Recently, I read an article and watched an accompanying video regarding black/white gay male relationships.
I was surprised by the vocal and passionate responses of some of the readers. When I began blogging over a year ago, it was in direct response to an article that was filled with stereotypical responses to black and white relations. This brings me back to the previously mentioned video and written responses.
In the video there was some mention of the concept that folks who don’t want to appear racist like to trot out.
“I don’t see color”.
In my experience this is generally whipped out when someone is asked to justify their love and affection of the “other”. What I find amazing about this is both the need folks have to spout this nonsense and the feelings of relief and superiority this seems to engender in well meaning but misguided black folks.
Not seeing color ? How is this possible. I am dark ebony brown, 180 pounds and 5'9" . If you are able to have me stand in front of you for any amount of time and still fail to notice my color, there is a serious problem. Perhaps what is really being stated here is that the viewer is fighting against seeing “only color”.
Could this be an attempt to humanize and make the viewed person a subject and not relegating them to objectification status ?
There are white males who see black and immediately think massive cock, sexual prowess and stud for hire. Many of our black brothers bring the same limiting and dehumanizing gaze to potential friends and lovers. With all the massive attention given to swag, sexiness and just plain deliciousness of black skin, there is little to no attention given to the mind, heart and soul encased within all of this yumminess.
It is almost as if we are required , no matter our race or background ,to give up on reinventing and challenging our limited views on what is possible and attractive .
This is the real problem. I have dated both types of white men. There have been experiences that left me feeling used and unheard and there have been others where the desire for black flesh led the white male I was dating down the path of self reflection, honesty and a thorough examination of long held beliefs. The larger problem is that there is little to no discussion about why we find certain things attractive.
Is it to be assumed that every white male who seeks a black companion is blind to the nature of his own desire and in fact needs to be avoided ?
"Just because you have a nightmare doesn't mean stop dreaming" Jill Scott
"For us to have self esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue" Margaret Cho
So much of my time has been spent learning to reparent myself.
As a black intelligent gay man, I have spent years learning to hate and distrust my opinions and thoughts and almost as many years learning the opposite. In an effort to move our lives into ones of our own creation, nowhere do we get more tripped up and squashed than in the arena of feeling bad about ourselves/ feeling unworthy (to dream and invent ourselves).
Much like being mired in the belief that things will not work out because they didn't before (creating our lives from the standpoint of disappointment) and the welcome distraction of relationships that allow and encourage confusing love with care, feeling bad about ourselves lets us off the hook and provides a wonderful set of excuses.
If I am depressed, too tired, too confused or too "whatever" then I can give up early and often.
When I have felt bad about myself or some life changing decision that I screwed up (when you are 20-25 every decision carries a healthy dose of doom and gloom), it is rarely about what us presently going on. Instead, I am worked up because of a past decision. What I am suggesting is an all out revolution. A revolution that at its center involves taking a break from feeling bad about yourself and then naturally moving into feelings of worthiness.
Often times those of us who live and move from our hearts' desires and dreams (the ones who have the capacity to imagine a different world and can actually "see" it) are ridiculed by well meaning but ignorant and frightened adults.
We are told to be less, do less and dream less. Another way to look at this is the indoctrination to mediocrity which entails systematic and deliberate humiliation which always leads to "feeling bad about who we are". It is particularly difficult to move toward my goals and dreams when each time a step is taken in that direction, I have to fight against a voice that says : watch out, Oh my God or the always popular and highly effective, "don't !
When I first began seeing a therapist years ago, I suggested he read a book on shame.
Every time someone that I deeply care for says, “I love you”, I get frightened.
It makes little sense to get shook up regarding this most basic of human needs and the thing myself and we all want the most. And yet, when it is stated it becomes a thing of suspicion. My personal experience of this most elusive of human emotions is that it is not to be trusted. The thing that I have spent a lifetime seeking out causes me the most anxiety.
The reason behind this most troubling of contradictions is that I now understand the true meaning of love.
I know what is costs and what is required when someone says that they love you. As a teenager and then young adult, my concept of love and what it could do was completely screwed up. In my limited view, I thought love was the great equalizer. The thing that would save me. Ironically, all the folks who said they loved me were as confused about it (love and its application) as I was. This constant and welcome confusion occured because so few of us understand the stark differences between love and care. Someone can care for you in a very deep sense and may even pledge and live up to a lifetime of partnership with you and never love you. I like to take my definition of love and what it is and what it is not from bell hooks (the thinking person's warrior).
“Genuine love is rarely an emotional space where needs are instantly gratified. To know love we have to invest time and commitment...'dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of the love -- which is to transform us.' Many people want love to function like a drug, giving them an immediate and sustained high. They want to do nothing, just passively receive the good feeling.
— bell hooks
This is and continues to be the absolute core issue in all of my immediate and familial relationships. The question is and remains: If I say I love you and you say you love me what exactly does this mean ?
