Before I did a remix album and solidified myself as being well-versed in the tops on the charts, I used to be a confused little boy who would try and convince himself that he liked women. Society told me that I was supposed to be straight, so that’s what I attempted to do. Needless to say, my affinity for the male species was always ever-present, so that story didn’t end with a wife and 2.5 kids.
During this time in my life, I was always awash in a sense of shame and fear. I was afraid of the public’s reaction. I was afraid of not being accepted and loved by my parents. “Coming out” for me was a process riddled with uncertainty, and again, immense fear. You see, like Biggie, my moms and pops mixed me with that Jamaican rum and whiskey. If you’re not aware, Jamaican culture is very homophobic; a lot of songs from our country have lyrics that call for violence against homosexuals. You’ll be mid-bop and then stop and question the lyrics, because they just called for you to burn someone.
The older I got, the more fuck-deficient I became with regard to my sexuality. I adopted the mindset that it wasn’t anyone’s business who I decided to sleep with. If straight people didn’t have to go and scream out their sexual preferences at the top of a mountain, then I felt as though I could just bask in my homosexuality and mind my black-ass business.
I recall always being asked if I was gay and always giving a side-eye to people who would inquire. If there’s no possibility of us engaging in the horizontal tango, then you shouldn’t give a single, solitary fuck about my sexuality.
“Rather than expecting people to come out, people should work to practice empathy, increase cultural competence and intra-cultural awareness so that others desire to invite them in,” says David Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition during Taraji P. Henson’s “Can We Talk?” mental health conference in Washington D.C. last weekend.
When you ask someone about their sexuality, you’re basically telling that person you’re entitled to that information. The time one spends worrying about another’s sexuality could be spent, as Johns says, creating safe spaces for people to feel comfortable enough to be themselves. Johns’ thoughts on coming out rang loud and clear as he gathered the ignorant like he was tying the world’s tightest ponytail.
“Beyond ignoring the reality that sexual identity, gender identity, and gender expression do not exist as two fixed points along a uni-directional pathway, the expectation that one ‘comes out’ affirms the worst part of heterosexual privilege, which assumes that non-heterosexual people are obligated to share information about who they are, who they love, and how they show up in the world in ways that are never expected of others,” says Johns, as he opens the library to read passages that’ll not only inform—but check—your privilege.
One of the worst instances I recall is when a former friend invited me over to another former friend’s apartment. What I thought would be an afternoon of shooting the shit turned into a homosexual inquisition. I walked in and they had another homosexual there, ready to feel me out and question me to figure out if I was gay or not. I look back at these moments and think of how sick a person must be to set someone up in that manner, not knowing what it could do to their mental state. Luckily, I am free of that type of energy, but it goes back to people feeling as if they’re privileged to know your sexuality.
For black people, coming out is not a luxury littered with safety and acceptance. Unlike your white counterparts, we don’t always have happy endings and rainbow-colored responses. Coming out for us can be not only detrimental to our lives, but also detrimental to our quality of life. I am fortunate that I was on my own and living as an adult when I came into my sexuality, but others are not so fortunate. Children have been disowned and kicked out of their homes for being who they are. The show Pose captures exactly what happens when parents turn their backs on their kids. Luckily, a lot of us were blessed with a chosen family and that has saved many of our lives on countless occasions.
“You have a responsibility to love your kids no matter what,” said Jenifer Lewis, the Mother of Black Hollywood, at the conference. “Whatever religion or whatever you’re into, it shouldn’t mean more than loving your children.”
When I decided to tell my mother about my sexuality, it was my own choice. I did it because I was tired of hiding a part of myself from her and also because she’d eventually see his & his towels and put two and two together and end up at “gay.” Her response wasn’t what I expected and it hurt, but we’ve made the necessary steps to move past it and we’re returning to a place where we both understand and accept each other for who we are.
If you have a child, friend and or associate who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, instead of chastising them about their sexuality, consider creating a safe space for that person to be their authentic self. And remember, if you’re not engaging in the sex, you should not concern yourself with anyone’s sexuality. It is truly none of your damn business.