Gay Is Only One Aspect….

What defines you?

We look for meaning to some degree in everything we do. Definition is important because it gives us understanding and gives us purpose in our world. To an extent it protects us as it provides insight. Definition makes our lives easier. But does one aspect of who you are define you as a whole human being?

Tonight I responded to a question that asked if a person never comes out, does that define who they are. I said no because fear or circumstances are defining that decision to stay in the closet or come out. Being gay is a part of who they are whether they deny it, suppress it, or completely embrace it. I was born gay and being gay is not what defines me as a human being. A definition is who you are and an identity are aspects of what you are. I identify as a gay multiracial man but it does not define me, it is simply a part of who I am. However my decision to come out was affected by circumstance and fear. Not because of my parents because they have always known but to the world. That fear kept me in a glass closet to an extent at certain times in my life. But I am so much more then that.

My drive for equality and fairness for everyone, the eternal optimist in me that hopes when everything seems hopeless. My innate desire to love unabashed, passionately, deeply, emphatically, irrevocably, unapologetically for all of eternity love. I refused to let others define me anymore in all aspects of my life. I give a lot of myself and most of that is willingly and without hesitation. But who I am is defined by me and me only. I fight for equality. Fighting is the instrument in which I use to better illustrate my definition. People can only define others if they give them the power to do so. And one of the biggest ways people define someone is through fear.

Fear is used to deter people from being themselves. It’s used by religion and politics to control and demonstrate power. Being gay and having equal rights takes nothing from those that oppose it other than power. And any excuse used to justify it other than power is a lie. This fear tactic is used to deter gay men and women from coming out. Staying in the closet for fear of losing their jobs, from having loved ones turn against them, and sadly for fear for their own life. I understand and empathize  with that because I’ve been there, twice because I went into a glass closet for an ex boyfriend. It’s sad and it hurts like hell that so many of us go through this pain of not being able to own that part of ourselves publicly. Sometimes privately. In spite of this, whether being in the closet or out and proud this does not define someone because sexuality is such a small part of who we are.

In comparison to everything else I am, my sexuality is so minuscule and finite. Maybe it’s because gay is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think who I am. Or my race, my gender, my age, hair color, etc.,. None of those characteristics has enough power alone or combined to define who I am. They add to the collective but are not the real essence. And regardless of a clear definition of who someone is through experience, some spiritual awakening, or existential examination, the definition of who we are is up to is. Only each individual has that power. A person can love that part of themselves even if they don’t acknowledge it publicly. Sometimes we can’t always control our circumstances in life but we can always choose to love ourselves. That is still only a part of the wonderful human beings each and every one of us are. It may drive our actions but it does not define us.

Yes there are those that wish me harm because I’m gay and because I’m multiracial. Laws were created to take away my rights as a citizen of this country feigned as some divine mandate.  I can even be fired in my homestate at a job on the sole reason of my sexuality. I get angry and flat out pissed off when I feel oppressed or threatened that I have to be mindful that my love for another man is seen as wrong. I’ll never get used to it nor will I ever accept it. Despite all of that, it does not and will not define that aspect or any aspect of me. And circumstances are no longer able to do so. This unfortunately is not the same for everyone that is gay. We have to be understanding to that fact and not recklessly say things about people in the closet because we don’t know their circumstances.

Upon this reflection I know I can only speak for myself. Maybe I wrote this because I can’t stand being labeled or categorized because of one simple aspect of the complex human I am and as all humans are. This is my belief and my experience alone. But because my circumstances changed, I am now able to fight back. I fight back in advocacy. I fight back in how and who I vote for each election year. I speak out by supporting my fellow LGBTQ brothers and sisters ready for the continuing uphill battle. We have to fight for equality all day every day. It doesn’t matter if someone does or doesn’t believe in marriage as I sure as hell will fight for your right to choose. To fight so that we have job protection and not be fired simply because we’re gay.

So I don’t let my sexuality define me. I am so much more then that and so is each and every human being on this planet. It’s not easy and there are nights I throw myself into my pillow and cry myself to sleep in anger and frustration. But I won’t give up. Ever. Fighting is the instrument in which I use to fight for equality. It is the action to explain my belief, philosophies, and meaning. Whether someone loves every aspect of themselves or suppresses them it’s due to circumstances and actions,. But being gay is only one aspect of who I am. I’m more then that and so is everyone else. Only each individual can decide if they love that aspect of themselves or not, whether in the closet or living as an openly gay person. But we can support and love each other no matter what. Again, only you can decide that. But have you ever asked the question of who defines you? I have and only I define who I am.

StarGaze

I am simply amazed by the stars. I gaze upon them nightly to revel in the mysteries of the universe.  My first (and one of my favorite) memories as a child is when my mom had gotten off work and picked me up to take me home. I was crying in the backseat wanting attention and my mom said, “look up! Look at the moon!” And I was so mesmerized by it. I stared at it saying “moon. Moon. MOON.” the entire way home and she told me a story about the warrior of the moon. Since then, I always need to see the stars and moon each night and growing up I HAD to learn the name of constellations, meteors. This is why I get upset whenever I can’t see them because of the clouds, bad weather, or obligations. Whatever it is, I need to see them every night and learn as much as I could about them, including astrology. 

Astrology is the reason I read as much as I could find growing up about the planets and how the stars affect us and our world. It made me wonder do we question these perceived phenomena as fact or a fun observation of behavior. But I’ve never compared my past relationships and astrology before. I’m pretty sure I know everything there is to know about what a Libra means. We love beauty hope harmony and peace and love itself. We love love. Libras go out of our way to accommodate others so that they’re at ease. We find beauty in just about anything. We can’t stand loud noises or obnoxious and rude personalities and abhor, detest, flat out hate conflict of any kind. And though we’re very relaxed and passive, we become livid when we feel there is injustice and will do all in our power to fight for equality ( LIBRAS UNITE FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY). All of that and I not once with my past exes considered how compatible our astrological signs are. 

