Love and Happiness

Love and Happiness

 

That song was made popular by Al Green. In the first line he say’s, “Love will make you do right/ make you do wrong.” This post is about how we could all stand to share some love and happiness.

I really want to latch on to the thought of LOVE for this blog and I hope the conversation around it is shared and continues.

I have been very fortunate to be surrounded and dare I say overwhelmed with LOVE my entire life. By many accounts I am/was both of my grandmother’s favorite and if I was my sister was definitely the favorite for my grandpa.

That said the LOVE we received from our immediate family and extended family (blood and sometimes not) set the tone really early. Our family was fiercely protective of one another. If discipline was going to occur it started at home. Encouragement started at home and most importantly affirmation started at home.

I lost count on how many times I was told I was smart. I lost count on how many times I heard I Love You and to this day whether by voice or text I will have those 3 words shared with me from members of my family.

That love and affirmation has propelled me through life. It made my experiences, missteps and dare I say failures that much easier. I knew I would be OK, because of the Love I received at home.

I know how fortunate I truly am and recently on Easter I was stopped in my tracks. While putting together an umbrella for my grandma’s patio and barbecuing my grandmother, who knows I am gay said something that made me stop in my tracks.

I don’t even really know what we were discussing, but maybe something about music or dancing and she said she couldn’t wait to celebrate and dance at my wedding. WOW! I haven’t thought much about my wedding or how it’s going to happen since I am not in any sort of relationship! It just got me to thinking how fortunate I am to have a family who loves me through and through.

For some reason I was extremely nervous to share my sexuality with my family. For some reason I just knew they would disown me, maybe kick me out of the family and Lord knows what else.

Maybe it was the stories of many other LGBT people of color that I knew and read about. Maybe it was what I saw in movies and televisions shows. I just knew that it was supposed to be that way. After all any guy that I had dated had been disregarded or even told that his “lifestyle” would not fly with their respective family.

I figured certainly my path would one day align with theirs. It was hard for me to imagine not being able to come to family dinners, reunions or spend holidays and birthdays with my own blood. To not feel the hugs and kisses my parents showered me with. To not get one of the hugs I look forward to from my grandmother, my brother and sister. Nonetheless as I shared it with the immediate family (many were shocked at nearly 28) nothing changed. Their love didn’t change, their hugs didn’t change, the kisses, the birthday gifts and calls, NOTHING changed.

I think the stories I have heard over the years of the young men and women who have been all but homeless or barred from attending their family functions, essentially striping them of their family privileges scared me.

I have heard the stories of young men and women who hear nothing from their parents except when they receive a text, email, phone call or voicemail to quote convenient scripture about their love they share for the same gender. I can’t imagine never hearing I love you or not receiving some of those hugs and kisses. As strong as I am and as much of a man as I am, that means something to me, it is a powerful source of strength.

That is the reality for so many LGBT people of color. They can’t come home for holidays or even to say hello. They do not have someone to call to share the good news about the love of their life and most certainly they don’t have a shoulder to lean on if and when that Love is cut short or disappears.

It got me to thinking, what if my straight friends spouse was not acknowledged or allowed to visit? How would that make them feel? Could you imagine never being able to take family portraits, enjoying Easter, Birthday’s, Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanza with the first Love you ever knew?

So many of us take for granted what family means and is. We take for granted how far we have come with the Love and support of family. No matter your religion, you are called to LOVE your family. Love them.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming walking into the world knowing you have so much support. I do not know how to handle some people who have been all, but abandoned. The world has made them hard and cold. I would imagine if more people embraced them with LOVE and kind words we might be a little better off.

So I encourage my friends who are straight to reach out to your family members who may be LGBT and let them know you LOVE them. Let them know that all you want for them is LOVE and Happiness. Maybe your view on their sexuality hasn’t changed, but the good thing is you don’t have to be involved in their sexuality. You just have to be involved with LOVING and supporting that family member.

Let’s spread the love and encourage one another. Life is hard enough just dealing with strangers, the people we work with and life’s random occurrences. Let’s share the load and spread a little LOVE and Happiness.

 

 

 

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Did you know…

Leading up to yesterday’s election I knew that things would not be good for the HERO act. 

  (Image of commonly distributed marketing materials for anti-HERO promotion)

I was shocked that people of color Hispanic and or black did not know that it protected equality based on their race. Instead everyone I spoke to focused on an issue that wasn’t even an issue (at least according to the text in the actual act). 

What I saw was that good ole’ fashioned word of mouth and some pretty horrible television ads had produced one of life’s most dangerous feelings FEAR. The opponents of PROP 1 latched onto a fear that men dressed as women would use the ordinance to prey on kids. 

Every time I saw a person of color discussing it in person or via social media it was clear they hadn’t read the ordinance and believed the unsubstantiated and offensive hype.

