In one of the exercises, we were asked by the facilitator to join one of the designated groups that we had collectively generated; the idea was for us to explore the potential issues faced by that oppressed group.
The groups included – Women, Jewish, Working class, LGBTI, Black and a couple of others that I forget. We had to join a group that we self-identified with. As people moved around to join their chosen group, a guy from one of the other groups waved at me and said ‘come on, we are over here’. From the corner of my eye, I noticed that he was inviting me to join the Black group. ‘It’s okay, I’ll stay over here’, I said – ‘over here’, being the LGBTI group. The exchange lasted only a couple of seconds and yet it had a profound impact on me.
As I reflected on the exercise afterwards, I was conscious that whilst in the LGBTI group, I had left the part of me that would have loved to talk about race behind. And I knew that in joining the Black group, I would have left my sexuality behind too. There was also a part of me that wanted to talk about being a man; that, I was also conscious was lost in the midst of the LGBTI group.
I guess these are issues that we all face as we navigate the world in our daily lives; that ongoing internal dialogue about which part of ourselves do we leave behind, as we show up in the different aspects of our life.
For a long time, my sexuality was a part of me that was left behind as I navigated the world. I came to learn that it was not welcomed in family circles and other similar gatherings. How did I learn this? Well, I have not had heated conversations with family this year on what its like being a man or what its like being black. I have not had to face racism from my family this year, but I have had to face homophobia. I have had to face being told that being gay brings shame on the family and ‘what mother would wish that on her child’, that ‘what I do sexually is my own personal problem’ and that ‘my kind should keep what they do behind closed doors’. Harsh words, but I am so grateful for them, for out of those words I learnt to unleash the courage to live my own life and be comfortable with my otherness.
Ultimately, I believe that I am not defined by my gender, race or sexuality. Deep within me at my core, I know that I am defined by my values, character and how I live my life.
Nonetheless, I have come to understand that my gender, race and sexuality are part of me and do influence how I show up in the world, and how I am perceived. And so this year, I have come to embrace the fact that none of them will be left behind as I navigate the world, for I am proud to be a Black, Gay, Man.
Copyright © 2011 OutTales.