Growing up in the westside of Atlanta, there are not many times I can recall when being gay was acceptable. Even in my own family, my Jamaican father and southern Baptist mother had a hard time (and still do) understanding or embracing my identity. When I came out, their reaction made it was clear that it was the worst news I could of given either of them and almost made any accolades I had achieved at that point to fly out the window. At the time I didn’t realize that their concerns were less about who I loved, but the potential threat that being a black gay male would play to my career and future.
Fast forward to 12 years and 5 jobs later, my parents’ fears have seemingly dissipated. Now at age 31, I often end up telling my story to younger community members or even entrepreneurs who ask, “How did you have the courage to be unapologetically yourself throughout your career?” The answer was simple to me – I refused to make myself uncomfortable to allow others to remain in their comfort zones.
Now as a DEI practitioner, I explain to others that they must be who they truly are and be outspoken whenever that’s questioned. I never was a huge fan of organized LGBTQ Pride weekends or diving deep into traditional civil rights politics, but I never let that make me feel like I wasn’t a part of either community or stop me from advocating for the issues that matter to me. I am amused when straight guys would tell me I’m cool for a gay guy, or when other gay men would be surprised I know Shawty Lo lyrics. My identity is mine to define and doesn’t look like any one thing; it is a bridge that spans across the lines created by others. All this feeds my soul and empowers me to use my voice to break stereotypes and simply continue my journey of being “Black and Proud.”