I think I said in a previous blog that I was lucky to not be bullied in school. I was lucky to never be physically assaulted – no black eyes or bloodied noses, thankfully. I was one of the biggest/tallest in my class…but they got their digs in, trust.
I was a fat kid and there really wasn’t a day from between 10 – 18 that went by where I wasn’t literally told or shown or mocked or verbally bullied about just what a fatty I was.
AYCE (All You Can Eat)
Two Ton Honey Bun
And to put the icing on the proverbial cake: I was a fat AND obviously gay. Which, growing up in the south, was just about as “bad” a thing as you could be.
And because I was a sensitive, artistic, fat, gay kid I became incredibly attuned to how others perceived me – because it was so often pointed out to me HOW they perceived me. And so, I did what any insecure fat, gay kid would do; I crafted a facade.
Now, you’d think that I would have gone out for sports so I could become a fit, gay kid but I was a fat, gay, music geek kid and the only sports I was interested in back then we’re watching ice skating and gymnastics on tv and marching in the Halftime show with the band. (I was also in choir….LOVED Choir. Tee-Ball was a miserable failure though I am incredibly proud of that one, fly ball I caught.)
So, there I was: a fat, gay, music geek with few friends, zero social capital, and a lot of pain, anger, and resentment.
What’s a guy like me to do? The only thing a fat, gay, music geek could do. I became a “sassy black girl.”
Laugh all you want but the black girls in my school were incredible – ebony social justice warrior goddesses: proud, strong, fearless, independent, BLACK and didn’t take shit off no one!
I’m not saying I wanted to be transracial or a transsexual….
I wanted…I needed their strength!
Their motto: “Don’t come for me unless I’ve sent for you AND if I do send for you, you better come correct.”
They were queens. They could be your friend or your enemy and they didn’t give a fuh which one YOU chose.
They were “bitches” in the absolute best sense of the word.
And so, I adopted something of their attitude, their gravitas, their seeming invincibility.
Now, if you think of your own gay friends I reckon you’ll find one or two (or more) who did the same thing – take on affectations. It’s a defense mechanism. And who wouldn’t want to be like them?
Who run tha world? [Black] GIRLS!
This could be all in my head but I don’t think there’s any coincidence that of all my bullies, not a single one of them was a black girl. All white, all straight.
I reckon it might have had something to do with the fact that they saw in me something of themselves: shamed by the world for being who they are.
This, in a South that then, as now, still battles racism and bigotry-maybe they saw in me a victim of some of the same monsters they woke up everyday prepared to fight.
The difference is that they were equipped to fight those monsters – by their parents and their parent’s parents.
… … … And I… … …was not… … …
Not because my parents didn’t raise me right or love me enough or anything like that: quite simply, because bigotry has been old hat to the black community for far too a long time. (Although, I’m very proud to say that in my 4 years of high school I don’t recall any instances of racial violence while I was in school. Camden is a well integrated multiracial community.)
Maybe I’m romanticizing here – I don’t know. But when I became a “sassy black girl” not one of those beautiful young black women ever shamed me for it.
None of this is to say that the “plight” of gay people is the same as that of people of color. I’m not arguing that point and I recognize that people have their opinions on the subject but one fact can not be disputed: whether you believe being gay is a choice (and I assure you it is not!) BOTH gay people and people of color have been and continue to be similarly marginalized by a heteronormative culture that values white skin above all other skin tones.
Prove me wrong.
Now, I had something of sword and shield to fight off those monsters. And whether or not they thought I was scary or too much trouble or just plain nuts, they backed off.
God bless it, they backed off and I no longer had to worry about being mocked to my face for all the things that I was.
The ridicule didn’t stop though. Even for all my bravado, it became quiet…whispered…snide comments that I could just barely make out. And that was even worse because at least when they were calling me names to my face I could hear what they were saying.
I couldn’t anymore and for someone who was, as I look back, in the midst of a burgeoning anxiety disorder, their whispers became the stuff of nightmares: terrible accusations, and despicable insults.
Those black queens I tried so hard to be like had ONE incredibly important thing going for them that I simply didn’t:
Years of practice.
Practice at being invincible: steely confidence with a tongue sharp as a razor by years of skillful use, thick skin, and most importantly, power rooted in millennia of ancestral Blackness.
My “weapons” were weak and as such, my defense was terribly lacking. Sure, the haters got out of my face but, I still cared too deeply what they thought of me.
