Thursday, July 5, 2018

Like Sand Through My Fingers

Here I sit a 58-year-old black gay man wondering about my personal life and what is in store for me in the years ahead.   Life has afforded me quite a few nice things and all have been blessings.   I never pictured myself at this age single with no real prospects of a serious relationship.  I have often been asked if I would get married and my answer is always in the affirmative.   It is not as if I am new to the experience of living with and loving someone.   I fell in love at 18 years old and we were together for the next 19 years.  It was wonderful, but we grew apart and neither one of us had the tools to fix what was broken, unfortunately. 

This morning I awoke to a video on Facebook to see that an associate was proposed to yesterday evening.  While in my heart and soul I am truly happy for him there is a part of me that says why can’t that be me also.  I have loved men after ending my 19-year relationship but unfortunately, they did not last for various reasons.  So, seeing this I decided to find a therapist because I wanted to fix the part of me that was contributing to the demise of these previous relationships.  It is not my goal to be married it is my goal to have a loving relationship and if that develops into marriage which we both want that would be nice.    Because I have had a long-term relationship I know that being in relations with someone is a 24/7 all in “job”.    

So where do I start?  I truly want my partner to be of African heritage and that seems to be a struggle within itself.  Some of my fellow same gender loving black men have a very different view of being in a relationship or relationships in general.   The partnership and growing together seems to be rather foreign to them.  This has been my experience and I can only speak to that.  I am sure that gay men in other cultures have dealt with some of the same things.  I know there are some amazing guys out there and I am not looking to hog tie one and force him into a relationship but the prospect of meeting someone that has the desire to DATE would be great. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking at marriage as the end to all that is wrong with my person al life.  I think that for some time I had bought into the social media marriage pictorials.  As I see the beautiful pictures what is not shared are the issues that each relationship encounters.  It is easy to fall in love with the image/story that is being displayed which in most cases is a fallacy.  I have seen several relationships simply dissolve even those just a few weeks or months prior where photos of the happy couple/family were shared.  I had to revert to the old saying of “everything is never as it seems”.

I am not giving up on the idea of a loving relationship in my future and will always be open to the possibility.  However, I have made peace that this may not be a part of my future.  Making peace with my current relationship status does not mean that I do not feel left out when I see my friends and associates finding love.  However, there are times in the stillness of my thoughts I wonder, has he slipped through my fingers like a million grains of sand?.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

African American Museum Experience

On Saturday, April 28th, I had the honor and privilege to travel to Washington DC and visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The museum is absolutely amazing.  It left me with a sense of pride and admiration for my ancestors that endured the evils of slavery, Jim Crow, and all the other things that were built to break up.  However, here I sit as a testament of the strength and resolve of those courageous men and women.  There were several times during the being of the tour where I felt like crying because the treatment that was trust upon them was inhumane at best. 

I must applaud the person(s) that designed the museum the layout was superb.  When you enter there is a massive entry way on the main floor.  You can start your tour upstairs which houses more of the cultural item or downstairs which tells the 400 years of slavery.   I chose to start downstairs at the beginning (slavery history).  There are four below ground levels.  As I made my way through the exhibits I noticed that there was a docent speaking to a small group of visitors, therefore, I stopped and listened.  There was this wall that listed that names of the slave ships that captured the 12,500,000 Africans to transported as free labor…slaves.   Next to the names of the ships there was a set of numbers with a numerator and denominator.  The numerator indicated number of Africans that were placed on the ship and the denominator indicated those that made it once the ship reached its destination.  The docent pointed to one ship which had 237/70.  This means that 167 Africans died after being captured and placed on this ship.   Once you look at the wall and understand the gravity of the situation it is a bit overwhelming to even think about and this was just the being of what would be a horrid existence for these Africans.  Of the 12.5 Million Africans only 400,000 were brought to North America, however, 4,000,000 were brought to Brazil.  The museum moves along chronologically, and you can see the progression of slavery and how we endured through the years. 

Several people who visited before me noted that they did not see any LGBT references.  To be honest I am torn as to whether it is necessary.  I can make an argument for either, but I was not upset that there were not visible references to the LGBT community. 

The above ground portion of the museum was nice but not as fascinating.  This may be due to my interest in that part of our history.  A lot of the cultural items I had lived through.  

