By Demetrius Young, Recovery Support Services Project Associate
Thinking about being gay and black brings up a number of feelings such as shame, embarrassment, confusion and now pride and happiness. While I could go in depth about every negative thing that has been said to me by family and people I loved and trusted, I am now choosing to focus on acceptance. Acceptance was something I didn't feel for the longest time. I had to overcome a lot of turmoil, self-doubt and self-hate in my process. The purpose of this article is to shine a light on acceptance and that it can bring positivity and can help an individual thrive.
I am sure we all have heard and seen the horror stories that many people of the LGBTQ+ community have faced when they choose to come out or worse, get outed. Family rejection, homelessness, and physical aggression were thoughts I feared growing up. I mean what else was I supposed to think and feel when that was all I saw when it came to being a black man who is gay. My picture of an accepting family of an LGBTIQ+ child was whitewashed. These people who were experiencing positive coming out stories did not look like me. I understand now that it is case by case, but when I was truly struggling with my identity this was a notion that I could not shake.
LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to face family rejection and homelessness than straight youth. 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBTQ+. 43% of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBTQ+. 30% of street outreach clients identified themselves as LGBTQ+. And finally, 30% of clients utilizing housing programs identified themselves as LGBTQ+. While the stats didn’t break down the race or ethnicity of the youth, I fall in as a LGBTQ+ person. Not having the acceptance of a family can lead to youth being exposed to substance use, risky behaviors, homelessness, and addictive behaviors ect.
This could have been my story. Because of this, I hid who I was and I began to hate myself. I hated the thoughts and feelings I was having and forced myself to try and like the opposite sex. It was a really low point in my life. Not only was I struggling with my sexuality and self-love but I was dealing with homelessness and being a witness to domestic violence. I'm not sharing these things because I'm looking for pity, I'm sharing because you never know what teenage youth are going through. I had no one I could share these thoughts and feelings with I just kept them to myself.
Looking back had I known that my mom and even grandma would have accepted me for who I was, I wouldn’t have had to sneak around with people I was interested in. Humans crave acceptance on so many levels. To have your identity not accepted can leave a young person with a broken foundation. It took me years to start the journey of self-acceptance and self-love. Learning these values and applying it to my life lifted a weight off me. A quote from my mom that always stuck out was “why didn’t you tell me sooner” and the only thing I could say was I was scared. I was scared she wouldn’t love me or that I would end up a statistic. Fear really can control you and cause you to make up false scenarios in your heads.
I want family members, friends, and loved ones to know that their words and actions have an impact on young queer people. You never know what your words and actions can do to queer youth. Even if you don’t understand, knowledge is free and remember to always come from a place of love and understanding. The words “I accept you” have the power to shape a young person's life.
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