I want to share some of my story of where I come from. As I continue on the path to liberate myself from external factors and stand completely in my truth, I think it’s important for me to be willing to reflect on how my past has shaped the way I view and think of our world today.
I grew up on Long Island, a little island that’s home to the start of suburban America. It sits in the shadow of the biggest (and greatest) city in the country, New York, and yet, living there is nothing like living in the city. Almost everything about me can be traced back to my childhood on Long Island—and I love it!—but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t see it for what it is through adult eyes. Unfortunately, this makes me sadder than I would like.
Though Long Island is known as the suburbs, it’s home to more people than some states in America has alone! Comprised up by two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, LI is home to some 2.8 million people throughout 195 hamlets, 96 villages, and 2 cities—all of which have their own unique identities. As a child growing up in a mostly single mother household, I was afforded the opportunity of living and going to three different school districts there. I’m grateful for the moving around we had to do now because I consider these experiences to be some of the first that allowed me to see the world with larger eyes than people expected.
My story begins in the 6th grade.
“I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” –Nelson Mandela
Where has August gone? I mean, really—where has it gone? I celebrated my one-year anniversary of moving back home to New York, and around the same time, I worked myself into a beginning stage of burning out. This is unsurprisingly common for young New Yorkers, but in my case, it came at a time where the rest of my world seemed to be set on fire.
The recent protests out of Ferguson, Missouri—stemming from the murder of unarmed 18-year old, Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson—has shaken the ground of which we all walk on, and I stand in support with those protesting around the nation.
“When a Black woman tells you you’re not being a good ally, you listen; you don’t berate and undermine.” -Yvonne, Associate Editor of Autostraddle
My blood bubbles with fury as I see yet another article published by a white gay men responding to Sierra Mannie’s brilliant piece, “Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture.” Here’s the thing, if you’re bothered by Sierra’s thoughts, get the hell over it. Black people, and Black women especially, have had to deal with centuries of white people literally getting to write how Black people DESERVED to be sexually violated and/or dead, with Black people never even being ALLOWED public space to rebut. But now that my beautiful Black sisters are refusing to be subjected to inappropriate cultural appropriation done by a community of inherent privilege, it seems like every white gay male has been given space to publish what they think is wrong, on a national level. STOP!
You were called out for a reason.
Today, I saw a magazine cover targeted to the LGBTQ community (this time, it was specifically towards the men having sex with men spectrum), and there was one very obvious thing to me: there were no men of colour. You can argue the colour scheme chosen for said cover eliminates the ability to view race, but I’d have to call bullshit on that.
As soon as I saw it, I just put my head down, shook my head, and sighed. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to me, it is so much more than a magazine cover. It’s the overwhelming feeling that I, as a gay Black man, am invisible to the greater LGBTQ community. And this is not the first cover to do this. In fact, if you Google image search “gay magazine covers,” you’ll see the same thing: an alarming number of white men. Now don’t think I am against white gay males (I’m known for being down with the swirl myself), but how am I supposed to feel included with the marginalized community I belong to, if I can never see any fair representations of myself?
The following is a repost of a piece I wrote three months ago for Believe Out Loud about trans activist Janet Mock’s book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.
Be sure to check out my thoughts at the end on what this piece has meant to me since publishing, and a reflection on where we are today as a society in protecting our trans brothers and sisters.
So I am venturing on a new little journey for myself. WRITING! The skill has always kind of been there, but I have decided to turn it into a piece of what I represent as “fighter for social justice.” So to begin this new adventure, I asked myself:
What do you want to write about?
Well, that’s a loaded question. I could write about anything couldn’t I? But no, I want it to mean something. I want it to influence thought in others. The thing I loved the most about college was reading new text that made me really think about what the hell I understood in life. Call me a nerd, but it’s so exciting to learn and think about new things!