Mirror, Mirror

 

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This spoke to me today. I must admit i’m still battling with some self esteem issues. I truly don’t find myself attractive at all. I really wish I could get a nose job. But I’m working on myself slowly but surely!

 

Mirror, Mirror!!
There were so many things I was taught to hate about myself. 1. Hated my nose; was told t it was too big and bulbous. 2. Hated my bottom lip; thought it had too many creases. 3. Hated my eyebrows; was told they were thin and sad. 4. Hated my height; everyone was taller than me. 5. Hated my knees; was told they were too dark. 6. Hated my complexion; was told I was the color of pee. 7. Hated my feet; was told my toe-nails were too dark. 8. Hated my butt; was teased it was high and girly. 9. Hated my heritage; was told I wasn’t “Black Enough” or I wasn’t “White enough” and I didn’t speak-a-the-spanish to blend in with the Puerto Ricans kids (LOL). Those critiques were sprayed on me like graffiti, covering who I really was – an unsightly tag and a stifling weight left for me to carry.

It took years to shed those scars and be able to appreciate ME – and I still find areas I missed. I had to be chiseled, sandblasted, and stripped of the self-hate – much of it deeply internalized. There is nothing more important to me than my PEACE and that starts with loving MYSELF first. You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and smile BIG because ultimately that’s the one face you should be waking up to please. How you view your scars determines how you interact with others; shame, jealousy, envy, fearfulness, being backstabbing, distrusting, controlling, conceited, needy, shy, self-sacrificing, and self-destructive, are all reflections of the defamation of the self in the mirror – no matter how pretty or handsome you appear to others.

Find your peace beyond the looking glass. Break it!

from Quincy Gossfield (The DL Chronicles)

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An Open Letter to Black Same Gender Loving Men by David Malebranche

My heart is heavy.  My soul longs for relief.  Yesterday my dear friend, mentee and little brother, Warner McGee, transitioned after being taken off life support by his mother due to a protracted illness.  The details of exactly which illness robbed him of his future at this point is irrelevant – the painful reality we face is that yet another talented, intelligent brother has left this earth way too soon, leaving many of us scratching our heads in disbelief.  What happened?  Why him?  What more could I have done to prevent this tragedy from transpiring?  These questions hauntingly reverberate in my head like a vise, slowly squeezing it until I feel like it will explode.

 

Warner was young, gifted and black.  He overcame many early life adversities to graduate from Morehouse College with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in public health.  He later went on to get his doctorate in public health from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.  He was brilliant, hardworking and passionate about promoting the general, mental and sexual health of Black men.  He was a good friend and a bright spirit.  He was a little brother to me. And his story, sadly, is not unfamiliar to us.  In recent times, the story of a talented Black same gender loving man being “suddenly” struck down in their prime has become somewhat of a yearly ritual.  Word travels through telephone, email and social media.  Everyone is shocked, saddened and surprised.  And over time, as the details around the death of our brother unravel, we discover that his passing was not so “sudden” after all.  There was an underlying medical, mental, spiritual and/or psychological issue at the root of his journey.  And for some reason, until it was too late, no one knew about it but him.

 

For many of us navigating through this world as Black same gender loving men, it is not easy.  We have to worry about the inherent racism in general society that pegs us as ubiquitous threats and outsiders, regardless of what we wear or what level of education we have attained.  Simultaneously, we are seen as the purveyors of moral depravity in the larger Black community despite our historic and present contributions to our collective advancement.  We are seen as the hedonistic pedophiles who do nothing but dream of imaginative ways to corrupt youth; the outcasts who have turned our backs on anything spiritual simply because we respect and acknowledge our natural romantic desires; and of course, we are pegged as the main reason why Black women get HIV at higher rates than women of other races and ethnicities.  With all this placed on top of our backs every day in addition to our routine daily struggles, we foolishly spend the majority of our time trying to prove ourselves to our non-Black and/or heterosexual contemporaries.  We want them to view us as trustworthy so passionately that we overcompensate with extraordinary creative and work achievements, acquire prestigious work titles and accumulate as many letters behind our names that a business card can possibly handle.