So I wondered about the men I’ve dated and relationships I’ve been in and looked back on our signs. I’ve dated almost half of the astrological signs and supposedly been highly compatible with all of them. But aside from two of them, astrology was wrong because the things that should come easy were extremely hard, like spontaneity with the Scorpio or lack of emotional investment from the Aquarius. Actually my worst relationship was with a guy I was supposed to be the best match for. It was their personalities that differed. Did they make some good comparisons about what our relationship was like? Yes it did. Did it affect our relationship? Absolutely not. 

I don’t know what I consider to be too careful in a relationship. I’m cautious by nature in matters of the heart. And even though I’m really into astrology I don’t take what they say literally. While I may panic when the sign isn’t in it’s proper house or become a hermit when Mercury is in retrograde (which is going on now until August 8th) I rely on instincts and only use the stars as inspiration. I know many don’t give credence to ‘what the stars say’ but I do pay attention and whether it is true science or mere coincidence, I am all for having more awarenesses about ourselves and those around us. But you can’t apply that logic to a relationship. I believe if I had the relationship would’ve ended a lot sooner and been less satisfying. Not because I was taking advice from an outside source but because I wasn’t trusting my instincts or what my heart was telling me. And while the stars may speak to my heart, only I can speak for my actions. 

I will always love to star gaze and be mesmerized by the moon as I ponder what is beyond the stars in the sky every night. Daydreaming of possibilities and opportunities that I have either not realized or not yet succeeded. They are my muse and my inspiration for what I question in this life and what I aspire to learn about myself and others. Maybe they are a part of destiny and soulmates as I do believe in both. But I trust my instincts for what to do in my search for love. I trust my heart.

An Examination Of My Awkwardness

Today I reflected on the very beginning of romantic relationships. Those baby steps when flirting is a key component to building upon communication and fostering understanding. These playful conversations allow learning more about each other. And while some view it as a sport I don’t view matters of the heart as games to become a gold medalist. When it comes to flirting most of the time I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. When I talk about this with some of my friends, it’s hard for them to believe that I’m bashful and shy when I’m interested in a guy. I’ve always been very social and don’t have a hard time communicating my emotions on any topic, except love. And I apologize now as I feel this entry will be just an awkward rambling on the subject so bear with me and maybe you’ll have a good laugh (at my expense but everyone needs to laugh at themselves sometimes so go ahead).

By nature, I’m not a big flirt mainly because I sound so awkward trying to “woo” someone. Then I start these weird facial expressions that are practically involuntary while mumbling incoherent language. One of my exes called the paramedics once because he thought I was having a seizure which made the facial expressions worse and I was so embarrassed I couldn’t speak. Of course that makes not only me look like a mess but also leaves the guy that I’m pursuing full of secondhand embarrassment. It’s even worse when I say something that wasn’t meant to be a play on words and there’s more mumbling and embarrassment with abstract facial expressions. None of this would happen if I had a baby sloth that was with me the entire time to avoid tension and keep awkward moments away because I think they’re magical and who doesn’t love sloths? No one, that’s who. I’m not shy I just have a strong fixation on not ever wanting to make someone feel uncomfortable especially if I phrase the one liner the wrong way.

My point (finally) is what are the limits to flirting? Do new romances always have to start with flirting? Well that can’t be true because that’s not how any of my previous relationships started.  How far does one need to take it? Is it better to have the direct approach or a bag full of clever innuendos? And why do I make something that seems relatively easy to do so hard? Maybe I have this idea that it feels rushed because I’m constantly trying to think of witty things to say and it leads into me becoming a klutz.  I’ve walked into glass panels, almost fell down a storm drain, and slid down a hill leaving my shoes on the sidewalk. Grace is not a strong suit of mine in matters of the heart.

I know that everyone experiences the butterflies in the stomach but my stomach seems to resemble the altoids with dr pepper experiment knowing that soon enough that I’m going to completely embarrass myself. Guess I just like the direct approach. I like when a guy just flat out says ‘hey dude, I like you’ (swoon). Don’t get me wrong, wooing and clever/cunning jokes gets you extra points but just being honest from the beginning is so refreshing. And if you’ve crafted the flirting skill well I commend you and envy your stealthy ways of wooing. I just am unable to do so. I just feel like when it’s real, you use your heart to speak for you, not the most clever thing you can say.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had awful relationships where vague messages were half of the problems in the relationship which led to this examination of my awkwardness. I don’t want to rush romance but I definitely don’t want to waste time. Maybe that’s where my extraterrestrial-like gestures come from is because I’m not speaking from the heart when trying to flirt. It’s not organic or real. This is in no way downplaying or diminishing how everyone else flirts or how they show romance. It’s just for me, I want to skip that until we get to know each other. That’s when my quick wit comes in full force. Maybe it’s because I’m a late bloomer and was only 5’4 until about sixteen years old and in one summer grew almost a foot. So there’s no big revelation to this discussion. I don’t have sage wisdom for the masses to take into practice, or by writing this that I’m providing some new undiscovered technique in the art of flirting. To me, when flirting comes naturally and from the heart, it’s easier, endearing, and incredibly hot. So there isn’t a time table of when to start, it’s about how you start. That’s all I got. Except for sloths. Sloths Rock.

Hope To The Next Moment

Every single day I am reminded that I am a minority in this country. Everyday I am constantly told that my rights are not equal to every one else’s because of my race and sexuality. Every day I have to encounter a racist joke and homophobic slur and almost every day I hold my composure. I’m respectful to the opposition even when they often do not extend me the same courtesy. Most days I’m very stoic and relentless in my resolve against conflict and strife. And on some days like today it is just so overwhelming that I want to cry.

Sometimes I do allow myself those moments to let it all out and yell, curse, and have a full out bellowing cry, which is what was going on about a half hour before I started writing this entry. Having so called “friends” call you their “black gay friend” as some term of endearment when it’s really a condemnation is grating and so condescending. And whenever I hear it, a barrage of emotions hit me like I’m a possession instead of a person, that I’m not human, abnormal, or somehow less than. Add that to normal every day racism/homophobia from politicians, irate radio hosts, and religious zealots, today left me emotionally overwhelmed. Angry. Hurt. When moments like these happen I have to remind myself of the next moment that’s left after hope is the only thing there.

