Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles that were shared in partnership with BMe Community’s #BlackMenLove to remind readers of who, what and how deeply black men love during this final weekend of Black Family Month. BMe is a growing network of all races and genders committed to building better communities across the U.S. Share it and read more at BMe Community, or reach out by email. Read the first story here and the second one here.
This year I turned 30, and I was ready to stop fighting my truth, embrace who I am and love whom I want to love. I came to terms with three words that would change my life completely: “I am gay.”
For more than 15 years I’ve struggled to accept that. My journey has been grueling and painful. But it’s similar to those of many others who struggle to accept who they are because of society’s prejudices toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning community. Now is the time to put aside differences, be willing to preach love, and to make room for people of all colors and sexual orientations.
This is my story.
I learned to be ashamed of myself at a very young age. I kissed one of my guy friends in kindergarten. It was innocent, as most things are when you’re 5. I was playing house as I had seen husbands and wives kiss. But when all the kids burst out with “Eeeeeewwww,” “You’re nasty,” “I’m telling,” I knew I had done something unspeakable. I wondered if something was wrong with me. As I look back, I know that moment was my first step in learning how to live a lie.
The feelings of being the weird kid, the nasty kid, kept me from making any more public displays of affection toward boys. Growing up in Philadelphia, I spent most of my time playing with my best friend and cousin, Tianna. Over the years, adults would pressure me to “toughen up” and hang with the boys. Doing so typically ended in mockery: “You throw like a girl.” “He’s fruity.” “He’s gay.” Being myself was clearly wrong, and that hurt deeply.
So I tried my best to be the person my black community accepted. I became a scholarly student. That’s how I competed with other guys. I had beautiful girlfriends, whom I loved, and all the parents wanted me to marry their daughters. As my charade got more comfortable, I thought nobody would be able to call me gay again. Then I fell in love with a guy at age 15.
The church taught that homosexuality was wrong and that anyone who had succumbed to these feelings ought to be delivered by praying and should ask God to take the desires away. So I spent most of my teen years pleading with God.
One evening during a church service my freshman year at Florida A&M University, I witnessed a group of pastors praying for a young man who was struggling with homosexuality. I thought, “OK, God, this is my chance,” and I ran to the altar to be delivered, too. So a female pastor prayed with me and explained, “Son, if you believe God has delivered you, you are delivered.”
I was so excited, I began to cry. Finally, God had delivered me! Imagine how upset I was when, before I even got back to my seat, I was eyeing a beautiful brother in the third row and he was eyeing me back.