March 25, 2012

Stronger

I used to struggle a lot with my identity. Not just as a gay man but also as a black man, as a man, and as Greek. It seemed that so many of my identities overlapped but didn't coincide with each other. One identity was always in conflict with one or more other identities.

I felt as though I was always in this tug-of-war with myself to find which identity I really belong with. I had always felt that I should choose a side. That it wasn't fair for me to move between identities and groups, choosing which one was more convenient for me given the time and situation. I wanted to resolve myself to one main identity and let the others fall where they may.

Needless to say, that didn't work too well for me. I just couldn't deny part of who I am at the drop of a hat. I can't toggle back and forth between my identity like I do with TV channels. So, I was always frustrated. Never feeling totally out of place anywhere but also never feeling totally *in* place either.

But then, I realized something that so many people have been trying to get me to understand for the longest time. I DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE. I can be me as me. I don't have to be me as a black man or as a gay man or as a Greek man. Who I am is a convergence of all those identities. Even if some of them don't usually mix with each other, it doesn't mean that I should feel uncomfortable in those situations. I look at myself as some weird mix of all of those that somehow works. I'm your living, breathing Chimera. Different parts put together that create a whole. One part is no more important than the other. All must work together in order to create balance.

That is what I must do. I have to accept that I am different because of my identities and that it's ok. There will rarely ever be a time where my identity completely matches up with everyone else in the room. And that's what makes me stronger than before. I can use my different identities and experiences to paint a picture of the life that others may not understand. My different identities are not a source of weakness, are not a mosaic of my life, are not the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. My identities come together to form this great work of art that is not separated into background, middle ground, and foreground. I am one big picture.

I don't have to fit into one category. I should consider myself lucky for being able to "pass" as different identities. I can go back and forth between different worlds, learning from all of them, teaching all of them about my experiences. Instead of viewing my identities as a barrier from one world, I can draw strength from all of them.

2 comments:

  1. do you feel that being "black" comes along with cultural assumptions of masculinity? I've read about how being 'gay', at least in terms of being out, can be perceived as a betrayal of the black community, church and family. Do you feel that it is easier for white men to pass as 'gay' because there is not as much stigma associated with being a gay, white male? Being out and black is surely a feat, and it takes 'balls' to be proud of your identity.

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  2. Hey 10:08, that's actually a great question. Simply put, yes. There was this sort of feeling of betrayal when I came out to my mom. To her, it seemed like I was turning my back on everything I had been taught growing up. I think that is due to a strong focus on church and family in the black community. There seems to be a certain path that I was supposed to follow and my sexuality is a huge deviation from that.

    However, I don't think that it's any easier for a white man to be gay than a black man. I believe there are different struggles and obstacles that everyone, no matter what race, has to overcome when coming and being out. I know some black males that are out and didn't have such a feeling of betrayal. I also know some white males that are out to friends but not family because of fear of the backlash they might get. Each person's story is different so I don't believe that any one race has it easier.

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