Now that I have captured your attention with the title of this blog, I would like to address this topic with love, respect and substance. It is in fact PRIDE month and before I dive into my personal narrative I’d like to start with saying that I am humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to write this story. The friendships, acquaintances and brief connections I have made with identifying members of the LGBTQ community has altered my life for the better and I thank each and every one of you for sharing a piece of your dynamically beautiful souls with me.
I have an affinity towards research and there has been no greater tool for my life research than twitter. This social media platform has allowed me to access personal narratives and firsthand accounts of marginalized voices that I would otherwise never encounter. In my early days as a baby feminist, I devoured the stories I’d read from Tumblr and the threads on Twitter whose authors ranged from black trans sex workers to gay black male academics. I was obsessed with being “the perfect ally” who used the right pronouns, and respected autonomy terms. However, I soon learned that sometimes your education on a subject does not reconcile with real-life interactions.
I met Brent while working as a dental receptionist at a job, I would later explosively be fired from but that is another story. The openly flamboyant dental assistant immediately intrigued me during staff meetings not only for his colorful banter but also for his extremely thorough work ethic. Brent practically ran the dental office. He was well versed in all aspects of the dental management software, lab procedures, and surgical techniques. I was sure that if he had the right support system he would very well be one of the best dentists in the country. A thought I would later express to him during our first friendship outing.
The friendship between Brent in myself blossomed quickly; we were both ambitious with big personalities and a love for being the center of attention on the dance floor. Soon, I found myself commuting an hour each day just to hang out with Brent and his revolving group of friends. Brent always celebrated his sexual identity since the day I met him and I was awed by the very new experiences of gay clubs, and lingo. I felt special; I had a new gay best friend. Yet like any honeymoon phase, the excitement of our newfound friendship fizzled and the real work of sustaining our bond began.
I was fired from that job and I wasn’t talking to Harrison, my credit score was dismal and I was finding comfort in vodka cranberries and in the arms of random POF dates. I was as the kid’s say “struggle busing” and with the foundation of my life in shreds who could I not be?
I had no energy to give and although I truly loved my friend, Brent required a lot. My friendship with Brent was no longer an accessory, or talking point it was an actual relationship that required effort to be sustained.
I was so happy to fight for the principal of Brent and others like him. I became known as a “gay rights activist” as my mother so lovingly referred to me as. I was easily riled when talks of not respecting “lifestyles” came up. I walked out on church sermons when the pastor condemned the country for its “evil bathroom” policies. I felt I was doing the work by standing up to other privileged members of my sect. I was the best “ally” I knew.
Yet there was a disconnect between my ideologies and my personal actions. I was fighting with everyone else in the name of Brent yet I had stopped actually fighting for my friendship with Brent.
The tides turned and I met a wonderful man who provided me with a new sense of life. I was traveling the country, being wined, and dined while my friend was losing his foundation. Brent has always had a huge heart. His home was often a safe haven for other members of the community who hadn’t been blessed with opportunity or support. Unfortunately, his heart put him in a desperate position of which he expressed to our friend group one morning over a brunch gathering.
Having been so caught up in my new kept life, instead of responding with compassion I lashed out at my friend. Claiming that he put himself in that place with his unwillingness to change. When he retaliated out of hurt, I doubled down on my efforts and cut him off in the name of my “peace.” I was no better than the bible thumpers I debated. I was no ally. I was a middle class born and raised a black girl with the privilege to have access to wealth through aesthetics and a vast vocabulary. I played the part of highly educated activist well but my actions within my personal relationship made me a fraud.
With the aid of a mutual friend, Brent and I were able to make amends but things were not as fluid as they were before. We felt more like polite acquaintances than the friends who would dance all night together and dream about the future while smoking our immediate worries away.
I had never apologized, truly.
I mustered up the courage the lay everything on the line at another group brunch. Time had passed so quickly and before I knew it, I was settled into that brand new relationship and missed my dear friend terribly.
I was wrong, of which I told him. No one deserved to ever be kicked when they’re down and that’s exactly what I did to my friend. Tears flowed as the realization of my actions dawned on me. I was the oppressor in this scenario. The role I typically reserved for white men of privilege was the very one I had to accept.
I was humiliated but at that point, my feelings did not matter.
We both cried, we all cried.
I left that brunch feeling lighter and wiser. I was so busy fighting others for the right for Brent to exist freely as a gay black man that I forgot to fight for Brent as my friend. Who was more than just a gay black man. Yes, Brent’s gayness does make up a lot of who he is but it does not equate to all of him. He is a person of multitudes like anyone else.
He is not an accessory to be worn occasionally. He is not a cause to be taken up sporadically. He is a hard worker. He is a believer. He is compassionate. He is a dancer.
Brent is gay and so much more, and I have the privilege of learning to love every aspect of him.
This love letter is to my best friend and so many others like him with huge hearts, big dreams, and dynamically beautiful souls. Thank you for challenging me to be a better person, thank you for being you.
Happy Birthday Brent
Happy Pride Everyone