So a week and a half ago, I appeared on HuffPost Live’s Midweek Cocktail Chatter with Josh Zepps, talking about the lily white Oscars (with Black sprinkles in the audience), white women demanding we thank them for all that we’ve done, and a drug mostly white gay men are using thus far. I got to sip a hot toddy, which I needed at the time. It’s been so cold here, beloveds. Unnatural.
In any event, clips below the hood.
Three months ago, I sat in my bed frustrated with myself. I was upset at all the life choices I’d made up until this point. Physically and mentally exhausted, I ran out to get an energy drink; I’d needed a caffeine-enriched charge to help meet a deadline. And then it happened: later, rushing to the bathroom, I tripped and went hip-first into my desk, knocking the energy drink onto my laptop, its red liquid bleeding into my keyboard.
Although the rest of the laptop was intact, the keyboard stopped working, which meant the assignment would have to be written on an iPhone.
I called the only person who felt right at the time: my mother. Sensing the urgency in my voice, she immediately asked, “What’s wrong?” Before I went into detail, I made a request: “Can you please just listen to me and let me finish? I only want to get this out.” “Okay, baby,” she said.
The last twelve months have been trying. I’m either doing a lot of the things I’ve always longed to do or, if nothing else, inching closer to goals I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember. But it has not come without certain costs. To freelance write for a living is to often play the role of a sadist to your emotions. I regularly joke to my friends and in interviews that I am a writer and bill collector.
Months ago, my bills amounted to several thousands. It was not an unusual situation for me, but one I was tired of dealing with and one I am actively working towards avoiding as I advance in my career. I’m in better standing now, but still paying back the debt I built working with media companies whose existence became the bane of mine.
It took several months for it to happen, but the anger that was boiling underneath finally gave way to the sadness buried even deeper. As the tears began to fall, my mom could not resist her natural inclination to fault my decisions. Crying has never been easy for me, and as soon as my mom interrupted, I stopped.
The exercise lasted less than 10 seconds.
As proud as she is of what I have accomplished, and what other achievements await, her vision for my life is different from the one I presently live. Ideally, I’d be working in a field more secure (finance, corporate law, medicine), one that would make all her sacrifices worth it. I would also be straight and married with kids. We’d all attend mass regularly, and she’d have us over for Sunday dinners. I might even be back in Houston. Maybe not directly under her, but close enough (in Houston, traveling long distances within the city limits is normal).
But I am none of these things. I will never be any of these things.
I came out to my mother in 2009 after I penned an essay about two black boys who hung themselves within the same month. They’d wanted to escape the anti-gay taunts, and the kind of world that supported such behavior, that haunted them. In writing the essay, my sexuality was a statement of fact; prior to this, my love of men only existed as speculation.
Her response to my coming out was nasty, and we didn’t speak to her for weeks.
In February, I called her. Not much had changed since then, but I felt compelled to warn her that I was writing about being a black gay man, and that it would reach people she knew. A photo is going to be included, I said. (Translation: I look just like you and we bear the same surname; your co-workers, your friends, your sisters, and your girls at the beauty shop will all know I’m your son.) In telling her, I tried to be respectful about her beliefs. I tried to talk about God and difference of opinion. Regardless of how she feels, I told her, I do think God is using me, in some way, to help create dialogue.
“Am I happy that you’re gay?” she responded. “No. I’m sorry it happened to you. Am I hurt that you’re still gay? Yes, because I feel responsible.”
I’m not sure why she feels responsible. In her mind, maybe she thinks me being gay is a response to me being raised in house that included a violent and volatile alcoholic father. I made peace with her rationale—”I thought you needed a father; I also did not want to end up on welfare”—a very long time ago.
Months passed before we spoke again.
When she heard me cry, she did what any mother would do: she attempted to provide comfort. But it only irritated me. It somehow became about my need to go to “God’s house,” after which she subtly suggested that my struggles were linked to my sexual urges. She then offered to pay to have my laptop fixed. Too proud, I declined. But she wouldn’t accept it.
One thing I respect immensely about my mom is her faith. What she fails to grasp, however, is that the religion that saved her is my living hell. I don’t necessarily know what I believe in anymore. When I pray, more times than not, I believe someone is listening. There are also the rare times I wonder if I’m talking to myself in the dark.
