Sometimes, being ourselves is a radical act. In doing so, we make a statement to the world that we won’t be broken or influenced by society but instead commit ourselves to being a force that shapes it into a place we want it to be.
This choice is never an easy one. And the vows must be renewed daily. But once we start, it becomes incredibly difficult to stop. Anthony knows this, personally.
So, as he invites us on a colorful, unforgettable trip down memory lane, look forward to experiencing black boy joy and what it’s like in the mind of a love child.
If you could take a trip into my mind you would see my body floating in the ocean. Just floating. I would be narrating my thoughts at the present time. I don’t know what it is about the ocean, but that’s where I have serenity. In that moment, I would feel like the only person on earth completely alone and surrounded by water.
I would like to perceive myself as a down to earth person, but I’m also a regular kind of guy. I’d be thinking about family, venting in my thoughts about how unfair it is when people don’t love you as much as you love them but how you kind of have to keep on loving them anyway. Mind you, I said loving them not liking them.
I’d think about everything that has changed over the years, from when I was illegally getting into bars, smoking cigarettes, and was so heavily influenced by alcohol to who I am becoming today. Now, I’m away from the cigarettes and spending too many long nights out. I’m no longer submerged in the alcoholic lifestyle, the grunge all black era I felt within myself.
Back during my “bad boy” stage, all I saw in my mind was aggression, empty space filled with smoke because I didn’t believe in anything. Not God, not love, nothing. Since then, it’s been a tale of falling and rising. Going from pure to tainted to something completely misunderstood and between the two. The greatness of it all is that I’ve found myself and rediscovered my spirituality in the process.
My mom was R&B, Neo Soul. She taught me the likes of Angie Stone, Maxwell. She gave me soul and spirit. My father liked rock and jazz, he introduced me to Najee, Journey.
I’d think about my history and what it was like growing up. My mom who was the selective social butterfly, my dad the lone wolf. With them, I learned to deal with the duality of north and south. Two different worlds. That’s why I believe I am the way I am with myself. I’m always at one extreme or the other, and very seldom ever in between.
I didn’t have the most affectionate mom or dad, but I had strong parents with conflicting values. That helped me be levelheaded and accepting towards other people. My mom loving to cook, go fishing, and nurture her plants. My dad being the Chevy, Monte Carlo cool guy. Them being who they are made a great difference.
Music is a big thing that helps me think about myself and how I relate with things. My mom was R&B, Neo Soul. She taught me the likes of Angie Stone, Maxwell. She gave me soul and spirit. My father liked rock and jazz, he introduced me to Najee, and Journey.
Even down to their musical tastes, my parents were different. Because of them, everything in my life has always had its own style. And that’s allowed me to be more comfortable going against tradition because I wasn’t raised in a traditional way. I have eccentric parents who both, like myself, were rebellious as teenagers.
For me, my rebelliousness started at the end of my 9th grade year of high school. In middle school, I wore the white Air Force Ones, the fitted Yankee hats, and everything baggy. I played what society expected of me as a young black boy. But I always jammed to other stuff and after while I began to open up to different styles such as corduroys, skinny jeans, and flannels
By 10th grade, I always had a leather jacket, Beetlejuice stripes, punk rock. A lot of people asked, “Are you gay? Are you gay?” It wasn’t so much that I was hiding myself (or my sexuality), it was more so I didn’t’ want my sister to know because I didn’t know how she would feel about me being around my nieces and nephews. Then, one day I picked up the phone, called my mom, and told her I was bi because I really just didn’t care anymore, not even what my father would think.
When he went through the photos, he asked, “What’s this about? You look gay.” I looked at him and said, “Well, dad, I am gay.” He said, “Well, at least you didn’t lie about it.” I laughed and replied, “What’s the point in hiding it?”
When I lost all of my baby fat, I almost had a six pack. The football players would be taking off their shirts and stuff so, I would do the same thing. But the people on Facebook where I posted them didn’t find it appropriate. By the time it got back to my dad, folks made it sound like what I had been doing was really inappropriate. When he went through the photos, he asked, “What’s this about? You look gay.” I looked at him and said, “Well, dad, I am gay.” He said, “Well, at least you didn’t lie about it.” I laughed and replied, “What’s the point in hiding it?”
All my life I was effeminate and heard the folks around me saying, “Anthony…he gon’ be special and sweet.” But when that happened, I walked with more umph. When asked if I liked boys, I responded confidently, “Yeah, I do. And what about it?” I felt good about myself. I started wearing more colors. I realized my style was more original, and I embraced not having to hide from myself, or the world.
Eventually, I felt comfortable about having opened the “closet” door. But eventually the door would slowly close as gay men refused to embrace me. It was a slap in the face type moment. At first, I thought there was a community out there that would enable me to be who I am because they understand how I felt. I had no idea members of the LGBTQ+ community weren’t so open and that some of them would not be happy because of their own ideas about who I am and what they wanted out of me.
When that happened, it introduced a new form of insecurity. I began thinking since I didn’t have a six pack and my weight was fluctuating, no one would like me. I learned firsthand how life will really mess you up if you don’t have your mind right. I had to do some serious soul searching because trying to find validation in other people wasn’t working, and it wasn’t worth it.
The joy and excitement I had in myself wasn’t welcome. The message was loud and clear: I can be who I want to be BUT only if it doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable.
When I moved back to North Carolina about two years ago, that’s when I felt like I was back in elementary and middle school. I was the boy hiding all over in some way. I had come out in New Jersey, but in North Carolina where I lived, I saw a big shift in respect from straight men. Suddenly, I saw the side-eyes by guys and family.
Despite not having a mohawk, the tighter fitting pants, the joy and excitement I had in myself wasn’t welcome. The message was loud and clear: I can be who I want to be BUT only if it doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable. People have different attitudes and I’ve learned to not allow other people’s thoughts or feelings of me to change or alter how I look or feel. It was a freeing experience moving when I did because it allowed me to witness that I don’t have it all together. Just because I’d been “liberated” and was comfortable in one place around family in another area, it didn’t mean everyone would be accepting. So, I had to build myself back up again.
And when there are moments when life is too much and things are coming on too strong I just remember what kind of world we live in. I remember a positive perspective is the starting point of true happiness, and I create my own place with the use of my imagination. A place where I can retreat to while meditating in my bathtub. A place with orchestras of women and men, half-naked, adorned in gold jewelry, playing afrocentric symphonies. A place where everyone is getting along; men are dancing with men, women with women, and the strength of my faith in my God fuels all of the celestial whereabouts.. The skies are indigo purple with tiger lilies taking the place of the stars glowing and floating about like rice paper lamps.
Things were in disarray, but they no longer are. I’m the cause of unity. You can be, too. Together, we can be the cause of a world uniting.