I wanted too much to be liked, respected, and popular. I wanted to be welcome. I wanted all those things. I cared too much and because I cared too much I lost myself. And I had no power to root into.
White Power? Screw that sh*t.
Gay Power? None available to me. The shame was much too thick.
In the 80’s and 90’s, gay people were dying from the AIDS virus and there were few, if any, positive representations of gay people in the media. Sure, Ellen came out as a lesbian when I was 17. But she was a lesbian…what’s an effete gay boy to do with that?
If there were any positive representations on TV I sure as hell missed them. The gay representations that were in the media were terrifying: transvestite gay serial killers, cisgender gay serial killers, sleazy prostitutes, disease victims with sunken faces, drug addicts, and predators. So, in that time, if a program had a gay male character on it, they largely belonged to those categories.
And if that was my media experience of what “gay” was, it certainly was theirs too. Fuel for their fire. Fuel for mine.
It didn’t matter what they said about me behind my back. Maybe it was about a spot of mustard on my shirt or the fact that I had worn the same Nike sweatshirt 3 times that week, or that some (a lot) of my clothes came from Walmart (which, back then was highly conspicuous.)
Maybe they were whispering about how good my solo was or that I had done really well on…whatever.
Because I couldn’t find “power” to root into, whatever “sass” I borrowed became defensive self consciousnesses.
Sassy/Fat/Gay/Music Geek/ Poor/Defensive/ Self-Conscious
And at that point, it wouldn’t have mattered what wonderful things they said because I found a hidden insult or a backhanded compliment, or worse still: charity – a shallow placation in it.
I wanted desperately to be accepted by people and most especially, to be accepted & loved by myself but my culture, my faith, and the world told me I was unworthy of any of that. God doesn’t love you so why the hell should we, Fag?
Who wouldn’t be messed up by that?
Why do so many gay kids still commit suicide even today when there are so many positive representations of gay people in the media? Because they believe what they’re told by people who don’t love or value them.
What I didn’t know then that I do know now is that despite whatever I was: I AM worthy of love and acceptance and so are you. And most importantly, that God does love me.
And even though I don’t need a hug or a warm smile or an encouraging word to know my worth or that I’m valued and loved, they’re certainly nice to receive.
Though, I still struggle with it from time to time: doubt my power and my worth. I still hear the whispers sometimes.
One of these days I’ll be comfortable in my skin.
I just hope I’m not half way out the door when that time comes.
Sassy/Fat/Gay/Music Geek/Poor/Defensive/Self-Conscious/Loved: Me
Had I realized any of that when I was younger, I could have spared myself years of pain, self inflicted and otherwise but that was then, and this is now – my journey to 2.0
What I didn’t know back then is that whatever they were whispering only had power over me because I believed it did.
Lemme say that slow:
It only had power over me because I believed it did.
And because I believed everyone saw the worst in me I expected the worst in everyone I saw.
Now that’s some self-fulfilling prophecy, feed back loop bull shit right there.
And my black queens: they were long hip to all that. That’s why you couldn’t tell them sh*t. They knew just who they were.
I know they had their private struggles but by God, you’d have never known it.
Let me tell you: the “journey to self” is fraught with pitfalls, dead-ends and long, windy roads. There will be moments of incredible revelation, bright sunny skies and terribly, lonely darkness.
And there are many people who will never even start the journey simply for the fear of it but many others who will.
Be one of the ones who does.
I’m still that fat, gay, sassy, music geek kid. Sometimes I’m still self conscious. It doesn’t matter how much weight I loose or how big my muscles get, I’ll always be him. And that’s ok because there wasn’t anything wrong with him in the first place. Actually, he was quite incredible: sensitive, compassionate, sweet, starry-eyed and always dreaming.
If I’m to love myself fully and completely then he’s the one I have to start with first. And if your story resembles mine, you’ve got to find that bullied, wounded child version of youself and give them the talk they needed to hear then, now.
Only you know how to speak to them.
Journey & Destination: Gah, I love repeating myself in this blog.
You don’t “find” yourself at the end of the journey. You find yourself a little more with every step you take so journey on, friends and try to have a little fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously because it’s not all that serious. Let the haters hate and you be who God made you to be.
P.S. Bullies are bullies because they’re being bullied.
P.S.S. Julia, Robin, Shelethia, Keisha, Shaleah, Monique, Brandy, Missy, & Aaliyah: Thank you for letting me borrow some of your power.
I’m finding my own now – off to grab it.
Sincerely, a Fat Gay Kid.
Om, Baby! Om,