I am a gay man of color. I’ve tried and failed to describe my past experience as one, but I’ll try here: I was born into a box within a box, and the keys are always dangling just out of my reach, jingling in the dark. Houdini has nothing on me.
To grow up a minority in America is an odd thing; there’s nothing I wanted more than to fit in, to not stand out as an easy target for bullies, but fitting in meant forsaking my identity. And the slow realization that I was gay crept in at the same time I wondered why every image of the “American ideal” looked, sounded, and acted nothing like me.
So as a kid, I would look in the mirror at my features, my smooth skin, my black eyes, and it was easy to feel ugly. It was easy to agree. And when I came out, there was no parade celebrating my diverseness. Instead, I entered a subculture that strove even harder to fit in. When a group of individuals grows up with a perpetual reinforcement that we are subhuman, that our emotions are inferior, that our love is dirty, how can you blame us for this? The Adonis factor is not narcissism. It’s self-defense.
I worked so hard to hear that I was attractive. I had something to prove, that I was no longer that sad, effeminate boy doggy-paddling at the shallow end of the pool. So I hit the gym and sculpted my body from obesity to lean muscle. So I built a persona of hypersexual confidence and took an obscene pleasure in breaking hearts. So I went through long periods of promiscuity and drug use when I used my sexuality as validation: “If you fuck me, I exist.”
And I was miserable.