Perspectives: mask-ulinity
HOW DO I SPELL RELIEF?

May 25, 2006 Print version       Other articles by this author

...TAKE OFF THE MASK AND BREATHE...

...what mask shall I dawn today/what role shall I play today... ...who will I fool today/tell me which fool will fall prey... ...all dressed up like a common boy/know all the common things to say... ...I can always get what I want...when I play...in the CHARADE...

Life in the (s)hell of a black gay man. This is what it feels like. Its like a looming storm cloud that follows me. Well at least it USED to, that is until I decided to retire from the "game", to live my life by my own standards and god given beliefs. The day I let my mask fall, was the day I uncovered it all.
The way I often think about my existence is something like that of an onion, or a flower. Something with a lot of layers. Some layers I love, some layers I loathe. Other layers are there and will be there no matter how much I try to avoid them. My race, my sex, my sexual orientation, and as of late, my HIV status....are all layers that I live with. Layers I've come to accept. Layers that I love. Well on most days I love them. On the days when someone other than a black person looks at me and makes some kinda dumb-ass assumption about me based on the color of my skin, based on the mere presence of my locs, I tend not to love those layers as much.
Well thas my initial feeling, but then I think again, and I say fuk them and their narrow minded thoughts and keep it movin.

"...just before the curtain rises/afraid they'll see through my disguises ...stagefright at the curtain call/makes me fear my mask will fall... ...imagine all the disappointment/if they could see that I don't fit in... ...that I'm a loser who would never win/if I didn't play...IN THE CHARADE...

At auditions, on dates, on job interviews, around family, TAKE YOUR PICK...That's how I feel most times in this (s)hell. The (s)hell that I've learned to love, conditions and circumstances included. See the thing is...I BLEND...I blend so well, that I could certainly get away with living life like the worlds "average black man". None would be the wiser if I settled for the ordinary, kept my feelings and thoughts to myself, didn't speak or live my truth. I could blend right in. The thing is, I'm anything BUT average. I'm gay, I'm an artist, I'm poz, I'm black. I can be angry, I can be funny, I can be kinda feminine, I can be masculine, you get the picture. I've worn a lot of masks in the 31 years and counting...of my existence.

Being a black male in current day society is oftentimes referred to as being a "strike" against you, a handicap, etc. Add onto that being gay, same gender loving, or whatever label you can find for it, and you have a recipe for challenge.

I no longer view ANY of my circumstances as a strike against me, nor a handicap, nor a hardship. I choose to see the infinite number of possibilities that come with being all of these things. One thing I can honestly say is that being all of these things has enabled me to ADAPT...to pretty much any set of circumstances or situations that confront me. Resilience has indirectly become my best friend.

Being all of those things has also made me extremely compassionate. Because of all the hatred, ignorance, fear and stupidity that I am faced with (beginning with MY OWN), I now understand the importance of being able to have compassion for others and their circumstances, especially those whose ideals and/or lifestyles may not square with or mirror my own.

The one thing I hold onto now with the most determination of all, not as if, but BECAUSE MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT, is actually not a mask at all. IT IS MY TRUTH. That is the only thing that anchors me in the hailstorm that life can oftentimes be. It is what keeps me grounded, what has been whispering in my ear each and every time I considered honoring someone, something, anything other than IT.

At the end of the day, the way I define manhood has nothing to do with how much money I have, how big my dick is, how well I excel in sports, or how hard I can FRONT, or how well I BLEND in.
My measure of manhood, of MASCULINITY has far more to do with how I love, how I communicate, how often I think for MYSELF, how often I TRUST MY INSTINCTS and allow them to lead me, LOVINGLY to MY TRUTH.

Quotes from the song, "Charade"
From the album, PROTOTYPE
By artist, RACHID