Many black people are afraid or apprehensive to learn and embrace the full history of our people.  However, it is my belief that you do yourself and your lineage a disservice by not embracing the discomfort you feel regarding our history.  Your discomfort pales in comparison to what our ancestors had to endure so suck it up and learn all your history.   Every person and especially every black person should visit this museum, if possible. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Call Me by Your Name

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing the critically acclaimed independent film entitled Call Me by Your Name.  This movie is billed as a coming of age story about a young boy.  As a Black gay man I am always interested in seeing movies with a gay theme.  Also a couple of friends told me how the film touched them deeply so this heightened my interest.  By it being an independent film the release was not as wide as a normal high budget Hollywood backed film, however, this week it made it to a theatre that was relatively close to my home.  A friend reached out to me and asked if I wanted to accompany him to view the film.    

I honestly had not expectations or preconceived notions prior to purchasing my ticket.  I love independent films because they are typically so well done on smaller budgets.  They truly live up to the phrase “do less with more”. 

Elio is a 17 year old boy living with his parents in Italy.  Oliver comes to Italy for 6 weeks to work as Elio father’s research assistant.  Elio becomes enamored with Oliver.  Oliver being American has a different attitude about everyday life and seems to come off as arrogant.  Elio believes that Oliver doesn’t like him only to realize through conversation that he does think kindly of him.  After they divulge their interest in each other there are some interesting and tender moments.  My only issue with the film is the age difference of these two main characters.  Maybe this is exposing my prude nature but to have a 17 year old boy romantically involved with a man clearly much older seems to me to be inappropriate.  It did not help either that Elio is such a frail physical frame.  For me the age of consent is 18 and not 17.    When I see this and I have seen it in other gay films I immediately ask myself “Would the film going community think this was okay if Elio was Eliza?” Also, do we just accept this because gay men are already viewed as highly sexual individuals and therefore it is okay?    I cannot remember seeing a film in recent years of a young girl of 17 involved with a clearly older adult man.  Now let me say I honestly don’t look at heterosexual situations with much interest so I may have overlooked it.  If I am wrong I stand corrected.  However, if I am correct what does that say about us in this age of “acceptance”.  Clearly there is a prejudice.

Overall, the cinematography was amazing.  I enjoyed the film and it was very touching.  Towards the end after Oliver returns to the states Elio is clearly heartbroken.  He walks into his father’s study and they begin to talk about life and he lets his son know that he was aware of his love for Oliver as well as the pain he is experiencing.  I think that every gay child on this earth wished they could have had that kind of conversation with their parent at the time.  While Elio has had this very adult experience he is still a boy and the pain is incredible.  The fact that they had this conversation be with his father was writing genius for we do not give fathers enough credit for nurturing.  The father tells Elio, not worded exactly but…The pain you feel, deal with it and allow it to heal.  Don’t pluck it out and throw it away.  We often do that with hurt that by the time we are thirty years old we have nothing left to give someone.  Those lines resonated with me because I can say that I have met men who are so hard and unwilling to be vulnerable because they fear being hurt.  This is what we are taught as men.  Just suck it up and don’t allow anyone to hurt you again.  However, in the process you shut everyone out and finding love with a closed heart if impossible.   And I have to also admit to some degree I have been that guy with the guarded heart.  Thankfully I he is not a part of me today. 

Some of us may be compelled to compare it to Moonlight, which won best picture in 2017 at the Oscars, based on subject matter.  However, these are two totally different films and wonderful in their own right.  Even though I had the issue with the age disparity I do recommend this film.  I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Death Of A Friendship, Not A Friend

What do you do when a friend stops calling?  Losing a valued friendship can be hard and I don’t mean loss in the terms of death.  I mean loss in the terms communication.  Seasons change and you just naturally expect your valued friends to be there to some degree until one of us is called home to be with the Lord.    Well, I have learned that this is not always the case.

K.D. and I were pretty good friends and I really cared about his well-being.  He and I met through Yahoo 360 which was a blogging site that is no longer active.  We hit is off and although he lived in Ohio we hit is off and built a friendship.  As time went on he came to Chicago to visit one holiday weekend and I knew I had added a friend to my short roster of friends.  You see I do not believe in having a gaggle of friends for that has never served me well.  Associates, yes but not friends.  He and I would talk about everything, yet nothing at times.  At times our conversations consisted of me providing support and/or advice about his current love interest.  After several years of friendship our communication started to wane but that was okay.  Every friendship has its hills and valleys so I was okay with it. 

