Whenever I have taught children, there has been an obsession with safety.
This was a statement I made four years ago when I wrote an essay about people and their insane, irrational fear of being around children.
Men need children. Children need men.
While all men shouldn't or have no desire to be around children, it is wise to look at the reasons why and be honest in our assessment regarding men's interaction with children.
What must change (in relation to men's influence with children) if we are attempting to create a saner, more loving and thinking world?
For several years, I heard from friends and family that I would make a wonderful father and teacher.
Having switched my major in college to English with an eye on instructing eager, hungry minds, I began making preparations to move into the world of erudite instruction that would serve the young people that I would be fortunate enough to teach.
During the early 90's, homophobia was in full swing and nowhere was it more pronounced and encouraged than in education with almost a witch hunt focus on gays and lesbians.
With dreams of changing the world (which I believe is one of the many purposes of education), I was left sitting on my hands.
I could either jump in with the sharks wearing blood soaked swim trunks and hope for the best or I could save myself a buttload of misery and stay out of the water.
I stayed away from young people and teaching for as long as I could.
I watched in shear horror as my partner dealt with very vocal homophobic students, coworkers and faculty.
I watched with incredulity as people dismissed the powerful offerings of teachers and adults. My heart broke when people chose fear and ignorance over the possibility of change that a male presence could offer.
There was no blueprint for being talented in a given area and knowing that you would not be accepted in this arena or worse yet be run out of it and soon as there was any whiff of being "different".
While homophobia was partly to blame, there was also the belief that men around children was a bad idea simply because of our gender.
Men and their (perceived) devious, predatory ways was the real issue.
Many educational colleagues love to rail on about pedophilia which is not the same as homosexuality.
I have yet to hear an accurate or fact-based account of any teacher ever experiencing this dramatic scene(confrontation with and defeat of pure stupidity) at work with a colleague.
So where does all of this irrational fear and straight up stupidity come from and how do we challenge and defeat it?
We start by recognizing men's goodness.
When good men have skills that are necessary for the maturation and psychological well being of young people, we can work together (with allies that love, respect and admire men) to assign men roles with children that highlight skills our young people need.
We are no longer in need of men who are assigned the role of silent, emotionless ATMs whose response to anything emotional or deep consists of pointing out the failings of those asking questions and or then referring them to women who "know more about those things".
It is not ok to assume that beyond donating sperm and financial assistance men are useless and have little value.
Children are not better off without men.
Men and those that love them must offer assistance in reestablishing male input and the particular ways men approach the world and navigate their existence in it.
We all have much to learn from how the world is seen by men.
Anyone who has met a powerful man whose power stems from his commitment to mental health, self evaluation and improving children's lives recognizes and understands the goodness of men.
Men are psychologically harmed when they are assigned social roles that only benefit patriarchal.
Men are harmed when we get assigned the role of non-thinking monsters.
While I have never subscribed to the ridiculous notion that only men can raise boys, I understand that male energy is different, needed and should be invited in on a consistent and well thought out basis.
So the next time you are considering a baby sitter or someone to care for your young ones, consider a male colleague or family friend to take up the challenging, eye opening and heart expanding task that is influencing and loving children well.
Start small and build.
There is much to be learned and nothing to lose.
My favorite and most valued gift by the aging process is a great big case of the "Fuck Its".
At 15, 20 and even into my thirties there was a great deal of energy put into what people thought of me and adjusting my life and thinking to accommodate the ubiquitous "them".
While everyone commented on how "nice" (the original definition of this word was "dumb") and pleasant I was, there was much upset and resentment waiting to be(unleashed). Creating a false persona allowed me to keep the secret (my being gay)hidden.
Being nice and not a problem, I could live and exist happily undetected.
This thinking kept me trapped in awful relationships and heinous partnerships.
People love it when you are eager to accommodate, cosign bullshit and engage in all manner of tom foolery. When I began fighting my way out of Mr. Nice Gay mode, folks looked at me with disbelief and many feigned shock.
When a person in a relationship makes a drastic change, all parties are affected, have reactions and feelings and ultimately must make some adjustment.
Nobody wants to adjust if their needs are constantly being met.
The ability to not give a fuck is a great section of the aging process.
When I say not giving a shit, it doesn't mean being an asshole which is a role people will attempt to assign you. The not-giving- a- shit means: I will not twist myself into a pretzel in an effort to get folks to like or accept me. It also means I will not hand over my thinking , self esteem or self validation to another and hope they come up with something grand.
