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.
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.
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.
If there is one thing I have learned as a working writer – notably one who writes for the Internet – it is that this climate is so conducive to constant complaining. So many of us are urged to reflect more what has yet to be done as opposed to what’s happening or what has literally just happened. Small victories are often dismissed as not being enough. In many cases, big victories aren’t always enough either.
However, if there is one thing I have struggled with throughout my life, it is knowing when to lavish in the moment and not obsess over what comes next.
There is a difference between not being content with the status quo and constantly moving the goal post to the point that you can never truly embrace progress. With that in mind, I take great pride in the historic moment that has taken place in my lifetime. I have struggled with the idea of marriage due of the examples of it in my life, but I have since challenged myself to see the possibilities. Now, it is a prospect that is real and attainable thanks to last week’s Supreme Court ruling that has made marriage equality nationwide. I will not play down this moment. Too many people have worked hard to make this happen.
Yes, some are right in their suspicions that our Black faces were likely not in the minds of many of the White LGBT members who worked toward this dream, but it’s a reward that we can now each share all the same. I respect my friends and colleagues who feel conflicted over how to be happy that they can marry, but fear that they or their brothers and sisters can easily have their lives snatched away before ever getting to that point. I understand the frustration over erasure, too.
I recognize all the continued struggles we have to fight, but I am not willing to allow our pain to cloud a cause celebration. You can be critical without falling into cynicism. You can be vocal about what still needs to happen without shouting over what just did. You can do all these things and promise to fight tomorrow.
But, but, but: you can and should celebrate the present. Sometimes tomorrow feels like eternity and I wish more people – self-included – had a better appreciation for what happens in the here and now. I am actively working to be better about it. I am using this ruling to further push myself towards that goal.
My first introduction to gay life was death. I saw AIDS by the first grade, and I have written, and will soon write in a broader narrative by way of a book, just how devastating and paralyzing that was for me. My uncle died when I was six, and for a long time, that is all I knew what being gay could be. Now, thanks to the work of so many people of every hue and the Supreme Court, my six-year-old niece will have a different vision. She now knows Uncle Mikey can get married.
“I told you when you came out to me that you weren’t going to end up with a black man,” my sister said to me recently, laughing hysterically. I had just told her about a friend of mine predicting my future, which involved an interracial marriage, the two of us remodeling a brownstone and being featured on HGTV.
There’s nothing wrong with interracial relationships. They’ve given me Mariah Carey, Barack Obama, a few lifelong friends and plenty of men to fawn over on Instagram. In the future, romantic relationships in this country are poised to become even more multiracial, not less.
Yet, I’ve always wanted to end up with someone like me — though ideally with less student loan debt. I’m not against dating anyone else, but I want someone who not only looks like me, but also understands me.
Being black in this country often requires you to explain yourself in settings where you are the clear minority. Who wants to do that in their personal life? I don’t like having to explain why it’s okay for me to use “the n-word” and not you, or why you shouldn’t touch my friend’s hair, no matter how tempted you are. I never want to have to yell out something like “cuz I’m black b—-!!!!” the way Rihanna once did on Twitter when met with a stupid question about “nappy hair.”
I also think it’s important for gay black men to be seen romantically involved with other gay black men. I write against the notions that black people are more homophobic than other groups. I actively speak out on the representation of gay black men in mass media. I criticize the lack of visibility of black LGBT couples on television and film. I feel that it’s important to counter the caricature-like images of how black people are presented, so I’ve gotten a little uneasy about being the black guy who dates “others.”
In my dating life, I also worry about someone choosing me just because I might feed a fetish. I have never dated a white man, but I did have, uh, an encounter, with one once. I felt like I was his science fair project. Unless Ryan Phillippe drops me a line, I may never bother again.
So I have placed pressure on myself to be the change that I advocate for in my writing. I just have not been successful in that endeavor — at all.
