“It’s cool to be different and just be who you are and shock people in a good way.”
I think I knew I was different when I watched Clueless for the first time when I was only a kid. Only my sister can tell you that I’ve watched that movie repeatedly because for whatever reason. To this day, the lines “Rollin’ with the homies” and “You’re a virgin who can’t drive” are forever burned in my memory. Not sure what it was I liked about the movie that captivated me but it’s not a cult classic for nothing. Honestly, I think I had a crush on Alicia Silverstone and Stacy Dash back then and didn’t want to admit it. In retrospect, perhaps Clueless awakened my sexuality. Either that or the girl who played Wendy in the live action Peter Pan movie. Guess it’s safe to say that there was never a doubt that I liked girls even from an early age. I didn’t crush on girls all throughout my childhood and adolescence just to sharpen my acting skills.
Some may consider this a “red flag” or as my peers would say “sus” (suspect) as ridiculous that sounds but there is a side of society that would like to put young boys in a hyper masculine box. I look back today and I may cringe at the really out of whack stuff I’ve done or said but the thing I failed to remember was how unapologetically different I was. Basically, I liked the normal things that boys would usually like; playing tag, playing action figures, watched the Power Rangers, partaken in epic lightsaber fights. I loved action, adventure, thrills, and crude jokes like the next little guy. However, as much I’d hate to admit it before growing up, I had a soft spot for fairy tales, musicals, Disney movies, love stories, fantasy, or anything that most boys would be so so so so so so so so reluctant to come right out and say that they liked it too. My taste in music, movies, and television shows are a reflection of who I am and actually shaped who I am today.
Now, would you believe me if I told you that as an early twenty something year old black bisexual man used to briefly consider himself a “tomgirl” as a kid? Well believe it or not, it didn’t stick for long obviously but in my little mind, I thought I was just a dude who some of things that girls do. Case in point, I was all about the Cheetah Girls and I do mean this mildly of course. I loved the movies and the music was dope. Not to mention Raven Symone was my first few TV baes next to Amy Jo Johnson. (The first American Pink Ranger! If you don’t know who that is then do your googles! ASAP!) You couldn’t tell me a damn thing about the Cheetah Girls and the Power Rangers back then! I digress. Looking back one summer when I went to “summer camp” which really meant spending hours with glorified babysitters in the local school cafeteria playing games and what not. One of the kids brought the Cheetah Girls soundtrack and played it. I honestly didn’t care what anyone had thought; I just sung and danced along with the girls. If anything, I was just jamming to music because it was so dope to me.
From then I knew and accepted that I wasn’t like other boys but that also didn’t stop the desire to be accepted and the ridicule that I’ve endured for years. Back then, there was no such thing as being bi, gay or I guess flamboyant in my kid world. But I have had heard the term but being used in a derogatory way such as an insult to a man being emotional or liking things that aren’t considered “manly”. From there as a kid, I associated the term gay as something stupid or not gentleman-like and have been guilty of using it in such a manor. Luckily that got nipped in the bud when I was a teenager by Hillary Duff and her commercial telling off these girls for using the term “gay” offensively.
As I grew older, I began to see little by little how the world operated. I knew racism was alive and well especially living in the state that I’m in but I’m blessed to have never experienced full blown discrimination. (Unless being denied because they don’t date black people counts. Meh.) However I have been given flack for not fitting the bill of the stereotypical black guy. I’ve been hit with “You talk like a white boy” or my favorite “You’re the whitest black guy I know.” Well if you grew up around different ethnicities (predominantly white) and your mother had to work for corporate America for years, you’d pick up something called INTELLIGENCE AND SPEAKING ELOQUENTLY! The great thing about growing up having a mother, who was born in the south and was a DJ in her heyday, and a father was a Philly native, was that they were still cultured. I’ve listened to music way before my parent’s time and mine. I’ve heard everything from Nancy Wilson, The Temptations, Rick James and Teena Marie, Curtis Mayfield, Jagged Edge, Jill Scott, New Edition, Erykah Badu, Notorious B.I.G, Jay-Z, and the ever popular Jackson 5. Anything 90s hip-hop, pop, R&B, and rap are my poison. (Poison by Bel Biv Divoe aka the best 90s song in my honest opinion.)