I won’t say much other than in 2015 I thought we made more progress. It reminds me of opponents of equality scaring people away from the polls in the 60’s. Even more disturbing in Houston, on the day of the election, a donut chain opens (which happens to be one of my favorites) and there was a line for at least 12 hours before the opening and 12 hours after. Voter turnout was low. Of nearly 2.5 million registered voters only about 25% turned out. I’m sure the donut shop had well over 2,000 guests throughout the day. I saw people who live nor work no where near the location posting about “happening” to drive by.
I’m at a lost for words, but I know for sure that should this voter turnout and fear baited messaging be used again, the presidential election won’t be clean sweep for any politician no matter their affiliation. If we think so then we are surely in more trouble than we realize.

Huffington Post’s article details, cites and provides actual language, and provides a high level view of how cities much smaller in Houston were affected. 

  (CampaignForhouston.com web image)
I’m at a lost for words, but I know for sure that should this voter turnout and fear baited messaging be used again, the presidential election won’t be clean sweep for any politician no matter their affiliation. If we think so then we are surely in more trouble than we realize.

The anti-hero movement did a lot. If anything what it did is allow secretly and not so secretly LGBT individuals and families to latch on to what so many believe, that is that individuals in the LGBT community and perverts/pedophiles are one in the same. 
I’ll stop there, but there’s a definite distinction. We need to be honest, but open minded enough to have a conversation for understanding and not to simply speak. 
Read the Huffington Posts article which not only details and cites actual language, but provides a high level view of how cities much smaller in Houston were affected. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE HUFF POST ARTICLE



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Hip Hop Comes out… Sort of

#OutinHipHop

Last week VH1 and the Love and Hip Hop brand delivered a round table discussion that was actually positive. No fighting, cursing word wheeling, slander filled conversations, but civil dialogue. They brought people of color together for a civilized conversation about a social, religious and cultural topic, Homosexuality in the Hip Hop Culture.
The show was navigated by journalist and ABC anchor and television personality, T.J. Holmes.
Holmes navigated the broad topic and was accompanied by noted hip hop artist DMC and Big Freedia. Among the panelists included Ray J, Fizz, and Emil Wilbekin, Pastor Delman Coates, Buttahman, Clay Cane, Chuck Creekmur , and Michael Arceneaux.
The show began discussing Miles (a participant in the show Love and Hip Hop LA) coming out process, internal conflict he faced, as well as what reality he may face from a very religious black family and being a up and coming hip hop artist.
Miles discussed not wanting to be shunned and or disowned by his family and disregarded by his church. Admittedly I had not watched much of Love and Hip-Hop LA this season, but Mile’s story resonated with me. Over the past 9 years, I began to accept my sexuality (all be it in stages) I’ve encountered so many men who are held captive by the love they fear they will lose by being who they simply are. Their taste in clothes doesn’t change, their mannerisms won’t change, their respect for their family won’t change and their love of God or their spiritual being wouldn’t change. However their family and some friends would surely reject them for not having the same attraction.
The show was a dartboard of topics, but T.J. Holmes did a great job of navigating things and keeping the show moving. Of the topics on the show, one of the most heated exchanges took place around religion and hip-hop’s effect on participants and listeners of hip hop. The panel discussed religion and its role in keeping people closeted. The irony was that hip hop artists who degrade women, glorify a gluttonous lifestyle, and degrade their brother’s and sisters could then have a moral compass was the elephant in the room.
The topic was very interesting as you could see the stage of religious leaders was definitely split. As Pastor Delman Coates, eloquently explained Jesus himself never mentions anything about same sex love, marriage or interactions. He put into context the mentioning of homosexuality in the bible and explained the church should be welcoming same gender loving members without commenting on their respective private life.

This topic could have been an entire show by itself. Pastor Jamall Bryant on via Skype providing counseling and prayer for the afflicted gays while Pastor Delman Coates lauded the church to welcome everyone and to love the individuals regardless of sexuality. He touched on not nitpicking sins.

The show progressed so much and discussed stories and impacts of words like “faggot” or “fag” so much that several of the artists on stage stood up to announce they wouldn’t use it having witnessed the conversation of how those words effected so many.
Perhaps the most poignant moment aside from Pastor Delman Coates was the point Emil Wilbekin made. The former Vibe Magazine editor in chief, stated that straight men and hip hop in particular will wear clothes designed and styled by a gay man, but mock, disrespect, and ridicule a gay man. Again the irony in the conversation was abounding. A community that feels like “non-black” artists exploit hip hop, yet they will exploit the styles created by gay men.
I’ve often wondered how the individuals (rappers / hip-hop artists) who by in large don’t contribute positive images of young African-American youth in their artistry can then get so spiritual and religious to condemn someone else. Surely there are worse things than being gay, unless of course you’re black and then you could have sold drugs in your neighborhood that led to countless deaths, arrests, and subsequent spiraling activities that leave many African Americans stuck.
We have to begin to evaluate how we’ve defined a group of people who aren’t bad just based on their sexuality (LGBT Community). They aren’t demonic and they aren’t evil. We instead need to have a higher level of consciousness that makes us evaluate individuals based on their works and their words. I’ve seen more young men and women influenced by artistry that doesn’t represent reality and instead crafts an invisible cage around their mind. Let’s start to look past sexual preferences and start to just make good quality music. Something to make us feel good, make is move, and hopefully motivate us.
Check out the link below to #OutinHipHop

