The one question people always ask me is when did I come out and what was my family reaction?
Coming out is a hard process because you’re now adding another title to your identity. Especially if you’re black and a man or even a woman, when you walk out in the world, you’re labeled. Adding another level such as gay makes it harder if you don’t feel you have the support and love of those around you.
When I came out it was actually my mother who outed me. It was after a Thanksgiving dinner and I was in my mid twenties. All my siblings had brought someone they were dating but as usual I was there alone. After the dinner she pulled me aside and asked me if there was something I wanted to tell her. From the way she asked the question I just knew she knew and I figured since she opened the door and also since I now lived on my own and the worse she could do was to tell me to leave, I was going to walk through that door and tell her the truth.
At that moment I told her I was gay. She let me know that she knew but was waiting for me to tell her. Now this is coming from a woman who told me at a young age that if any of her children turned out to be gay she would kill them. Now here she is telling me that it’s okay with her. She did give me a piece of advice. She let me know that I can be gay as long as I didn’t hit on her boyfriends. I saw her choice of boyfriends and she didn’t have nothing to worry about in that area.
I always felt that she knew. It may just be me but I think your mother knows when their child is gay. Mothers just know their children. Looking back it may be why when I was younger she would tell me to stop resting my weight on my hips, or to not let my wrist be so loose. So I think she suspected. Mothers may not say nothing at the moment as they may think you’re going through a phase and you’ll grow out of it. Or they may feel you’ll tell them when you’re ready you’ll tell them. They may wait until you have sex with a girl as having sex with a girl will kick it out your system or some even pray that God takes it out of you.
Letting her know I was gay was a relief because I didn’t have to hide anymore. Yet it was a half empty acknowledgment because now that she knew I was gay I still couldn’t really talk about it or it was subtly not encourage. It was my family own version of “Don”t ask, Don’t tell.” We know you’re gay but we just don’t want the details.
Coming out I learned is not just a one time experience. It’s a gradual lifelong process as you’re constantly coming out especially when you meet new people and form new relationships and depending on who they are you may choose to stay into the closet until you feel it’s safe or just flat out let it be known. But there’s also the feeling that straight people don’t introduce themselves with their sexuality, so why should I have to introduce you with mine. Even right now with my comfort level of who I am I may occasionally not show my sexuality based on the environment I’m in as there may be a safety issue involved. Other than that I really don’t care who knows.
I also feel that the coming out process is much different for a black person than one who is white. For a black person they can lose their family, their church and even their community. The difference for a white gay and a black gay is that a white gay can be embraced by the gay community as a black person doesn’t get the full support from the gay white community which can be as racist as the straight community. As a gay black man I can go into a gay white bar or a gay white store and experience a level of racism based not on my sexuality but my race. For instance there’s many stories of gay blacks being denied entry in gay white clubs in cities like the Castro section of San Fransisco or other areas such as Dallas and even here in New York City. In fact there’s any suspicion that here in New York City a black person or person of color will be charge a different rate to get into a gay club. There are several organization looking to see if this is the case. They asked me to participate but I let them know that my dollar is the same color and I’m not going to fight to spend my money in a place that don’t want me. I’m using the power of that dollar help someone who accepts me make a profit.
I have to say that coming out gives you freedom and regain control over your life. You no longer have to wear the masks of acceptance. You discover who your true friends are and embrace the people who really care about and accepts you. You don’t realize how much energy it takes to audition for someones acceptance. Stop auditioning and know that acceptance starts with yourself.
I probably would have came out earlier if I felt I had the support but also it was hard because I didn’t know anyone else who was gay that I could identify. The media is the harshest when it comes to the gay lifestyle. And if you’re straight and you see a black gay person on the television, I guarantee you’ll see the following examples. You’ll see they flamboyant man who twist his head and snaps his fingers while wearing nail polish. Or you’ll see the sexual man who never wears a shirt and is looked at not for his personality but the form of his body and the wonderment of how big his penis is. And we can’t forget the men who are in a dress wearing high heels giving each other high fives as they “Hey Girl” each other. As a masculine black gay man I had a hard time finding someone who reflected me and who was out. But knowing I couldn’t be a victim for long I had to ask myself why isn’t there any people who reflect me? But in asking myself that question I also had to provide my own answer which was, because I was not putting myself out there.
It’s a risk but life is a risk and adding the value of living a lie makes your life seem less than. I know that labels exist, but that’s the way society is. Whether you’re gay or straight or whatever, we always place people in a box or label them to decide whether we feel comfortable with them. It’s what we do with those labels. For me I let people see me any way they want and they can try to put me in any box that they think I’ll fit into but what I don’t do is give them the power of me living my life the way I want to.
I am gay
I am black
I am a man
but most of all I identify as Aundaray.
Corrine Cochrane on Hurt/Hate/Heal Anonymous on Life’s Lesson with … gerard riveron on Christmas Wish Anonymous on Happy World AIDS Day Anonymous on Happy World AIDS Day