended and graduated from, with baseball bats and wouldn’t let colored kids enter. That fucking happened. Right here in my hometown. That wasn’t 100 years ago. That is within living memory.
I’ve only had a handful of run-ins with racism. The first was in elementary school. My class was in the library and one of my classmates spun the globe to Africa and pronounced Niger incorrectly. I got a compulsory “sorry,” not that I understood why I deserved one. And why would I? I hadn’t been taught that lesson in history yet. When I got home and asked my mom what a nigger was, shoooo. I’ll never forget the look on her face. It was just like all the hope faded away in an instant. Then, in high school, there was this kid. Well there were multiple, but the worst was a football player. Everyone loved him. And he love-hated me. He would say such racist things over Xbox Live party chat to me, all with a smile on his face. You could just hear it in his voice. If you could’ve just read his bio. I bet he hasn’t even changed it. Something about his surprise at discovering that a monkey could read. I was the monkey. I don’t remember why I put up with that. And in college, my very first day I was called to the Dean’s office. I was terrified. I thought I was going to be expelled. For what, I had no idea. I sat across from this accomplished black woman. She greeted me warmly, we exchanged pleasantries. Then she asked “Are you okay?” I thought that was odd, so I just said, “Yeah…” She explained that on the door of the dorm room across from mine, someone had written the word “nigger” just the day before. And all I remember from the rest of that conversation was me saying “I’m fine” and leaving. It wasn’t my door, I had reassured myself. I’d be okay. Then there were the very often “you ain’t black” or “you’re so white.” It was only after college that I finally put my foot down. No. I am black. Look at my skin. I don’t care how I act. I am black. Being black means whatever I want it to mean. Fuck all the way off.
More recently, George Floyd got murdered in the most horrendous way. I watched that shit on break at work and y’all, I almost asked my boss if I could leave. I barely said another word the rest of the day. For like the next week, it was all I could do to hold back the tears. I had to ask my coworkers to just not talk about it. At all. I couldn’t keep trying to dodge the subject when it was so loud. It was everywhere. Absolutely unavoidable. His face was everywhere I looked. I verbally attacked friends, I withdrew from others. It was tearing me apart. And finally, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to talk to someone about it. Someone who would understand. So I sat down with my mom.
Now, you should know that I do not talk to my mom. I just don’t. I really want you to truly grasp the conundrum of the relationship this truly is though, because I am not ashamed to admit that I am currently living with my mom. I go out of my way to not talk to her and yet I value her opinion so so much. Makes perfect sense, right? Does that say more about her or me? Anyway. I sit down with her, and I immediately start crying. She’s like, “What’s wrong?” So I explain that I’m just terrified. More terrified than I’ve ever been to just exist in this country, that he was there on the ground, saying “I can’t breathe” over and over and calling for his mom, and not one of those other cops did a thing. That’s some scary shit. When a black man comes calling for mom, you know something’s up. And when it’s followed by “I can’t breathe,” he clearly knew he was gonna die. But my mom wasn’t fazed. She just said, “Honey, this is nothing compared to what I grew up with.”
At first I thought “Momma say what now?” But then I was just like shiiiiiit. My mother is really good about that, consoling you in a very indirect way. And I’d be lying if I said it had an outstanding success rate. But it worked this time. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. I was just like. Fuck. Holy fuck. I’m really sitting here crying like a damn baby and ain’t nothing happened to me. But my mom almost got beat by her own teachers because she wanted to learn at her own school when she was younger. It really gave me some perspective. I mean, yeah, I’m still scared as hell to just be alive in America. I still shudder when I see a cop. I don’t know, her words just gave me a kind of bravery. Hope, I guess. This shit has always been happening. We can just see it now. At all times.
Another thing. I never got the sex talk from my mom. Probably because she suspected I was gay all along and that was a difficult subject because, ya know, Christian household. Getting ahead of myself… Black people get the cop talk. Hands at 10 and 2. Yes sir, no sir. Narrate everything you do. Do everything slowly and persistently. Make them feel like you are not a threat. Make them feel like you are not a threat. One more time for the people in the back. Make them feel like you are not a threat. But this time, my mom added one more thing to that list: pray. Pray, boy, pray. You’re never too old for the cop talk.
Soooo, that’s probably a good enough segue into my gay shit, right? But uh, just to wrap that up in a nice black bow: Black Lives Matter, obviously all lives matter but black lives are the ones in immediate danger. I don’t care if he was a criminal. I don’t care if any of them were criminals. I literally do not care. I can confidently say that I, along with every other black person in America, would much prefer you put us through our imperfect justice system than kill us on the streets like animals. Being alive is better than being dead. Plain and simple. I’m not going to sit here and say things that many others have said many times before. But when the very amendment that was meant to set us free is what made us criminals in the first place, there is something fucking wrong here. You wanna tell me that you don’t see color? Well you need to start. You need to start seeing me as black. And I am going to see you as whatever color you are, because we are all different and we are not going to begin to heal until we can recognize and accept each others’ differences. No mic drop. That should not be a profound statement. That’s just real shit. Wake up.
2) *Exhale* Okay. Now onto the gay stuff. Before I get into this, to my family that are probably reading this. I don’t care. Sorry, I should rephrase. The only person whose opinion matters to me is my mom’s. She knows. She’s accepting. That’s all that matters. Your opinions are frankly inconsequential. Though, I am confident that those of you whom I’m closer to will also be accepting. If not, well that sucks. Say what you want. Do what you want. If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I’m trying to make a commitment to myself to be less afraid. It’s Pride Month. Juneteenth is this Friday. *shrug* Hate on it.
