At 27, I made the declaration that I am an artist.
With very little to guide me other than outdated stereotypes and much discouragement form my family, I began trotting down the path that is desperation and a need for constant attention.
There was no handbook nor mentor to guide me.
I only had the will to work and the belief that anything was possible.
I was very unaware of the big machine that devours anything in its path and that there will be several obstacle both internally and externally that would have to be navigated if I wanted a career in the arts/creativity.
When I speak of no longer lusting for movie stardom, I am making reference to being in a world that needs, rewards and loves those that are white, young and straight.
As much as we all try to pretend or believe that the movies and Hollywood are places where imaginations and creativity soar, anyone with a brain can see that to be a part of this machine is to be young, white and straight.
Recently I've noticed a trend: romanticizing slavery and sentimentalizing anything that has to do with Civil Rights.
I must confess that I had been lulled into being happy with so many beautiful black faces and talented folks working. What I was distracted from noticing like most moviegoers was the narrative that was being shared and who was in control of the sharing.
Much of what is forced upon me has very little to do with me.
Many times I am so mezmerized by the visual that I forget to question things like point of view, intention and clear, decolonized interpretation.
Toni Morrison states: That as soon as a character of color is introduced in a story, imagination stops.
Films and TV often trot out characters and story lines that forecast the performance long before they open their mouths to speak.
Fifteen years ago, I was unaware that the performing field was not open and fair to anyone willing to work hard, pay dues and get good at their craft.
With a growing frustration with what I was being cast in, I began writing my own material.
After creating an array of interesting characters : an abused child, a ninety year old man, a love starved twenty something and a Nazi Landlord, I was still not thrust into the public eye in any sort of meaningful way and Hollywood didn't come a calling.
I was told to stay in my lane that in order to make it I would have to allow myself to be a type (put into a box/creative straightjacket) until "they" knew what I could do and then "they " would let me out and allow me to play in other areas.
When I made this discovery, I was angry and undeterred.
I was gonna show them all and prove that as a gay, black thinking man there is a place for me in the public eye.
My major beef is that not only do I have much to offer the world but there are countless others that do as well.
Who will tell our stories?
Who will start with a new narrative and allow blacks, gays, women of color access to the center?
I will no longer watch brutalization of beautiful, powerful black folks and chime in with what a wonderful movie or story it was.
In a recent review of Hollywood's obsession with slave stories, a young brilliant black man pointed out that Oscars are given to whites for acting and blacks for subject matter.
I want to see Viola Davis as the star of a film and be sexy, smart, powerful, cunning and breathtaking (rocking her natural hair).
I don't want "real stories". I want tales of what could be.
I want imaginations that open up when a black, latino, gay person enters.
I want writers, myself included, to demand more of everyone around them.
I want Kasi Lemmons, Julie Dash, Kimberly Pierce and Lee Daniels to continue to create and devise all manner of stealthily creating characters that are interesting not because they're comedic, tragically doomed or will be put to death because they see and think differently.
Where is my black audience who wants to keep things authentic and interesting as opposed to real?
We will no longer allow ourselves to be entertained by violent images that involve slaughtering, disrespecting or dismissing black bodies.
We will fight to bring back characters like Precious Ramowste and her small band of comrades who rely on their minds and companionship and trust in each other to solve life's problems.
We will fight to see stories told powerfully and quietly that invite the sacred in and offer solace from a world gone mad. I can't wait for this change. What are you willing to do to see this happen?
Most of my young life, I dreamt of a large family with many children screaming, playfully terrorizing one another and basically providing loads of love and energy in a semi large contained space.
There were only two problems : I am gay and I could not find another suitable individual who had done the emotional and psychological work that would allow us to co-parent from a position of love and guidance and not neediness.
The more I longed for young ones and fought to become and stay emotionally healthy, the fewer men I encountered who were healthy enough to raise or consider guiding young people.
I have always loved and valued children.
My commitment to children is also a commitment to community.
As a young boy, I had the distinct and memorable experience of being raised in many intergenerational situations.
Whether it was an uncle teaching us the latest dance steps or an aunt sneaking us into Richard Pryor's concert film and performing Macbeth in the living room, we had many and varied influences who all influenced and loved us in very different ways.
When my parents could not tolerate my daydreams and basement, standing room only performances, my sister and I would head down the street to an always eager audience (our grandparents).
When raising children certain realities will present themselves.
At some point, adults lose their patience. They will say or do something stupid or insensitive.
Bad parenting and making a bad choice are not one in the same.
Many parents, including my own, are obsessively concerned with being perceived as a good or bad parent.
The parenting gestapo is not concerned with supporting parents and communities dedicated to rearing children.
When parents accept the good/bad parent title, they've lost the parenting battle and have limited their ability to think and make amends.
We all get seduced into the lies that say everyone is more capable, organized and loving than we are.
When the silent voice of defeat constantly whispers we are losers and have no business raising children, many of us react by criticizing, controlling and frantically attempting to dominate every aspect of our children's young lives.
