Social gatherings often gave me stomach pains. Avoiding eye contact with people, and trying to remain in the background were my defense techniques to evade the “who are you dating” questions. My responses of course were often rehearsed.
Although I was the quintessential awkward teenager, I took pride in gaining a level of confidence throughout adulthood via many life altering experiences both good, and bad. It created my own swagger, a way of being, and the ability to walk into a room with the intention of being noticed. It was not however, without reservation and shrinking myself in order to conform to the social norms of any given environment.
I always knew that I was different. My mother introduced me to Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” as a young teen and it was life changing. She taught me the importance of sophistication and how it needn’t be self serving, but rather a welcoming trait to leave a positive and memorable imprint on those I came in contact with. These attributes often came in conflict with the boys don’t cry conditioning and an exactitude of masculinity programming from my father. These manly lessons were ingrained in my head since my early days of playing with GI Joe in the imaginative and encapsulating world of my family’s basement.
I’m in no way blaming my dad for how he brought me up. He was only teaching what was taught to him by his father. Fortunately, he added a few tweaks in order to become open minded enough to embrace his same gender loving son. A stance not taken my many fathers I knew within the African American community. I’m fortunate – I know that. I’m also aware that sharing my truth with my father, the manly mantras, and my own personal journey gave birth to a more confident man. In a nutshell, coming out gave me confidence that I rarely see in men choosing to remain closeted.
It’s not to say these men are insecure,miserable, and living a life of void of self-awareness, but there is something to be said about literally walking the proverbial walk and talking the talk of one’s truth. Especially when it’s not the popular thing to do. You can be confident living a lie, but you can never tap into all of what’s possible if the very thing you are, is the one thing you’re ashamed of, keep hidden, and feel you wouldn’t be the man you are if everyone knew how, and whom you loved.
As I’ve expressed numerous times across this platform, my journey is my own. I’ll never pass judgement on anyone else choosing to live their lives as they see fit. I do however, know without a doubt that I wouldn’t want to be anyone other than who I am. Although it would be easier to willingly choose to live a limited existence based what society, religion, and culture deem appropriate, harboring a secret that would destroy my life was a stressor I could do without.
I grew into a man that was liberated. The fears that once trapped me in a world to only exist for someone else’s comfort and expectation was gone. That release gave me the feeling of being unbreakable because I lived long enough to learn that being myself,despite what anyone thinks, is the ultimate confidence builder.
My continuing quest of self-love and personal discovery is not without its challenges. I still find myself is situations where it’s just easier, or safe to be what is expected. I am of course, more than just sexuality and in the rare moments where inquiring minds want to know personal details of my love life, I’m not always in the mood to educate or regulate depending on my audience. I’m just as confident in guarding my peace as I am with sharing my story when genuinely asked. Either way, I no longer get aches in my stomach when I’m out and about mingling with folks. I’m too busy being what I expect of myself, and shrinking any part of me to please others becomes unacceptable.