Anygay. (That’s a thing that I say. A lot.) As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in a very Christian household. And that went pretty much as you’d imagine. I was just taught that being gay was wrong. I was made to feel like I was wrong. But I was, at least as far as I knew, fairly good at playing the part of a straight boy and later a straight man. It mostly involved a lot of not talking and conforming to some disgusting straight, white man ideals. Not proud of that, but it got me through school virtually undetected. Now, I’m not an idiot. I know me and how I am. Surely someone out there knew or suspected, but thankfully they didn’t sound the alarms or at least the bells were quelled before they could alert my friends and family.
Now I have experienced three sexual stages. A very very brief stage of thinking I was straight. Then desperately thinking maybe I’m bi because maybe I wouldn’t go to hell that way. That lasted from around age 13 to age 24. Then I realized, nah fam. I’m gay as hell. I’m 27 now. I tried to be straight. I genuinely tried. Hell, I tried to be bi too. But looking back on it, that was basically as ridiculous as me trying to be white. I’m just not. I didn’t choose to be gay just like I didn’t choose to be black. It’s just how it is. Racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, etc. They’re all the same. They just hate people for things they didn’t choose to be. How shitty of a person can you be to hate someone because they were born different than you? That’s not cool. And to be honest I would’ve done this bit sooner but I just haven’t cared enough to do it. I came out to my mom last October. Eight months ago. That was some scary shit back then. But now? This is nothing. This doesn’t scare me. Well it does a little. Of course it does. But tell your friends. Tell the world. It’s as I said. I just haven’t gotten around to doing it until now. So here we are. It’s more meant to be a PSA than an emotional journey. But what would a coming out post be without some emotion, right? Don’t worry, I’ve got some.
Part of me doesn’t even want to bother telling this story but what the hell. I won’t name names. But depending on how close you are to me, you’ll know anyway. I’ll make this quick, not too many details either. I had a straight best friend that I was deeply in love with. You see where this is going. Feel free to skip this bit if you’d like. Well over about three years, I found little ways to express this love without actually coming out, which amounted to just being a fucking fantastic friend. Too fantastic at some times. Obviously, this wasn’t enough for my little gay soul. I contemplated suicide on multiple occasions. Four, to be exact. Don’t worry, I never actually attempted. But boy did I want to. I wanted so badly to be anything but alive, so dead. I voiced those feelings each time to him. I just want to be clear. If you happen to be reading this, the reason we are no longer friends is not because you are straight. It is because you offered me no support, no reassurance, no consolation, nothing. It is because on that fourth time you threatened to beat my ass if I talked of suicide one more time. I’ll leave it at that.
Looking back on it now, all those years that I tortured myself by not being who I was… I wasted so much time. All this time, I just needed the courage to tell my mom. If anyone else had a problem with it, fuck ’em. They can be replaced. (If you’ve made it this far, please don’t jump to conclusions. Yes, I do, in fact, still have my father. He’s a very respectable man. He’s not in prison. He’s alive. We just have some differences of opinion and therefore, his opinion is also inconsequential.)
I am in a very healthy relationship. His name is Steven. I love him. So very much. Seven months now. Got into a relationship right after becoming validated and accepted by the one person in my life who mattered the most. How about that. The only reason it’s not on Facebook is because he doesn’t have one for privacy reasons.
3) Speaking of privacy! Oh my goodness! Another COVID rant? No! He wouldn’t! Oh, but he is! Stay calm everyone, I’ll make this quick. Quicker, anyway.
I am a hypochondriac. I am a very anxious person. I can think myself into an illness. I also have asthma. Put anxiety and asthma together and what do ya get? Anxiety-induced asthma. We are in a pandemic. I know all the symptoms. And it’s like, there are so many that I’m sure I’ve got it at least three times a day. Every time I sneeze my chest hurts after, because ya know, I just sneezed, I will stand there for like thirty minutes panicking, positive that I have COVID-19. I take a couple puffs on my inhaler and I’ll calm down. Let me just say this again. I am a very anxious person. And it makes me even more anxious to hear that the majority of the people that I have to interact with on a daily basis don’t seem to care. My asthma is under control. So I like to think that I’m not high risk, but I can’t know that. I had an asthma attack just two months ago. My first one in ten years. Ten years. And several anxiety attacks since then, but thank god I had my inhaler for those. My mom’s at a high risk if she were to get infected. So is my grandma. I don’t care that you don’t care about COVID. I do. So put on a mask and stay six feet away from me. I’m not ready to die and I’m not ready to watch my loved ones go either. Maybe I’ll get it. Maybe I won’t. And if I do, maybe I’ll die. Maybe I won’t. I don’t want to take that chance.
Especially not after I’ve won back my pride. To just be alive. Not after the BLM movement is making waves across the country and the world and making real change. Not after that Supreme Court ruling just gave protections to LGBTQ+ workers. I want to live in that world. I want to be in that future.
I am proud to be black and I am proud to be gay. And I swear to god and his sandals up in the clouds if your cough gives me COVID and I die from it I will give you gay black nightmares for the rest of your life. Don’t know what those are? It’s where you relive the life of a gay black man in the worst part of Harlem in 1939. Trust me, you’ll hate it. Hope you don’t get drafted, sweetheart.
4) Surprise number! So now that I’ve finally gotten that off my chest, hopefully I can get back to what I love doing: dream poetry. And if you really made it all this way and this is the very first thing you’ve ever read on this blog, that’s what this blog usually is. Dream poetry. Stay awhile if you’d like. The anxiety that is 2020 has slowed my creative juices a bit but I write when I get the urge.