We no longer do what's best for our children.
We do what's best for us and hope that this lack of thought and future planning will not cause any severe and psychological upset.
The trick to creating new parenting strategies is not focusing on whether a parent is good or bad.
Using our community as a source of support, tough love and inumerable ways to interact with young people, we are able to create new strategies for loving and guiding our young people and give up the concept of good/bad parenting.
When I announced my pending marriage more than four months ago , my family was very vocal with their disapproval.
Some of the bullshit I heard was just mesmerizing.
"You don't know him that well". "Nobody in our family has met him and You are making a big mistake are a few of the brilliant insights that were shared.
Heterosexist norms seek to define us all and restrict our life options.
Straight privilege allows you to be complicit with a system that denies those you love some pretty basic rights while giving those in the mainstream the freedom to speak on and comment about things they know nothing about.
While I was cajoled(unsuccessfully) into seeing a couples therapist(just to make sure that everything was alright), I know of no straight couple who is cautioned against partnering with a lunatic.
When I have tried to point out the hypocrisy behind the sudden and mad dash to ensure mental health, subjects were changed and attitudes were formed.
Apparently, I have no right to question or challenge the great straight world. Some of my immediate family has shut me out wanting to pretend ignorance and cling to the cross.
I have watched countless family members make horrific life choices that I wound not consider if I lived ten lifetimes.
Marrying the wrong people and having babies with them.
Dropping out of school to sit on their asses because their fear is imminently more powerful than their quest to improve their lives.
Divorces, feuds over bullshit that happened so long ago that folks can't even remember why they stopped speaking and all manner of truth evasion and dream crushing. I left home early (about 18) and determined that I would find my tribe a group of folks steeped in being bold and living fully.
I was not interested in people whose sole concern was how to keep the misery going/afoot.
Perhaps this is the reason that queens strike out on their own early and often.
Nobody wants to be "tolerated".
Families are notorious for striking bargains with all their members in an effort to control and manipulate. As a kid who was obviously different, there were few place in my family that were emotionally safe or welcoming.
My family did and does strike deals. Families are where we learn to love and trust another.
If these lessons are fraught with inconsistencies, anxiety or flat out lies, we get confused and seek out the same. Is it any wonder that it takes so many of us years to find and understand the essence of love and its power ?
As children, we are taught to disown ourselves , to disregard our instincts and in many ways "play dead" (Branden) In many of our families of origin, we are schooled in ways of survival. As Nathaniel Branden states : We are taught very early to respect external signals above internal signals, to respect the voice of others above the voice of self. A "good" child is one who "behaves" and "minds " his elders. We are taught to identify virtue with compliance with the wants and expectations of others. We are taught obedience as the price of love and acceptance. (Branden p.130)
At some point when we have done our agreed upon duty and played our parts, we expect "them" to come around and see us and love us without reservation. When this fails and our understanding of things is mired in childlike wishes and hopes, we seek out substitutes.
Gays are well known for our ability to create what we need despite meager resources.
As a group so heavily defined by physicality, it takes years to deliberately create families that are not disgusted by our bodies and what we allow them to do.
When families attack, there still remains a yearning for a beloved and devoted community that will welcome us. When my family lost their minds around be me marrying a white guy, it was my latest incarnation of family that supported me and threatened to throw some bones should anyone get out of line at my ceremony.
It was my new family that constantly congratulated me and warned me to stay true to what we wanted and fuck anybody who didn't agree, had opinions or hurt feelings.
It is imperative that we fashion what I refer to as love armies.
We can no longer what for folks to "get it".
Do you have a great fabricated or birth family ? What are your tools for blending the two? Do you blend them ?
Being rejected early and often hurts like hell and any gay in their 30's or beyond can tell you many tales of how they survived then thrived despite what folks said, thought or did.
Seek out their counsel. Those of us raising children keep in mind the incredible opportunity we have to demolish the pathologies and usher in the new.
How will you construct a powerful, all inclusive family ?
We can change this.
As gay men, any and all attempts to build community puts a nail in the coffin of domination, coercion and exploitation.
Within the world that relies and feeds on isolation, we offer it a great big kick in the pants when we refuse to “go away”, be silenced or allow ourselves the privilege of second class citizenry. Like Thich Nhat Hanh, I have always dreamed of creating my own version of Plum Village.
Marriage, any type of commitment, and being truly, terrifyingly, unabashedly, emotionally intimate is for grown ups. This is the reason we now have this insane obsession with marriage.
I would like to sincerely apologize for being an elder within the community and not doing my part.
Pride festivals for all of 2011 and beyond should be canceled.
More important than hunky guys, displays of camp, and the all consuming focus on gay marriage, our young people need all of our time and access to resources. It will not do any young person any good to go to a rally and have no place to sleep afterwards.
When I was ten, Tanya Nelson repeatedly tortured me by jabbing me with a compass. She sat behind me and constantly tormented me along with others for being a sissy. I took the abuse. I learned to tolerate it and even enjoyed figuring out ways to endure the humiliation.