A year ago today, I released the third video poem from my album Purple Galaxy, “Are We The Kind Of Boys We Want?”.
Less than an hour after it’s release, my inbox was flooded with emails from black gay men and boys from all over the world who were hungry for more dialogue on what it meant to be the kind of boy or man that they wanted.
Some felt that being the kind of man they wanted meant they had to “butch up” their gender presentation. Some felt being the kind of man they wanted meant loving themselves as feminine men. And some felt that it had nothing to do with them at all; that the video was instead a message to “those gays out there” who, with their unrealistic masculine standards, “no fats no femmes mantras” and “messy ways” were the men who needed to watch this, as they themselves had long been absolved of those qualities and challenges.
Whatever the case, the emails, blogs and Facebook posts point to one thing very clearly: “Are We The Kind of boys We Want?” hit a nerve.
The nerve that it hit was different for different people, just as the question asked in the video “Would you date you?” invoked very different responses. Some ecstatically screamed “Yes!” when asked. Others paused in shock at the notion, and many more scrunched their nose up in disapproval at the thought itself.
Ultimately there is no right answer to that question. In fact, the question itself is not about an answer but an opportunity. That opportunity is to reflect, because when someone asks “Would you date you?” the internal evaluation that occurs can lead us to some surprising truths about how we see ourselves and what we find undesirable (or desirable) about who we are. What we find undesirable about ourselves is often connected to why we believe we are unworthy or unlovable, the things that we berate and beat ourselves up about emotionally. In recognizing these things there is a chance to have compassion for them and to be kinder to ourselves in all our quirks and nuances. Even with the things about ourselves that make us “crazy.” Because those things, no matter how challenging they are, do not make any of us unworthy of love. No matter what our expression, skin color, HIV status, size, or mental health state, nothing makes us unworthy of love. Nothing. If we can learn to love or accept the things about ourselves that we don’t like, than we can allow the reality to enter our lives that others can love us with those traits too. But if we continue to believe these things make us unlovable, then we help to co-create an experience where that becomes a reality through our expectations.
Femininity is high on that list of things we as black gay/queer men believe make us unlovable, and that is reflected within the video. Some of the things many of the men said about feminine men were very hard to hear. Yet in every response that the young men I interviewed gave, I never failed to see a snapshot of myself. And instead of judging them, or, from a self-righteous feminist space “correcting” them, I instead chose to ask them questions that could lead them to consider a different view. With some of them the questions really did create a cognitive dissonance – an awareness of themselves from a different angle. With many of them it did not. In both cases, I had to recognize that each of us comes to our own conclusions on our own time, and each of them were here on this planet for their own reasons, reasons that do not necessitate the absorption of my personal philosophical standpoint.
All in all, I’m really happy that the video continues to be shared amongst black and brown boys. Every week it seems, I’m getting a tweet or an email from some young man saying how he and his friends sat up and talked about the video all night, or how he’s starting to wonder why he doesn’t like fem guys so much. The video is also popping up in every place black gay/queer men are, from porn sites to hook up sites, to Facebook and twitter. It’s hard to imagine something that I cooked up with a small Kodak Flip Camera and IMovie could have such an impact. But it’s nice that it did.
One year after the video, and five years after I wrote the poem, I still ask myself “Am I the kind of man I want?” daily. I ask myself: “Am I acting with integrity? Am I being accountable? Am I attractive to me?” Sometimes the answer to that last question varies. But these are the parts that always remains true:
“I am the kind of man I want, because I am the kind of man that is constantly growing, constantly evaluating self, and constantly being accountable. I am the kind of man that is willing to let go, and willing to listen. I am the kind of man I want because I’m an ongoing project, moving forward not with the intention to perfect, but to accept and to love myself with all my nuances more with each passing day.”
And a man with those kind of qualities, is definitely the kind of man that I want.
In love always,
Many thanks for those whose support and talent made the video possible:
Moya Bailey, Studio Blue & Louisa MCcullough, Jarrett Hill, Chase Adair,Carlos B. Johnson, Aigner Ellis,Anthony Antoine, Darian Aaron
Orlando Fitzgerald,Lamont Sims,Tobias Spears, Micheal Brewer, Khalid Kamau. So much love for you all!