As some of you know I currently live in San Francisco, I’m originally from Washington DC. Coming from the ghettos of DC to live in the very capitalist, very liberal, very racist, very sexist city of San Francisco has been a very interesting experience. I have seen myself develop and change in many ways and noticed strange urges and thoughts come and go through my mind in my time here.
I grew up all over DC because my family was very poor so we were constantly moving from hood to hood. That’s why I often list different hoods in DC that I say I’m from. In any case, I was always in the hood and one thing that became very clear to me at a very young age was the way in which I was supposed to behave as a young male, especially as a young Black male. Naturally, I am timid, and very gender neutral in my opinion. I say this meaning that I am not very effeminate or masculine. However, when I was growing up, my lack of masculinity was perceived as feminine. Since I refused to play with the boys, talk like the boys, and walk like the boys I had to be a sissy. I hung out with girls as much as possible because they were more accepting of me but ultimately there are limits in male/ female friendships even at younger ages. So I became in a way anti-social and began to develop those habits. I knew that I was queer before I knew what words existed to describe it. I remember distinctly wanting to have sex with my best friend, who was a male, in 2nd grade and I also knew that it was not something everyone else need to know about, I knew it wasn’t something normal. As I grew an I learned what “gay” was and what I was I began to despise effeminate boys, both out of self hatred and envy. I hated who I was and envied their ability to be so open. I envied the way in which they challenged the gender binaries without any kind of hesitation, know good and well that when they stepped out of the house it would most likely mean conflict, physical and emotional. Naturally I wasn’t very effeminate and felt lucky that my natural self didn’t lend it self to the social taunting that came along with it but I also began to feel as though I was deficient in someway. And like before with the development of anti-social behaviour, I began to act out, subconsciously being guided by a need to purge myself of the contradictions, and consciously guided by a need to please the Christian leadership of my after school program, of which I was a part for my entire life since the age of 5. The climax of all of this being my divorcing of the queer friends I had in school at the time. The part of me that needed to strongly to belong to the church demanded that these connections be severed, out of the fear of being lost in the world and void of love from God. The part of me that envied their flamboyance and hated it at the same time felt sated, albeit temporarily. I could be alone now to think and purge. I could be at temporary peace now that the outside representations of my Waring self were partially gone. I felt a small sense of joy, confused and lost, but still some sad glimmer of joy. I suppose these warring parts of me have always driven me to be very distant from people, for fear of not being accepted because I have yet to accept myself. I suspect this to be one of the chief reasons behind the aloof nature, which until recently has dominated my friendships.
In any case I came to San Francisco queer, but not too sure of what that meant for me, I am still not but 5 years ago it was worse. Immediately I was hit with an onslaught of images and ideas about what queer was and how it should manifest in society. However, contrary to prior years, this time I began to try and absorb it all. I found my self trying to emulate the “snap queens” that I would outwardly despise and quietly envy in the past. It felt strange, temporarily liberating, but alien at the same time. It wasn’t me but I so desperately wanted it to be. I felt lost because for years I had smothered and repressed instead of building and shaping. I was lost. I was scared and twisted from years of battling and conforming to social norms, from years of trying to find some kind of acceptance, some kind of family that would help me escape poverty, addiction, & abuse. I have seen and found that I am not the only person left scarred by this society. We are all walking wounded. For all of us, but particularly people who are Black and queer there is sometimes a difficulty in defining and finding self because of what is expected and projected on us by society. The historical development of the Black community in this country has left our concepts of gender and sexuality limited. The ways in which the white supremacist, capitalist society has exploited, policed, commoditized, and objectified our sexuality has left us sensitive and almost distrusting of it, in my opinion. While our concepts of what it means to be male and female, while influenced by the over all patriarchy, sexism and homophobia of the culture, have been twisted into stereotypes that are violently re-enforced. All the while the pressure of the oppression we face under capitalism and racism forces us to turn on one another in destructive ways. All of this, limiting healthy growth and self discovery. It exist everywhere, because the system of Capitalism and the social relations it manifest in people can do nothing but divide destructively, but it is magnified in the Black community.
It was in the early years of college that I lost myself, as most do during this time, trying to build anew. I was being confronted with so much at once. I sprang into my new life, hoping to find family, and instead learning that all parts of society are interconnected and no part is immune from the ills that affect us all. Being queer and Black, and coming to the realization of the double alienation is akin to being pushed from the proverbial nest. The gay community which I had romanticized and dreamed about joining once I escaped DC was not what I imagined. I found hatred and racism. I found myself lost again surrounded by men who saw me as flesh, frightened and enticed by me at the same time, wanting to kill and bed me at the same time. San Francisco is not the mecca of homosexuals it is proclaimed to be if you are not a white male. Prior to this I had grown up in an all Black neighborhood (for those unfamiliar with DC it is very possible to go on for most of your day without seeing someone of another ethnicity. You have to consciously go out of your way.) This pain was new, strange and new. I dealt as I always did, by retreating into myself. Don’t get me wrong, I was among friends, I was developing a friend circle of queer people of different ethnicities but I felt isolated still in the sense that I was the only “Black” one. My attempts to connect with Black people on campus had failed tremendously. After attending one session of our campuses BSU men’s meeting and being utterly turned off by the patriarchy. Black men talking about how real Black men helped to spread the seed and strengthen the race was not something that I needed to hear, I did not need to be apart of the rampant sexism reinforced but high fives. I felt othered amongst the Black population, which at this time was mostly made up of Nationalists and didn’t look too kindly on my rainbow coalition of friends. Determined not to scare off my friends I kept the internal angst to myself, choosing instead to be a listener of other’s problems.
I suppose that I developed the habit of repressing and self negation as a defense to my external conditions as a youth and my intense longing to be apart of something. I thought it better at times to continue these tendencies in order to be apart of something and also because of the loneliness I felt, because the isolation I felt, not just as a queer Black child but as one who grew up in an atmosphere dominated by drugs and abuse. I have always longed to escape and find my “true home”.
That was 5 years ago. Many habits have changed while some still remain. The reason I am writing this more personal blog entry is partially apart of an excercise of letting go of baggage and accepting that it for what it was. It is important for me to look at the past, understand it and do my best to use my experience to help others. As someone who plans on dedicating their life to changing this miserable condition we are all in, things like this are of chief importance. I can see the ways in which the false masculinity, and patriarchy forced upon Black men combined with the experience of growing up in the drug infested ghettos, that cripple the Black community, have effected me. I know that this is a similar and shared experience. It is a dangerous one and teamed with the larger system of white supremacy under capitalism it threatens to destroy scores of queer Blacks that are in search of a place called home.