When I was nineteen, a family friend who was also a doctor terrorized me.
In addition to misdiagnosing me, I was made to feel ashamed, stupid and just plain bad about myself for being both attracted to men and acting on this attraction. To this day, I still hate and dread doctors. This was my introduction to sexual and social responsibilty.
The message was clear and relentless : sex bad, gay sex worse.
Growing up with folks who started in one class then ascending into another, they neglected to shed their "black fear " regarding doctors and the healthcare system. Like most black folks, we only saw doctors if there was something wrong and then of course believed the diagnosis they decided to met out.
Most black folk do not practice or believe in preventive health matters.
In the brilliant film, Change, the protagonist is charming, sweet, young and conflicted.
As a young, black male, he struggles with his sexual identification. The people who know and love him see gays as problematic. He doesn't come out or share his feelings for other young men and the cost is brutal.
This leads to the next problem that occurs in the fight to keep our young men healthy and uninfected. The stigma surrounding being young, black and male in our society is astounding. In our efforts to (lessen the stigma) and encourage young males to both claim their sexual identities and not be bound completely by them, we have created the very convenient and somewhat confusing term "men who have sex with men" (MSM).
This definition restigmatizes homosexuality and homosexual men by limiting their identity to what they do (sex) and confines male sexuality to only the physical and shameful.
Perhaps this definition will encourage young males to get tested. If so, I am all for it. However, it seems that this is another red herring in our discussion of men who may or may not desire/love/ lusts for other men. This severely limits the possibilty of honest discussions surrounding male desire and its expression.
None of the hustlers I know identify themselves as gay or even bi.
They all refer to it (sex with men) as "slingin cock" and basically state that for the right price they don't give a shit where they put it. It is hard not to have your head turned when someone puts a price on your physical nature and offers something you truly desire.
If an individual is not willing to take on a certain identity for whatever the reason, he probably is not going to listen when you offer solutions for a problelm this identity has and how to solve it. There won't be the need to get tested, stay healthy, negotiate safe sex and limit sex partners if he is not gay is a top or only has sex with men who have wives and girlfriends.
Shockingly, I have heard all of these excuses for having unprotected sex and not getting tested.
With a healthy dose of self contempt , it is damn near impossible to realize your worth and examine why certain actions are allowed. When I struggled to give up self hate and disappointment in myself because I was now one of "them", I was pretty repulsed by the images that presented themselves as "gay".
In my battle for an identity, I had nothing but contempt for the gay representations placed before me.
If our young males are grappling with anything, it is probably identity formation. If you are something that gets persecuted and regulated to second class citizenry, you probably won't jump at the chance to become a member of that community.
Perhaps there is a way to ensure our young folks that identities can and should be fluid and self inflicted.
Perhaps we can assure young males that it is their job to self define.
The HIV infection rate for young black men who have sex with men is growing at an “alarming” rate.
When I recently read this article, I was shocked and disturbed by the statistics.
I was angry that not only was HIV still around and attacking our community , it now seems that it has a focused target : young, black males. A while back I wrote four posts (SMART SLUT) that detailed how I managed to both come of age sexually and avoid infection at what we all assumed was the height of this epidemic.
In never occured to me that so many of our beautiful young brothers are still navigating this battle and losing it daily.
In my very limited and admittedly ignorant state of living, I foolishly assumed that with all of the information and free resources (condoms, lube, etc.) that nobody should still be getting infected. This is the big mistake and faulty thinking that anybody beyond forty carries with them. Clearly having the information is not enough to stop the inordinate amount of infections.
It has often been said that knowledge is power.
A very wise mentor of mine likes to say that it is the "application of knowledge" that gives us true power. I agree. I am often floored by the willingness we have for trusting people we have no business at all trusting. I've done it.
For three years , I engaged in unprotected sex with my first partner. I was willing to negotiate my very existence with someone I didn't know.
Upon getting to know him, I should have put the kabosh on the "raw doggin". I didn't . For me, it was far more important to be cared for and loved. In reality, I was alone and isolated. Still in the closet and far from my home and any bit of familiarity regarding my upbringing, I was a prime candidate for being manipulated and infected.
Keeping this in mind, I can offer both heartache for these young people and the determination to speak up and out .
I understand the need for safety, familiarity and love. I understand being in the closet and scared and feeling more than inadequate regarding what you have the right to demand. With young black males between the ages of 13-29 showing an increase of 48% infection rates between 2006 and 2009, this is a problem that can not and will not be ignored.
I could have been a statistic.
In Justin Goforth's recent five point study regarding the decisions that lead to early infection, there are three points that I would like to attack and offer greater investigation of.
The first cause of the infection (according to this study) is young males interaction with older men.
In the same study it is stated that 30% of men of color over thirty are infected. If young men are involved with older men sexually, this increases their likelihood of becoming infected for a couple of simple yet extremely complex dynamics.
While many young men simply think they are immuned to becoming infected because this epidemic is now "over, older men often have greater financial resources which increase their bargaining power in terms of sex and companionship.
I have a very sweet buddy who is a homeless hustler.
He is also drug addicted and lacks a solid education and economic foundation.
This charming and attractive man is at the whim of tricks and his addiction. I am certain that he does not negotiate "safe sex". It is pretty difficult to demand safer sexual practices when the person is paying for dinner and or letting you sleep indoors for a night or two.
