A Gentleman's Guide
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JANUARY | 2018

JANUARY | 2018 | ESSENTIALS

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D E F I N E  W H O  Y O U  A R E

With the beginning of a new year comes the opportunity to reevaluate, reaffirm and redefine who we are. We want to bring 2018 in with some insight on the importance of defining who we are as SGL men of color and to provide what we feel is the practice in doing so.

A lot can be said about the narratives society castes upon us. We are fathers, sons and brothers just as much as we are Atheist, Christian and Agnostic. We are Same Gender Loving and African American just as much as we are introverted wallflowers and extroverted socialites.

Much of what has been communicated through the media doesn’t represent the Black Same Gender Loving part of our identities.  Such a lack of consideration creates barriers to self-actualization and often leave us wondering how and where we fit into the bigger picture of society.

As men of color we endure racism, prejudice, economic exclusion and social injustice while concurrently experiencing the religious persecution, homophobia and gross misrepresentations and underestimations of our masculinity that we inherit via our SGL identities.

This topic isn’t really new, but it’s still relevant in 2018 as our blackness is still misrepresented in and by the media and our SGL identities are stereotyped and misrepresented by the media and our own communities. So the question is, how are we supposed to define ourselves under these conditions?

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Creating definitions of ourselves while navigating through the SGL portion of our lives can be challenging. The homophobia and tokenism is real- and if you don’t believe that then we challenge you to step into a community barbershop, traditional black church or to watch The Real Housewives of anything. It is in these places where we see and hear what people truly think of us as SGL men of color.

These are the spaces and places where some of us begin to question whether or not our “gay” is showing or if the Christian God made his first mistake with us. The ways in which we internalize these situations not only define us but explain we have forty year old married men hiding in closets behind their wives, three children and clothes while reeking of secrets and misery, as well.

We don’t want our sexuality to “disappoint” our families and friends, but the alternative to that is to live the lives that they believe are acceptable- and that’s just not cool. External agencies such as family, friends and even society as a whole, impact our identities and can be so influential that by the time we reach a certain age the only “us” we know is the one that has been created for us by others.  Having a solid knowledge of self prevents us from allowing others to dictate who they want us to be for them.

How long did it take for us to accept Ray J as Ray J and not as “Brandy’s brother”? How long was it before we acknowledged that LeBron belongs to LeBron and that he’s bigger than any team he plays on? While these are two examples of public figures drawing the proverbial line in the sand with regard to the paths they carved for themselves, their examples give us room to consider their choices to exist beyond being who we wanted them to be in order to be who they wanted to be.

Make no mistake about it- there are, and always will be, ways by which others will define us, but what’s important is how we define ourselves. When it comes to defining ourselves we don’t need to count on others for permission or guidance because the most important thing we need is self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is the sum total of everything that we know about ourselves, it's about knowing who we are when our alarm goes off at 5:45 in the morning. It’s about knowing who we are when we stand in front of the bathroom mirror to brush our teeth, shave and wash our faces.

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Self-knowledge is about knowing the things we’re good at and the things that we aren’t, it’s about knowing our limits, our what's, our whys and lastly, it’s about being aware of how we became the men we are. This knowledge of self is important because it allows us to determine who we let into our lives and why, it aids us in understanding the story of our lives and the gives us the opportunity to change the things about ourselves that we’re not excited about. And all of that is just the beginning.

Self- awareness isn’t just about identifying the all of the things we’ve previously mentioned, it’s about owning them as well. By taking accountability for our blackness we create a space for a special kind of pride. Owning our sexuality with confidence frees us from caring about the judgments of others just as owning either our femininity, masculinity or whatever exists between the two lays waste to the internal conflict that arises as a result of not owning it.

This is why we’ve chosen achieving self-awareness at being a best practice as it relates to defining who we are.  So as was bathe in the freshness of the New Year and devote our attention to creating or maintaining definitions of ourselves, we must remember that we either are, or will, be the men we chose to be. Society is constantly feeding us information about who we should be, but just because it’s on our plate doesn’t mean we have to eat it. The importance of defining who we are is found in the shelter that the resulting self-knowledge provides us from social pressures.

The definitions we create for ourselves are one of the few things that guaranteed to provide us happiness and offer an escape from so much internal conflict. By focusing on the things that drive us, the things we’re good at, the things we’re not and the experiences we want to have in life, we create a reality where the definitions of us that have been created by others cease to matter, and such, they cease to exist.

Remember this, always.  

 

Jeremy Carter