When black people say they prefer dating outside of black, I sometimes hear self-loathing in that statement. I do not want people thinking that I hate myself, or my black features, or that I find other groups of men superior. I do not hate myself or others like me. I just have not had a lot of success with black men upon moving to New York City two years ago.
Since that time, most of the men I have dated do not look like me. The majority of them have been Latino. I match with them mostly on Tinder. And on those other apps. (I live not too far from 125th Street, so this cannot be attributed to location.) The same goes for in person, my preferred form of meeting men.
Most of the Latinos I’ve dated resemble Marc Anthony if he ate more steak. And I feel incredibly guilty about it: I feel like I’m letting myself and other black people down.
When I told a heterosexual friend of mine currently dating a white man about my feelings, she told me: “I feel like that daily. I’m in my first healthy relationship, and it’s with a white guy.” It makes you question where and what the problem is: You, those around you, or some combination of the two.
Last Friday, on SoPOPular with Janet Mock, I was asked to touch on representation of HIV/AIDS in pop culture with respect to the Black community in light of last week’s episode of The Prancing Elites Project — where star Kareem Davis revealed he was HIV positive.
You can check out the links of both segments below.
I squandered my 20s by not having enough sex. If I were rating my sex life in that decade through emoji, I behaved like the yellow one with his eyes closed and a straight line where a smile should be. I should have acted more like a cross between the eggplant and the one no one I know uses to signify raindrops. I wish I had been more of a slut, and while I am well aware that it is never too late to join the team, there are certain consequences that come with lateness. For me, that is a sense of stunted development.
I reflected on my struggle with intimacy, and its source, an early exposure to AIDS — by way of my AIDS-stricken uncle’s funeral when I was just six years old — in an essay for xoJane in 2014. After that, I decided to correct the problem. Strangers online were encouraging in a “You go boy, don’t press eject on your erections anymore!” fashion, but some of my friends – the gay male ones – were a bit more pointed in their commentary. I remember one person in particular advising to “be a better gay,” and get laid without the getting-to-know-you process. What followed was the suggestion to try “the apps,” which I admittedly rolled my eyes at.
Hook up apps like Jack’d and Grindr are an acquired taste. For the longest time, I didn’t like anything about them. In my mind, I am a Beyoncé, so to partake in the apps – which are basically like Seamless for sex – felt degrading, like lowering myself to the level of former Destiny’s Child member turned reality star who refuses to sing on air (LaTavia Roberson).
And then I had a change of heart.
For months, I flirted with the idea of meeting people, only to punk out. “These motherfuckers could be crazy” were the exact words I used. Ultimately, I truly gave in.
The first time I actually met someone from Jack’d, which is described as a “gay men’s social network” but is majorly used for what I would describe as “ho shit,” I thought it was going to end with me becoming the inspiration for a future episode of Law & Order: SVU. In my profile, I make it very plain that such a scenario is not ideal, my bio reads: “I don’t ever want to end up the inspiration behind an episode of Law & Order: SVU.”
Once we finished and he exited, I could no longer find my keys, prompting my suspicion that this man, whatever his name was, was good with his mouth but not at following directions. I was suddenly paranoid and sure he had stolen my keys and was planning to return to my apartment to slit my throat. Or something.
After two hours of searching my (not that large) apartment, I found my keys in a kitchen cabinet.
What’s most interesting about this story is that when it comes to hook up apps, this is not the most embarrassing one.
Not long after that incident, people started recognizing me.
I was using “Slim Shady” as a screen name on Jack’d, but getting messages like: “Hey, Michael. I love your blog, The Cynical Ones! You’ve been such an inspiration to me.” Other inquiries were related to whether or not I was “@youngsinick from Twitter,” and again, came conversations about my work as a freelance writer.
I never dawned on me that to some — namely those younger or around the same age as me — I am one of the few working gay black male writers they know. I’m not nearly on the level I want to be, but I am not necessarily living in obscurity as I thought, either.
Read the rest at Fusion.
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.