Read the rest at Gawker.
Last month, I was asked to share my coming out story in a segment for BET.com tied to last night’s episode of Being Mary Jane.
Yes, I used it a Beyoncé analogy. No, I’ll never stop invoking Beyoncé. She’s Beyoncé. Can I never wear this sweater again? Don’t answer that. I’m going to probably put it on in a few minutes.
As for the story: Want to hear it? Here it go (under the hood).
On Friday, I took part in a discussion about FOX’s Empire on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook. This is the audio. I’m not sure if I had a “public radio voice” here, but if so, it’s meshed with lots of “y’alls” and “nu uh.”
Had the pleasure to be on SoPOPular with Janet Mock once again, participating in the “Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique” segment, talking State of the Union, Lifetime’s Whitney, and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
Click under the hood to watch parts one and two.
On Friday, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the fantastic Janet Mock’s new show, So Popular, which airs on MSNBC’s Shift.
The segment was called “How the media portrays gay men of color” and was based on Lee Daniels’ new show, Empire. Lee Daniels says he is using the show to both feature a different kind of Black gay man on TV while “exposing” homophobia in the Black community. You know, ’cause no one ever talks about that.
It was so much fun and I’m glad Janet let me pitch this. And if you want to check out the article referenced in the segment, you can do so here.
Segment is below.
I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in #BlackMenDream, a film done by artist Shikeith in which I, along with other Black men, tackled Black male expression through a myriad of questions. I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was walking into when I said I would participate, but ultimately got a lot off my chest. I’m glad I could help make a contribution to another Black man trying to tell our stories.
Speaking of, over the weekend, I saw that a white female documentary director will be helming a project about the “Black Male” crisis, focused primarily about Michael Brown’s shooting death in project. While I have nothing against Amy Berg, I do find it interesting that Nate Parker chose her to work with. Months ago, he complained about the imagery of Black male men in entertainment and went on to cite that as the reason why he would never play a gay male character.
So, he’s fine with a white woman telling our stories, but won’t play a gay character given he feels that would be an affront on the Black man. You know, as if gay Black men are not, too, men. I say that for two reasons. One, it reminds me of some of the issues of hypermasculinity tackled in “#BlackMenDream.”
Black people, tell your own stories. Novelists, playwrights, directors, writers, journos, bloggers, actors, pundits–everybody get to work.
— Kierna Mayo (@kiernamayo) December 6, 2014
What this genius said.
I don’t wake up everyday obsessing over my race or my sexual orientation. As much pride as I have in being both Black and gay, my first thoughts of the day are usually “What songs shall I jig to?” and “How can I get myself out of Sallie Mae’s Burn Book?”
Alas, enough people obsess over my race and sexuality in this world for me. To the extent that I end up being forced to think about it at least some point on any given day.
As a result, I am usually exhausted by the predominate narrative about being a gay Black man. I often have to fight erasure from white gays and Black heterosexuals alike. Or, I have to wrestle with the reality that when trying to tell my story, it is preferred that I tell it through some sort of prism of pathology.
Yes, it is still very hard to be a gay Black man.
So often we are limited to the perceptions other people have about us. Our masculinity. Our expressions of sexuality. Robbed of our basic right to simply just be.
I like to think I try to find the good in even the most difficult situation, but funny enough, when faced with the question “Could you write about what you enjoy about being a gay Black man?” I was a bit stumped. All too often I am asked to write about this experience from the opposition perspective. The task felt like a pop quiz I was possibly going to fail.
A few moments later, I went with sarcasm: “Uh, was ass and Beyoncé’s B’Day?“
The more I thought about it, I felt that was a good enough place to start. I also like not having to ever be lumped in with those ‘stay-at-home sons’ Twitter often drags (or celebrates)—those sexist, heterosexual Black men who are an enemy to Black gays and Black women alike.
As for other benefits, I cannot speak for other gay Black men, but for me, the best parts of being who I am is all that I am. This includes the things that challenge the stereotypes about what a gay Black man is and the other characteristics that fit right into the caricature.
Read more at EBONY.