I woke up this morning with a lot of the young black gay men I work with on my mind. So many of them, younger than 25, always talk to me about this fear they have of becoming bitter. They are always telling me “I just don’t want to be bitter and jaded. I don’t want to be an old “queen” who’s angry at everything and everyone and can’t let anyone get close.”
For so many of them, the only older black gay men they experience are those they saw as angry, jaded, a “mess”, or simply bitter. (I want to acknowledge that sometimes these connotations are connected to disdain for so called “feminine” attributes, but that’s another blog.)
In so many of my conversations with them, it never fails to come up-this fear that they have no choice but to fall in line with that pattern. The fear is because they often feel there are no other models or options.
This “bitterness” is also often connected to the fear of being single or alone. Unfortunately not many of us have witnessed older black gay men in relationships in older age. We also have failed to understand that being “single” or without a romantic partner, doesn’t mean we can’t have brilliant, beautiful and productive lives. It doesn’t mean we can’t be happy. The reality is, many of us haven’t learned to be happy with ourselves, much less, with someone else.
Yet going back to bitterness I have to acknowledge, as Black Gay men in this world, where we have experienced and do experience so many assaults on our self worth daily, where many of us have lived and are living through the HIV/ AIDS sexual health crisis that has taken so many of our friends and lovers, where our communities and churches often degrade and attack us, it’s hard not to become bitter.
Living in a world where relationships are often competitions for control and power, where we as men have been socialized to “read” each other aggressively instead of communicating our concerns compassionately, where six pack abs, prison masculinity, economic superficiality and lite skin are too often the unrealistic markers of dominant desire- its hard not to be bitter.
As black gay men on very different levels of experience, we struggle with this and so much more daily. The world that we have created can be a horrible place. And it’s hard not to become bitter.
But you know what? I still believe we can make a choice.
Let me explain further: I understand “bitterness” to be when we have allowed life’s experiences to harden our hearts. It is when we move through the world allowing our past experiences to cloud our vision and create unhealthy self fulfilling prophecies based on those wounds, seeking at every turn to validate what we have experienced in the past as real in the present.
Bitterness is anger on its way to becoming hate.
Anger is healthy. Yet when we don’t go beneath the anger, to acknowledge the pain that is there we end up staying with the anger and often ending up directing it inwardly-as depression, or outwardly-as rage. Hurting ourselves, or re-creating the cycle on someone else.
Most of us have not been exposed to or given tools with which to help us process our anger. Most of us have not even been offered the opportunity to express our rage and pain, we are so often silenced by communities and society. So today, I wanted to share some beliefs and ideas that help me with my anger and with not being bitter-with the hope that maybe one of them may be helpful to you.
1) Check your perspective
Check the narratives you tell yourself about who you are. Are you kind to yourself? Or harsh? Do you berate yourself, or lift yourself with compassionate accountability?
Do you forgive yourself for what you couldn’t do, didn’t know how to do, or weren’t able to do at the time? Do you see your relationships, failed or otherwise, as opportunities to learn and grow, or just spaces where you were “done wrong” as if you played no part in the chaos of it?
What decision did you make that created the situation, or the situations you are in now? How can you be accountable enough to let go?
2) Stop the comparisons–
There is only one you. And if you were meant to look like, be like, be shaped like, and be smart like anyone else, well then you wouldn’t be you. And considering the divine creator of all this made you the way she/he/it did-then it must have thought you were damn good. And you are. YOU are your own standard!! There is no comparison. Comparison is a tool used by those with lack of imagination and disrespect for divine order. Like who you are. In fact, love who you are. How you look, and how you are, at whatever place you are, love yourself. And if you want to work on things about you-don’t start with judgment and hate, it doesn’t help. Your body responds and all you do is slow down your ability to shift. Be loving to yourself and the rest will follow.
3) Face your Fears- Too many of us are held hostage by fear in our lives. We have created all these imaginary monsters that we think are going to make all these horrible things happen to us. Take the time to face your fears intelligently head on whatever they are. Remember, “Fear is faith in reverse.”
4) Learn Yourself. Learn your wounds, your issues and challenges. And don’t just justify them-find a way to have a different relationship to them that does not hinder you in the present. Find a therapist, or a counselor. Accept help from others. If you we were meant to do it all alone, or to figure it all out by yourself, god/goddess would have just dropped you on an isolated rock somewhere in a remote part of the galaxy as opposed to this rock which is actually teeming with people who can and would love to help you. Seek them out.
5) Make your life what you desire; brick by brick:
A large part of our reality is about interpretation. It’s about how you choose to see what’s happening around you. Republicans and democrats witness the same phenomena everyday, and both have a totally different idea about what is happening. This “interpretation of reality” does not mean crazy shit won’t happen to you, or unfair shit won’t happen, it says instead that how you look at it makes a big difference in what you can learn!
6) S.I.N= Self-Inflicted Nonsense: You were not born, nor are of evil or wrongdoing. You were born into circumstances and situations, systems and societies with ideas and beliefs that created a reality for the people who brought you here… Anything that happened to you is not a reflection of your worth, only a commentary on how the world is ignorant to your beauty and value as a human being. Don’t let their neglect become your own.
7) Trust that the relationship you need will find you and celebrate the relationships you have. Too often we devalue our good friends, who, like lovers, are often our emotional supporters. We also can be self-defeating in thinking that; Ill never find someone, or there ain’t no good guys..yadda yadda. Let that talk go. Trust you deserve to have a partner that you love.
Hope this is helpful loves! Remember, bitterness is a choice..and so is love. Choose wisely! You have everything you need within you to make what you desire a reality.
In love, peace, and solidarity,