Drones from every major news affiliate descended upon me capturing footage to relay back to family, friends, and my employer. As I nervously kept looked over my shoulder while walking up Christopher Street, I could see suspicious men dressed in all black immediately looking away when our eyes locked. I was being followed, I was sure of it!
My eyes frantically scanned the block for an escape. I needed a building to slip into that could provide a safe hiding place. At least until I lost the men after me who were determined to ruin all that I loved and all that I knew myself to be. I skirted across Seventh Avenue and found a perfect hiding place, Caliente Cab. A popular Mexican eatery in the village that upon entry, I noticed had a table by the window. I would sit there and be able to not only see everyone who walked by, but those who entered the restaurant. I was now in a position that if I needed to, I could duck down under the table, or dart in various directions out of view to the restroom, or to the upper level of the restaurant.
I knew what I was doing and knew how to keep myself safe. Tony Soprano taught me well and I was determined to remain the boss of my own life. If it were to end via exposure, it would be by my own doing and no one else. Sadly this was not my over active imagination reenacting a scene from the groundbreaking HBO series The Sopranos, it was me and how I felt in 2009 paralyzed with fear as I experienced New York City’s Gay Pride Parade for the very first time.
You can either support being black or gay, but you cannot do both.
Silly huh? It may appear to be that way now, but in hindsight, that fear was real. Let’s Fast forward to 2017 and this time around witnessing the parade and festivities. I now walk with much ease, confidence, and dare I say it, PRIDE? Who knew that in 2016, I would actually walk in the parade. If someone had told me that I would make such a bold move, I would have put out a hit on him or her, just kidding. It is however, surreal as I witness my own evolution and experience a connectedness with an old friend, a few ghosts, and a true sense of spiritual, and awakened self-awareness this past pride celebration. Yes that last part I wasn’t quite expecting.
In a world of men who look like me who are unarmed, and caught at the end of a gun of an overly aggressive member of law enforcement, I was surprised at the amount of people of color who at this year’s march, chanted anthems such as #BlackLivesMatter. This included those who marched in addition to those on the sidelines. I was conscious of the political messages of RESIST that were also in abundance. All of these elements were somehow tied into an event that supported the love, existence, and struggle of those within the LGBT community. I also felt that on that sunny day, all of those elements were tied to me specifically.
Those of us who identify as gay who happen to be a person of color are often being told (especially on social media) to pick a struggle. You can either support being black or gay, but you cannot do both. More importantly you can’t ever compare the two struggles. I’ve grappled with this logic for years and in my own journey to self-discovery, learned three things.
I stopped looking for someone to save me when I realized I was that person.
One, I am a black man who has never not for a second wished I was anything but. In coming to terms with my sexual identity, the releasing of my “chains” were not just tied to the oppression of my authentic self, but to may other facets of society that has oppressed me as well such as religion, and politics. As an avid connoisseur of news, the plight of my fellow black brothers regardless of orientation vexed me to the core. It has prompted the occasional Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram post, but I was determined to do my part and extend my activity beyond simply posting to various social media outlets. In order to live my best life and or version of myself, I had to reject and unlearn a multitude of lies that I was conditioned to believe and support since childhood.
Two, I can only walk down the streets visibly as a black man. I made the choice however to no longer live in silence or shame as it pertains to whom I love. I’m damn proud of that. It is that choice that allowed me to march in a pride parade finally let my family know who I am, and improve many of my relationships due to being myself. Will I fight for the plight of my people? YES I will and I have. Will I fight for whom I love? YES, I will and I have created a platform out of that same fire within, compassion, and love.
Three, I educated myself of the political process and learned to decipher much rhetoric on both sides of the aisle with a critical mind. Despite my political stance I know one thing to be certain; there is not an Individual on the planet that will ever make my life better or worse. I stopped looking for someone to save me when I realized I was that person.
These three components of what make up the man I become, all came front and center at this year’s pride celebration. There were countless groups and organizations that marched for something I’m vehemently passionate about. I’ve realized I cannot just support just one thing or cause because I’m not just one thing myself. All I can do is do my best to carve out a piece of happiness on this planet. I’ve let go of all the societal, made up bullshit, that has placed monumental limitations on my life. I refuse to be criticized or judged by anyone who will pledge their allegiance to a cause, while still (unknowingly) be bound by the chains of oppression by the very people they claim to be fighting against.
I have discovered the meaning of my PRIDE on my own terms. I know the path I’ve walked and I’ve done so proudly, sometimes fearfully as a black and same gender loving man. I can be equally proud of both. I can fight while off social media with action and accountability. I’m no longer that man who is n the shadows afraid of being exposed for being gay. I am also no longer the man who will sit by quietly and not fight with same amount of fervor that some exude during a recap of the BET awards on Facebook. There is pride that is present in anything that I do and I’m more than willing to back that up. I implore everyone to get to the point where they too, feel empowered do the same.