About a year later the relationship picks back up.  He has moved back to Ohio after a short stint in Georgia.  After getting back home we would talk quite often and picked right back up where we were a year ago.    As we continued to have fun loving conversation I noticed that I was really there to listen to his love life issues, however, he would never ask about my life.  This one particular evening that I remember vividly I was leaving the barbershop and I gave him a call in route to my destination.  The conversation went as it usually did then he stated “So how are you”.   I had enough of this one sided thing and responded “I would tell you if I thought you cared”.   I meant every word and syllable in that sentence.  After that conversation our relationship was gone for about 3 years. 

I cannot remember who made the first move to rekindle the friendship but I was happy to have my friend back.  We talked through what had happened previously.   We exchanged apologies and we moved on.  That brings us 2016.  The friendship was going okay.  It was never as strong as it had been but I was okay with that.  In latter 2017, we did not talk as much but that was cool then I decided I would reach out to him after a noticeable absence.  After confronting him on social media about the lack of returned phone calls I was told “Oh you know I have had a lot going on but I will call you”.  That phone call was not received and I just chalked it up to being busy so several months later I approached him again only to get the same response.  I finally had to bury what I thought was a good friendship with a very good person.  Now I have no doubt that K.D. is a good person, however, I had to realize that he no longer valued our friendship as I had.  Hey maybe he never valued it as I had and that I had to deal with. 

I truly cared for him as my friend and honestly was invested in his well-being.  However, I had to let go and quit hoping that things would turn around.  Some people just do not have the capacity and or desire to continue on.  

Seasons change and end and so do friendships.  I have had to mourn the death of my friendship with K.D. as well as let go.  As I walk into 2018 I have one less friend but I am more self-aware.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Oprah for President, Wait Not So Fast

Last night Oprah made a moving and powerful acceptance speech as she was receiving her Cecile B, DeMille award at the 75th annual Golden Globes Awards.  Oprah has never failed us for she is a great orator and quite intelligent.  She did not become a billionaire by being mediocre.  Oprah has always been a force for just her mention or endorsement can move any of people mostly women to support simply on her word.  Several years ago there was a phrase, the Oprah effect that was coined to address this phenomenon.  With just one mention from Oprah could take a company from mere obscurity to global recognition.    Oprah can impact and make more changes to improve the world as a private citizen than as a president.
After her soul stirring speech last night, many people have been hinting that she should run for president of the United States in 2020.  While she is stating that is not her desire John/Jane Q. Public is not having it.  They want her to run.  This unyielding desire to have her on the 2020 ballot has a lot to do with this countries disheartening feeling about the man that currently sits in the White House today.  We have been inundated with daily craziness and the people of this country want to change that by soliciting someone very familiar, loved, intelligent and caring…Oprah.  While I simply love her and hang on to most words that come from her lips I do not feel that president of the United States should be in her future.  This country needs to have someone that know politics and the political structure and process.  A political background is needed to understand the process to be completely successful.  While many of you will say that she can surround herself with intelligent people.  However, lack of experience for herself would be deterrent to effectiveness. 
One thing that has not been mentioned is the issue of support from the Black community.  Now let’s be honest, some in the Black community will not support her because they do not like that fact that her base support is from Caucasian women.   I can hear it now….”I wouldn’t vote for Oprah because she thinks she is white”.  As a race of people we want to call you ours and that is not possible if you’re always with elbowing with white folks.  We always want to hold people to a litmus test to determine just how black you really are.   Yes this is some of the most asinine shit I have ever heard but some of us do it.    Let’s not forget how much we celebrated Barack Obama on November 4, 2008, however, that celebration did not last long for we wanted him to want into the oval office and fix the ills of the black communities across this nation.  Once we determined that we had to share him with the rest of the country we were a little pissed and he was not doing things to “fix us”.  Mind you these were issues that had been in these communities for many years.  His biggest critics were from those within the Black community.  While Oprah is loved today the winds of celebration will turn quickly.    
It is time for this country to get back to basics.  Get a candidate that has been shaped and molded by the experience of being a politician.  I do not mean any disrespect to Oprah but choosing her to be our 2020 candidate would be taking the easy way out.  Raise up a candidate that we all can believe in and get behind and our voices and actions can be strong enough to pull him/her over the finish line.  I have faith in us but we have to stop trying to do it the easy way.  As my father once told me “nothing worth having is easy”.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Reflections - 2017

2017 was a very good year for me.  Personal growth was something I asked for and I received that.  Now it has not been a painless process but here I stand today a bit wiser, stronger and more aware. 

