Op-ed: Am I Black Or Gay?

By Kosoko Jackson

Originally published on Advocate.com August 08 2013 3:00 AM ET

I suppose I should start this off by saying I’m not pissed off that I was born black — it's not like I can jump into a pool of bleach and change that. But I think I’m more pissed off that I was born black and gay.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my skin color. From an early age, my parents taught me to be proud of my heritage. There is a sense of hardheaded pride that comes from proving narrow-minded people wrong about who they perceive me to be on the outside. I’ve been blessed — privileged you could even say — with being born in a fairly affluent and open-minded area of the United States. Throughout my younger years I always had this rose-tinted view of a world that would accept me because I have identified with two different communities of strength, resilience, and "brotherly love." Besides, how many times have comparisons been made to the Civil Rights movement and the LGBTQ movement? I figured I must have been the luckiest person on Earth, to learn from both communities and movements.

But I've realized that's not how this all really works. We live in a heteronormative, Caucasian-driven country, so being in the racial minority within the sexual minority is not exactly easy. In a sense it's like having (or being?) too much of a good thing; representing your cultures too much. Either you hear statements like, "Sorry, I’m not into black guys" — which sounds as effortlessly said as, "How are you this morning?" — or when you show your sexuality with pride and you get pummeled by those who identify with your skin color but demand that you "Stop acting like a fag."

I don’t blame the world for my circumstances. I’m not sitting here shaking my fist with an angry scowl wondering why the skies have forsaken me. I assimilated with the predominantly white culture I grew up in. From a young age I thought to be successful and to be respected meant you had to be white. When I came out as gay, I found it easier to date primarily white guys because of the generally more accepting view that white people had of the LGBT community. Did anyone tie my arm behind my back with a gun to my head and make me choose that? No. Did I have any first-hand proof to back this choice? No. But it was simply an easier choice.

Yet why was it easier for me to choose to be someone I wasn't, than to just be myself? If I’m rejected from the caucasian community, I can put up my guard and argue I wasn't wanted because of my skin color. Among other African Americans, what crutch do I have to fall back on? I should not have to choose between having pride in what makes me unique, and fitting in. Is the road of rebellion worth traveling if you do it alone? Or must the road to compromise be paved with the bodies of those you stepped on to get there? No one group of people is at fault, but it's time to challenge anyone who hates acceptance and love that we all are capable of expressing with each other as humans.

Deep down, I know that there isn’t one clear path. Still, each morning, I wake up and make a choice: Who am I going to be today? Black or gay?

Can you guess which one I picked?


KOSOKO JACKSON is a senior at University of Maryland Baltimore county majoring in Global Studies. He hopes increase the amount of LGBT role models in young adult fantasy and science fiction as an inspiration to teens struggling with their sexuality in need for like role models. He enjoys iced tea far more than should be legally possible.