I talk about hope constantly. Relentlessly.  I’m sure some may say, annoyingly. But I believe in the ideal, the philosophy of hope. The best way I can explain it is that when all else is lost it is the only thing left. Look at Pandora’s Box, or The Audacity of Hope from President Obama. It’s just when I’ve hit my absolute rock bottom hope gets me to the next moment. Maybe it’ll be the moment I’ve been waiting for my entire life or more of the same but as long as I’m existing it gets me to progress and to move forward. To move forward to equality so that the next generation doesn’t have to vent out their anguish and pain late at night on a blog.

My mind begins to wander about where we are in our fight for equality. The progress made along with how far we need to go as we fight against the inequities disguised as religious martyrdom and political maneuvering. It’s daunting to attempt to describe that fast changing environment. Successes and failures in the advancement of equal rights for gays and lesbians to marry as well as have protection against discrimination in the workplace and laws in place to protect us from hate crimes. There’s 6 states that allow same sex marriage. And a close to a dozen that allow civil unions with several other states voting on this issue this election year. We have to remain vigilant against the conservative right that continually use things like DOMA to oppose marriage equality. We also have to be concerned with issues like EDNA and ensuring LGBTQ aren’t discriminated against in the workplace. And as I think about how far we are with this fight for equality I can’t help but think of those who’ve fought before us.

I think of my parents in moments when I feel like this. Knowing that to an extent they’ve experienced persecution because of skin color they have such a powerful insight. My parents grew up in a time where segregation was not only legal, it was reviled as the accepted behavior of the majority, especially in the south. It was legal to prevent a Caucasian and African American as well as any other different raced couples to marry. To get a job, go to a store, even buy food was a daily obstacle and a true example of resilience. All because the only color that mattered and had power to fully enjoy the freedoms of our country and be protected by it’s laws was Caucasian. Hate was used as justification even though it was disguised as religious freedom and birthright. Just so much vitriol and hate. Hate is a powerful thing that consumes and what it has in passion or conviction, it also lacks in logic or compassion. I keep reminding myself during these times that history is repeating itself.

When I talk to my parents as well as other African Americans that grew up during that Civil Rights era I hear about threats, vandalism, degradation, beatings, or worse in the pursuit of equality. It always resonates with me so much. The stories mirror each other. We are in the in between. The in between is time in which rights are slowly being won and restored but it’s still an uphill battle. It’s the next step in the Civil Rights Frontier. I won’t ever stop being gay just like my parents, my ancestors, or myself can stop being African American, Native American, Irish, Creole, Jamaican, or Israeli. I love every part of me and who I am without hesitation. Even when exhausted and feeling down on nights like this, I think of the rich history of my ancestors. It motivates me to keep fighting for equality. Their stories talked about the same frustration and anguish that I feel right now. How even when progress was made, they had to dig deep within themselves and let hope nourish them to continue forward and I will do the same.

That’s why I always talk about hope. Always insist upon hope even when it seems hopeless. It’s not just about wishing. It’s about determination, willpower, and strength. Because our fight is not just about marriage but also discrimination in the workplace and protection from those that wish to harm us just for being who we are. I hope that in a generation’s time that the pain of my parents generation as well as ours that true equality is no longer an issue of debate. That justice and liberty truly have won out against the prejudices of our ancestors and fellow human beings. That we’ve evolved from using categories to describe ourselves and no longer look for sage meanings to comfort us when we have been oppressed.  And that hope is what takes me to the next moment.

My Journey To Love…Myself Again. A House With No Mirrors

We look at ourselves in the mirror daily. Part of it is self regulation and maintenance. The other is vanity. We are all vain and there is nothing wrong with that. I consider myself to be a person that continually strives for altruism in helping others, and I still want to look good. It is a form of control. And control is something we all continually strive for to affect the outcome to situations that arise in our lives. But the very idea of control was controlling me.

After several tragic losses in my life when I almost lost all sense of myself not to mention my life from an accident and an appendectomy I felt disillusioned and not whole. For the most part I was still myself. I still strived to help any one and everyone. I still vehemently meditated several times each day to find inner peace and tranquility. I still feverishly yearned the nourishment of knowledge not acquired and wisdom I had not yet obtained. And to an extent I still sought out love yet I still felt unworthy.

When I felt I had reached a depth so dark and so far from my norm I decided that I must leave all notions of who I was at the door. And if they were still there when I returned then they would be richer and fuller than before with a depth and dimension that would foster a knowledge even greater than myself. The first thing was to remove all things that showed an image of myself. So I took down all pictures of myself and locked them away. I removed every single mirror, magnet, aquarium, anything that showed a physical reflection of me. I did this because if I could no longer look into myself and clearly see who I was that any image of myself would be a lie. I also felt any of my reflections would further augment the clarity I sought. And since that was gone I shaved off all of my hair, which to those that know me are still in disbelief because as much as I complain about this big ball of thick curls, I freaking love my hair.

I took my meditation time to a level I had never went to before. I always practiced it before but this time I did so fanatically meditating for hours nonstop. I did this all day every day without fail, barely breaking for food and water. I stopped watching tv. No going out. I would only speak to friends on birthdays or if something major came up. No internet. I completely cut myself off from the world. During this spiritual (also physical as I had to relearn to walk three times) So this was a physical as well as a spiritual and mental journey. All of myself, my entire being was up for the test.

During my quest, I reached such a deep level of desperation not knowing what else to do. It had been ten months since I started and I still felt fragmented and lacking in the centered self I once was. I didn’t know what to do to realign my spirituality and self love again. I cried became angry and ridiculed myself endlessly. Another six months past but the only thing that changed was my level of frustration which grew immensely. I still held on to the last strings of hope that remained refusing to give up.

