Monday, April 6, 2015
It’s seemingly impossible to put me inside of a box. It would be easy to say I am a convict, a gay man, a person of color or simply a Jew. There is nothing simple about placing ourselves in a particular category though because, as human beings, we are deeper, more complex that just that. For me, I remember a time when all I wanted to do was ‘fit in’. I think a lot of kids and young adults do. It wasn’t I began to really know and accept who I am, who I wanted to be, that I was happy to be different. Within the 4 categories listed above that people use to define me. there are also inner categories that have evolved. Some, mind you, are black & white. Some, more than not, are very grey. It is for that reason that I believe that the majority of human beings, myself included, have begun to defy the stereotypical laws of categorization.
A Convict: The greater majority of people would think that all convicts are hardened, career criminals lacking in moral fiber in all areas of life. In fact, that presumption is true in only some instances. A great majority of convicts are 1st time offenders who made an very poor decision in life and regret it deeply. Some are guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others were simply involved with the wrong people, be it romantically or platonically. Then you have men like myself, who have adopted some convict-like institutionalized behavior as a means of survival – but also, maintain a firm grasp on reality and a very strong moral compass. As far as the convict prison population is concerned, I will forever be an anomaly.
A Gay Man: Nowadays saying that ‘I sleep with and am attracted to the same sex’ works, but there is a lot more to the inner workings of being a gay man. The basic stereotype, I believe, is that we all well groomed, fashion forward, effeminate and outspoken. The truth is that the gay community has a number of sub categories such as bears, twinks, leather men, body worshipers, muscle heads etc.. A lot of gay men try to fit into one of these categories and it works for them. It has become apparent to me however, that I do not easily fit into any of them. If I don’t, then I believe it is safe to say that there are many other gay men who do not as well. Somehow, I have bits and pieces of all these categories within me, but I have no idea what it all means. I am pretty meticulous about my grooming but I do have body and facial hair most of the time. I am strong and masculine in my everyday life, but can also be submissive in my private life when called upon. I have worn a harness of two in my day and I do take pride in staying in great physical shape. I also play sports, enjoy the outdoors, getting dirty and a slew of other things that are not typically associated with the gay community.
A Man of Color: It took a very long time for me to stop caring about whether I was seen as a Black or White man. Unfortunately, I have never been accepted entirely by either the Black or White communities. The reasons may seem trivial, but they are real and they continue to happen to most people of mixed race. I have never fit a stereotype of any particular race or ethnic community and that fact became very clear to me when I came into the prison system. I am not Black enough…I have swagger but it comes from confidence rather than from being a Black man. I am not at all interested in Rap or Hip Hop music and lean toward alternative music instead. The Ebonic language is foreign to me most of the time. Racially, my differences, the reasons that I do not easily fit into a category, are the most prevalent. They were also the most tough for me to swallow. Now that I have embraced how I am different and have become proud of it, I can say with confidence that referring to myself as “swirly”, doesn’t bother me a bit
A Jew: Stereotypically, people categorize Jews as being thrifty, large nosed, intelligent, deserving and, for the most part, Caucasian. Some only recognize the Orthodox versus the Secular Jews and that is their prerogative. There are however, a great many converts to Judaism as well. Madonna and Amare Studemeire have both converted, to name a couple. They believe in what works for them, for their own faith. I do the same and I am proud of it. I do not need to shout it out loud it to the world for validation but rather, I will tell people, when solicited, about it. I share it with them with pride because it is what makes sense to me and, it’s what I believe.
You see, I am all of these things, and they make up me as a human being. I am not just a convict, a gay man, a person of color or a Jew. I am proud to not be categorized into a box.