 

But in the process of responding to this intersectional oppression from being both Black and same gender loving in a society that does not care to feature either social identity, we lose something. We lose ourselves.  We stop caring about our needs and instead choose to prioritize the safety and health of others.  Over the past decade I have personally witnessed and heard of numerous Black same gender loving men who serve as healers and saviors in our community yet suffer in silence with their own health issues until succumbing to an untimely death.  It is unnecessary and I don’t think I can receive another phone call, email, or post on Facebook announcing the death of another Black same gender loving man.  I can’t go to another funeral and hear another eulogy that coats over the rich multifaceted nature of our lives to simply relegate them to “He was a good Christian and loved Jesus.”  I just can’t.

 

And I am not just referring to HIV, though I’m sure that is the health issue to cross most peoples’ minds when they think of Black same gender loving men.  Contrary to popular belief, we also have to deal with mental health issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and the myriad other maladies that afflict Black men.  For some reason, those of us who are the healers in our families, relationships and communities, when afflicted with an illness ourselves, choose to not follow the advice we give so many on a daily basis.  We deny the condition exists, fight tooth and nail to avoid medical care and refuse to embrace any homeopathic or medicinal remedies that can facilitate a healthy life.  Instead, put quite simply and bluntly, we choose death.

 

I am not saying that if we are dealing with a specific medical issue, we have to become the spokesperson for that topic.  This is not everyone’s calling.  In the midst of saving the world and trying to prove our worth to societies that may never fully embrace us, however, we must at least acknowledge our mortality.  We cannot always be the Supermen we think we are or so desperately want others to believe.  So if you find out you are HIV-positive, you certainly do not have to scream from the rooftops your revelation or become the poster child for HIV treatment or advocacy.  But tell some close friends and family that you trust, be conscientious about following up with medical providers, and take care of your body with whatever therapeutic options are available.  The same principle applies if we get diagnosed with high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, depression, or any other medical condition.  It is no different. When people know exactly what you are dealing with day to day, things that happen will not be such a “surprise,” but something that makes sense and may facilitate quicker action to remedy the situation.

 

So why choose a slow protracted death?  Can we blame White Supremacy and society’s relentless attack on black male bodies and psyches?  Do we point the finger at the pervasive sexual prejudice against anyone not engaging in a “heteronormative lifestyle”?  Is it our churches’ fault for trying to brainwash us from a young age that we are damaged goods, or should our biological families assume more responsibility for more easily accepting a heterosexual sibling’s chosen drug problem over our natural romantic inclinations?  Is the CDC at fault for ignoring us for years until they couldn’t sweep the statistics under the rug any longer?  Or is it our own fault for not taking the time to check on each other when we know that something is wrong?  The truth, undoubtedly, is that the intersection of all these factors may contribute to this choice.

 

Part of the reason why we allow this benign neglect to consume us to the grave, however, is that after years of hearing what we aren’t worth from various sources in our lives, we actually start believing that our lives are expendable – despite ample evidence to the contrary.  We are the ones who serve as the rocks of the family.  We are the loving dependable uncles to our precious nieces and nephews.  We are the sons who pay attention and devote the most time to our aging parents, while our heterosexual siblings complain about being too “busy” with their marriage and kids – as if our lives are devoid of any commitments, responsibilities or obligations outside of ourselves.  We are the educators, the lawyers, the public servants, the health care employees, the customer service personnel, the ministers and ministers of music who selflessly devote our lives to our communities every day, while all the while listening to the whispers of disapproval of our born sexuality penetrate the tender flesh of our backs like so many steely knives.  After a while, despite these facts, we still believe we are unworthy of love and life.

 

The solution to this dynamic is clear – we need to be there for each other and stop waiting for a church, the CDC, our local congressperson, or President Obama himself to save us.  It is often said that as Black same gender loving men, we get to choose our non-biological families, especially when we encounter challenges with our biological families.  If that is the case, we must realize that as with any family, things will not always be perfect.  We cherish the moments where we can travel together, go clubbing, or to house parties together, and provide unwavering support to each other through school, work, and relationship difficulties. And there may be times when we may betray each other, say mean spirited things we don’t really mean, and even get on each other’s nerves and have knockdown, drag out arguments for the ages.  But this is the case with every family, biologic and non-biologic.  So since we have chosen each other, we must honor ourselves and our chosen family through thick and thin, through good times and bad times, through sickness and health.  And yes, ‘til death do us part.