#OutinHipHop

The Similarities

As a black man I wish I knew as a child what I know now. As a child I grew up with great friends of all ethnicities and cultures. I had friends from many different countries that spoke English as a second language, and had hard working parents just like mine.

As an adult racial biases would smack me in the face the world didn’t care how educated I was, what suit I wore, how many countries I had visited, how many people I had helped. I was still just a black man. I can recall the year I was pulled over 9 times in a 12-month span, illegally stopped, and falsely arrested. At that time I was a full time college student, I worked full time, and helped support my family. At the time my sister was undergoing dialysis due to kidney disease. My mother had recently recovered from two strokes and was then unemployed.

You see the majority of “us” (black men) no matter how well dressed, no matter how educated, no matter how well traveled, no matter what you have overcome, have had some sort of run-in with the law warranted or unwarranted and in most cases faced an experience like mine. Bias, Bias, Bias!

I’ve been at work where I’ve been treated significantly different than my peers of a different race. I’ve seen the treatment of others be significantly different thank there non-white peers or made out to be more aggressive (a biased and unwarranted stereotype).

So I shift that dehumanizing experience to another set that I have experienced. Being black and gay, interestingly enough I did not face many questions about my sexuality over the years. In the process I overheard countless homophobic jokes and disrespectful commentary about gay men, from people who did not know I happened to be gay (I have been told I don’t fit the stereotype). As my grandmother would said, “You don’t act like the rest of them…”

Over the years I have heard straight men and women refer to gay men as everything from “faggot”, to “queen”, to “sissy”. Imagine being a black person and hearing your white or Indian family, friend or associate say the word “nigger” in your presence. That’s what I felt. I could see then the bias that existed throughout society. It seemed like no matter how good of a friend, family member, volunteer, or even coworker I would still be viewed as (insert homophobic epithet). That bias existed. Though nobody directed those words directly at me I felt a certain sense of anxiety about it.

I have even seen ignorant posts and commentary about marriage equality opening the doors for bestiality or marriage to animals. Over the years I have seen family, friends, and associates hop in and out of relationships and then get married complete with white dresses a blessing from a preacher. I have seen countless straight friends get drunk, gamble, and party such that it led to pre-marital sex. Many of which would soon go on to get married. Yet we now see here that the sanctity of marriage is in question.

The past few weeks after SCOTUS’s ruling I saw so many bigoted and bias posts, reposts and pieces of commentary, I was shocked. I have seen more support for jailed murderers, drug dealers, and unwed pregnant women. It is crazy that our society and our black community would critique, criticize, and ultimately reject a group who can relate to the treatment blacks receive daily.

It is amazing that black people who were once not allowed to have civil liberties would advocate for the denial of another human being having them. While many would argue my religious beliefs or God doesn’t like “that” I would caution you to be sure you interpret your readings for your self and not just regurgitate information. I won’t go too deep but at one time the bible was used and twisted to unfairly treat black people. Don’t let abomination (which means culturally something is disliked) be thrown around when God called us to love one another.
Imagine if our black people joined together to support initiatives in our communities the way the LGBT community did. I won’t go into too much depth, but I know I don’t get nearly the response to volunteer opportunities that I do to anything related to a community service event and my colleagues I volunteer with gay and straight have long said the same thing.

Imagine if we eliminated racial biases or biases based on sexuality. Your friend that you love to death may not feel the need to be afraid to share with you that they are just a little different. I am so incredibly thankful that years ago when I shared my sexuality with my grandmother, mother, sister, and brother, and close friends they never loved me any less they simply asked, “Are you happy?” There only wish has been that no matter what I be happy. You see there is not much different between the LGBT community and the black community. Imagine no bias for race or sexuality. We could learn something from one another and move the chains so that equality wasn’t just based on sexuality, but even on race! The Similarities we overlook are glaring!
I’ve witnessed members of the LGBT community advocate for equality on their behalf. I’ve seen the LGBT community boycott businesses that openly made derogatory or discriminatory remarks against the community. Imagine if people of color did the same. Most recently the Hispanic community joined together to flex their power on Donald Trump. Again the similarities. Imagine what would happen if black people flexed their economic and political influence until equality was reached. This isn’t to say some aren’t working! I know great groups of thought leaders, organizers, and individuals who constantly work on the greater populations behalf, but it’s surely not the number we could see.