If we are unable to come to a agreed upon definition of love and what it entails then we will have some serious problems down the road. When I was very young, I dealt with adults who could be cruel and manipulative one moment (bringing me to tears) then offer a heartfelt apology the next moment with the agreement that I should forgive their idiotic behavior and accept the fact that I was just “too sensitive”. Not having the vocabulary to articulate the wackiness of these situations, I simply accepted the domination and coercive version of love.
This troubling and unsupportive type of interaction was not love.
It was some care with a bit of love thrown in to justify the adult inability to deal with emotional upset as a result of little or no emotional resources. The problem with this way of thinking is that is sets up those who have been at the effect of this misguided emotional terrain to go out in the world and recreate more of what doesn’t work. My dating life was chaotic and grief - filled (read the Smart Slut Pts. 1 and 2 for more examples).
I didn’t believe that my dating life and subsequent relationships were riddled with emotional abuse.
The first time somebody pointed out that I was in an abusive relationship, I laughed. To me abuse meant physical confrontation, blood shed, police and the things I saw in movies where a young, white female had to leave town and change her name because her old man just wouldn’t stop using her as a punching bag. This wasn’t my situation so it couldn’t possibly be abuse. This type of thinking kept me passionately and righteously recreating relationships that were not love based at all. Instead they were needy, clingy interactions that had some care thrown in now and again.
To me, it made perfect sense that someone could lie to me or humiliate me one moment then have a breakdown the next all the while wailing through an avalanche of tears : “I love you so much it scares me”. Naturally, as I aged I began to ask : Why not just say “I’m scared ? “ All of the men I dated were as confused about it as I was.
At 31, I met a wonderful guy and still not understanding the marvelous journey this relationship would allow, I was constantly pissed when he didn’t quiet certain demons or magically make all the lifelong problems I had go away. My assumptions were simple, direct and wrong :You love me and I say I love you so there will never be a conflict and you will be an incredible mind reader(thank god so now I don’t have to ask for what I want and risk disappointment)
In addition,as my mate, you will also be able to right every childhood wrong and give me all the love I didn’t get as a child. We will feel good all the time and most importantly there will never be any hurt feelings or miscommunication.
Anybody who has ever fully committed to anything knows that saying you are committed and being committed are two very different things.
If love’s true power is the ability to transform us and make us better human beings and better able to really love others, we should all take a serious gander at the individual who states: I love you. I am not suggesting we vigilantly look for chinks in the armor of those we love.
Love's challenge is that we change and those around us become who they are meant to be. Love will not demand that we be less of who we are.
"To be fearless no matter what happens-that is the root of true happiness. To move forward resolutely regardless of what lies in store-that is the spirit of, the resolve that leads to human victory. But if we allow ourselves to be disturbed by petty criticism and slander, or we fear pressure and persecution, we will never advance or create anything of lasting value. " Daisaku Ikeda
Recently, someone asked me what keeps me stuck.
I was asked what keeps me from really living. After some thought , I realized it was three very powerful and simple entities. Disappointment, confusing love with care and not feeling worthy to dream and imagine my life. Six years ago I wrote a play,"Knucklebone", that dealt with how I learned to handle and negotiate my life when things failed to go my way.
During the course of creating this work, I realized that I had my share of disappointment and upset and had chosen to not let these things stop me.
In some fashion, I figured out ways to acknowledge the hurt and pain and then move beyond it. Maybe this was a gift. Something I was born with that would allow me to survive incredible bouts of disappointment. After sharing this work with others and listening to their tales of "woe", I learned something vey important. I was not that different from other people. In fact, hurt and anger over things not working out were very common occurences.
Most people at some point or another have had to deal with planning on one outcome and then adjusting to another when it takes place.
So back to the original point, what keeps me stuck ? I typically go for the things that I want in life. There have been times that I now look back on and know : I didn't go for it. These are not seen as failures or looming regrets. Instead, they are viewed as times when I didn't truly "live". I opted to allow past disappointments to determine present reality but also decided what action I would or would not take regarding my dreams and desires.
At seventeen, I wanted to move to NYC and go to Columbia.
With great grades, stellar references and a ton of extra curricular activities on my record, there was absolutely no reason to not apply and expect a quick admission. My mothers' unrelenting retort : "whose gonna pay for that ?" effectively shut me down and my capacity to have a life in NYC . Realistically, we could have determined that I could attend this institution and then plotted and schemed like banshees to make it happen.
It never happened. I was sorely disappointed and still carry that one regret some twenty five years later.
The problem is not that I didn't go to Columbia or finish at the fine prep school where I started my high school career. In fact, it was not even the many failed romantic relationships that I managed to pick up along the way . The core issue is how I dealt wtih them both in real time, as in the present ,and how I chose to handle them emotionally. Did I allow these desires for greatness (which never occured) to slow me down, make me feel : who gives a shit ? "I didn't want that all that much anyway".
