Over the next couple weeks I will be exploring a gay man’s struggle. Organizing my own experiences and what I have observed in other close friends, I will try to give an inside look to what it is like to grow up as a gay man in the inner city. There are obviously many aspects to this subject and many in my neighborhood (emphasis on the HOOD part) would rather pretend that being gay is something that is just a “phase” or “non-existent.” Starting from when I was a confused child in elementary school to the point where my brother told me that he “hopes I get aids” this topic has being weighing heavily on my heart for a while now. So over the next couple weeks, here are the titles of the different subjects I will be writing about. A Gay Man’s Struggle: “Coming Out”…”Why DL?”…”Leviticus Said Man Shall Not Lie With Man”…and finally “Liberation?”
When I was a young student at Shaw High School in East Cleveland I watched a movie about a 1988 civil rights drama “Mississippi Burning,” a film based on the 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers. It’s an amazing, troubling and heart-breaking film. The fact that it is based on a true story only heightens its terrifying impact. When I reflect on the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the past century one theme always returns to me, and always strikes my heart: Would I have been brave enough to be one of them? Would I have had the courage to risk life and limb to defend the rights I know and believe should be guaranteed to all Americans?
In my heart I always want to say “yes.” I want to think that I would have been marching on the streets of Montgomery, or taking a bus from Chicago to Birmingham as a Freedom Rider. But, in my head I know — or at least fear — that I would instead be the meek passerby, adamantly opposing segregation and hate as I sat idly on the sidelines, living an easy and comfortable life. This, almost as much as any other part of the Civil Rights Movement, breaks my heart. This fear of my own hypothetical ineffectuality is based, more than anything, in what I perceive to be my own failing in a more current fight for civil rights. In place of brave and courageous outspokenness I have consistently, with fleeting exceptions, substituted the ease and comfort of the closet;
A closet that runs nearly 8 years deep and that, as often as it has protected me from the potential hate and intolerance of others, has encouraged both self-loathing and depression. Knowing now that it was just one step to my liberation is a beautiful sadness.
What I mean to say in all this is that, as well as I know myself after my first nineteen years, I am a homosexual. This is, I suppose, my coming out. I don’t mean this to be a huge revelation, many who I interact with already know, and the way I will live my life tomorrow will be the same as I did today. I simply feel that it’s time for me (and everyone who struggles with me) to start presenting ourselves more honestly, and to take a firmer stand in the fight against homophobia and discrimination.
I still retain this hope now, that ideally those who hated me will still hate me, those who loved me will still love me, and the vast majority that really didn’t care one way or another, will not have a change of heart. “Gay” is who I am, not who I do, and in a perfect world no one would treat me differently once they knew.
However, I know that the world is far from perfect and many may have trouble understanding and accepting this part of me. I can empathize immensely with those of you who fit this description. It has taken me many years to understand what my sexuality means and even more to integrate it into the personal identity I had already accepted (part of which is greatly defined by my Christianity.) I like to believe that most intolerance is rooted not in factually informed hate, but actually in ignorance; and I’ve discovered for myself that ignorance is best defeated by knowledge, not further intolerance.
For any young black gay man, coming out is the biggest and most difficult struggle of their life. Getting to the place where they stop caring what society thinks and start to accept them-selves is a mountain to climb. For now I want to give tribute to those that live out and proud. And If anyone wants to also pay tribute to anyone they know that has climbed the mountain and came out of the oppressive closet (males or females) please pay tribute to them by writing their names in the comment box.
Joe Hovey, Siaara Freeman, Calvin Walker, Jessica wright, James Davis, Rayshawn Birch, Akeem Rollins, Erika Williams, Brianna Mcguire, Taylor Johnson, CJ Reed
But let us also understand why many have chosen not to “come out” and give a moment of silence because they are forced to be silent. Next week I will discuss, A Gay Man’s Stuggle: “Why DL?”