Ever since I was a child, I’ve been obsessed with the Vampire movie genre. Interview with the Vampire is one of my all time favorite films. An ex boyfriend once asked me, why do you love such wild stories about the undead so much? Although I could not provide an answer at the time, new revelations about the man I was becoming would soon reveal that reason.
My favorite scene in the film is the moment newly transformed vampire Louie, finally awakens to his new world as a creature of the night. Things are a bit jarring for him to behold as Lestat, his maker, whispers to him, “Now Look, with your vampire eyes”. That was it! I finally knew why I loved and could relate so well to vampires. Living my life as authentically as possible required me to give up old beliefs of what I knew of myself, or what others knew of me. It was clear that I didn’t have to create a new version of myself, but to step into the shoes of who I’ve always been. I was now looking at the world with a new pair of eyes. Much like the magical and challenging world that greeted Louis, I too was met with a vision and reality that I was not prepared for. I also wasn’t entirely sure I even wanted it.
On the surface, nothing really changed in my life since coming out to my father. I had the same career, same friends, loved the New York Giants, and still had the unconditional love and support of my entire family. After all, I faced my biggest challenge yet and my troubles were now all behind me right? Not so fast, now that the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders, I found myself wondering how was it that my fears and insecurity were making a comeback with a vengeance. I often found myself wondering if I made a horrible mistake by coming out. There was a part of me that felt the harsh reality of mourning my former life that I grew so comfortable living.
So what exactly was I mourning? I just hit the proverbial jackpot and won the prize of acceptance from the people that mattered most. I needed to get over myself, as this was a luxury not afforded to so many men who’ve come out to their African American families. A dear friend of mine also told me some startling news. She said that I would be coming out to people for the rest of my life. Say what now? What the hell for? My daddy knows and besides, didn’t that cancel everyone else out from having his or her nose in my personal business? As I navigated through my new world, I realized this was clearly not the case. Part of my feelings of loss was the thought of having to come out to yet another family. This however, was that additional sometimes stronger unit that many men such as myself have; friends! Sadly, I’m not referring to revealing my true self to my straight friends. I was scared to death to tell my other closeted brothers in the struggle that I was no longer a part of the silent fraternity. I had to come out as “open” to my already gay friends. I was actually sad to leave the brotherhood of secrecy. To me, well that just was not something I was willing to let go of so easily.
“My social media presence however, no longer needed to be restricted by maintaining a carefully orchestrated and often fraudulent account of my life.”
It was now time to pick up the phone again and call a longtime friend (and brother in the struggle) to tell him of my news. After briefly reliving what seemed like the near death experience with my dad, I was met by an audible gasp that followed with him saying OH MY GOD! What made you do that he asked. Surprised by his response, I simply replied, it was time; I just couldn’t hide any longer. The conversation continued for a few minutes and he was actually genuinely happy for me. He just could not conceive of himself having the same kumbaya moment with his own family. I understood and respected his rationale but I was bothered that he appeared to be fine with not fully living the life of his dreams. As I ended our conversation, I was somewhat disappointed with the outcome. I guess I expected him to join in the coming out parade and party I was throwing in my head. I was hit hard with my first valuable lesson of my new identity. My journey to self-discovery and living authentically would be a road less traveled.
There was no blueprint for my post coming out story. My social media presence however, no longer needed to be restricted by maintaining a carefully orchestrated and often fraudulent account of my life. I thought that was great but then remembered I have aunts, uncles, and some serious church going folks as friends or followers on all of my accounts. Did everyone need to know? Did I need to have a Neil Patrick Harris cover of People magazine moment and do some long reveal via Facebook? Hell no! Social media is not real I told myself. There was no need to share every aspect of my life right? That was my story and I stuck to it. I proceeded to be my usual self until one day, Michael Sam happened. Remember him? The first openly gay man drafted into the NFL completely shook me to my core in a good way. I was enamored with his journey and more importantly; proud that he was a man of color. The universe could not be more on time than combining my love of football with someone who was also entering into unchartered territory. Although I’m not a fan of bandwagons, this one was different. I was more than willing to hitch a ride and see where this road of support for him would lead.