Whenever I've handed over the reins of my life to someone, I have never been happy with the results.
When I've co-directed an initiative, my joy increased as a result of consistent and deliberate actions. As we age, there is less tolerance for foolishness and shenanigans with people that have no grand vision for their lives and whose concern in life is getting by with the least amount of intellectual or spiritual effort.
As I've aged, I have constantly and shamelessly asked myself : Is this activity something I want to engage in or invest my energy into ?
Is this the best use of my time?
Part of the aging process deals with the comfortability and brilliance that occurs when we make a decision to be bold.
You can't be bold if your primary concern is hurting someone's feelings or what they will think of you. There is really nothing better than making choices from a well thought out and guiltless position.
Aging has forced me to spend a whole lot less time being concerned with the opinions of others and most importantly, how I look to them.
Letting go of the crazed production that is "image" is also wonderful.
If I'm tired, I rest.
If I'm pissed off, hurt or confused, I can choose how I will address these issues with my husband, friends and coworkers. Sometimes a great big box of "shut the hell up" is required.
At other times, it is important to speak out and up and opt for deliberate and swift action.
My younger self had the need to constantly and psychotically remain busy at all costs.
Brene Brown says this is the new addiction: Staying busy so that we don't have to deal with the realities/truth of our lives.
I encourage all of you to embrace growing older.
Those of us who are most affected by this need to be "nice" (gays, women and minorities) should purposely and gladly welcome the attitude and power that comes from aging, being clear and the natural outcome that this provides.
If we have spent lives of dire desperation, anxiously awaiting for someone to give us permission to dream and accomplish heart passions, then the aging process can look pretty crappy.
There is nothing to dread or lament if we have lived lives of meaning and exploration that have allowed thinking, spirituality and self knowledge to grow.
About a week ago, an acquaintance invited me to a party with this preface: It's just for women and we will have a male stripper but you can come since your gay".
I politely and shockingly declined.
It was clear to me that this person like many others is confused about a definition of maleness that does not include sex with women.
We are being seduced into thinking that as a result of constant assault by social media and images, we have moved beyond thinking that is homophobic, racist and just plain dumb.
Patriarchy and all of its resident offshoots and tools of oppression lull us into not thinking which often leads us into not acting.
In a culture where every and any image or desire is just a click away, it is hard to critically engage people because of the assumption that everyone has "made it".
Most people design their lives to ensure that none of their decisions are questioned or challenged.
bell hooks constantly reminds us that in American Culture, we are taught/trained to see in parts.
Our devotion to myopic and inappropriate ways of seeing black gay men is disturbing.
Many folks get mad when you can claim more than one identity.
As a result of most people's intellectual laziness, the message gets sent: stay in your lane and let me define you.
This is a problem when trying to make friendships and relationships work across boundaries.
Boundary crossing has become very chic.
Changing our thinking or allowing ourselves to be fundamentally changed as a direct result of crossing boundaries is not chic.
While there are many folks who are seduced and cajoled into worshiping the black male body, there are few who can do so without moving into fetishizing, making it(black male body) sexual and having the desire to control and contain it.
My banker, who is Persian, refers to himself as Mike.
When I attempted to pronounce the birth name given to him by his parents, we began to discuss the decision to refer to himself as Mike.
It was explained to me that as a huge Michael Jordan fan he was teased as a young boy and this was a way to have both protection (by taking on another identity) and idol worship.
When we are not "seen" and revered and honored for being men all sorts of weird problems arise.
My sweet six year old grandson, much like my sweet sixteen year old Nephew are beginning to feel the pangs and undeserved scrutiny that gets handed to all black males simply because of their skin color.
These gentle souls began being referred to as a problem almost from birth.
Between the cultures fear, demonization and lust for black male bodies, there is little space to create healthy and self esteem increasing interactions and patterns.
I am often saddened and sometimes weep when I witness the change in our young boys that have nothing to do with who they are but seem required if they want to survive.
When I here the nonsense of racism regarding scary black men and then get immediately assured that I am not one of "them", I often wonder when is my time coming ?
I wonder about not being one of "them" when my opinion is solicited and then dismissed.
As black men it is assumed that our thinking is muddled, insignificant or flawed at worse and limited and shallow at best.
We are not expected or encouraged to think about anything too deeply.
Keeping things "light" prevents the possibility of mayhem. Truly understanding and challenging the forces that seek to deny our humanity and limit our self actualization would require a radical reworking of the social order.
This is not a problem and doesn't scare me nor should it frighten any thinking, rational, effectively decolonized person.
