Saturday, December 27, 2014

‘Race & Sexuality’

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.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

‘I need to know: Am I worth it?’

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Every day that passes, I am one day closer to my new life. I have grown so much over the years of incarceration and now, when I look in the mirror, I see a man who wants to make so much out of his life. I have a vision, a plan and I know how I am going to execute it upon my release. There is no doubt that I can accomplish the life that I see for myself and yet I wonder at times – if I am deserving of it? 

Am I worth it?” has been a question that now lingers in the back of my mind.

This revelation will not hinder my ambition but rather, simply fuel my drive to continue to improve upon who I am. I like myself and more importantly, I know who I am. That is something that I have struggled with a lot in my past. My morals have evolved and the things that bring happiness to my life… well, they are no longer ‘things’. I cannot lie though: I love material things. It is a part of who I am… but I no longer view them in the same way.

My Flaws: I am impossibly logical in thinking and do not fare well having to utilize the creative, right brain thinking side of my brain when needed. I am stubborn, intense, and strong in mind, body and soul. I can be very judgmental with the people whom I love and care for because, I believe, I expect more from them, It may be unfair, but it is true. I rarely give acts of violence a second thought because now, I understand the psychology behind it. (That does not mean I am an advocate for it…) Lastly, my appearance and image: it is more important to me than it probably should be.

My Qualities: I am intelligent, meticulous and responsible. I am a natural “go getter” and have no problem going after something that I truly want. I have great self discipline and I am loyal, compassionate, loving and understanding. I am open minded and accepting of all races, religions and lifestyles. I know how to listen carefully and then deliver guidance and advice. At this point in my life, I would also say that my ‘street smarts’ are very proportionate to my curricular learning. 

Yes, I am and always will be a ‘convicted felon’ for the rest of my life. Only recently have I begun to incorporate that into my way of thinking. In considering ways to promote myself, develop my brand etc. I have concluded and expressed that I want to represent myself authentically when I am released.

Am I good enough to be able to do this and still be successful? Have I done enough self-improvement? Am I worth this ‘second life’ that I have headed my way?

Right now, well, I am smiling… because I think I am.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

‘Dear Society’

Friday, October 17, 2014

I was asked to verbally promote myself this week and realized that I was at a bit of a loss. Everything my mind was asking my mouth to say had repercussions and/or opened doors to more intense questions.

How am I to embrace life and be my authentic self, when I know that the majority of people will automatically shut me out simply because I have been to prison? The irony is that I don’t blame anyone for this response because well, I understand it. Still, I feel as though I have shown up to a swim meet and have no idea how to swim.

Here I am in prison and I have adapted. I have learned how to survive and rise above. When I get out of prison, my goal is to be authentic as possible. I realize that this will be difficult, but it is the right thing to do. My mind is flooded with all of the questions that inevitably will lead me right back here. All along I have believed that once I am out, living my life again, that I could close this particular chapter of my life and not look back again. I have realized now that it is not possible. Eventually people will find out. It is better that I tell the truth, better that it comes from me.

I wonder: when would people want to know? It’s not as if I intend on introducing myself to everyone that I meet as “Hi. I’m David and I am an ex con.” So, when is right? Clearly not everyone needs to know. My tailor, dry cleaner, or the corner grocer doesn’t necessarily need to know. My clients and people I would like to build relationships with… well they need to know.

I would be a complete tool to ask people for leniency and understanding. Nobody can understand the weight of being responsible for lost lives unless they have first hand experience. The understanding my crime, my accident, my poor decision is incredibly common doesn’t make me feel any better. All I can do is ask you – ‘Society’ to give me a chance to do good. Who’s to say if I deserve it or not because I am so far past ‘chances’ – but I have never asked before.

I just want a chance and no matter what my attitude, education, skills and ambition is…. my success is and will, be greatly affected by you. 

Or didn’t you realize?

