Okay, so this is a different post than my usual beauty & fashion posts, but I was asked to help out a friend of a friend with her assignment for her english class. The assignment Jamie was given was to write a story about living in America from the perspective of someone of a different gender and ethnicity than your own. Now when I was asked to help out with this assignment I was automatically cautious because this would be my personal experiences that I have went through and I kinda have sentimental feelings for them even if they are negative. Even though my fist reaction was “OMG IDK” I sat and actually thought about it and decided to just go for it!
I’m really glad I was able to do something like this especially with everything going on in the world with all the disagreements and separation between all backgrounds, I thought it was an obligation that I needed to do. Like I said these stories/experiences that I went through & currently still going through are some of the most personal topics of mine. I’m ready to share with everyone and anyone who has ever looked down on me, questioned me, or keeps trying to shape me the way they want just because they don’t like something about me. Thank you Jamie so much for capturing the energy and emotion of my words and experiences. You really did do an amazing job with using my words & experiences to help paint a full panoramic view. Hopefully this open letter will open more people’s eyes to what minorities are going through on a day-to-day basis.
Names in this open letter have been changed due being a personal topic. Other than that everything is real and genuine coming from my personal life. Enjoy.
Dear Uncle John.
I’m still not sure if I’ll even send this. But I’m writing you this letter because I know that you don’t really understand who I am, even though you pretend to try. We’ve always had our differences, but in the end, I want to try to help you see things through my eyes and try to bridge the gap between us that’s always been there.
In our family, I’ve always felt like I didn’t quite fit. You and my mom come from an all white Mormon family, and you didn’t really know what to do with her black husband and three half-black children. You always talked about what it would be like when I married the girl of my dreams and settled down, had some kids, only to realize that I’d be much happier to meet the quarterback at the altar than the homecoming queen. And after all these years I still can’t shake the feeling that you think of me as a rotten apple on your family tree.
You know, when I was in middle school, Greg Andrews, a boy in my grade who always reminded me of you, screamed “faggot” as I walked into the crowded gym for an assembly. The bleachers bubbled up with laughter and whispers, and, at the time, I just hurried to sit down. But when I got home from school that day, I realized that I had a decision to make: do I give in to people who want to break me? Or do I rebel against them and love myself? I bet you can guess which option I chose.
Over the years I would do my makeup and nails, only to take them off before I left the house. I would decide between leaving my bag at home or getting stares and weird comments if I brought it. But with time, my makeup became my war paint, my nails were weapons, and my bag was my shield. I became proudly and unapologetically myself. I can take the crap that they throw at me now because I know my worth and I know that I’ll still shine through it.
But even now I still get shoved back into the closet. Behind closed doors, my boyfriend’s family loves me and says they support our relationship, but they voted against it in the last election. At his family’s family gatherings, I have to watch Adam’s brother and his girlfriend proudly tote their relationship around while I pretend to be Adam’s friend or roommate. No matter how much I want to share about our experience duvet shopping together last week or how much fun we have at Wing Wednesdays, I stick to small talk like the weather and work. And when his family visits, the home that we made together turns into Adam’s home, and I turn into his friend who sleeps on the couch.
Every day I have to be prepared to check off these boxes; being a good boyfriend, a good friend, a good man, a good black man, a good gay man. And it’s never for myself. I have to be manly enough for the straight guys, and drop my voice an octave. I have to prove I’m worthy of my blackness by being tough and proud enough. I have to be sassy and fun enough for women, like my sexuality is their new favorite accessory. I have to be gay enough for other gay men, and even then, I still have to be the right kind of gay. I have to navigate between being black, gay, and male, all at the same time. People get so caught up in who they want me to be that they don’t see me for who I really am.
And if you’ve gotten this far, you might be wondering what I’m wanting from you after reading this, and the answer to that is simple. I want you to listen. To be a sponge. Even if it’s not for me. Even if what you hear doesn’t make sense yet, I just ask that you listen with an open heart and are willing to change your mind. In the end, I want you to remember that we are all the same, we’re all connected. Understand that, underneath it all, we bleed the same blood, we have the same heartbeat. I want you to know how much I truly love you. And, if you finished this letter, I want you to know that you already took the first step.
Written by Jamie Marks
Photos by Courtney Sanders