What It’s Like To Be Black And Gay In America

jussie-smollett-freedom-empireHi, I am a young black gay teen male writing to you about two things I did not choose. I did NOT choose to be black. I did NOT choose to be gay. But here I am apart of both communities; the LGBTQ+ and the black community. I often struggle trying to find the balance between the two because it’s hard enough being a part of one of these communities, let alone both. Part of this comes from the issue of homophobia in the black community, which is widespread, but not omnipresent. In fact when I came out to my dad this past year, although he had no problem with me being gay, he worried about how my life was going to be. His main concern and hope is that I succeed in all the things I wish to succeed in. Prior to me coming out he would tell me that being a black man in America, or even being a black person period, I have to work harder than most, because at BIRTH the odds are already against me. When he found out I was gay he told me that not only do I have the burden of being a black man in America I have the burden of being a black GAY man in America, trying to do one thing in life, SUCCEED. Growing up and getting through my childhood often came with a lot of confusion and self hatred. I knew I was gay at a very young age and I would often ask myself things like why do I like boys or why am I weird or why am I not normal? Of course I know now that I’m not weird or abnormal, but this was a huge obstacle I had and was dealing with as a young child. I would watch TV and see black people only on the news for negative things like getting arrested or like gang affiliation. Also, I would get made fun of for being darker than most kids in school and eventually I even came to associate being lighter or having a lighter complexion with being more beautiful or looking better. These things made me as a young child not like the fact that I was black. Fortunately, I’m much older and wiser now and I couldn’t be prouder of who I am.

It would be foolish to say that society has not progressed over the last few years, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, and yes as a gay teen this excites me, but then I look at issues of race STILL being very present and it kind of kills and overshadows my joy. No, this is not me writing, comparing the issues and progress within the LGBTQ+ community and the black community, this is about my struggle to find the balance between the two and the issues that are present in being apart of both communities. Looking over the past few years at LGBTQ+ progress, a lot has happened. Same-sex marriage has been legalised nationwide in America and more and more countries have achieved this same milestone or are becoming more tolerant. But I’m not saying major problems for the LGBTQ+ community aren’t still present. In June of this year a shooter identified as Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a gay nightclub and drew his weapon and began to shoot. In the end, the shooting resulted in over 50 people injured and 49 more killed. Also when I look at the past few years in the black community, I see countless deaths of innocent black people by the names of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling – those just being amongst the few that just so happened to make news and become headlines. WHEN WILL IT END? HOW MANY MORE LIVES HAVE TO BE LOST FOR PEOPLE TO WAKE UP AND REALIZE THAT #BLACKLIVESMATTER?
The attack at Pulse and these attacks on these black people are HATE crimes and they need to be looked at as such. This is not something we can ignore or just brush off. Issues like these hit close to home for me as they are not only attacks on a number of individuals, they are attacks on their ENTIRE COMMUNITIES. Incidents like these frighten me and can make me feel like I have no protection and that anywhere I go I am at risk. Not just at risk but at TWICE the risk, at risk of becoming another headline or a hashtag. I shouldn’t have to fear my life being taken away because of sexual orientation or because of the color of my skin. They tell us “Look around… times are changing.” and I ask them “Where? And how so?”.

With that being said, being a part of both communities, I find it important to talk about issues in both. Sometimes I even feel guilty when I fight for one community one day and the other community another day because of people from opposite communities judging me for my support or my “lack thereof”. There’s a lot of pressure being a part of both communities and fighting for both because people might try to make it seem like you’re more for one or that you’re fighting too hard for one and not the other. I try to find a balance, while still supporting both communities and even though people sometimes try to make me feel guilty for supporting by saying I support one over the other, I know that ultimately I’m doing the right thing by showing support to BOTH. Often times people of the black community or the LGBTQ+ community will only fight for issues that apply to them. This, although it may help, is not actually fighting for true equality. True equality to me is fighting for issues and for people even if the issue doesn’t pertain to you. You can be Pro-Black & homophobic just as you can be Pro-LGBTQ+ & racist. You can’t call yourself Pro-Black if you don’t support black people who are LGBTQ+ just as you can’t call yourself pro-LGBTQ+ if you have things in your Grindr profile such as “whites only or no blacks”. It just does not work that way. If you want true equality, it’s important to fight for all types of equality and not just what applies to you. So what I want you to take away from this article is that I’m a gay black teen who is a part of both the black community and the LGBTQ+ community and try to understand how it is to deal with being apart of both. It comes with twice the burden as just being a part of only one, but I’ve learned to somehow manage the two by being vocal, advocating for both communities and having the will to fight twice as hard as any other person would to get the same recognition and to accomplish just as much and I will continue to do so. I certainly did not choose to be black or choose to be gay but I wouldn’t have it any other way. These are the two things I did not choose but wouldn’t change even if I could because I’m proud to be black and to wear my BEAUTIFUL black skin and I am just as happy to be a proud, prideful gay teen in America, no matter what odds are against me.
Thank You.

 

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