Link to a national survey on Collateral Consequences Ex Convicts must face:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Yes, this is the title of an excellent film from back in the 80’s but it has also become my mantra before my “BFF” Joey comes out to Scottsdale, AZ. God love him for leaving Boston to travel to the cultural wasteland of Arizona for 32 hours of visitation with me. It means a lot but truthfully, I can’t say for sure that even I would do it, if the roles were reversed.

No matter how one looks at the situation, we are long overdue for a visit. We keep each other in check and I think both of us have been pacing the edge of that proverbial cliff for some time. Things have become bottled up and abnormal stress levels have come into our lives. Not surprisingly, we view these concerns in a completely separate, opposite manner. Issues around aging have become a factor for each of us in different ways. We are both doing what we must do to ‘get by’ but, I don’t think either one of us are in authentically happy places right now. I will know more soon enough.

There is an undeniable white elephant to deal with as well and that is that somehow, all of the motivation and determination to find a home in Boston has come to a crawl. It is a conversation that mom, Joey and I will have to have together. The irony is that it works for all of us simply because we are friends. No matter what, I will always be the “child” to my mother. But Joey is the perfect mediator for times like these so I will certainly take advantage of the opportunity.

What I know for sure is that by the time Joey has boarded the plane back to Boston, he will have smacked me around, given me a jab, an upper cut and a bucket of ice water. (Metaphorically speaking…) Trust and believe that I will have had a very similar effect on him. It is our duty to one another in a way. He and I are well aware of how important these visits are. 

Surprisingly, I have the impression that my mom is more excited to see him than even I am. I am glad for that because Joey has a tremendous effect on her. She gets a spark back and seems lighter on her feet in a way. Perhaps it is because he represents change and all the great things that invariably she is striving toward at the moment.

Right now, as I sit here, I know Joey will be here in a couple of days and I can tell you that I sense that something is going to happen during his time here. I foresee a monumental shift, a change in mind or a revelation that will affect the plans that have already been made. I know it. I feel it and truth be told. It doesn’t terrify me. It instead, makes me question the skills I have developed to manage change and adaptation.

‘The Adonis Revelation’

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I read this book titled “The AdonisComplex” over the weekend. When I began reading the book, I maintained an open mind as I believe I know people suffering from this. As I delved deeper into the text however, I became acutely aware of the fact that I too, am exhibiting characteristics of this complex.

There is no point denying the fact that I grew up as a very secure and confident young man. Unlike most however, I somehow lost all of that confidence in my early to mid teens. I literally had to start out at ground zero in terms of rebuilding myself. Though challenging, I think that I have finally gotten to a decent place both mentally and emotionally. Physically, I am fine with how I look and I love my body. I am complimented constantly and my workouts are mimicked regularly by others. Isn’t that imitation supposed to register a high form of flattery?

The problem is not what is on the outside though, it is what is on the inside. And that is one of the biggest problems many people have today. Our cosmetically superficial traits are directly linked to our deeper, inner personal insecurities. 

Take me for instance. I receive compliments on my appearance, how much I have grown, matured etc. All of that is good, but it doesn’t really register with me. It all kind of goes in one ear and out the other. The things that do stay with me, the things that register, are the negative comments about my flaws. My reaction is to always counter any compliment or positive feedback with a negative thought that I may have. It is a scary revelation because it’s all very connected. 

Let’s see if you can relate in any way to how I combat things mentally….

  • When people say that I have grown and matured so much, I hear them. But my thinking voice is wondering if they know how much I keep bottled up inside though? Really, that is all I do now so, if that is a sign of growth and maturity, then yes, I have excelled at that without a doubt.

  • When people say I am looking good, well I hear that too. I do not believe those compliments though. Instead, I see a follically challenged man, with horrendous combination skin damaged by the sun and a face that is aged by the anxiety and stress of prison.

I don’t know how I have missed all these blatant counter attacks on myself all this time. This book has opened more doors for me – and at the same time, slapped me in the face. The big question it raised is of course: do I love myself? The answer is ‘yes’ – but I have realized that I have conditions to that self-love. 

That is something that I need to work on. Alas, I am seriously a constant work in progress.