One night I gazed upon the stars as I always have searching for answers but to no avail. Then a small blue star far off in the heavens caught my attention and I squinted my eyes to better see it but the image became distorted and harder to see. I got mad cursing profanities into the sky while almost searing hot tears streamed down my face. I closed my eyes hard and took a breath and when I opened them and I was about to go into another barrage of expletives, the star I had tried so hard to see was so bright. In that moment it was the brightest star in the night sky. A soft wind caressed my check and I felt true euphoria for the first time in years. I was so moved and felt centered and connected to everything. And my tears were no longer anguish. They were tears of joy. It was bliss.

I then remembered why I started this journey of self reflection. It wasn’t about regaining control. I always to an extent in most cases had some form of control even when I didn’t realize it. So I had control but it wasn’t doing anything other than making me feel stagnant. I let go of that concept of controlling how I healed and how I completed the stages in life I wanted to achieve. When I stopped trying so hard to control my vision, is how I gained clarity. I wanted to control the flow of life but when I became the flow itself, the experience became so full and vivid. I wasn’t just living life, I became life. That’s how I was able to see that beautiful star far off in the distance. I had connected to vision itself and that is how I saw what I yearned to see. I became control. I became life’s flow. I became desire I became love.

I’m still a work in progress. I don’t have all the answers to life’s riddles because if I did I would share them with the world. We all are works in progress and will be our entire lives. Things will go wrong again and I will have to deal with whatever comes next. I am still working on the goals that I thought by now would be completed. But as of now I am whole again. Centered upon the flow of life and what I wish to obtain, to learn, and love. Still working on my master’s degree. Still learning about myself and our world. And no I haven’t found my soulmate, the man I have dreamed of my entire life that I know is already a part of me. And as a gay man I still fight for true equality so that I can marry that man that I dream of in this country. My journey isn’t complete. Our journeys aren’t complete. But for now I know my vision is clear to know him, to work my ass off and to know when and who to help. I no longer need to look into a mirror to see myself clearly. I know my path and to truly love…myself again.

Gay Faith

In America, most families have some idea of faith and pass those teachings onto their children as it teaches values. Faith gives purpose to what we do and how we live our lives and what we can expect from our actions and behaviors after this life. And with Christianity being the cornerstone religion in westernized cultures, it is taught that homosexuality is wrong. That it’s a sin so powerful that it is punishable by eternal damnation and to this day openly mocked, ridiculed which I these issues are debated constantly as to it’s interpretation and meaning for gay men and women. But this discussion isn’t about what I believe in but rather that I believe there is something more than our bodies or physical states of existence.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist home but for the most part I was allowed from an early age to develop and discover my own relationship with God. I wasn’t told what to believe but rather taught what it means to believe and I am forever thankful to my mother for allowing me to grow mentally and spiritually. So when I asked my mom at age twelve to no longer go to church and find my own spiritual path if there was one, she graciously let me do so. No questions, no lectures. This type of absolute acceptance is why I never had to come out as a gay man to my mother. She has always known that I’m gay and she has never cared. She brought it up in my early teens like she was asking to pass the peas at the dinner table and thats how it should always be.The only thing she said was that I would have to be my own man one day and she couldn’t force who, what, or how to believe and it would come on it’s own. It led to my free spirited nature as an adult and despite growing up in the late 80s and 90s in the mid South I had such a spiritual awakening that was fostered by this freedom to discover myself.

So I took the time during my teens for self reflection as I studied all the major religions and those not so common. I practiced Kabbalah, Shinto, Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American practices of my ancestors, observed solstices, and pretty much everywhere between. Although I belong to no religion, I consider myself a theist (a belief in one God) with Buddhist/Hindu philosophies that I adhere to and practice in my daily life. It has made me who I am and I love that I connected to that spiritual side.

I naively believed growing up that the experience I had was something shared by others which of course is not the case. And people can have the same rich, fulfilling values and lessons instilled within them from parents that aren’t religious or raised as atheist. I’ve also learned from the gay men and women with whom I’ve gotten to know over the years that of course my experience is different than everyone else’s. One thing I found most often was that they are often likely to be atheist or agnostic. I’m actually shocked when I meet someone that’s gay and has a strong faith in God because more than likely those gay men and women that do believe are atheist in their beliefs. Again these great people and their religious belief or lack thereof had no baring on if they’re a good person. Having or not having religion/faith doesn’t determine that.

I recall one night when my last ex boyfriend, who was even more of a pacifist than I am, stared in astonishment and disbelief as he overheard me say a soft spoken prayer before we went to bed. He knew that I’m spiritual but couldn’t fathom what or who I was praying to that night. We spent about an hour discussing faith in general and why I felt that way. And honestly I couldn’t describe it very eloquently then or right now. I just feel a connection that is incomparably greater than I am. I remember asking him if he felt the same way and he said no. I asked why and he said he just didn’t feel that connection as I did. We both respected each other’s belief and it never interfered with our relationship.

This train of thought made me ponder if people that are gay and no belief in God was related to their experience as a gay person. Did their process of coming out affect how or if they believe. Is it because of the discrimination that we still face in our world today or because we still don’t have true equality and the right to marry or protection from discrimination from our jobs or at times our own safety. Not every parent is as welcoming and accepting as mine. And I feel for those still going through those issues of acceptance. And it’s always made me wonder if the reason so many gay men and women that I come across are atheist and wonder if their experience in coming out and learning about themselves is the reason why this is very common in the gay community. And does it affect relationships in the gay community when one has faith and the other doesn’t? It didn’t with my relationships but I do wonder if it will be an issue for future relationships.

Faith and religion in the gay world will always be a touchy subject. And I wholeheartedly respect the decision that you don’t believe in God just as I want respect for having my eclectic set of beliefs. You won’t ever get a judgment from me on the matter. So it is vital when discussing these opinions and beliefs to do so respectfully, no matter their origins. Let it be known that it is for further exploration of the human condition and not to sway others in what they do or don’t believe in. I wish more felt comfortable discussing why and not to try to change their minds and understand I am not trying to mold someone into my experience. I think what’s most important, however, whether you’re still a believer in God or an atheist is to have faith in you as a person and love yourself. Also find the happiness that makes you whole that let’s you know you aren’t alone and that you are loved.

