Sunday, December 14, 2014
I have forever been told that I am the ‘different one’, an anomaly or the exception to the rule when it comes to my race and sexual orientation. In comparison to most people of color and homosexuals, I have had an incredibly good life. It may even be unfair, just how easy parts of my life were. I suppose that growing up in a culturally rich San Francisco can do that.
Today however, it occurred to me that I do not identify as a black man or a white one. I have made my way by creating an independent category for David Ryan McKinney. People will ask me what it’s like being a black man in prison and I have no answer because well, I really don’t know. I mean, I am multi-ethnic and yes, I do have African American blood flowing through my veins, but I have never been truly welcomed or embraced by the Black community. This has never bothered me per se… I have accepted that I will never be ‘Black enough’.
In today’s culture, I would be “Black-ish” because I love jazz and R&B, I have swagger infused confidence, I play basketball exceptionally well and I am well versed in Black history. On the other hand, I am very articulate, pronounce all of my vowel groups, keep my pants up, love alternative music, practice Judaism, and play soccer very well. These are obviously conflicting stereotypes that subconsciously grant others the right to coin me as the ‘different one’, the anomaly, and the clear exception to the rule.
The reasons that I have been able to maneuver through my basic day-to-day with the Black population in prison is because I can easily hone in on my Black-ish interests. My acceptance is not an issue because they are unable to criticize me since I am not 100% Black. This peculiar fact has in a way, saved me from ridicule. If I had been viewed as a ‘Black Man’, then the end all/be all of whether I was accepted - or not would be simple. I am a gay man and well, many in the Black population seem to have an issue with that. There is no way around it….I would have been damned because of my sexuality.
In prison, I think the Black population is reflective of the hip/hop community on the outside. So many aspire to be rap artists or drug dealing, gun toting individuals and well, let’s be honest; gay men do not fit that mold – at all. In hip/hop, homosexuality is unheard of and viewed as unacceptable. In prison, the Black population follows suit. What is disturbing about that is that the discrimination occurs both inside prison walls and outside in society as well.
Recently, Joey viewed a Youtube video clip of an effeminately dressed man walking on the streets of NYC – which is assuredly one of the most open and liberal cities in the world. The negative comments, snickers and blatant disrespect shown toward this man was horrifying to him. Though I was unable to view it myself, I could tell by his reaction that it was a very disturbing video. Apparently it became clear that the majority of the people being disrespectful were Black and it cause Joey to ask me what that was all about.
I did not need to see the video clip.
I see that kind of discrimination everyday here in prison. What is intriguing is that it is not ever directed toward me, but rather, aimed at the more effeminate, 100% Black gay men only. There have been times when, I have been sitting and talking to a group of Black men (men I have known for years and have come to respect in my own way...) , and a fellow gay man walks by. They will immediately launch into a tirade of verbal assaults on him. Mind you, I am sitting there right amongst them! It is embarrassing for me and my heart breaks because it appears that I have chosen ‘sides’. In fact, I have not.
At times, I have put guys I know on the spot, demanding to know why they choose to embrace me as one of the ‘fellas’ but not the other gay men. Their response is always the same; that I do not embarrass them the way that more effeminate gay men do. I think the whole situation is absurd, but it’s much too big for me to fix.
Sometimes in life, there are things that we simply do not understand or can make sense of. The reasons why I have been acknowledged and accepted as a gay man in prison is simple: I do not place myself in a specific group or race. More importantly, I do not strive to just be known just as a "gay man". I have simply become ‘David’ and for whatever reason, it works.
This headline makes me feel like, we as a society, have actually made no advancements in life.