"What are you mixed with?"
This was the first question I was asked after my first visit to a gay club.
"Uh.....I am Black."
I remember the look that young man gave me as he smiled and simply walked away.
Being a young, newly out queer man, I wasn't able to fully grasp that interaction, because since I was a child, being Black was something I was happy to disclose. From the music I listened to (Aaliyah, James Brown, Michael Jackson) to the food my mother would cook on the weekends (Fried Chicken, Okra, Cornbread and Greens), being Black was something I had always taken pride in. But upon stepping into the LGBTQ community, I found that this pride was something I had to learn to contend with.
See, back in the early days, before Growlr, Scruff and Grindr lived something called AOL chat and Gay.com ( I know I am dating myself in this post). And because I did not have a great deal of queer friends in college, I spent a great deal of my time talking to people on said websites. Often, the conversation would begin with "ASL" (Age, Sex, Location), and before I could even begin asking questions about what it meant to be apart of the LGBT community, I would get a response of, "Race?". Again, I would share that I was African American and immediately the conversation would stop. Ghost. Blocked.
This did not happen just once, but it happened over, and over, and over, and over again.
It was then that I began to understand that my Blackness as a queer man was not prided within the community and this came as a shock because I had never in my life been in a place where I had to justify my Blackness. After awhile, the shit became so tiring that I decided to stop altogether.
So for years, In order to gain the approval of both the community and my peers, when folks would ask me, I began to lie. I began to fill myself with self hate and I started telling folks that my father was Latino and my mother was Black and white. I lived in this lie for about 5 years. When folks would challenge me on the topic, I would figure out ways to change the topic in order to make myself feel better about the lie, all in order to feel accepted and wanted in both worlds.
After awhile, I got tired of lying to folks about my race. After awhile, I began to hate the fact that I became so comfortable with lying about something that had shaped a larger part of who I was. It wasn't until a few years out of undergrad that it dawned on me I had lost sight of how powerful it was to be a Black queer man. How the one thing I lost sight of was calling me in to remind me of how strong, beautiful and resilient I truly was.
The greatest challenge that I have had was coming to terms with how to see the beauty in being a Black queer man when the community told me otherwise.
And I still to this day struggle with how I continue to do that. How do you find your own beauty in a room full of stained glass mirrors? How do you hold your head high in a world that tells you to look down?
The real challenge was learning to love my queerness AND my Blackness synonymously (more on that for the Wednesday post).
For now I ask, how have you come out Black? What did your process look like and in what ways are you continuing to push back on what it means to be QPOC ( A queer person of color), or queer and a Black?
Would love to hear you thoughts below!
Continue to protect your magic. Sending love and light.