A bit of anger and upset or outrage over a system that fucks you over and has designated you as the target would actually be something wonderful.
Designating men who are black and happen to be gay as sub men is convenient.
In many ways, it allows for us(those of us obsessed with safety) to feel safe .
It also places the desire and impetus to change on the shoulders of those whose identity we can not be bothered with seriously "seeing".
bell hooks in quoting Sojourna Truth(who bore her breasts to prove she was indeed female) reminds that to revere, honor and respect the black male body is to hold it to the same other worldly status of that as white females.
When people comment that my gayness allows me a pass to all women spaces(I firmly believe that there needs to be all women spaces as well as all men spaces), I cringe at the insensitivity, thoughtlessness and collusion with dominator culture this supports.
It is no different when my blackness is negotiated or given an ok by folks who feel that one less dark person will harm them even as they seek to emulate my stance in the world and how I navigate things.
However, the most troubling part of this ordeal is resisting the perceived rewards that are offered.
There is the belief and some truth to the concept that when you “stay in your lane”and play the good darky or faggot, you will somehow escape persecution. And if you’re really “good,” you might actually be invited into mainstream, racist-free and heterosexist communities.
About a year ago, I reviewed a wonderful book about kinky relationships (Partners in Power). This book was eye-opening for me in that it highlighted the extent of all relationships.
The negotiation of power occurs in all human interaction. Sometimes it’s shared. Sometimes the amount granted and distributed is silently agreed upon. When someone assigns you a role based on a limited and privileged viewpoint, this can cause serious problems.
In my review, I stated the following:
Partners in Power is a critical examination of what is required to be a part of a community that is still ill-represented, misunderstood, and in no way viewed as an organism that has figured out how to sustain itself by consistently adapting itself to new “players” who are interested in experimenting, testing all types of personal limits, and being honest about the results that get discovered once the nuts are empty.
Relationships based in play and trust can allow for all sorts of mistakes and negotiations. Assumptions designed to make the assumer feel okay with another’s form of love and sexual expression limit honesty and prevent full psychological visibility.
A better approach might include silence and/or giving up the belief that one’s identity is given validity once it has been heterosexually sanctioned.
Black, gay, and recently married are just a few of my identities.
Identities are constantly changing and are largely self-created.
Allies who insist we live fully understand, respect, and encourage this belief.
When I began writing Unfettered Mind: The Importance of Black Male Mental Health, I was unaware of the need for mental health tools and the denial by many that this was not an issue that needed to be addressed. HIV, unemployment, cripplingly low self esteem and a host of other issues menace black men in very particular and unrelenting ways.
This short interview encourages us to have a "new look" at things and offers strategies for increasing self esteem, self love and self acceptance. My goal in writing these essays is to bring focus and awareness to the root causes(radical examination and upheaval) of our suffering and offer suggestions to eliminate it. Feel free to let me know what you think.
"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.
Potato salad flowed. Greens were served and fried chicken got piled high.
I recently spent the most glorious evening with a wonderful group of gay men. If you have never spent a good chunk of your evening in the company of adult men you have not lived.
I had forgotten the joy that comes from men being together who truly respect and love one another.
The sounds of our voices.
“Are you sure you wanna be well sweetheart? A lot of weight when you’re well”.
The Salt Eaters
The first time I had peach yogurt, I was visiting a friend in a mental institution.
I don’t know my Nephew.
I have not seen my family in two years. Fear hurts. Fear kills. Fear breeds stupidity disguised as safety.
As an out , proud black gay man, I am often asked to be less than my marvelous self. This can be addressed with a hearty fuck you. It is more challenging to tell an elderly family to get bent when they are in their 80's and preparing for that big send off.
My family neither knows nor understands me.
It seems easier to deny what I am. This allows a safe and comfortable distance. But what are they saving themselves from ? HIV, embarrassment, humiliation a proper revamping of their homes?
My father, at one point in our odd and strained relationship could only interact with me based on an obsession with making sure I stayed “healthy”.
Moving beyond Fetish… The opportunities for growth and joy via black and white gay male relationships
I have spent half of my dating life with white men.
As far as I can see, there is a great deal of confusion and mayhem regarding how these seemingly divergent groups get along, partner up and develop loving, committed non exploitative relationships.
What is this thing we call attraction ? Is it learned ? Can it be redeveloped?
First fact about HIV: It will cost you money and time.
When there are attempts made to decrease HIV infection rates, the financial costs are never discussed.