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WHEN VIOLENCE LANDS AT YOUR DOORSTEP

In part 2 of our series “Life Support: From Set Back to Comeback!” we look at another experience alot of black LGBTQ young adults will have to deal with or have dealt with at some point – that we rarely talk about: the moment you are jumped or attacked. It’s an experience more than likely you will never forget but can overcome. This is an actual account of how one young man dealt with his altercation.

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Nobody ever said that life would be easy. Consequently, most people couldn’t begin to fathom the lived experience of someone like me: an effeminate Black gay man. Since I was a child, I have been associated with the idea of gayness. My feminine expressions allude to my sexuality, causing others to see deviance in my behavior. Because my femininity is an innately ingrained expression, it has never been something that I could conceal. And it was my inescapable visibility as a gender non-conforming child, coupled with my confusion-induced fear that welcomed violence, stigmatization, and pathologization. I spent much of my childhood in isolation, never forming close relationships with others because I was the site for comic relief and moral judgment. Fag was a household and schoolyard nickname, and the slightest moves were inevitably met with meticulous scrutiny.

Coming out, at the age of 15, served me well in that it allowed me to see the beauty in myself. I had finally gained an understanding of myself that disallowed people to have power over me. My disconnection from my gay identity, while still having it socially, left me vulnerable to a type of injustice that was incomprehensible. In owning my identity, I was granted the freedom to extend outside of myself and venture into the world; meet others like me. Shortly after slightly getting my feet wet within Chicago’s Black gay scene, I was introduced to the Youth Pride Center (YPC). I had never been amongst so many gay men, and it was refreshing to be in presence of individuals with similar experiences to my own. YPC allowed me the chance to finally be “normal,” to be accepted and treated as a relevant and appreciated individual. YPC solidified a self-love and confidence that manifested out of the hate that consumed me throughout my youth.

As my involvement progressed with YPC, an intense passion began to develop; a need to serve the Black gay community in any way, shape, or form to evoke positive outcomes for people like me. The trauma of my past seemed so minute compared to the needs of the community.

One particularly cloudy day, I was walking into the McDonald’s on 95th and the Dan Ryan before heading west for a meeting with a potential donor for YPC. As I walked, I was having a phone conversation with an YPC friend of mine. On approaching the door, I was met by four teenage boys. They got in my face and called me a faggot. While still on the phone, I attempted to proceed to the door, but I was knocked to the ground. There in front of the door, the group jumped me until I somehow actually made it into the McDonald’s. It had been years since I had experience such overt violence and disregard for my well-being. But, the crazy thing about it was the fact that I had to be forced to file a police report with officers at the Red Line station. Rather, I was more concerned with getting to the meeting. The heinous ordeal that I had endured was not about me, and I understood that.

Who I am is not a lifestyle choice, and therefore, I was reassured that their malice was a reflection of their inability to rejoice in their own truth. I quickly reported the incident, because I was worthy of the acknowledgement, and proceeded to the meeting. Although my heart was heavy, I was gladdened by the fact that I was on the way to a person of refuge, a fellow YPC member and friend. After two trains and a ten-minute walk characterized by paranoia and irrational fear, I had finally reached my goal. I sat down, had the meeting, and mentioned nothing until me and my constituent were done and gone. The premise of the meeting was not ‘LifeSupport-page-001

me and my personal trifles’, but a culmination of experiences that characterize the Black gay narrative. The meeting and its components were greater than me, and therefore I had to focus on producing the optimal result for the collective.

I did not allow being jumped to have power over me. Those random, insignificant individuals who saw my being as threatening actually empowered me. To evoke such emotion, passion, and physical energy off sight is unsettlingly powerful in that the presence of me disrupts the entirety of their being. By no means I am excusing violence as a means of acquiring narcissistic notions of one’s self. But, to experience violence based solely on being who you are, know that the crime at hand speaks more to the character and dysfunction of the perpetrator. Stand firm in your understanding of yourself by believing that you are worth your own love and know that that love alone is enough. Find and nurture intimate relationships that provide support when situations as these arise. I share this anecdote to encourage you to never allow the temporary nature of physical pain to have a permanent affect on your mental health. I never really discussed that situation with anyone, but not out of fear or shame. Rather, the fact that I survived and acted selflessly allowed the experience to not be so sore on my memory, instead it is seen as a pivotal defining moment of strength, resilience, and power. I feel that my circumstance shows that sometimes the best way to find peace, healing, and satisfaction is by securing it for, and protecting that of others.

National Youth Pride Services,

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone. 773-YPS-8051