Once, I came home from college and I was greeted by homophobia. My father and my aunt sat me down in the living room. He had a lunch box containing condoms and lube.
He asked me, “Are you having sex?”
I told him that I was still a virgin. I was nervous. Where was this conversation going?
My aunt kept her head down for most of this family meeting. My father continued, “You’re not having sex!?! You better not be gay.”
I thought about telling him how much I had enjoyed Pride in New York. Or how I had friends who talked to me about other sexual identities. Or how Brokeback Mountain was a mindfuck at first, and then it was simply a love story with a lot of complex shit.
I had watched it my first year of college, but before I watched it, I talked to some dude about it. Well, he started talking to me about it after overhearing my convo with a friend.
Said dude was sitting in our residence hall’s computer lab. He identified himself as Muslim. He told me, “Be careful with what you expose yourself to my brotha. Brokeback Mountain? That’s whatchu bout to watch? You don’t want that messin with your mind.” He was so confident.
And so was my father that day in the living room, when he confidently expressed his disdain for gay people, gay culture, gay everything.
Here’s the thing: I’m not gay. (Note for the super woke reader: I’m not afraid anyone thinking I am. I used to be, because, stigma, but not anymore. I don’t want people labeling me incorrectly. No one wants that.)
At the time, I didn’t have a word for how I identified. I just knew I wasn’t straight. I didn’t know that I could have sexual feelings for someone, but not have romantic feelings for them, and how those were two very different things. I didn’t know that I could enjoy painting my toe nails, and enjoy dressing up like a woman (think: Madea), but not want to actually be a woman or consider myself a woman or want to wear dresses or skirts or bras.
I didn’t know that a lot of this is gray and that people – including myself – have a difficult time with accepting the gray.
Okay, lemme stop right there and do this justice. A lot of this isn’t gray, it’s colorful af. That’s it’s called The Spectrum. Because, when light hits that diamond the right way, it’s a ROYGBIV party all up in here.
And, that’s what I’m doing today: I’m celebrating. Finally.
A few days ago, I told my wife and social media that I was queer.
I was intentional about NOT explaining myself. I purposely did’t add any of the following to my post:
- …BUT, this doesn’t mean I wanna be with men
- …BUT, this doesn’t mean I’m leaving my wife
- …BUT, this doesn’t mean I’m gay
- …BUT, this doesn’t mean I’m trans
- …BUT, this doesn’t mean (insert any other thing peole would ask me out of ignorance)
I didn’t explain myself because I don’t have to.
One reason that most people have no idea about what Queer means (nor what any of the letters of LBGTQPIA+ mean) is because they don’t realize how homophobic they are.
They don’t realize how they’ve been erasing people. How they been a huge part of the problem. How our culture of silence is problematic af. How so many people don’t identify as cis, heterosexual, binary conforming, etc. And don’t get me twisted, fam, that ectera doesn’t mean blah blah blah.
It means that there are a shit ton of ways to identify because there are a myriad of ways to be human, to express ones self, to love, to be sexual, to not be so sexual, to not be sexual at all, to receive love, to dress, to walk, to talk, to move, to be.
And that’s where I invite you to begin any time you hear someone talk about their identity.
That’s where I’d like you to start any time you see two people holding hands who appear to have the same gender identity. Or see them kissing. Or see them in the park with their children. Or see them sitting across from you in your living room, after their first semester of college, and they tell you about what they’ve experienced and what they’re discovering about themselves – good, bad, ugly, scary, all of it.
Because, if you don’t start there – if you continue to start in the ignorant, well-meaning, unintentionally hurtful places where implicit bias and microaggressions and pain live – you’ll miss them.
You’ll hurt them. You’ll harm them. You’ll create more distance between yourself and them.
If you start and end with silence, they won’t know what you’re thinking. If you say shit like, “Oh, but this is just a phase right?” They may start to cut you off.
If you say shit like, “Well, we can never let the family know.” They may not show up for future holidays (they might even have already started building their chosen family).
Or maybe, none of this will happen. Maybe you’ll react however you’d naturally react to someone you love coming out to you, and they’ll be patient and understanding with you.
I don’t know, boo. I’m only one person.
And while I’m valid, and my experiences matter, I don’t – nor will ever – speak for everyone else’s experiences. I’m one queer, black, cis, sexy, educated, fabulous, talented, loud, anxious and amazing man.
But, I’m also everyone else.
