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While scrolling through various social media feeds, I often abruptly pause to yell, “Your ass is lying!” at my phone screen whenever I see someone I know telling the tallest of tales. Between the filters, thirst traps, and inspirational quotes, the package presented before you online rarely looks the same IRL.

I’m in constant fear of mirroring these kinds of people, and frequently wrestle with how much I should share in public spaces.

“Keep your business to yourself” is a lesson I learned around the time I still ate Lunchables and wore cartoon-themed underwear. I intuitively understood how people could use your personal problems against you, so I never wanted to publicly present myself as a complainer. Besides, there’s already enough of that in the world, both online and off.

Like many others, I struggle to balance being honest while protecting my privacy. There are certain things I keep close to the vest: my fears, my uncertainties, whatever keeps me up late at night. There are parts of myself I’m not always willing to share—and I’m not alone in this approach.

Recently, there have been various reports about those—most notably college students—who feel pressure to appear happy online. But it’s not an issue limited to young adults.

I cave in to this pressure, too.

More and more, I’m approached by friends, relatives, and fans of my work who tell me how amazing my life seems. To write for a living is not without certain drawbacks (i.e. chasing checks, dealing with private student loan lenders); it requires a lot of discipline to not only create, but also maintain, a regular workload. I love writing, but it’s hardly a glamorous existence.

You may see me on this program or read my work in that publication, but I’m not live-tweeting my phone calls with student loan lenders, or posting Instagram pics of myself trying not to cry and curse after hanging up. You don’t see me coming down from a caffeine high, exhausted and daunted by all the work still left to be done. You don’t see me seething with envy as I look at other people’s photos documenting their Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-esque antics. Even when I do feel proud, sometimes the sight of someone else’s adventures on social media will put a damper on my feelings of accomplishment.

Read the rest at ntrsctn.

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FullSizeRender (3)I am in a rather peculiar time of my life. I am not exactly where I want to be, but in many respects, I am closer than ever to certain dreams. And yet, I still struggle with the reality that these are dreams people like me not rarely get to pursue because we can’t afford to. Literally.

I am fortunate in that I have managed to create a living centered on sharing my opinion. All I have ever wanted to do is to make people laugh and to make people think. I do that now and slowly but surely, doing that via the platforms I want to exist and thrive in. And yet, that required a lot of sacrifice. It also required the generosity of parents who may not have had it to give, but found a way to do so anyhow – particularly my mother.

It also required student loan debt, which has been the bane of my adult life. I, like many millennials, turned to private student loan lenders to fund my education. The education that I needed to get closer to what I’ve always wanted. The sizable monthly payments mirror a mortgage and the stress I have endured to pay those payments has stressed me to the point where I have overworked myself to exhaustion. Where I have literally blacked out. Where my hair has fallen out due to stress. To the point where strange rashes have broken out all over my body because I was literally killing myself worrying so much about work and making sure I paid every single bill hovering over my head.

I have struggled with this burden for several years now and it has admittedly dimmed my views of what constitutes as success. Recently, I was asked to participate in a feature for millennials who have managed to achieve certain feats in their respective careers despite the weight of this debt dragging them down. And now, at the age of 31, I find myself being told by those younger than me that I am someone to be admired. Likewise, those who do know me and know how hard I work, ever so increasingly tell me that they are proud of me.

It makes me uneasy. I don’t know how to feel. There are moments when I fall immediately to my knees and look up — ideally to a higher being that actually exists —for the blessings that are happening. Yet, there are moments where I literally wish I could cry over the pressure. I am not much of a crier; it is hard for me to often get the tears out. Nevertheless, the desire to is telling enough.

Lately and more frequently, these days have blended into one.

Read the rest at Swagger.

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Had the pleasure of once again doing Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique duty on Janet Mock’s SoPOPular last Friday, talking Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj. We also discussed Meryl Streep and whether or not 2015 was the year of identity. My hands are still waving like I’m performing “Touch My Body” and “Breakdown,” but it gets better.

Part one:

Part two:

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In the past, my dating life was a mix of Frank Ocean’s Bad Religion and the sadder Mary J Blige songs that you can somehow still dance to. And yet, things have slowly but surely gotten better – a direct result of me making important changes. As I’ve gotten older, I have been more vigilant about noticing the signs that a man might be a loser and promptly taking the exit ramp.

This includes things like never dating a man who doesn’t know how to use “your” and “you’re” correctly. I don’t want to be a snooty writer, but I also don’t want to invest in flirting with a person who didn’t pay attention in third grade. Similarly, though it may be a struggle, I will try my best to avoid checking a guy’s social media feeds before actually getting to know him. It’s like looking at a person through a filter that’s not as favorable as he thinks it is.

But the one I most adamant about sticking to – and I have encouraged everyone I know to act accordingly: I will never date another person who does not like Beyoncé.

If there is one mistake I made repeatedly in the past, it was looking past this fatal flaw. Of all the men I’ve dated, the worst have all disliked Queen Bey.

I am a gay black man from Houston, Texas. Beyoncé is my Lord and gyrator. She is the beginning, end and body roll to me. I should have known better than to ever bother with such haters.

Before I started rejecting Beyoncé haters, I first tried dating some men with the fatal flaw by avoiding the subject. More than once, one tried to pick a fight with me about Beyoncé. They knew I bow down to Queen Bey, but they tried, still, to coerce me into standing on the wrong side of history. Remember that New York Times review of her debut album entitled: “The Solo Beyoncé: She’s No Ashanti?” Who wants to end up sounding that ridiculous?

