My move to New York City happened in a way that it happens for many people. You think of a dream, you image where that dream can become a reality and then you think of the city that never sleeps. After all of that you make a move, taking all of your savings from the medium sized television market you're working in as a reporter, and make the move.
Many people thought I was crazy, and then there are others who knew I would come here and do what I naturally do best, make the best out of any situation. Since coming to New York City at the start of April 2013 life has been one slow starting, but fast moving roller coaster; but, in order to know why I am the way that I am today, you must first know where the fire inside of me stems from. I'm not even sure one person I would credit for having the most impact on my life even knew he was doing such a thing. I grew up following behind him, but soon, I learned keeping an eye on him would help me become the person I should be; here's the story.
A black boy in the south didn't really have many options, even in the 80s when I was growing up. With that said, I figured my options were truly limited because, not only was I a black boy in south, but there was something different with me. I wasn't the star athlete like my older brother. Instead, I was shy and quiet and somewhat of a loner. I simply didn't want to let people inside, fearing that if anyone got to close, they would hate me or know automatically that I was a black gay boy growing up in the segregated south, and in a family where being gay wasn't accepted.
I remember the first time my older brother called me a fag. We both wanted to play with this toy gun I believe my mom had brought for us to share. I had the toy playing with it outside in the front yard when my brother decided he wanted to take it from me. We tossed around in the yard, grabbing the toy gun away from each other. However, finally he grabbed it again and hit me over the head with it. I remember belting out this loud squeal, and out the door my mother came running. She wasn't happy, and my brother, noticing this underneath his breath said: "See now we're in trouble, you fag." In my young attempt to process my head injury, there was no way I knew what he meant by that. I could tell the way he said it, however, it wasn't a nice word. I figured it was something he picked up from the school bus or the playground at school. My brother was notorious for joining in with his friends to tease me. There were the occasional times he would come to my defense, but I'm not quite sure he knew the impact he would have on my life, and how he would be the influence on the direction I would choose to go.
There is no changing the fact that I was born into the world a black man. Although my brother would have me believe I'm not really a man at all. I'm 31 years old, and he still finds ways to throw in a jab. Sometimes it's something like: "My mom had all girls, and I'm her only boy." His words can be hurtful, but I'm not so sure he cares. I knew early on that since my brother had sports, I would choose education. I would make sure I was alert in class and retained what the teachers were passing on in class. It was also one reason why in the sixth grade, I told my mom that I wanted to leave public school and go to boarding school. I wanted to get out of my brothers shadow and be my own person. For me, going away to school would be my salvation. I would be able to reinvent myself, or possibly be the person I knew I was inside.
I wasn't really able to fully come out while at boarding school. I was still in the south, and on top of that, I was at a school where church was mandatory every Sunday, and bible study was once a week. It was no place for a black boy to confess to the world that he's gay, but I was able to come into my own and breathe some, if only it were a small sigh of relief. The words of my brother would still ring out though, but not from him; this bullying came in the form of others at boarding school, but it was nothing that I couldn't handle.
I have always been the person who cheers or roots for the underdog, and I was surely that person. I didn't stop me from making friends, becoming a school ambassador or even president of my class and the entire student body. I set out to prove something, prove to myself that through hard work and determination anything is possible and prove to everyone else, especially other black boys, that I was just as or equally as much of man than they were.
I often tell the black youth that I speak with that they can't help that they were brought into this world the color that they are. Your ethnicity, however, doesn't have to define the quality of the education you receive, and when there are haters in your life, it's your duty to yourself first to show them also that you are equal.
It has taken me years to totally understand the affects of what my brother would say to me. How it would shape my life, and who I would become because of it; and in this skin I'm in, that's a confident black, educated man that's equally qualified to be considered one, despite not fitting the super masculine stereotypes people, like my brother, walk around thinking automatically makes him more of a man.
Maybe my story will help others out there who may or may not be African-American, but who grew up, or are currently going through life, feeling just a little out of the box. There are people in your life to help you decide if you will be the product of your environment, or if you do all you can to excel and be the best version of yourself. Strive to be you, and if that means you're different, be different and wear the shit out of you difference.