Where do I begin?  There are a couple of things that immediately come to mind when I think of 2017.  On February 10th I received a call around 7:00 am informing me that my ex-partner and best friend had just been rushed to the hospital.  In that moment I wanted to stay calm and reassure his sister that everything was going to be okay.  Robert was going to make it through this.  As I hung up the phone I began to pray.  Later that evening I went to the hospital to visit Robert and what I saw made my heart drop.   He was hooked up to multiple machines and currently unconscious.  Now this was not my first time dealing with death of a close loved one, however, never to this degree.  I took a deep breath and entered the room.  Many things happen in the moment and they do not become clear until after you have emotionally settled down.  Here was this man I had known and loved since I was 18 years old.   Our lives were entwined for 38 years. The first 19 of which was as his partner and the last 19 as best friends.  I kept the faith but it did not look good.  My prayer was specific.  I asked God to take him if he could not restore him to at least 90% of the capacity that he was prior to the 10th,   On February 14th I received a text message from Keith (Robert’s ex-partner after our relationship) stating that when I got to the hospital that evening I should play some gospel music for him.  That evening after getting home I had decided that I was not going to drive to the hospital after working all day.  Robert was stable and nothing had really changed.  Well, as I was standing in my kitchen the voice of God said to me “you need to go to the hospital now”.  I have heard this voice a few times I my life and each time it was necessary to listen and do as instructed.  I did go to visit him and sat and talked with him for about an hour. While he was still unconscious I wanted him to know that I was there.  The following day at about 10:15 am I got a text from his niece telling me that they had just received a call from the hospital noting that there had been a change and they needed to get there.   At approximately 2:37 pm I was notified that Robert had made his transition.   I took solace in knowing that God answered my prayers and Robert was no longer struggling and suffering anymore.   His death has been painful on another level than that which I felt when my father and sister passed away but I am at peace.

At the end of 2015 I began counselling for several reasons.  One of which was to discover what was I doing wrong for my relationships were not sustaining.  What could I do better and different to make them work.  Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that loving someone is never an easy task.  There are many challenges in trying to make it work.  I set off on this self-discovery journey with no road map.  I just wanted it to allow myself to be open to the process and willing to hear all the good, bad and ugly about Ronald.  Facing it was the only way to change it.  I learned some very interesting things about myself that I did not recognize.  Currently, I am working daily to ensure that when I see the old me surfacing I try to recognize it and talk to myself about what I have learned to do instead.  I do not every think I will be totally changed but those things that I recognize I am changing or have already changed.  It is comforting to hear your friends say “you have changed”.  Even my ex noticed by saying “you are so different”.  That one hit me and I asked him to expound to which he replied “you are stronger” than when we dated.   What I did not tell him was that he was one of sparks that caused me to attend counselling.  I highly recommend counselling but you have to find a good therapist which can be difficult.  I as fortunate to find the person I did.  He came along just when I needed him and did not even know it. 

It is good to sit on the back end of 2017 and say to yourself that you live a good life.  My cousin gave me a dose of reality one day.  I posted on FB something about those that “have” (privileged lives and lifestyles) and how I wished that I was one them.  Well my cousin responded back to say that there are people that see me as one of the “haves” because I am always sitting in an airport flying off somewhere and at that moment I was shocked.  She made a very valid point.  What I have presented to the world is a very comfortable life and that it is but I never really recognized just how comfortable my life has been.  I like most of us deal with debt and struggles but the reality of the situation is that I life a good life.  Not extravagant or perfect but it is pretty darn good and I realize that I am blessed.

I did not do any major travel this year instead I stayed stateside and traveled to check on my friend.  He was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year.  Actually he was the third person close to me that was diagnosed this year.  My response to that was that I have decided to capture life and not put off some things I had initially started to do later in life.  This was a clear sign to me to shift my focus.