How I Survive The Gay Friend Zone

Again I’m using my old college buddy as a point of reference since some of the stuff he says and does makes me continually laugh because it’s so asinine but he doesn’t mind. Plus if he keeps this up, I’ll be able to one day write a great biopic or sketch comedy. It’s money either way so I’m game. Anyway, he tells me about an old friend of his that he secretly has been pining for since they first met and since his latest snafu in the love department he finally summoned up enough courage to tell her how he felt. Unfortunately, while she appreciated the gesture, she did not return the feelings and wanted to keep the relationship as is. He was distraught, and after he had gotten used to it (and after asking all of our friends about it every 5 minutes) we talked about the friend zone.

He has this mindset that the dreaded “friend zone” is the equivalent of being called an ugly troll that needs to take up residency at the most dank mossy bridge nearby. He asked why it stung like this and was their differences with gay men compared to his experiences with women and honestly through our comparisons we couldn’t find any major differences. He prefers to drink until he forgets her name while of course I have a different approach to when it happens with the guys I like and gently rejected by. So this is my survival guide to the gay friend zone and keep in mind this isn’t advice for you to live by just my own observations that I’ve learned that you might find hilarious.

Love yourself. 
I can’t stress that enough. Usually when people write the observations about their life the put their strongest argument last to drive their point home but I like being unique. This to me will always be the most important thing I tell myself daily. The good, bad, sometimes ugly aspects of who I am I have to love completely. It seems like the first thing we do is degrade ourselves to the lowest living form on Earth when placed in the friend zone. And I feel as gay men we do this so much more often because a lot of times we judge what we see. Try as much as you like to deny this but to an extent everyone is vain. Admitting that I believe is the first step in ensuring that it’s not the ONLY thing that attracts you to someone is their looks. I’ve second guessed myself to the point that I didnt like myself at times because despite my tall, fit, yet slender frame, I critique my body to what everyone else looks like too. I learned that loving my flaws first and foremost is one of the best things I could ever do for myself.

Laugh at the ridiculous situation. 
Really what can you do other laugh about it? The long winded awkward pauses whenever he says your name. The small “just because” surprises that you time out perfectly to make sure you don’t seem desperate or stalking his every move (having been stalked several times before, it’s not fun). How you eagerly will agree with every single thing he says even though you don’t agree at all and then show a passionate albeit very recent love for anything and everything he likes. Even algae farming becomes sexy to you (how embarrassing and possibly unhygienic) just to be near him. How you seethe at his mention of another guy he’s possibly interested in so much you potentially chipped a tooth then curse at yourself because that’s money going to a damn dentist instead of wooing the friend with silly poems in which you’re making absolutely no sense. All of this so that he’ll make this great connection that’ll lead to some great romance. It’s funny and kind of cute so laugh at yourself. It was one of the fastest ways I was able to move on.

Learn from these situations 
Another great thing I learned about these encounters other than how painfully awkward I am when I like someone is to be honest with myself when I start feeling this way. No point in hiding how I feel as it’s bound to surface eventually. Of course I’m not talking about some small crush. I’m talking about real feelings of not being able to stop thinking about them. Wanting to spend time with them, wondering if my ass looks perfect the next time we see each other. And if these feeling surface at the beginning of our friendship to let him know. Learn that it’s okay to feel that way and it’s okay that he doesn’t feel the same way.

Don’t get mad at the friend for putting you in the friend zone unless… 
Look it’s not their fault that they don’t have more amorous feelings of fires by log cabins, long walks on the beach or exchanging small trinkets of affection. Don’t take the actualy frustration of the situation out on the person. Being rejected is not fun. But if they’re your friend, appreciate that friend and don’t turn a potential life long relationship into a badly made angsty after school program because of the situation. I learned there are exceptions however. If you feel like it would be too hard for you to let go of your attraction then let them go. No need to repeatedly show up at their bedroom window blasting some cliched 80s montage (they’ll probably call the cops too). The other reason brings me to the next self tip…

Don’t let them use your feelings to their advantage 
Unfortunately it happens. The so called”friend” sees that they can get material stuff (food, clothes,car payments, real estate property) out of you since you’re in a vulnerable place and at that point, you’re willing to do just about anything to get them to see you in a more amorous light. It sucks but at the same time it’s the best way to weed out the shallow superficial douchebag who really wasn’t a friend to begin with.

Don’t Dwell 
It’s hard enough when you have to deal with unrequited love and it’s even worse when you see the person frequently. Listen to all the emo music to release the pain. Hell screech out some Bjork if the rhythm moves you but you’ve got to stop staying in this mode of black walls with spray painted poetry. Leave that for the Laugh Factory or guilt trips the next time you need money from the parentals not an all day every day situation.

Have Fun 
Rent a movie, hang out with friends, do some Jager while doing karaoke, ponder why Dane Cook even has a career in comedy. Whatever it was that you enjoyed outside of these affections for this friend. The point is simple. Do the things you love and that love will return. Make the effort, fake it until you make it applies so much in this situation.

Rinse and Repeat
It’s not going to dissipate overnight (God I wish it did) and I learned that it wasn’t just one thing and everything was back to normal. Again, of course things most likely won’t be the same after you’ve said how much you like the guy. So I kept doing all of the things I listed over and over until it wasn’t routine, it was how I really felt. Content. Hopeful. Status Quo (my quirky way of saying normal). The greatest victories are the long fought ones and I wholeheartedly believe this.

Take note that this is my fun guide and what’s helped me navigate this awkward thing called the friend zone in the gay world. All of these come from my own experience so when dealing with your own gay friend zone then make your own rules and boundaries for what is and isn’t acceptable. Just wanted to share my unique and funny (well it is to me) perspective.

Born From Two Worlds But Welcomed To None?