The moment after Sam received the phone call that would change his life (and mine), I took what seemed like an eternity to write a brief post for facebook congratulating him. I still remember my index finger shaking as the cursor hovered over the “post” button. My heart was racing and I felt what seemed like a million needles sticking me all over my body in an odd tingling sensation. I thought to myself, all this stress this for a post man? Yeah the fear was real but somehow I did it. It was now posted and there it was, almost glowing right before my eyes for the whole world to see. I then shut down my laptop and sat back on the sofa which at the moment, was the equivalent of being a child hiding under the covers during a terrifying thunder storm. A few hours went by and I mustered up enough courage to see the damage I’ve done. Then in the words of Hurby Luv Bug’s line in Salt n Peppa’s “Do you really want me”, Pow! Bam! Boom – Nothing. I didn’t receive one single like. To be clear, I don’t need to receive any validation for my thoughts and opinions but to me, in my personal journey, this moment in history was major! It appeared that wasn’t necessarily the sentiment of so many others.
“I went on a rant asking how is it that we can support pop divas, reality shows, organizations, but couldn’t support our own.”
Just as I was feeling down about my failed attempt of being Mr. Big, Bad and Bold Living My Truth man, I received an alert on my phone. To my surprise, it was the same friend who although supported my new path, questioned why I was on it in the first place. He said that Sam being drafted is such great news. He went on to say that he couldn’t believe that he kissed his boyfriend on national television though. After a few more exchanges, he let me know that he loved that I was fearless in posting about Sam’s ground breaking experience. Unfortunately he also advised that he was not able to like the post for fear of family members (some of which are friends with me) seeing the post and outing himself in the process. I was completely blown away by his honesty. Not because I didn’t understand. Of course I did, I know that struggle all too well. I just wanted this moment to be our moment. I wanted a time when men like me could forge a path of visibility via another man of color being out in the world of professional sports.
A couple of days passed and I wasn’t seeing much commentary or support of Sam from others. I then decided to vent my frustrations on Instagram. In short, I went on a rant asking how is it that we can support pop divas, reality shows, organizations, but couldn’t support our own. That didn’t go over well and once again, I received minimal likes and one comment of support from someone who has been living openly for quite some time. I was also unfollowed and blocked by several men who I knew for a fact were gay. I assumed that this was way too much rainbow flag waving nonsense for their taste. It didn’t matter if we had multiple exchanges in the past via the app in support of each other’s endeavors, vacations, and annoying gym posts etc. It was clear I might have crossed the line of comfort for some.
It was then that I questioned if I was truly about this out life. There were too many examples that proved to me that this was way too difficult. I so wanted to retreat back to my old ways of being and just make things easier for myself. I don’t blame the men who opted out of my social media platforms. I would have done the same thing four years ago. There was just one problem with that. I already knew where that road of denial and invisibility would lead. Despite my disappointment in those I thought would support me, I had to keep moving and see what else life had in store for me. I desperately wanted what so many of my straight family members and friends often took for granted, to live boldly and out front for the world to see. As I began to tell myself positive affirmations to get through this new challenge, I thought back to the last conversation with my friend. This time I only focused on him calling me something I never considered myself to be, fearless. I wanted to do my best to be who he believed I was. This was my life and my journey alone. Although I’m not an advocate for anyone coming out until they are absolutely ready, I realized I could be more compassionate to the journey of others. After all, I’ve only been out of the closet for five minutes. I needed to relax and first get comfortable in my own skin before I grouped together the band of out brothers.
I was now at a crossroads of uncertainty. As with vampire Louie, it would take some time adjusting to this new life of mine. Some of which has changed, and some that remains the same. I must begin to look at my world through a new pair of eyes. It is often with fear and trepidation that I continue to move forward with this new reality, one that on some days, I’m not even sure I want. If there is one thought that keeps me motivated to stay on this path, it’s that someone, somewhere may hear of my story and think I’m fearless! Maybe one day, I too will also begin to believe that every day of my life as well. I may not inspire others to follow my exact path and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I can’t be there for love and support. I’m committed to doing my best to guide them through some familiar challenges for a new life they were not prepared for.