 

So wherever you are, whatever you are doing in the course of your busy day that may involve interacting with another Black same gender loving man, look into his eyes and gaze into his soul.  See yourself in him. Whether he is a friend, lover or family member – look through the perfectly faded hair, the letters behind his name, the designer clothes, the impeccable payment record of his rent or mortgage or whatever kind of car from which he emerges to greet you.  Look past any troubles he has paying bills, quirks in personality or annoying habits.  Look through him and simply take a moment to ask him if he is ok.  And if he gives you a dismissive answer like “I’m fine,” ask him again, and with the side-eye you usually reserve for giving shade, let him you know are serious.  Then stand back and be prepared for a more elaborate and real answer than you could have ever anticipated.  And when you are finished listening to him, wrap him in your arms and tell him that you love him.  It may be the last time you get the opportunity to do so, and it may be one of the few times he will hear those three words and know that it is coming from someone who truly understands him.  And maybe, just maybe, he will come to realize that he has another choice.

8 Relationship Success Tips For Coupled Gay Men

Introduction

As gay men, you’ve struggled through and endured all the challenges inherent in finding true love with another man in this homophobic society, but you did it! You found your Mr. Right! So now what?!

Not only did we as gay men not receive any education or guidance in how to date another man, but we certainly didn’t get the training manual on how to sustain a healthy, intimate partnership
with him once we found our ideal guy and decided to form a commitment with him. Gay partnerships can be very rewarding and fulfilling, but they require conscious effort and attentiveness to foster their successful growth and intimacy. What follows is a short tips list that gay couples can use as a quick-reference guide for keeping their relationships on track. Keep these bullet points in mind and you’ll have a solid foundation in place to make your relationship solid gold!

Relationship Success Tips

1. Avoid placing all your emotional needs on your partner.
Develop your own individual identity and through those experiences, your relationship will be enriched as you keep breathing new life into it.

2. Even if you’ve been together a long time, never expect your partner to know what your needs are. Mind-reading and making assumptions only leads to misunderstandings and potential conflicts. Learn to be assertive and ask directly for what you want.

3. Periodically have a “check-in” with your partner to reexamine how the relationship is going and how satisfied you and your partner are. This keeps the channels of communication open and can help renew the relationship, reinforcing the positives and uncovering areas in need of attention before things get too misguided.

4. Characteristic of relationship development, most couples have a diminishment of that honeymoon phase “high” that’s experienced in the beginning of a relationship when they first started dating. This is normal and not a reason to be concerned that there is something necessarily wrong. When this occurs, strive to bring more creativity and vitality into your relationship and sex life to spice things up. Surprise your partner. Be spontaneous and playful. Make him see how special and important he is to you.

5. Examine your satisfaction with the roles you play in your relationship. A real advantage of gay relationships is the ability to be flexible with life roles and not to have to ascribe to traditional sex role stereotypes commonly held in heterosexual relationships. Negotiate such roles and tasks openly and freely with your partner, acknowledging areas of strength and talent in this decision-making.

6. Avoid letting disagreements turn into ugly verbal battles where things could be said that are later regretted. Learn basic anger management principles and know when to call a “Time-Out” to defuse unproductive anger. Also learn how to re-engage following the cool-down period so issues can be resolved peacefully.

7. Protect your relationship legally by seeking assistance from an attorney to obtain the necessary legal documents befitting your particular relationship situation, including such things as power of attorney, wills, beneficiary designations, etc. Planning ahead with such things can insure that you’re each taken care of in the event that something was to jeopardize your union.

8. Don’t let the busyness of life take away from your relationship. Find a balance between work, alone time, friends, family, and time spent as a couple. Make “Date Night” a regular part of your lifestyle where you avoid discussing your problems or issues and just enjoy spending that quality time together. Never take each other for granted and remember that you’re a team.

©2004 Brian L. Rzepczynski

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