Little Culture: We Don’t Talk Anymore — The Line That Divides Black Gay Men.

In our fear of losing one another, we’ve stopped creating safe spaces to check in on each other. As black gay men, our mental health is compromised when we feel we can’t reach out to one another. Let’s break that pattern. Talk to me.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

I had all of my friends in a tizzy when I got cuffed by my boyfriend less than a week after we had met. Before then I had introduced them to another guy who had ghosted me and was in a tizzy of situationships in the weeks before that one.

Any true friend would acknowledge this as a red flag. Yes, I’m looking for love but in that quest am I taking care of myself? Am I compromising myself? I wouldn’t know, but my friends would. They should be able to see things that I don’t because they see me more, pay attention to me, and have grown to love me, unconditionally. The great flaw in this is that as black gay men we are afraid of losing that love. So, when it comes to getting real and telling your friend that he’s getting out of character we tend to shy away.

As black gay men, we see our friends and are conditioned to say nothing about the red flags they bring around. It made me realize that we don’t talk to each other anymore. I don’t think it’s because we don’t want to, but because we don’t know how to communicate with each other any more than our cis-hetero counterparts. Even worse, we are experts at talking about our friends instead of talking to them directly.

It makes for very shallow relationships that only evolve over long periods or ultimately end in a fall-out. It’s like we are afraid of truly getting close to each other. A good friend of mine once told me that hurt people, hurt people. And let’s face it, few communities have been hurt more than black gay men.

We’ve been hurt by our fathers, our mothers, our partners, the people we grew up with, and even strangers who see us sashaying through the streets in all of our beauty. That much pain can cause any person to build up walls. It could make us all second guess what we say to each other. It could cause us to look at each other with suspicion instead of seeing each other as a reflection of one another.

My one friend says it best: You have one time to tell me to mind my business and you will never hear from me again. It got me thinking, when someone tries to tell me that my man isn’t sh*t (and I’ve had men who weren’t sh*t), I am capable of putting up a wall. This wall is recognized by my friends because at one point or another they’ve done the same thing. It’s not because we don’t want to listen but because we’ve spent so much time being sad that we can be desperate for happiness.

I got my heart broken not too long ago and at that moment I felt like there was no one around that I could talk to. No one that I could honestly have a conversation with about the pain that I was feeling. I tried, but I had my own walls up. I didn’t want to burden my friends with those problems.

Then I went to therapy, I did the work on myself and something changed for me this time. I wasn’t afraid to dive headfirst into a relationship because, for the first time in my life, my happiness isn’t dependent on one man. It’s dependent on many. Well not dependent but it is a factor. No, I’m not getting it in with a bunch of guys but I’ve been blessed to have connected with a group of handsome, successful, black gay men who inspire me to be my best every day, simply by being themselves. I know that they have my back and I can carry that strength into any future trauma that I may face.

Here’s what I learned from this experience:

Lesson 1: Check-in on your friends. We have to shed the fear of checking in on your friend for something other than “let’s grab a drink.” We should do better in asking each other the right questions. “How are you feeling today?”, “Anything weighing on your mind lately?”, “What’s up my n*gga?”. We are responsible for our own mental health, but taking care of ourselves isn’t an excuse to ignore your community. Community is a way to stay afloat when we are not doing our best.

Lesson 2: Create a safe space for criticism. If I see you acting funny, I’m not coming for your head. Our culture needs to do better in creating a safe space to openly say what we need to each other without thinking that it’s coming from a place of malice. If I’m your friend and I see you doing something out of character, I’m going to have questions. Because the last thing I want is to see you getting heartbroken, see you in the hospital, or worse read your obituary online because I wasn’t there to tell you that I feel there is something wrong and to let you know that I have your back if this is what you choose to do.

Lesson 3: Tell them that you love them. Saying, “I love you” can go a long way. I think this is just a general black man thing but we don’t like to say it and we don’t like to hear it. Get over it because if god forbid something did happen I don’t want my last words to you to be a cold goodbye, but a heartfelt “love you, babe”.

Here’s what I’m doing about it today:

This is an open message to my community. That’s all the black gay men in my life now, in my life before and in my life to come. I see you, I hear you and no matter what happens I will always have your back. You will always have a safe space to say what you need to me without my past trauma getting in the way. If I’ve told you that I love you, I meant it. Part of my journey of mental health is being part of a community. That means that I choose to not only be responsible for myself but to make sure that my community knows they are loved and that they can come to me when they need it. Talk to me. Check me. Say what you got to say. I may have answers, I may have words, but I’m always here to listen.

Check me out on social: Follow me on Instagram. Join me on Twitter. Watch me on TikTok.

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My name’s Kawaun, I’m a writer, and most of the time I have something to say.

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Kawaun Harvey

Kawaun Harvey

My name’s Kawaun, I’m a writer, and most of the time I have something to say.

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