I’d shout out against hate in public, but in private spaces I sat silent as homophobic slights and slurs came at me from people who said they cared for me.
I grinned and accepted the kindness of colleagues when they have said that their faith does not condone my “lifestyle,” telling myself kindness was a lifestyle as much as hypocrisy.
I tolerated students who sat in my office accepting my extra time and unpaid assistance,
Even when they’ve said, “hate the sin, love the sinner,” to my face.
I’ve been patient and listened deeply to my own students – beyond the call of duty –
Even when the very same folks used anti-gay slurs in my presence because their faith said so.
I remained silent even when I’ve seen those folks sin like nobody’s business.
I’ve waltzed quietly past openly anti-gay church groups passing out fliers of their flock, when I know plenty-o-gay folks who’ve barely survived growing up inside those hate cults.
I’ve walked by entire groups of people who look like me, holding my head high and pretending not to hear their snide comments about my lack of gender conformity.
I’ve been the only openly queer person in crowds of Black people, and
One of few Black people in entire crowds of queer folks, and
Accepted mere tolerance in place of respect, and
Refused to speak up against stereotypes about people like me in all these spaces, and
Acted like it didn’t matter.
It mattered each and every time, but
I covered my wounds, and
I learned to heal quickly, and
I kept moving so quickly that
Folks couldn’t see my feet shifting, and
I kept telling myself “It’ll be ok,” just because it gets better.
Life has gotten better, and
Allyship is real, and
Folks have stood by me in dark and in light, and
Friends have held my hand in my times of despair, so
Still I rise.
But even then, I’ve starred in my very own version of imitation of life.
I pretended that words didn’t hurt because I’m an adult, and
A role model to the youth I serve.
I’ve acted like I didn’t hear youth laugh and snicker as soon as I entered the room.
I’ve acted like I didn’t see their parents side-eye me as I walked by.
I acted like I didn’t care as some kid called me a sissy as I walked into the mall.
When a 12-year-old kid called me a homophobic slur in class,
I facilitated an age-appropriate discussion about bullying, and
Pushed the shame he caused to the back of my mind.
I didn’t want to embarrass my colleagues by bringing it up.
Words from 12-year-old kids aren’t supposed to penetrate adults’ souls.
When the latest daily news repeatedly targets people like me for exclusion,
I’ve pretended like our lives didn’t matter.
Words aren’t supposed to hurt, and
Stares aren’t supposed to mean much, and
I’m supposed to have it all together.
Let hate “roll off of you like water off a duck’s back” would roll off my tongue as easily as I could bump-n-grind to Cardi B.
But there comes a point when silence suffocates.
One reaches a point when staying quiet is untenable.
My inaudible screams of terror only turned inwards and tore my own heart out.
Silence equals death.
For years, I’ve participated in my own oppression.