What I do have in common with you and everyone else is that I want to be seen and heard. I want to belong. I have values. I have fears. I have desires. I have confusion. And, most of all – at least for me right now – I want to AND get to belong to myself.
And so, I don’t have to explain a damn thing to anyone. Alas, I say all of this because I know someone else out there needs to hear all of this. Someone loves someone like me. Someone is someone like me. Someone is wanting to understand where someone like me is coming from. Another human. Another person. Another being who contains multitudes.
Maybe you needed all these words and my story.
I say all this because coming out freed me.
Burdens slipped off my shoulders like melted butter, and I about flew from how weightless I felt for the first time in my life. My anxiety kicked up for a moment. I feared what my family members would say. I feared getting hit with the, “We need to talk” text from one family member. Or the, “The Bible says…” voicemail from another family member.
And all of that is happening now.
And I’m taking my time with responding to these well-meaning but frustrating messages. Part of me wants to sign them all up for Safe Zone training, but ain’t happening. Can you imagine my 80-year-old Black Christian southern grandparents in a Safe Zone training? You can’t. You don’t know them.
I mean, I know my family and what’s best for me, and that’s not where I wanna start. Still, because they matter to me, I will give them space to share their fears and ignorance about my identities and the community, and then I’ll educate them with grace and honesty. I’ll be firm. I won’t apologize. I won’t back down. I won’t acquiesce. But, still grace will be part of these conversations.
And with my wife, just the same.
And some of it will be complicated, and messy, and necessary. And worth it.
And with everyone else: I don’t need to be (and you don’t need to be) everything to everyone.
It’s not the job of the oppressed, marginalized, erased, misunderstood, to sit here and provide free education to the world about how we identify. And, there are plenty of online and print sources that are available. There are plenty of paid speakers like Saby Labor and Jamie Piperato who do amazing work around equity, social justice, and identity.
There are plenty of resources. Hit that Google.
But, also, when we need to and get to start with these following things when we’re working to bring others in – especially folks who been pushed out, dismissed, murdered, and made to feel unsafe for so long:
- We get to listen. And that means putting down your phone. Putting assumptions and fear to the side, and seeking to understand what the person is saying to you.
- We get to say, “I see you and I hear you,” and actually mean it. And, you don’t have to lie and be all like, “OMG, I’m so happy you told me this and I’m 100% wanna celebrate you!!!” if you really don’t mean that shit. Be real. Tell them you see them and you hear them, and if you don’t understand something, ask them for clarification. Be patient and gentle and hold space for uncertainty – because they might not have all the answers about who they are. I mean, do you fully know yourself?
- We get to educate ourselves. How much do you know about the African diaspora? Have you ever heard of the Pink Tax? How about the definition of intersectional feminism? Can you define it for yourself? Maybe you know about all of this and you consider yourself woke and informed af. Maybe you don’t. Either way, we ALL get to keep learning and unlearning. We get to keep studying.
- We get to keep asking ourselves, “Who is missing from this table and have they actually been invited?” We talk about inclusivity like it’s something to be won or achieved, and maybe one day we’ll get there. But for me, inclusion is something to be worked at every damn day. There are plenty of people missing from my own table, and I get to take a hard look and figure out if I’m making space for the folks who are missing. For the immigrants who are missing. For the atheists who are missing. For the Black men who are missing. For anyone who is missing. Missing from our friend groups, missing from our classrooms, missing from our congregations, missing from our communities. Who is missing and how am I pushing them away?
- We get to be a more self-aware and honest with ourselves. And, also, just like, ask yourself how you feel after reading this post. What came up for you? What questions do you have? What gaps are there? What made you feel upset or frustrated? What did I get wrong? (I’m not perfect nor do I pretend to be and I’m sure someone will comment with a critique without really seeking to understand nor hold space for me telling my story of speaking my truth). The bottom line is: work to get clear on the truths, wounds, biases, ignorance, and hurts you carry.
As far as me coming out, it’s gonna be a continual process, and I thank the social media gods for being there for me, because many people know now – even if they have no idea of what I mean when I tell them I’m Queer.
I know what I mean. I belong to myself. I’m glowing out here. And, I’m so ready for this next chapter of my life. (read: it’s Libra season and I’m on a serious glow up, holla at ya boy).
Whuddup! I’m Sinclair. I’m a thicc, anxious and amazing life coach who has the gift of seeing people at their best and worst, and – with grace – guiding them between the space from where they are now to who they want to be. If you’re actually ready to glow up, get these coins, get this abundance, and get your life, drop in on my calendar + let’s set up a free discovery call.