I’ve debated whether to blog these thoughts all week. I’ve edited, cried, made two separate blogs, drank, thrown it all out, cried and drank again, then rinsed and repeated. And yes even though some of this is from an unfinished blog entry that I’ve been saving, this is also inspired from both Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean coming out (to an extent for Ocean) and how the reaction has been towards these two men publicly admitting they’re gay or had relations with men has been from fans on twitter, tumblr, gossip sites, anywhere, are completely different. By the way if you haven’t read Frank Ocean’s letter, do so now. It’s almost been a week and it’s still shaken me to the core. For the sake of this discussion I’ll be focusing on the reaction from Frank’s fans and criticizers even though I can relate to Anderson’s glass closet approach to coming out, but that’s another blog entry. To fully delve into this topic so that you can gain a perspective on my perceptions of what it’s really like for ethnic minorities in the gay community means sharing aspects, memories, and experiences that I rarely put so bluntly and raw. I try to be my witty self but some of this isn’t meant to cause a smirk or a chuckle. Truthfully, I can only speak for myself to provide a tiny view into a ever complex world. Also the where and why these ideals of intrinsic separation within both the African American and gay communities comes from when you’re both gay and an ethnic minority. Also be patient as I do ramble.

Unfortunately I know all too well the reaction that Frank received over the last week. I’ve seen and experienced it first hand, though not anywhere near the degree of what he’s experiencing right now. Whenever the fact that I’m gay comes into play from this same mindset is hard, abrasive, and so cold. In some cases it can be more overt and derisive, mean-spirited, and flat out vitriol. But I do understand it. Contrary to popular belief, when homosexuality is brought up in the African American community it has the same reaction in any other community of ethnicity in the Western Hemisphere with varied reactions. This is by no means an admonishment that African Americans are more homophobic. That’s a lie. The reaction is from those that are homophobic as a way of protection for the community. Doesn’t make sense, does it? I’ll try to show you why I feel this way. This happens in the gay community to ethnic minorites as well and it’s very covert, almost unrecognizable until mentioned when the color of one’s skin is seen as detrimental to the community. Even though gays are fighting now for equality this method of separation is also a defense mechanism as to those with these views, one more negative is seen as too much of a roadblock in the movement.  Both groups are ostracized for what they are and any other perceived negative characteristic that’s seen in the group his heavily criticized, mocked, even threatened because each community does not want any more negative associations. Basically being either gay or an ethnic minority is one thing, but being both draws to much attention to the fight for equality so some in the community turn on you. For instance, I was told during an LGBTQ rally several years ago to not march in front because it would be too “controversial” to the cause.

Quite honestly it shatters my heart every single time I search inside my collective memory and examine these  feelings. I come to the realization of this deep yet unspoken divide when race and homosexuality is housed as a dichotomy. See, I’m from two very distinct and different worlds; the gay world and the black/African descent world. But at times I don’t feel welcomed in either and it hurts like hell. Who wants to be told that the biggest reason a guy is dating you is because it’s exoctic or he wanted to “give black a try at least once” (this relationship didn’t last past that date and he was a horrible kisser). There’s division amongst each world and it’s disconcerting to say the least and it’s hard enough when you’re already faced with petty and superficial issues come in to play like skin and/or color being too light (yes this does exist) in the African American Community and being judged in the infrastructure of the gay community on every single physical flaw. But what do you do when you’re both gay and African American (acutally I’m African American, Irish, Creole, Native American, Jamaican, and Israeli but you get the point) and feel ostracized by both communites when standing up for equal rights? When you are criticized and mocked from those you should feel comfort from, what do you say and how it makes you feel. Again, I can only speak of my own experience and I dare not view myself as an expert but maybe showing my perspective can get some good dialogue on the subject on what can be done.

The issues go even deeper than the aforementioned ones. When you’re at a club and the hottest guy there talks to you, flirts, laughs, even buys you a couple of drinks and then says “you’d be perfect if you weren’t black” (my straight friend wanted to break his face…in fact I had to throw myself against him and grapple against the bar to stop him from pulverizing him) to when hanging out with so called friends who are African Americans and being told you’re “whitewashed”, trying to assimilate, a sad Uncle Tom, or as a prank they try to throw bleach on you so that you’ll “blend with the white man” and all his “perversions”. These are amplified when you’re both. It’s blatant and believed to be law while you simply accept it. That is nor will it ever be who I am. When these relatively small yet life impacting events happened, I always wondered is it because I’m 6’4 180lbs I look like I can handle myself quite well in a fight that the frequency isn’t more. But from other stories that I’ve been told from other friend that are hybrids, or belonging to two worlds yet separated by some in those communities, show the more susceptible you appear to be the more often stories like these happen. Sadly, I have to carry this mindset around daily. These issues are deep and they have a history and why we still see them in our worlds today.

Take the discussion of human and civil rights in our country now. Both the LGBTQ and African American (as well as all ethnic minorites) recognize that discrimination still exists in our world and we fight our oppressors by being advocates. So what about those of us that are often seen as weird hybrid anomalies of both or multiple groups? More importantly, why arent these two groups working together? Am I biased because I belong to both? Of course I’m biased but that doesnt negate my point. Both want equality so why not go for the tried and true proverbial strength in numbers? Here are my insights to this dichotomy.

WHY IT’S STILL THERE

This dichotomy reminds me of a discussion I had with two of my friends who were also African American as an undergrad in college. We were discussing the NAACP and what they as well as other groups were doing to stop discrimination and I brought up how there are similarities to the gay rights movement. One friend who is straight vehemently agreed with my point while the other became so frustrated he could barely speak. I asked why he was so upset and he responded that comparing the two was like making lite of the civil rights movement. Bewildered I made the argument that both are fighting for equal rights and I wasn’t trying to take anything from any one. He calmed down but needless to say he never discussed politics and social justice with me again. And since then I’ve often thought of what these two worlds I belong to could benefit and successfully help achieve equality for all. But in order to do so, this argument needs to be addressed so that progress is made.

