The song "Daddy Lessons" by queen Beyoncé is one that I both love and hate. For those of you living under a rock or fail to like lemonade, the songs overall message are the things that her father taught her about life, love and most, herself.
I struggle when listening to this song because while I absolutely love the story she tells, I can't connect with it.
See, my father decided to remove himself out of my life at an early age of 4. Though he would show up during random times in my life or my family would spend time trying to hunt him down, I definitely learned at a very young age that not having a father around would teach me more than he ever could.
Lesson 1: Toxic Masculinity can ruin your self worth.
Around the age of 8, I started realizing that I was different than other boys. That difference meant not only liking other boys, but being more in tune with my feelings. When my father would often come around, he usually wouldn't interact with me the way a father should and often pushed me to talk about things I never had an interest in talking about, or thinking about things an 8 year old shouldn't be thinking about (I.E. women.) I never understood why he was so set on me playing up the role of a "boys-boy", but I learned early that this would only foreshadow the way society treated queer men of color.
The most valuable thing I learned from him was to connect to inner self. See, while many of my male family members struggled to express who they were or the pain they had, I was thriving in who I was. And even though being queer brought on some challenges, I learned early on how freeing it could be to not ascribe to the confines of male roles and the gender binary. This leads me to the next point.
Lesson 2: My relationship with him doesn't determine my self worth.
For years, I often asked, "What is wrong with me that my father doesn't want to be around?" I internalized many of my fathers actions as being a direct reflection of who I was. Was I not worthy of love? Was I not worthy of a relationship? And it took me almost 25 years to learn and understand that my fathers actions, or anyones actions for that matter: have nothing to do with me and my value as a person. This led me to understand that in life, often times with family, we give them way more credit then they deserve for how we view ourselves.
Understanding this, I have come to the understanding that my self worth as a fatherless child, should not have a direct reflection of my self worth as a fatherless adult. Being older, I am learning that his values, or lack thereof, does not determine my values and that the judgement my father made, or lack thereof, should never have a direct influence on how I feel about who I am as a queer man of color.
Lesson 3: Sometimes absence truly makes the heart grow fonder.
At 18, my grandmother told me in a heated debate how sorry I would be when I got older for not allowing my father into my life. And while I was extremely bitter in my latter years of adolescence, it wasn't until a few years ago that I came to terms that my fathers absences was probably the one thing I needed to become who I am now.
See: sometimes we can't see the forest for the many trees in our way. But the reality is that sometimes, those trees are blocking us from being in a forest filled with toxic shrubbery.
I've learned that it was the distance that he provided me that helped me to become who I am. That by him opting to leave, it provided me the space in my life to navigate my identity without the confines of someone who did not deserve my energy.
In the end, my father not being in my life provided me with a better understanding that his absence was a blessing. The greatest lesson that he could have ever taught me was that rejection is not just protection, but sometimes the thing that you need most to navigate your journey for self love and healing.
Sending love and light.