To live, we must put an end those things that would, otherwise, be cause for our own funerals.
Death—once again—seemed like the only conceivable option after my boyfriend repeatedly cheated, verbally abused, physically assaulted, and left me. My early-twenty-something life, which was supposed to be full of sunshine and bliss, was characterized by days full of endless sleep, tears and brokenness. In retrospect, he wasn’t the cause of my leap into turmoil, though, he clearly aided in the spurring of many sleepless and tearful nights, but the “me” that suffered through those dark days—and those that followed him—was the same “me” that stood at the window, the same “me” that pondered-many-a-day the pain that I suffered at the hands of others, the same bullied, debased, self-deflated, broken, sissy, ugly, nerd, pussy me. I mastered the art of visioning myself as others had done for years. I fashioned myself as the victim in a world ruled by those who hated me. I imagined that I would become the victor when I took power over others by taking the life that they seemed to hold power over, my own.
The reality is: I never desired to die.
I wanted to be free from the painful situations that eroded the peace in my life. I was born into a world that was not ready for the arrival of a black, male/female loving, gender-maneuvering, book/dance/music-adoring, economically challenged, urban boy. Indeed, the world is not and has not ever been ready for me and other brown/black/queer men.
Whether it were ships that we jumped from in the Middle Passage, auction blocks and chattel slavery plantations that we ran from, lynching trees that our torn and naked bodies hung from, homes where our bodies roasted after having been set ablaze, streets where our legs and arms were ripped into by dogs, prisons, corners in the hood, suburban streets, courtrooms, war ravaged territories, doctors’s offices, each others’ arms…black/brown/queer men have been born into a world, and its various spaces, where we have been made hyperly-aware of other’s desires for our demise. It makes sense to me, then, why death has become a tool used by some to solve the problem of our existence. It is hard to live when others would prefer you dead.
This is the paradox that frames our existence and survival as queer black/brown male-identified persons in today’s global community. We live—some of us—despite the incessant negativity and violence that often surrounds and harms us, contested public policies and problematic state propaganda that attempt to define and malign us, and the condemnatory words of faith leaders and families that weaken and kill us. We die—some of us—because of the same.
But, we fight (and have fought)—all of us—through states of virulence and violence in communities where others (and, we ourselves) have yet to fully see us in our diversity of expression and beauty.
We have, yet, to be seen, beheld, beyond others’ characterizations of black/brown queer men as negations, as problems, as subjects of deficit-focused case studies, as social beings with the budding potential to do and be better as opposed to human beings who are—most of us—in real time, doing and being the better for ourselves and each other within our shared world. Yes, even in these times—the post-Nugent, Rustin, Baldwin, Beam, Sylvester, Hemphill, Riggs days—brown/black queer men exist within ideological terrains and amidst structural conditions that literally murder us. To live, then, we must commit to the hard work of provoking resurrections in our lives and the lives of other queer men of color. To live, we must put an end those things that would, otherwise, be cause for our own funerals.
If we are to offer eulogies, let them be on behalf of those things that push us toward death.
For example, a good friend scolded me recently and asked that I get “real” and let go of my “performances.” He called into question my seeming happiness and cautioned me to allow folk to see the real me: my hurts, my tears, my vulnerabilities, and my failures. I responded defensively by reminding him that what he perceived to be a performance for everyone else (i.e. my daily proclamation of life-producing affirmations; my intention to acknowledge my strengths and accomplishments as much as I focus on my weaknesses and failures; my practicing of self-love, self-care and even selfishness as much as I commit to the sharing of love and concern for others and selflessness; my building up as opposed to the tearing down of self; my smiling despite crying; my laughing in spite of hurting; my living regardless of my body dying…) is my mode of survival. Why did my brother-friend seem to insist that sadness and brokenness and pain and defeat (though, my life is certainly full of all of the above sometimes) were more realistic characterizations of my life than contentment, fulfillment, joy and triumph?
Why, why, why or we more prone to envision and believe the lives of black/brown queer man as those lacking victories, joyous stories, deep love for self and others, laughter, intimacy, bursts of praise to God and our ancestors and awe, but easy for us to imagine him as a societal burden, statistic, and corpse? My friends discomfort with my daily movement towards life, rather than death, is suggestive of a larger societal problem, namely, society’s attractiveness to the defeated and debased and dehumanized and dead brown/black queer men of color.
It is our time to live; indeed, it has always been.
Even if we live amongst those, necrophiliacs, attracted to our metaphorical and genuine demise, we have what is needed within us individually and among us communally to push through such desires in the same way we lived (and are living) in spite of the auction block, chains, whips, nooses, firing squads, laws, prisons, street corners, public health office examination rooms, strangers’ fists, lovers’ arms, and our own hands. It is easy to live when we can put to death others’ thoughts of us. So live, brothers.
This essay was originally published as a two part series on Yolo Akili’s blog.
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