Earlier in 2017 I went with a coworker to be in the audience of a television program (Windy City Live) here in Chicago.  We knew that the two lead actors from Power (Starz Network) was going to be the quest so we were able to get tickets.  They were doing two shows that day.  The actors from Power would be the live show and they were taping a show to appear the following day.  Well, the taped show included a card reader.  She was taking questions from the audience.  However, only women were asking the questions.  So one of the cohost noted the he wanted a question from a man.  He looked and me and so I stood and asked “Will I get married this year (2017)?”  She responded that I would get married by the end of the year.  Well 2017 has ended and I am not married…LOL.  I did not take it serious…kind of.  But it would have been cool if I had even met someone that was serious about dating but that did not happen either.  Good thing I did not pay for her reading.  I would have been a bit upset.

It is always good to look back and take inventory of your life from time to time.  I do so at various times throughout the year but definitely at the end of each year.  Reflection can be beneficial for it lets you see what blessing were bestowed upon up as well as hurdles you have encountered.  Hopefully the hurdles allowed you to recognize that God has always remained by your side as you pushed through.

I walk into 2018 with tiptoe expectations of what this year will bring me.  I know that God has some amazing things in store for me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Kim Burrell - The Uncomfortable Applause

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As a young boy growing up it was a requirement by my dad that all of his five children attend Sunday morning church service.    As a single parent there were things that my dad required and attending church was on the top of the list.   I enjoyed going to church as a boy for that was where I got to be with my maternal grandmother.    Big Mama was nurturing, loving and strong and I would fall asleep on her lap every Sunday.  The black Baptist church experience was amazing for it was where I fell in love with Christ.  However, as I got older I would hear various sermons, some more resonant in my memory than others.  I can’t remember when I heard my first sermon regarding what the ministers had determined as the ultimate sin, homosexuality.  As I got older and entered my teenage years I understood that these sermons were about me and how I felt for I began to discover that I was definitely not attracted to women.  My attention and affection was truly focused on the male species.  That time of my life was very confusing and difficult for I knew what I felt and it truly did not agree with what I was being taught.  God and I had many conversations about my feelings and he did not seem fit to “fix” me.   My teenage years were rough and life did not get any easier.  This struggle was real and I honestly saw no way to make my life better and contemplated ending it.  Not sure how I was going to do that but it was a thought on a few occasions.   
As I got older I had to come to the realization that if I was created by God in his image then he knew me and made me as I wanted.  While I had to listen to some family members  that did not agree with my sexuality I made the conscious decision to trust God and live as he had made me.  Once I made that choice, not easy, then I decided to go back to church but to one that did not use the pulpit to abuse you.  

A few days ago after hearing this sermon all those difficult nights of self-doubt and confusion seemed to flood my memories.   Once I heard about Kim Burrell’s demonstrative sermon I refused to give it any credit or exposure to the same old shit I have been hearing most of my life.  However, upon seeing the sermon and hearing the cheers and applause of those in attendance I began to think of how many people were in attendance that were like me.  Feeling totally ignored by God and misunderstood and told that they are surely going to hell for being who God made them to be.  Where does someone like that turn?  Who is going to love that young boy or girl without judgement to make them really feel special?    We will never know the long lasting internal emotional scars and lifelong damage those words will make on those struggling.  Will some of these individuals grow up to embrace all of who they are or will they go off to find ways to hide their sexuality by “adopting” to societal norms and pressure to appear to be heterosexual and living a life full of duplicity.   

I’ve wondered why ministers spew such hatred.  Why is safe sex relationships the only sin that gets major attention and such rousing support from so many in the church?  Have we in the LGBTQ communities made it very easy to be the Christian punching bag?   As these sermons are preached to such support the musical department of the church is being led by a gay man and those wonderful tenor voices are those of gay men.  We have been so conditioned to feel that this our lives have no value that we clap, sing and cheer.       

I think that some of the blame, if you will, can go to those LGBT individuals that sit is silence while the church continues to use the pulpit as a weapon.   It is amazing how some in LGBT community have come to Kim Burrell’s support.  Honestly at some point we have to understand the damage that is being done not only on this issue but several others that have been used to keep people in “their place”.  No one can convince me that this is of God.  The church has used the pulpit as a whipping post to damage so many people and at some point this has to stop.  I hope that the backlash that Kim Burrell has received is a testament that change in attitudes is on the horizon.