However, as an original member of the #Beyhive (its editorial director, if you will), I’ve long known that some people will fight a good thing. So I gave some men the benefit of the doubt, thinking that I could help them blossom into Beyoncé lovers – starting with the B’Day album. Because seriously, how can you not like Beyoncé? To me, if you don’t love Beyoncé, you don’t love yourself. You don’t have to be a super fan, but if you don’t like at least five Beyoncé songs, I don’t trust your judgment.

That sounds crazy to Beyoncé deniers, whom I refer to as Beythiests.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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Once again had the pleasure of being a part of The Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique on SoPOPular with Janet Mock.

The Clique goes in on our hookup culture:

The Clique talks Kim K and Queen Bey:

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I realized I wasn’t that young anymore when my oldest niece innocently asked me, “Is Aaliyah that singer who died in a plane crash?” Immediately after I answered, I went into pop quiz mode. “Do you know who Brandy is, beautiful?” Frighteningly, she had absolutely no clue–until she released a single featuring Chris Brown.

More recently, I’ve gone on dates with men born in 1990 – you can drop your judgment off right here, thanks – and openly cried out to God over their lack of knowledge about one of the greatest women to ever body roll on this Earth, Janet Damita Jo Jackson. Some of these very men have referred to me as “old.”

This can’t be life.

As youthful as I feel, I was born in 1984 and I’m getting frequent reminders that I am entering a new stage of life. Many of the albums I grew up listening to have either hit their 20th anniversary mark or they’re right on the cusp of doing so. This includes janet, CrazySexyCool, My Life, Brown Sugar, and soon, Faith and Hardcore. The same way I looked at my mama about her Chi-Lites and Whispers, referring to the group members as “pop-pops” is what’s happening to me now when I bring up UGK in certain groups. Karma is a hateful heifer.

While many folks my age crack jokes about “aunties,” as one of my friends recently reminded me, we are now the aunties. Do you know who is now doing the Tom Joyner Cruise? Trina! Yes, “da baddest bitch” is out here on the cruise shop that the super grown folks are known for attending performing “Single Again.” One of my friends is so amped about one day joining the cruise. In his mind, he thought 40 would be the perfect age, but auntie life came calling a bit sooner.

I’ll also admit that if not for the youth in my life, I’d have no idea what in the hell so many of the folks on the Twitter talk about. Like, what is a fleek? And one question I’m constantly asking: Who in the hell is this rapper that sounds like English is his fourth language?

I am only 31-years-old and while I can still drop down and get my eagle on, my pop, lock, and drop ain’t what it used to be. There’s also yoga, but that’s not the core issue. I’m just getting older and in the HOV lane to a new stage in life. An era where linen pants will sooner than later overfly my closet. Where all white parties will fill my calendar. A place where, Crown Royal and Wild Turkey will be my drinks of choice – just like so many of my uncles. Hell, I’m already halfway there if you include Crown Apple. In my defense, that is delicious and best served with ice in a mason jar.

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Last Friday, I had the pleasure of being a part of Janet Mock’s Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique, talking Caitlyn Jenner, culture appropriation, among other topics on the latest edition of SoPOPular with Janet Mock.

Yes, I know I should have smiled in this picture. No, I don’t know why I didn’t think to smile at the time. Yes, I’ll be mindful of this in the future.

In the meantime, work on finding me Trey Songz. Pretty, pretty please.

It would be the best Christmas gift ever. Thank you.

In any event, the clips are below.


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Before agreeing to go out on a date with me recently, the man I was interested in asked me a pressing question: “Do you know Jesus?”

Anyone asking such a question wants a particular answer. Me, with my own agenda of wanting to see this man in a more intimate setting, provided an answer that would satisfy him, while still being honest. “Yes,” I said. “I’m very well aware of Jesus. I was raised by a devout Catholic.”

Then things became trickier: “Do you accept him as your Lord and Savior?” he said. I emphatically told him yes, but the doubts about religion that have been confined in me for several years knew better.

I have long been conflicted about the role religion plays in my life — notably the strain of Christianity I was raised in. It is nothing against Jesus, personally: He comes across as having been quite the gentleman and people person, plus he liked fish. (A man after my own heart, that JC.)

Nonetheless, my indoctrinated sense of spirituality became suffocating, and a separation from having Jesus as the center of my life was the consequence. To the surprise of no one, much of my separation from Jesus centered on my sexuality. As I got older and started to look for God on my own terms, I stopped going to church. I’ve been quite vocal about this in my work. I’ve gone from someone who was once approached for the priesthood by another priest to a person who boos at the invitation of stepping inside a church.

So when I read a recent Pew Research Center survey, stating that the already large share of religiously unaffiliated millennial adults is increasing significantly, I was not surprised. There are many wonderful Christians out there and I sincerely admire their faith and how it manifests within them. Even so, as an institution and collective, I find most organized religions to be frustrating and in desperate need of a good publicist.

On a personal level, I’ve struggled with Biblical literalists. In my writing, I’ve repeatedly called on more people to challenge the Biblical references to homosexuality — highlighting that there is something to be said of allegory, nuance, historical reference, and while we’re at it, hypocrisy. With a wider public acceptance of homosexuality, comes more attempts to do just that.

Read the rest at The Liberty Project.

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