I grew up in the heart of the dirty south in Stone Mountain, Georgia where racism and homophobia seem to have tenure.
I realized at a very young age that our differences were more than just a color and more than just love. To me, our differences seemed to plague the air we breathed. No matter where you went, those differences followed you. They sought after you down every aisle in the grocery store. They strolled along with you on your walk home from work. And they sat with you as you learned in school.
In my case, my differences watched over me as a I played in the park. What I thought was going to be a beautiful day of play with my siblings. Hatred looked down on us three little black kids. Feeling the gaze of an onlooker, I raised my head and locked eyes with the almost physical embodiment of racism himself. Standing there was a hooded figure dressed from head to toe in their perceived “Sunday’s best.” I SCREAMED AS LOUD AS I COULD. Not even in a fight, have I experienced my older sister Ashliy pull me and my little brother Ej so fast. We were shocked. Scared. Scarred. Forever changed. Were we mistaken or was this the world we lived in? I dreamt about that day for years. Just like staring at the sun for too long, that figure will be forever burned into my mind.
That same year, what made me different rode on the bus with me and my sister as we made our way to school. Like every other morning, me and my sister played one of those hand-clap games. We played games almost religiously to pass the time to our across-town magnet school. One cold morning, we did our normal routine. Games of patty cake, apples on a stick and down, down, baby. However, this day was a bit different than any other of our elementary school lives. Two boys sitting directly behind us screamed “HE’S GAY.” My sister who is older than me by three years and a week. Sprung into defense mode for me, as if she not only knew what “gay” meant. But also, as if that wasn’t the first-time, she has ever heard someone say that about me. I was confused. What did gay mean? Why am I gay? I asked my sister over and over what this word “gay” even meant. Maybe to shield me, she never told me! Eventually, I found out what it meant. I even learned new adjectives that people would use to describe me. Till this day I still get a stinging sensation in my ear when I hear the word Fa***t.
Throughout my life, I felt broken... alone. Buried. Dead inside. I’ve talked myself off many ledges. Not only did I dig myself out of something that I thought was my grave. I dug deep inside and accepted myself for who I truly am. You know that saying “pressure makes diamonds?” It's true! However, my difference still follows me wherever I go. But like my older sister, I put those differences in their place. I work extremely hard day and night to prove my worth. I am always unsatisfied with my accomplishments. I sigh when I receive 92s on tests. I beat myself up almost every day. Even when I do the best I can. I push and I push myself to my limits. Perfecting every single little thing I do. My friends ask, “Why do you work so hard?” or “Why do you beat yourself up?” and “Why do you never give yourself a break?” Little do they know, I remember when I came face to face with a member of the KKK. I remember being chastised for my sexuality before I could even read. I remember that my differences can hold me back. They will hold me back! So, I will never give anyone ammo against me. I don’t like to give anyone the option to say no. And even if they do say no because of my differences. I want them to look at my resume and regret being racist or a homophobe, because I am perfect for the job. Or any job in fact! I’m going to stay black! I’m going to stay gay! And I’m going to stay proud!