The biggest argument my friend made of why these two groups can’t find commonality in our fight for equality which doesn’t make any sense but I heard him out. His view was that some African Americans feel when gay rights are compared to civil rights movement is that race/ethnicity is more identifiable. In other words, you can always see my skin color but you may not be so easy to identify my sexuality. There’s no gay dress code or easy way to completely identify someone as gay unless we say so or put it on a t-shirt. In terms of race, we as humans use categorization, a term used in psychology that is rooted in the philosophy of Aristotle, which is as humans, we immediately compare and contrast ourselves with everyone around us. Historically, we do this instinctively for recognition, familial purposes, and defense mechanisms. It makes it easier for the brain as it always is processing information.  It’s problematic when phenomena such as ethnocentricism come into play. This results in human groups using differences to oppress other groups. So it’s believed that many African Americans feel because of these categorizations potential discrimination and acts of violence can be avoided for the LGBTQ community which isnt an option for most African Americans simply because of skin color.

This gave me further insight of why there’s so much hostility towards a gay man from those that are homophobic in the African American community. Any visibility that adds any further hurdles are seen as threats from some in the community and in a sense is a defense mechanism to protect the community as a whole. May sound far fetched, but look at it from my viewpoint. Is the argument going to be about gays or blacks? Is this going to impose danger on my family? The notion of it being because the African American community is seen as more religious (also a defense mechanism) is false. That reaction you’re seeing now on twitter and other social media sites from those very verbal homophobes is fear that it will affect the entire community. This is where the ‘one up’ syndrome comes into play. the my struggles are deeper than yours, which matter in context, but not in practice. we want equal treatment and rights. That should be our focus.

My history, our histories of oppresion from laws like the Grandfather Clause and Jim Crow laws 3/5 Compromises, to Stonewall, DOMA, Marches on Washington, EDNA, and all the ridicule, persecution, torture, and death in between carry so much weight with how we continue to fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ and all ethnic minority communities. Despite the strong similarities there are differences. There is still malpractice when it comes to preventing ethnic minority groups from voting today because of race not so much for sexuality. Also racism is also still reflected in education, socioeconomic status whereas these differences aren’t seen in the LGBTQ community. And I have only scratched the surface of our histories as it belongs to all of us. While both communities have seen progress the prevalent issues result in marginalizing each others past. I understood this point of view to an extent. Even though my skin color varies because of my rich ancestral background, you will always be able to identify that I’m not “100% Caucasian” (really who the hell is 100% anything other than human?)

WHERE IT BEGAN

The Civil Rights Movement began with the Suffragette Movement here in America. Equal voting rights of women were fought for and members were encouraged, and notably both men and women joined the fight for equality.  Men and women fought together for equality even though this issue affected women. The movement later was coined to the fight for equal rights of African Americans in America during the apex of legislation changes in the 50s and 60s. And this brought all races and backgrounds for equal rights. These examples of dichotomous entities working together for a common goal is not seen in the aforementioned communities that this examination of my psyche is focusing on. The ideology is ‘masking” that is when confronted with a situation where race or sexual orientation is targeted for hateful or malicious practices, that someone from the LGBTQ community is able to mask or blend in when faced with these situations. And it is believed for the most part African Americans, as well as other people of color are unable to do so. I wonder if there is an unspoken animosity because of masking. Again, I don’t know because I’m a hybrid, and therefore am able to answer definitively but this is what I believe led to these defense mechanisms and this over reaction that I talked about earlier in regards to Frank Ocean.

Recently I discussed my heated debate in college with a fellow gay rights advocate. While discussing her desire to marry her partner, I brought up the earlier argument a few years ago I had in college. I was surprised by the counterargument she made which was in the LGBTQ community, that there is belief that African Americans and other racial minorities in America are not told who they can and cannot marry, unless of course a hybrid like me that is an LGBTQ person themselves and as a result not able to help bring forth equality for us LGBTQ. That a straight African American can marry any other (straight) adult they want and not openly discriminated against without swift action both morally and legally compared to discrimination and violence. Those of us that are LGBTQ can be mocked, teased, and bullied openly most often times with praise rather than condemnation from society and only when there’s public outcry is it more likely to see justice and prevention from our government. She had a valid point in which I agreed. However when I asked her again if she saw the similarities, she said no and felt that discrimination for African Americans were not as severe as those against the LGBTQ community. And so again the ‘one up’ syndrome has gotten in the way once again of progress. These differences are important and do need recognition but not at the expense of true equality.

I saw her point but it feels unfair to say one groups struggles are virtually over while the other is facing an uphill battle and by far the argument that infuriates me the most. The “who’s had it worse” argument. Does it really matter? We both want equality right? We have to observe history to not repeat it but this is NOT a contest. And she too, no longer discusses this area of politics with me (which made me wonder do I have this effect on people? But I digress). Does the degree of one equality matter? I kept thinking “Is this a thing that can be measured and actively used by both communities?” and continues to be a prevalent thought on my mind. But can you see the symmetry of sorts? African Americans are judged immediately by appearance due to skin color while LGBTQ are prevented from being themselves and in most states denied equal rights. Both immoral. Both unethical. And definitely unconstitutional.  Both disriminated and oppressed yet neither reaching out to achieve the same goal of equality. Yet still why are these issues dividing instead of unifying?

WHERE WE NEED TO GO

With the need to either systematically discriminate by ostracizing perceived threats by a loud few or one up each other’s suffering as a community left me with my biggest question: Is my homosexuality in competition with my race for true equality and abolishment from discrimination from both communities? It’s vital to focus on the intent and desired goals and keeping the history in context and not open ended intrepration and that is the only significant difference are events but not purpose. So those differences doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different. That’s the message that the LGBTQ leaders and ethnic minority leaders like the NAACP activists need to convey in their messages. That one group isn’t trying to diminish or make light of each others history. So I or anyone else don’t have to worry about which societal worlds I am from but rather be a part of one world, where everyone is welcome.

I am so glad I was raised with such a high resolve and deep compassion within my heart as these things would’ve broken me otherwise. These things still do get to me as evidenced by my repeated editory rambles and frequent stops to let out a quiet cry. The solution is within us. I know it is. We don’t have to one up another group to elevate ourselves to victory or knock others down to ascend to equality. And ostracize members of our own group simply because they belong to another. We’re better than that. We have to stop holding each other back and hold each other up in which I’ll leave you with this:

“When born of two worlds but welcomed to none I will gather strength from flexible deep rooted branches strong enough to build bridges for everyone”.

