Seldom come opportunities to refine a craft you are truly passionate about—even more seldom come opportunities to use your craft to broadcast love and education to an entire community. I am ecstatic to lace love in statements that support the gritty mortar that this city thrives upon. Having lived here for a little under three months, I am still a stranger to the salt-lick streets of Charleston. As a person who intends on bringing to light LGBT issues and highlighting the success and struggles of this burgeoning group of humans, I would like to tell you an aspect of my story.
I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, but grew up in a small town in Alabama. I have seven siblings, six of whom are women. I have a half black father and a white mother, making myself just black enough to be marked as different, just white enough to not be entirely ostracized. The town in which I grew up had a history of significant racism. You can cruise down Main Street, and there is a small chance that you may see the KKK having themselves a rally at town hall. Yes, it actually happens.
I didn't make many friends growing up, and in a way, I didn't have to. I had six beautiful sisters and one beautiful brother to pester, to pinch, to love. When most boys were watching Terminator or Sunday Night Football, I was sandwiched between long locks and lemon squares, watching the Selena tribute film or frivolous soap operas. I remember being lured into watching fashion shows, and I even participated in a few my sisters threw, against my better judgment, in my Sunday's best five-year-old drag.
As I became older, the few male friends I did have began to drift into territory that felt foreign. Pigskin people parading through the park while I picked daisies, wishing I were with Kayla, or Leah, or some other girl I was determined to begin courting for eventual marriage. I was a fickle and fervent boy, unsure what to make of my significant femininity and my equally significant desire to pair myself with a woman. I was devoutly religious, and while my feminine zeal was troublesome to some in the church I attended, my yearning for a first girlfriend put most homosexual worries to bed for those whose job it was to lose sleep over what the next offering providers will think like. The denomination I aligned myself to did not leave room for love outside of marriage or within your gender, and because of that, I left no room in my mind for frivolous thoughts like allowing love for a male human who loves you back. High school came and went, and people assumed pressed pants and tight shirts translated to a life I was supposedly leading in secret. A good friend of mine came out, and rumors were had of us. While I was theologically against the idea of homosexuality, I clung to his side because nothing important changed. I occasionally was painted with neon words like "faggot" or "bitch" by passersby who couldn't grasp that being the intersection of how society tells you to be can be much more freeing than the elation those toxic words may have given them.
College came around, and so did I, to the idea that I am more than the moments I bathed in since birth. I stripped striped socks with girls I didn't know, lost religion on cedar benches with starry-eyed Colorado gals, kissed boys in black-lit parthenons, and began to see myself exactly for who I was on the inside. I wasn't always accepted, but I climbed past people who chose not to open eyes and see me for who I was. I was extremely fortunate my sophomore year of college to have met surely one of the best humans in existence, become his best friend, and so much more. I studied abroad a little over a semester in the magical land of Norway, and he went to Ireland for a year. Our friendship took off once our planes landed us back in the States. Although we had both felt the stubbled lips of questioning men, we held our pro-gay positions intellectually and nothing further.
I found myself during a frigid Midwest November night. He and I stumbled out of a DJ jungle gym, covered by a first snow that seemed to coat our coatless bodies apologetically. We held our hands to handgrip hips, breathed friendship into lungs, and reveled in hungry lips. I distinctly remember not caring about arousal, caring only of how wonderful it was that we had made our friendship tangible, able to be extracted the way humming birds beaks slowly sip nectar with fluttering hearts. I will forever cherish that moment, one that forever freed me from the emotional binds of any kind of sexual binary.
It has been said that everything is about sex and sex is about everything else. I believe that to be mostly true. One cannot understand the self if one does not understand the sexuality of the self, and that precisely is the journey of the LGBT membership. I am an effeminate male human who has swam in the eyes of women and prodded noses with a man, but moreover, I am a person who refuses to identify as anything more than a lover of good humans. Restricting oneself to loving a certain group of humanity is nonsensical and, moreover, limiting and damaging to the pursuit of finding someone who will sweep you off the swept Charleston streets and into the arms of the human you've long been longing for.