How about that last statement ? Not allowing ourselves to "want" keeps us from being disappointed.
If I never really want anything then I don't have to seriously try and risk things not working out. I get to be safe. When I speak of want, I am not referring to a state of greed and a serious case of the "gimmies". We are not petulant children cajoling our parents into giving us what we want- when we want it .
Instead, a healthy set of wants is good.
Disappointment can either put us into a state of bone-crushing want or unmitigated entitlement.
The Summer of 2002 proved hot, steamy and highly productive.
I was 34 and thought my life couldn't get any better. It is amazing the things we either let ourselves believe or create in an effort to hold onto joy and constant good feelings. I was very happily married. Had learned to cook and was running a household with a man I thought I was going to spend eternity with (see until the end of time).
If someone had told me, you will hate this man and rue the day you ever met online and found him, I woulda socked ‘em right in the eye.
I want to call attention to what happens as we age and realize things have changed. If you have ever looked around your life and said either silently or aloud, “my god how in the fuck did I end up here ?” This post is for you. If you have ever done everything you knew how and the shit still blew up in your mug, I feel you.
This piece is for you.
I chose to call it the "death of childhood" because there is something very sad when you have your hopes bashed against cold, unforgiving cement.
There is something very dark, painful and unforgiven about having to watch a child be disappointed or willingly skip into the lion’s den and you, the viewer, know he’s gonna be somebody’s lunch.
I want to shed light on the point at which things suddenly and inexplicably change and all you can do is cry, scream, beg for mercy and hope for a quick painless death. Things do get better. I will stop here before I trot out the platitudes that even I am not interested in hearing.
I never thought I’d have a long term relationship.
Having weathered so many disasters in my 20's, I thought, why bother ? Even with the knowledge shared with me by concerned friends, I continued to find myself deeply disillusioned and in constant pain. If I had heard or currently hear one more version of, "you’ve got to start by loving you," I will set myself on fire then puke and not in any particular order.
The point remains you can have all the self love in the world and do all of the right picking in the world but if the person you’re seeing doesn’t see you or you don’t see them what good will self love do ?
Self love is valuable. It is always valuable .
However, the feel good optimist fail to recognize that picking is half the equation and is not the finality for this solution. Things change and die. Where is all the cheery help then ? Who is the poster child for, I’ve built my life on something (a relationship) that failed.
If after having done the work and the person you care for very deeply says: I’m not interested in being with you. Then what do you do ?
When strangers, with their unfamiliar voices and smells came to my apartment, my cats would hide somewhere safe.
It is amazing to me that humans think we are so smart. Yes, we can count and reason and plan and evaluate. We can also become depressed and flat out refuse to do the thing that would completely change our lives. We have the luxury of being arrogant, stubborn and unyielding.
I often find it interesting that animals make choices completely based on their safety.
If there is an unfamiliar sound , they run. If there is an unfamiliar smell or they do something that causes pain, they wince and retreat. Humans allow someone to mistreat them and gallop back towards their tormentor for more of the same.
When I or my partner yelled at or around our fur balls, they would scuttle away until it was absolutely safe to reemerge.
I have allowed myself to be physically assaulted and talked to in the worst way by dirt bags and then turned around and made dinner for them and apologized for not being “whatever” they decided I should be at the moment.
Fucked up right .
While a majority of my mishaps and odd behavior was limited to my youth, I have still done things that leave me scratching my head and asking myself why. Am I better than an animal ? Are you ?
There have been times when I literally ran to the danger, the pain that I knew some guy would give me then feigned disbelief when it was meted out.
I have taught myself : pain bad, kindness, respect, thoughtfulness good. It is difficult but not impossible to change. For me, I have spent years with people mistreating me and then saying it was for my own good - they were just being honest - I’m too sensitive or that if I changed that they would change.
In other words, I was the cause of all the grief that they so eagerly afflicted upon me.
With some potent introspection, I became pissed. Like the aforementioned furry friends, some human beings will never change and can only do what it is they do. To be better than animals we must exercise great judgment.
We must run like the proverbial bats out of hell when it is clear that something or someone is only interested in bringing pain.
When animals are beaten, they run away form their tormentors.
Humans can absolutely know that someone will do them wrong and yet willingly go along with the shenanigans presented.
Recently, I watched a very telling discussion with my favorite writer, bell hooks.
Moving beyond simply “dealing” and into more proactive ways of being have far reaching effects.
By increasing our awareness, we allow necessary room for reflection and insight from our significant other. Ideally, and let’s assume that this is the case, our life partner is willing to share his awareness of not only his ways of dealing with financial issues but the ways that we have created that both keep us stuck and move us forward.
Men loving men has its own challenges and no place is this more evident than the realm of financial responsibility.
Like many of our straight male counterparts, we often enter relationships with many severely limited and unproductive views regarding earning and managing money. More often than not , we equate a man’s earnings and or earning potential with his character and ability to effectively contribute within a relationship.