Today, I had the first real heart to heart with my brother. He’s 17 and from what I gather, doesn’t know the full extent of my story.
We’ve been practicing martial arts and by practicing I mean, he’s teaching me. It has been great fun but at the same time, I still feel divided.
It started with a little confrontation with my father. I had my wrist wraps on and went to use the bathroom. Pee. He started this whole thing because I didn’t wash my hands. I didn’t want to get my wraps wet. It became this huge catastrophe and it brought me right back to the old me. I was the biggest germaphobe when I was a kid. Like, compulsively clean everything. I experienced this need to always be really clean and presentable a lot from many of the black church families and for me it stemmed from a place of always feeling the need to have to please other people. The house had to always be presentable or at least the parts that were seen.
It wasn’t until I lived with my ex, pretty all American white boy who even appeared straight. He wasn’t the tidiest and after a while of living with him, I realized he or I never got sick. That’s when I started to ask myself how much of this unnecessary stress was I causing myself by trying to maintain this idea of perfection. I started to relax and realized it is actually human to not have the cleanest and most presentable house all the time. Now, I was never a slob but after a while, it became the beginning of the journey to stop caring so much about what people thought about me.
I learned a lot from my ex. We were in the airport once with our two dogs and he made sure to call the day before and check that our carrying cases for our dogs were flight approved. When we got to the airport, the woman behind the desk said the cases weren’t the proper ones for flying and when I tell you he went off was an understatement... I remember thinking in that exact moment, if that were me, Tsa would be all over my black ass. I had never seen someone able to speak their mind so freely. It was a bit inspiring and not to mention a huge turn on. When we returned to New York, I decided I was going to act like a white guy and by act white, I mean I was going to stop caring so much about what people thought about me. I did. I was smoking weed at the time and started walking down the street smoking joints. I wore baggy clothes and listened to loud music. I did all the things society and my upbringing had conditioned me out of. And nothing happened. Granted, I was in a densely populated white area where seeing someone like me doing those things may not have caused much alarm but I couldn’t help but ask myself, how much of these ideas are being perpetuated by my own people?
When i was in high school, other students always said, “you can pass.” For people who don’t understand what that means, basically if you were attractive, with nice features, well spoken, and smart you could exist in white society. It was even easier if you were light skinned. I asked myself, how many black kids are told they couldn’t pass and therefore never even tried to leave the four walls of their community. Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe that white people have their prejudices and racisms but I found that for the majority that I met it was ignorance/lack of knowledge. They never had to be anything other than white, so how could they know.
He talked, while learning martial arts he never really had anyone in the house to share his experience with because everyone else danced. I said, that’s kinda what it feels like being gay here except, I can’t really even talk about that.
It’s a strange feeling never feeling like you can be truly whole. When I’m in New York, I have the best gay life. I said to him, “I went to Costco yesterday and saw men outside of the house for the first time in a while and I’m not sure if it was because they were attractive or just men that I got excited and I couldn’t turn to anyone to tell them.” He said, “that’s normal, you don’t talk to your parents about that stuff.” I replied, white people do.
My grandfather died yesterday. He was the epitome of an island man. He lived his own life and marched to his own drum beat. I was hoping to get home to Saint Thomas and see him before he died but the virus ruined any last chance I may have had. I never really shared this but I also avoided going back to Saint Thomas because, I can’t really be gay there. My grandfather on my fathers side disowned a cousin because he was gay. Literally threw him out the house. I made sure to stay away from him and because of it, I never really knew the man, or my grandmother. But this time, I wanted him to know me. At this point, wasn’t much he could have done. I guess, if anyone’s going to change their minds or at least make them just deal with it, it’s gotta be me. Gay ole me.😂
We had a lot in common. As do I and my father. My brother said something very wise today. “You know how daddy is, so part of the part of practicing mindfulness is being mindful of things that will trigger him.” I didn’t know how to respond. He was right. Got schooled by a 17 year old. This is perhaps, my greatest lesson in acceptance.
That it’s a two way street.