Degrees of Gay?

This week as a result of a few encounters I’ve asked myself a question I think most gay men ask constantly: Are there degrees of gay? Does it even matter? Do descriptors used to classically categorize what a gay man is bother you as much as they bother me? I vacillate on whether to even discuss the topic as sometimes it seems when you describe the things you are unfortuantely degrading or insulting the the things you aren’t. So I made sure to check my ego at the door and make sure I illustrated my point without demeaning or disrespecting while putting the topic in perspective.

This all started earlier in the week as I had a debate with an old college buddy of mine. Keep in mind that even as compassionate, loyal, and great guy he is sometimes he’s one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever meet with a severe case of the ‘dudebro’ syndrome.. He’s straight and we were talking about a date he had recently that didn’t go well. I asked at what point did the date go wrong and he explained that as he was about to pay the bill, she asked how much her half was and he responded saying don’t worry I’ve got it. She insisted that she’d feel more comfortable paying for half and appreciated the gesture but wanted to chip in. The bill was 137. 82 without tip so I see one of the reasons she wanted to help pay. He smirked and said, “just let me be the man and chillax” (I cringed when I heard him say “chillax” seriously who the hell says that). Clearly this did not bode well for the rest of the date.

As I fought back the laughter, he didn’t understand what went wrong that night, and I asked him had he ever went dutch or let his date/girlfriend pay for half the bill and he emphatically replied no. I responded saying well with any of my past boyfriends we either split the bill or took turns paying for the meal. This was also true for movies, concert tickets, etc., with the exception being presents for anniversaries, birthdays, or random gifts. Wasn’t ever an issue and I then asked why instead of him just going along with his date and having a few extra bucks in his pocket and very bluntly he said “thats what a man does.” Really? What the hell is this? I need to re-evlauate the people I call friends. This whole discussion was spiraling.

The conversation then proceeded into danger territory which means most likely he’s about to make an asinine comment what would irk the hell out of me (he already did that with a “that’s what a man does” comment but still). He assumed that this was always the case as well in gay couples, that we assign the effeminate/masculine roles to our relationships and act accordingly to those stereotypical roles. He wrongly assumed that it must be this way with all gay men including me. I informed him that of course this was not the case in which he replied it should be to make things easier. What? Profanities from me to him ensued for a couple of minutes and I pulled myself together to hear what gems he’d pull out to explain as our friendship in that moment seemed strained at best. He continued on with this irritating verbiage and also ascertained that gay men that are represented in tv/movies in the same way. If we were in the same vicinity and had a pie it would’ve been plastered to his face. But despite my anger I understood why he thought that. Where that opinion came from and his justifications, no matter how infuriating, made sense.

Almost always in media a gay man has only two degrees in which he’ s depicted as either very effeminate in nature that wears makeup and is into fashion, sparkly things, and unicorns (why can’t unicorns be unisex anyway, uni means both so get with it people) or very jock like that loves sports, spits on any outdoor service, or routinely scratching their crotch (we all do that, it’s our junk and we have to adjust) that has this 11th hour realization of his sexuality. But both are expected to provide some sort of relief and often depicted as caricatures with no depth or real insight into why they are they are or provide some sage advice to the protagonist while they themselves remained unexamined.

I love variety in everything and naturally I want to see from time to time attributes in the gay male character that mirror my own as it helps me empathize with the character/story. Needless to say that I don’t fit in either category. Yes I love beauty in just about everything but I don’t wear makeup or paint my nails, sashsay down a runway (how awesome would I be if I could do that!) or resort to calling shopping “retail therapy”. I’m also not the guy that’ll catch every football game and tell you what the last play could impact the game (actually I do know that but pretend I don’t). There’s degrees to who I am as a gay man and I believe this applies to all of us.

I recently read an article in Madame Noire titled Are Gay Men the New ‘Mammies’ In Reality Television? which described the normative medium for gay men on tv/movies. A very effeminate non threatening homosexual man that loves fashion (honestly who wants to look like crap other than hipsters) that served as the ‘mammie’ or the person that is there for the protagonist to give little saged gems of wisdom, great fashion tips with an immaculate timing for comedic puns. Now this article focused mainly on gay African American males but this stereotype is used no matter the race/ethnicity. It had some really good points but made me think more about gay characters in media and there’s only two degrees of gay shown.

Think about it, in the last ten movies/tv shows you’ve watched that featured a gay man how many of them weren’t written as an effeminate gay written to ease the tension while endearingly (and patronizingly derogatorily) referred to as “the gays” or “my gay BFF”? Or the extremely masculine guy that somehow is also written as some sort of comic relief as he bursts forward proclaiming his love for a male antagonist? Or even when the aforementioned characteristics aren’t done any justice and written to be more than one dimensional? I’m witty and have a knack for breaking tension because I hate awkward tension but other than that I recognize nothing of myself in these typical appearances. I like action, drama, suspense, horror, with some classics thrown in and some good book adaptions. I don’t play fantasy football, and I don’t know every line in Sex and the City (I’ve only watched 4 episodes and the concept bugged me). All I keep thinking the entire time I see these representations are “why is this caricature there and what is he doing?” But in the media and by and large the public, this is the only accepted options that I can be as a gay man. Again don’t get me wrong, none of these descriptors in which I express I am not a part of are bad or negative in any way. Be who you are and if all of those two scenarios are you love and embrace that in all you do. It’s just not who I am and I want to see variety. We have the same infinite amount of different yet all the same beautiful characteristics and I want to see honest representations of us.

 

So yes, I am saying I want to see every variation of the gay man on tv and in movies. Do they have to do it in every movie? Absolutely not. Writing a specific character that fits those situations is great and if that character is what best fills the plot with rich subtext then I’m all for that. But does that have to be the only representation of the gay man? Of course not, nor should it be. I’m saying don’t write every gay character to fit only these strict attributes that we see every time there script calls for a gay man. As I explained to my friend, who I think  is now a litte more aware in the variation in the human condition, I have a lot of descriptors that define who i am and i want to see that more on my screen.