I was called a faggot by a black person way before I was called a nigger.

I never had the luxury of blending in. My blackness has always been apparent, and because I didn’t act like the other young boys my age, or take an interest in the things that they did, the label “sweet” (read: gay) was placed on me way before I knew what that fully meant.

I was called a faggot by a black person way before I was called a nigger by a white person. I cringe, even now, typing it because it’s such a harsh but solid truth.

My developmental years were spent combating inner feelings of shame caused by people who looked just like me. You see, I realize now – in my thinking back, that children aren’t anything but by-products of their parents or village. If they aren’t offered love in a healthy manner, they won’t grow up knowing how to give love, receive love, or show love. In the same way, if hate is all they know, hate is what they will offer.

So really, when we look at how this all plays out, the playground is where perpetuated stigma and the backlash of internal struggles caused by our dealings at home rear their heads. Almost as a trailer for what our life movie is going to look like in many spaces years later.

The first person to ever call me a faggot was a boy my age at the time. I was on the playground swinging on a blue and white swing set with my good girlfriends. He walked by, saw us, and yelled “why are you all playing with that little faggot?” to the girls.

One girl stopped swinging, jumped off the swing and ran up to him in response. She had always been the most mouthy, so I knew she was going to say something to him. I just didn’t know what. Her words were, and I remember this like it was this morning because it meant so much to me, “he ain’t no faggot and if he was, he is still my friend, ugly.” They then engaged in a back-and-forth exchange of insults as children do, and that was over.

Sidebar: Black girls and women, since forever, have been standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves; even when they needed someone to stand up for them. My recollection of this experience just made that understanding very personal for me.

Fast forward to middle school. This same boy, before I switched schools, cornered me in the locker room and asked me when I was going to let him hit. Fast forward to a few years ago. I went back to the town the incident at the playground took place and ran into him at the grocery store. He is now married with kids.

It is in my experience that usually the black boys I know who show any signs of feminity, get it beat out (verbally, mentally, or physically) of them or shamed out of them at home first. They don’t know how to deal with that, so they reject anything that looks like what they are reminded of in their self that has been taught to be unloveable or a sign of weakness. This weakness includes, and for sure isn’t limited to, feminity, tears, not wanting to play sports, not always acting out of anger, etc.

Further, out of rejection and the charge to reject because of that rejection, comes a need or ability to bully, beat down, overly exert hyper-masculinity, live an unhappy life,  refuse to emote unless that emotion is anger and so on. It’s either that or they create a life that is nowhere near connected to the life they want to live. When shit is complex, it’s a combination of both.

Of course, my seeing him took my mind on a trip. I thought about whether or not he was ever offered a resolve for the things that made him treat me badly. Probably not. I thought about whether or not he was ever afforded the opportunity to explore his sexuality, just to confirm or deny anything he may have been feeling since his request of me was at an age where I know he was trying to figure out what that meant. Probably not. And my last thought was just me wondering if he would pass on the way of life given to him, to his little boy. Probably so.

The culture created to keep black men emotionally and socially inadequate, and black women strong in everything but still silent, allows for the cycle of abuse and trauma to continue.

It is not until we actually start being honest about not just what our familial circles have done to aide in this cycle, but what we have contributed to it is a well, that we begin the process of changing what that cycle looks like.


Also published on Medium.

  • markjtuggle

    thank you for sharing your experiences my brother. i empathize and identify profoundly. writing continues to serve as grace for a safe space. you inspired me to speak truth to the power within!

  • Ant

    Incredible article. Wonderfully written. Stirred up a lot of emotions and bittersweet memories of childhood. It’s a vile word and I was kindergarten the first time I was called one. Thank you for the article!

  • K X

    Every word of this rings true mirroring several experiences I’ve had within my community as well as inferring reference to what I’ve experienced at home. Beautifully put. Well done.

  • Caesar Dlm

    i came out last week and this is literally everything I’ve been feeling/thinking/saying for years. thank you!

    • Nagazino

      Congratulations!

    • Richard Mills Jr.

      Congratulations… welcome to the Brotherhood

    • Jason Schirle

      Congrats Caesar! The world is yours man!

  • Omelio Alexander

    Thank you.

  • Eddie Barber

    Great article, thank you!

  • David M. Alexander

    This is the truth and I too was called a faggot by my Black Brothers, before a white person called me a nigger! I can completely identify with your experiences! Thanks for this “come to life reality check!”

  • Reginald Posley

    I concur with your assessment and I feel your emotions. To heal from many trials and tribulations in my life, I wrote a book called Living Vicariously.

    “Life is a journey not a destination, and anyone who realizes that I am
    not here to live up to your expectations and you are not here to
    live up to mine, but if by chance we meet on common ground then true
    utopia is achieved” Posley, Reg (2009) Living Vicariously
    Create-a-Space/amazon.com

    This is the story of a young Black Man’s struggle with sex and sexuality during the 1970’s the 1980’s up into 1990’s. As he travels
    through life, the people he encounters and the lasting impressions they
    leave him with. He em barques on a journey across America from New York
    City, Houston,TX and Los Angeles to find that Living Vicariously really
    does bring life to life.

  • Antonio Dewayne Walker

    Powerful story. Thank you for sharing.

  • D. Devine

    That guy is incredibly beautiful.

  • Omgosh, thank you for writing this! I have experienced the same sort of trauma described in the title of this. Glad that you seem to have identified how oppressed groups oppress others and this truth that many people of African descent ignore. <3

  • Tony Ross

    This was good read.

  • Chris Smith

    You never deserved to be called either one of those names. It amazes me that children so young could even be taught such words as this, but as you said it best, they project what they are taught. Whether it is love, hate, etc. You are a brave young man for opening up like you have and may never know the lives you have saved by sharing your story. Hold your head up high and see yourself in the mirror, as the beautiful person you were created to be.

  • Paragon Portraitist

    I’ve been saying this for years. I brought this up in a fb group and the imhotep squad said I wanted white favor lol and that Latinos dont give a fuck about me either. This is a microcosm of what is happening with our community overall. We will forever keep getting colonized if we make ourselves vulnerable to things other cultures rise above! I had to stop talking to my dad recently cuz I realized at the age of 30, I’ll never be seen as a legitimate adult in his eyes cuz of my sexuality. I’m not punishing myself another 30 years.

  • Christopher Vasas

    Keep your head up. Unfortunately, we all go through struggles but when we find our own way, we can be role models for those having to walk a challenging path similar to ours. Semper fi

  • Martha Peña

    Although sad that this is the situation we face as queer folks, I am also happy that someone wrote this.
    Sending love, strength and happiness to my Black queer brothers <3

    As people of color, we need to understand that not pushing for LBGTQIA+ rights makes us complicit in oppression. As we fight for our liberation we also need to understand that not fighting for theirs is us seeking privilege, not justice. I am not here for that.

  • Jeremey Valentine Duffy

    Sooooo well spoken. Thank you for sharing my brother.

  • You were not alone. Thanks for sharing.

  • Melaniño

    Damn, this hit something.. thank you for this.

  • Austin Nation

    Great article. I had a similar experience when I was young….many,many years ago. I never had shared it with anyone…until now. Only the white friend who was with me most of the time knew about it…they called him a Nigger Lover.