The one thing I can honestly say about my people is that we make the best music. No other music moves me (except certain video game soundtracks, go figure) the way that Tamar Braxton hits those high notes in the name of love, Nicki Minaj spits her rhymes of empowerment, Kendrick Lamar tells the truth of oppression, Jussie Smollett falsettos for freedom, and Jhene Aiko harmonizes me into ease. Now mind you, I’m trying to say that I strictly listen to black music. Believe me, I am a music lover. Long as it has a good beat, a good message, or it gives me the ear worm, then its good music. However the fact remains that black music has been a prominent part of my life and its part of a culture that I love dearly. Being black to me isn’t about the music, the clothes, how I speak, or the trends. It’s about embracing the color of my skin, embracing the culture and heritage that was set for me and rising above a whole system that is set out against black people and other minorities.
Anybody that knows me, they’d say that I am completely and utterly obsessed with certain shows and movies. I can sit here and talk about the long list of movies and shows that I love. However, I can tell you that Degrassi and surprisingly Why Did I Get Married had a significant impact in my life. In the case of Degrassi, I was never ever ever ever ever ever interested in Degrassi growing up. It looked like I wouldn’t get into it until 2010 when I watched the “Causing a Commotion” episode from season 8. In short, this kid Connor has mild Asperger’s Syndrome; it’s basically a form of autism that makes it difficult to interact with people socially. I watched as he was given a hard time for being socially awkward. Connor may not have been a queer character but I still could relate to him on a level because he was a person of color who was different from everyone else. I was fifteen and considered myself bi-curious at the time. Plus I was graduating to shows and movies that were more mature audiences. Degrassi sure didn’t shy away from heavy issues that I’ve never thought would’ve made it to television; especially LGBT issues. As dramatic and pretty intense Degrassi can be, there’s not taking away from how bold and unapologetically real the show was then and especially now. Because of Degrassi, I gained a better understanding about life, tolerance, redemption, forgiveness, compassion, and most importantly friendship. Not only that, my passion for the LGBT community was rooted from the show. Guess I’ll just admit it now, I really wanted to go to Degrassi. In case some were wondering, yes, I binged watched the entire series from 2000 to now.
Like Degrassi, Why Did I Get Married did teach me an important lesson on self-love, self-worth, trust, companionship, and what marriage really entails. I was only a teenager when I first saw it but I do still take with me what I learned from the movie especially now that I’m an adult and am heavily thinking about my future. As I stated in my last blog post, I mentioned that I was insecure and sought validation. Truth be told, I’ve been struggling with my weight and self-image for years now and that has made it difficult being comfortable in my own skin. I may not show it outwardly and I have developed a layer of thick skin recently but my insecurities still like to run rabid in my head. I may have not known what it’s like to be in a failing marriage but I know what it’s like to feel less because of how I look. There have been times where I doubt the people I’ve dealt with just dealt with me for me or they just felt sorry for me. I didn’t get complemented much about my looks growing up so as an adult it’s a little hard to take complements from people now. I related to Jill Scott’s character, Sheila who struggled with her weight while trying to save her marriage with her uncaring husband. Through her story, I’ve learned that no one can bring me down if I let them and I am truly deserving of love.
Morale of the story is that art can definitely influence life. If it weren’t for the music and movies that my parents exposed me too and the shows that inspired me then, I honestly wouldn’t be the person I am today. There was a time that I wouldn’t outwardly confess all my guilty pleasures only because I was afraid of being judged. Now you may never catch me watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race because that’s not my cup tea. And I love tea! But could catch me dancing to Beyoncé’s “7/11” like a maniac, geek out over Supergirl and The Flash, howl out loud listening to The Breakfast Club, get teary eyed watching Best Man Holiday, rage quit to Call of Duty and Kingdom Hearts, yell at the TV watching The Haves and the Have Nots, and chanting ‘Bodak Yellow’ by Cardi B at the top of my lungs. Either way, I just love good music, good stories, and a good joke. In all honesty, music, storytelling, and humor get me through the bullshit of life. At the end of the day, I’m still a man and what I like is what I like. My manhood is mine to claim and I’ve let others try and define it for me. I’m at the point in my life where I’m beginning not to care what others think because there are millions of things that occupy my mind other than what people think of how I look or how I carry myself. I’d like to make a difference in the world for the unapologetically different. But it’s like what Michael Jackson said “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”
How has art influenced you? Please comment down below.
Love and Peace