A Black Gay Man’s Journey to Self Acceptance

Posted on Posted in Essays

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This article is published in Huffington Post

I am a homosexual man. It took me a long time to admit this to myself, much less proclaim it from the proverbial mountain top. You see, I grew up in the Caribbean, well actually Guyana, a coastal country in South America. Because of proximity and English as a common language, Guyana is culturally connected to the Caribbean. Cultural and geographical differences aside, I like you, grew up in a society firmly rooted in Western binary opposition.

This complicated sounding term infuses our language with opposites: right versus wrong, holy versus sinful, male versus female. More importantly it denotes mutual exclusivity: one cannot be the other. This system is informs the way we communicate. i.e. turn it off, not on, take me up, not down. Problems can arise when life and humanity are viewed through this constricting lens.

Hollywood blockbusters exploit these polarities for our entertainment, but we know intuitively that they do not reflect the full spectrum of our lives. Our reality is never black and white. If it were, life would be forever simple. But we know life is often complicated. There is a reality that resides beyond these perceived dichotomies and there have always been individuals born outside its walls. And for these individuals, much of society offers silence or, worse, a selection of dirty words for coping with us – and who wants to be a dirty word?

Into this world I was born, crying I’m sure, as all babies cry. Naturally, I adopted the beliefs of my community, even when all the pieces did not fit. “Children obey your parents…” the Good Book says, and obey I did – I was a good little boy, but my good behavior did not save me.

I don’t remember the first time someone hurled a dirty word at me, but I do remember how the realization of its meaning shook me to the core. The word attempted to cast me into the hellish world of “them”, the perpetual opposite of “us.” Once that line was drawn, the troops could be called in to destroy the newly identified enemy. The only problem was, that enemy was me! Of course at that age, I couldn’t articulate this, but I understood on a gut level that I was in danger.

The attack began with random teenagers tossing the ugliness from across the street, and luckily, it never escalated. We all know what can happen once ugliness escalates. My physical body remained intact, but my emotional and spiritual bodies didn’t fare as well. All those dirty little words banded together and generated the desired effect in me, shame. And I internalized the shame. Like so many others, I just wanted to hide. I only succeeded in burying my head in the sand and wasting precious years.

It wasn’t until I was studying Economics at NYU that I, with the help of some free counseling sessions, began to lift my head out of the sand. I remember one exceptionally helpful group that invited us to share our life stories – particularly the details we usually hide from the others. That was the first time I publicly expressed my sexuality. That experience opened the door and I realized I didn’t have to be a dirty word. I could define myself for myself using whatever words that best suited me. That began my fifteen year quest for encouraging words, supportive words, accepting words, and yes… loving words.

Music played an important role during that time. My writing transformed much of my pain and confusion into lyrics and melodies. This is the power of art: to transmute our human experience into beauty. Beauty is truth and truth sets us free.

The dilemma, I now realize, with viewing life through contrasting lens is our tendency to promote one side to goodness and demote the other to evil, instead of realizing both sides, like yin and yang, define each other. More importantly, it overlooks a fundamental truth – opposites coexist in all of us. We all “do right” and “do wrong” from time to time. We all have moments of holiness, and then… well, you know. And, we all have male and female elements roaming around inside us.

If we realized this, we wouldn’t try to cast those we perceive as different into darkness because we would realize that difference is only an illusion. News headlines inadvertently remind us of this truth when uncovering the private deeds of certain public individuals. How often the prejudice and bigotry we inflict on others hangs us in the end.

Thankfully the opposite is also true. The acceptance we offer to others is the acceptance that washes over us. The compassion we give to others is the compassion that returns to us with love. Our world is a brilliant spectacle of contrasting extremes linked by a continuum of subtle variety. I choose to see this and accept this, and like many others, I choose to believe I am, have been, and will always be, a beautiful expression of the Divine.

It is with this belief firmly planted within my soul that I proclaim from the proverbial mountain top: I am a gay man. I proclaim it for all who could not proclaim it. I proclaim it for all who cannot yet proclaim it. I proclaim it because it is part of who I am, and like being a man and being black, it is something to celebrate and be proud of.

Celebrations by their very nature involve the opening of doors and the welcoming of others. Celebrations are a time of happiness because they remind us that my love is your love. Bob Marley spoke the truth when he sang “One Love… One heart… Let’s get together and feel alright…”

Throughout history, naysayers abound. They said the world was flat, they said God sanctioned the slavery of black men and women. They said science was the work of the devil. Sound familiar? Let those with ears hear.