When people hear mental health, they often associate it with disorders and behaviors. Well, mental health is much more broad that just that. Mental health is also insecurities, oppression, fear, and anxiety. Mental health is trauma by subjection to the actions and thoughts of others. Mental health is the infestation of the denial towards unpopular beliefs. I always hear and see people address mental health and it’s underrepresentation of black people. Now what I don’t see are conversations about mental health and black gay men. I’ve been asked the question several times, “why do gay men always feel the need to announce that they’re gay?” For me, it’s not always about announcing my sexuality, it’s a statement to say “I exist too.”
Growing up and being subjected to heteronormative ideologies isn’t necessarily an easy thing. These ideas have ways to weigh on a persons ability to mentally function at their best. Now I don’t know about every gay black man but I can speak from my own experiences. People from family and friends, to associates and strangers, have had a way of unknowingly forcing me to shut myself into a box that I am still learning how to maneuver my way out of. Majority of my life I was plagued with this belief that I had to exude this heteronormative persona reinforced by ideologies of hyper-masculinity. I was subjected to statements that allowed me to believe that I had to mold myself to become this overly stigmatized idea of what a black man should be. I was forced to endure questions and statements like, “Why are you talking like that? Black men don’t do that. Black men don’t act like this. Why are you standing like that? Stop acting like a girl.” Those statements caused me to develop self-doubt and an ever so watchful eye towards my own natural bodily behaviors. Other times I heard the word faggot discharged from the mouths of others as if it were a preacher saying amen on a Sunday morning. Hearing “stop acting like a faggot,” was just as normal as hearing someone say good morning.
Imagine being an 8-year-old boy being bullied and called a faggot on a daily basis because your voice wasn’t deep and your gestures weren’t as masculine as the other boys. You know what they call that, traumatizing. I grew into a pre-teen who learned to cover up my natural attraction to men because I adapted insecurities towards myself for being gay. I distanced myself from my close friends, who were gay and coming out of the closet because they had grown into a sense self-awareness that reinforced the ability to be themselves. I started bullying other boys who were gay, and even started a rumor about one of them because I felt a reciprocal attraction to him but was afraid to embrace my own truth. I was told that I was going to hell when I came out of the closet to close friends, and emasculated from being taunted by peers for displaying feminine behaviors. My reality became a life of hidden fears, anxiety, insecurity, and discomfort.
The National Alliance of Mental Health reports, “LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.” I continuously fall short when searching for research on black gay men and mental health. We’re here and our mental health matters too. And what about LGBT women of color, they exist too! I say this to say, mental health as a whole is still discarded and pushed to the side when it comes to minorities. Then adding in the fact of being a double minority, makes you feel like you’re often the bottom of the barrel. With growing maturity into adulthood, I realized that I had to overcome the restraints of over generalization of what a man is, what a black man is, and what a black gay man is. When I began to live my truth, I broke the barriers of oppressive ideologies of social constructs, and saw the positive outcomes of how my mental stability would increase. I no longer feel like I’m carrying the heavy burden of societies expectations. I am free of fear and anxiety to be the only gay man in a room full of straight men. I no longer feel the overweighted repercussions of being emasculated by straight men and their need to overly compensate the display of testosterone. Gender roles and heteronormative ideologies don’t confine me. I am living my truth and mentally flourishing because of it. If you’re a black gay man, or just gay in general, live your truth and reap the benefits of breaking through the chains and bondage of societies heteronormative principles and constructs of normalities to improve upon your own mental stability and self-awareness. Live in your truth and love others intentionally. You owe the world nothing but to be your best self, so be that.
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