Guest piece by Gary Briggs.
I’m Gary Briggs and I’m a proud Black, gay man. There comes a time in a man's life when he must take ownership in not only his future, but who he is. For many years, I had struggled with the issue of identity. This has been an issue that I masked with bright smiles and hearty laughs, but on the inside, I was crying out for help. An internal tension so strong that I could feel it ripping me to pieces, controlled most of my teenage years and my early 20s.
Attempting to carefully balance how I was perceived by the world and who I really was inside was a task that I wish upon no one. Being so sure in who you are as a human being in this world, yet feeling imprisoned by your fears and apprehensions is a level of struggle that I could not have possibly imagined. Yes, there comes a time when a man must accept who he is and love who he is.
Throughout my life, I learned to wear the mask; I wore it well. But I eventually learned that while my mask seemed fashionable to society at-large, I was truly wearing my own oppression. It was a mask donned in the most creative heterosexist norms. Oh, it was all the rave down south. I walked to school and work each day wearing oppression so deeply embedded in me that it will probably take years for me to rid myself of all the remnants.
For years, I wouldn't accept membership in the gay community. I simply wore the
mask, hoping and praying that the outcome would be different, but things never changed. Time brings wisdom, and it is up to the timekeeper to make the most of the knowledge acquired. I've only got one life to live, and I intend to live it to the fullest. If anyone doesn't accept me, I'd recommend you visit that place where my old mask currently lies so you could explore the pain one might go through. Understanding is a gateway to acceptance.
After having been open about my sexuality for seven years now, I have truly learned the power in my experience and voice. I no longer cower in fear because I understand that my identity is a strength, one that has the ability to build bridges of understanding across lines of difference. Openly Black, gay men need to be there for the little boys who are looking for images of men like them. I recognize the enormous responsibility of living in my truth. My mission is for young, Black gay boys to see an example of someone who decided to lean in and engage with the inner feelings, only to become a more confident man on the other side.