In addition, wrestling with the monkey on your back that is addiction doesn't leave any time for a jaunt to the clinic for a quick HIV test and the subsequent counseling.
I have known more than one homeless guy who has sex with men not for the enjoyment of it but simple because it is the bargaining tool (young flesh and a raging constant hard on) that allows for food, clothing, shelter and in some instances cars and drugs.
In a capitalistic society everything has a price and is negotiable.
Without sufficient educational skills, the person who only has their body to exchange will offer it in return for things that are beyond the emotional.
While this exhange happens daily, many of these young men do not classify themselves as gay.
Although the previously mentioned tips will dramatically improve your relationship and improve daily interactions with your sweetie,"putting his needs on par with your own " is by far the best thing you could ever do.
There is no way that two people can build a relationship of any depth and always agree on everything.
Along with ritual comes a very different approach to interacting that will fundamentally change the way your relationship unfolds.
The concept of appreciation is not new. In the Buddhism that I practice, most of the prayers mention appreciation in one form or another. This powerful but seemingly small technique allows us to keep the focus on "what is". At some point, I will address how much time is lost and hurt feelings occur because we are rehearsing past mishaps (fuck ups).
The tool of appreciation can be implemented at any time and is most effective all the time.
For a very long time, I have been obsessed with long term "happy" life-enhancing relationships.
" Fairness is a wonderful attribute. It has nothing to do with war. " Ender's Game
" Who plays games with no rules... a fool " Envogue
It has been exactly ten years since 9/11.
It was an event that touched every life of every American. It shook us to the core realizing that we were not safe and that there existed this type of evil and destruction in the world. With great humility and powerful memories of that day, I offer the possibility that change can and does occur.
I remember being in NYC parks at the time and recognizing the potent feeling of our collective sorrow and almost insane need to understand the root of such violence and destruction.
When looking for answers regarding human behavior, it is wise to look beyond the obvious and look in the direction of Science Fiction. In the wonderful Ender's Game, human nature is not only dissected and questioned , it is examined and retold through people who ordinarily have very little power in how the world is created and maintained.
Throughout the course of this book , war and domination are seen via the viewpoint of the winners and losers the dominated and the dominators.
The greath thing about this piece of art is that it makes us question the belief that to dominate is natural and human. A very interesting trick is created and played out here. Initially, those that attack are not human. They are insect-like with no understanding of language and the way these odd creatures (humans) communicate.
At one point, Ender states in an illuminating and angry moment: So the whole war is because we can't talk to each other (p. 253).
A while ago , I was hired at what I was lead to believe (and told repeatedly during the interview process) was a very progressive forward thinking and moving organization.
Warning! If somebody has to keep telling and not showing their politics there is trouble afoot. After the initial hiring, I was left to flounder because no one really knew the nature of my job or how to train me in the mastering of it. It was brutal. There was no way to measure my effectiveness because it was unclear as to what I was expected to do.
The folks who hired me were clueless in their expectations of me and being young and unschooled in the ways of on-the-job politics, I was unaware as to how to ask for clarity.
The white supervisors in charge -although trying to commit to diversity - had done very little work decolonizing their minds and therefore actions. At one point, I believe I even asked something along the lines of : if we keep discussing dismantling the prevailing power structure (the constant quoting of bell hooks made me think we had a shot at doing just this) who are we planning on putting in charge when this happens ?
I was sacked within a day or two of asking the unspeakable.
This reminds of me of why so many social movements fail to reach their fullest potential and fizzle once the leadership is terminated and or "fresh blood" is brought in. Within so many of our movements and attempts to dismantle the current regime, we often fail to do the work necessary to ensure that one group of dictators is simply not replaced by another.
Without love as the guiding principle and a firm committment to mental health, we can only recreate the thing we fight so desperately to eliminate.
Having witnessed so many politicos railling on nonstop about what needs to be done and by whom, I have seen very little work on personal development. While I know of several people who claim politics and enjoy a good banner wave, I know very few who are committed to their own personal growth.
It is very easy to attack the enemy in front of you. It is far more challenging to attack the personal demons we all carry.
Recently, I witnessed a discussion devoted to thinking and solution creating to solve several problems that the Republican party created and the Democratic Party has yet to dismantle. While everyone seemed bright and capable , one or two white males consistently dominated the conversation.
At a table of 10 people, two ran the entire discussion.
With a proper amount of decolinization, these two would have shut the hell up at some point and allowed someone else to speak. We cannot demand that others (Republicans, Tea Party peeps or whoever the big bad is this week) treat us with respect and refuse to look at how race/class/gender privilege derails even the most progressive and well meaning attempts to institute change and determines whose voice gets to be heard.
At the same gathering, I also witnessed a very brave and insightful young woman say to a group of folks, that as a young woman of color she felt it was her duty and right to "take up space". The brave young woman who put her mind and physical self at the center was bravery in action and clearly on the road to decolinizing her mind and was willing take us along for the ride.
Whenever someone dares to speak not only of what they are committed to doing and why without justifying their choice, it sets the stage where there is an opportunity for power to shift. Whenever a person has done any kind of work on the self, there is a possiblity that not only have they started an ongoing battle for social change but they have started it where it matters the most.
So few of our progressives do any type of emotional work.
When I was 14, my new set of parents no longer allowed us to eat spaghetti.