“Who Can I Run To?” Killing My Own Silence: Growing Up Black and Gay in America

Last summer I sat in the kitchen telling my 20 year old sister the plot behind the workshop of my one man show (no longer a one man show - writing is re-writing), "America, and The Adventures of Nat Turn-UP". I told her it dealt with the story of a young revolutionary stepping into his purpose and coming to terms with his sexuality. She asked me why I always write about the same thing. I told her I do not. That just because he's figuring out his sexuality and my plays may have dealt with that in the past, that doesn't mean that process looks the same for everybody or that enough of those narratives are even being told in the first place. Although her intention was to inquire and not to sting, it triggered a fire in me that I sometimes forget is in there until things become too uncomfortable. Suddenly from the inside it feels as if my body is shaking uncontrollably. I’m trying to keep my composure and not be too threatening because why should I be angry? My voice begins to somehow bellow up out and out of me to channel the fire I feel into something poignant before it swells and becomes too destructive to myself and others. I'm still mastering how to keep it from shaking me. It's like having to come out of the closet over and over again. Having to maintain and defend your own normalcy to a world who thinks your existence is one of the latest fads, accredited to the flippancy of youth or influenced by the secularism of our times. We have always existed.


In my studies, (scrolling through Facebook news posts) I came across an essay entitled, "Black Gay Shamanism of Ancient Egypt: The GayteKeepers and The Golden Beetle". The piece spoke about gay people as Godly. As representing the androgynous nature of God, embodying both the male and female spirit. The yin and yang that exists in all of us but that gender norms and patriarchy would rather us not speak about for fear of it being challenged and changed. Elsewhere in my studies I've read that among the indigenous people of this land, this country, the Native Americans, gays were looked at and respected as “two spirited people”. Special for their uniqueness and connection to the Divine. What happened?  How did we become an abomination? How did we go from having a spiritual purpose on this planet to being looked down upon and called purposeless because our physical love making doesn't allow for procreation? Does that make it meaningless then? Are we sinners as much as they say we are? And who is they?

 

I think the title of Michael Mumisa's article for “The Guardian” a few years ago speaks to this very clearly, "It is homophobia, not homosexuality, that is alien to traditional African culture". I would venture to say that although like in my life, Christianity has helped to instill many sound values and affirmations within me, you can not mistake the damage that it has done to us as well. Used as a vehicle for control during slavery, we no longer remember what we once believed in, have lost our connection to the earth, we don’t know the African countries that we’re native to, what our native tongues are and in many cases why it’s even important to know these things in the first place. Why it's important to remember the nameless faces we call our ancestors, many of whom lay scattered and forgotten at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean floor. I sometimes think to myself or out loud no wonder why so many of us have forgotten where our power is, why we take it out upon each other. We are taught that it exists outside of us from the very beginning. We are taught a story that dis-empowers us. How many of us know that the earliest remains found were those of a black woman? Why then do we believe her to be made from someone's rib? Are we being distracted from being able to really communicate with ancestors and the spirits that walk among us and around us, who help us, because Christianity has taught us to fear and condemn anything that exists outside the bible? Why am I sweating while writing this? Does God want me to fear him? If we all are birthed through women and she was first why do we insist on calling God a him? So many questions but I digress.


Where are our stories? As a child, merely 16 years old, I would carefully close my door and watch the latest episode of "Noah's Arc" on LogoTV, Praying that my mother wouldn't catch me. I was yearning to attract my very own Wade. Are you kidding me? There are other masculine presenting men out there who would be willing to love me out in the open the way that I deserve to be loved? Well, eventually at least. Wade had his coming out process as well but still, just that example of love, of chemistry, of attraction that can exist between two black men of varying gender expressions that we saw in Wade and Noah threw my whole little Christian conditioned mind for a loop. I didn't know that that was possible. Even today at almost 26, I ponder its possibility. As an actor, I'm inundated with story lines that let alone focus on white people, but even with the ones that do represent my people I still fail to see myself because the characters often don't love the way I do. Where have we ever seen a nuanced, high quality, heartfelt, truthful, sexy and thoughtful representation of what it's like to be a 26 year old gay black man in America? To be a fully realized and spiritual being, not merely a caricature or a stereotype. A love story. On syndicated T.V.! This is why I'm a creator. It's more than just the industry, it's more than just good fun and celebrity. It's documenting my own life. The lives of those I love and the lives of those who I feel kin to. The lives of those I've never had the pleasure to meet in this physical realm with names I may never know. I appreciate narratives like "Noah's Arc" and "Pariah" by Dee Rees. I'm forever grateful for "Just Above My Head" by James Baldwin. Thank you leaders for lighting the torch. Passing the baton. I feel something coming. So long as I have pen and paper and a voice to speak my fire through, our stories, past, present and future will be seen and listened to. I love you and you taught me how to love myself. We will not go forgotten or unwritten.