I wrote this for the Fall edition of US: The Book because I was pissed off. As a character in the public health stage play, I have been both coordinator who thinks I’m doing good for my “community” and token: the Black check box on the cultural sensitivity rubric.
My last HIV test was much less a routine check-up as it was an opportunity for a system built on the backs of Black and Brown bodies like mine to upend itself against the lives and experience vital to its success. Make no mistake, Black gay men and trans women are integral to its success. Every dollar, once traced, is predicated on an organization’s ability to reach me, teach me, and change me.
But far too many within the institution have grown accustomed to the luxuries my experiences afford them. They’ve become complacent in the work they are contracted to do. They have lost the aiding, servicing and organizing in their ASO and relegated me to a checkbox, again. While I do not offer services any longer, I understand that somewhere in this public health machine, this public —my public–and our actual health have fallen by the wayside. This piece was written out of an awakened and bothered anger.
Do you even think about me? Like…the real me? The me that is actually having sex with men, existing in sero-discordance, inconsistently using condoms, and engaging in sex for money? Have you given thought to my actual dick that has gone into an actual ass for the purpose of clothing the brokenness I still feel from mama when I was 6. Do you even think about me?
Somewhere along the way, I think you did think of me. You were busy acting up while I was getting my rocks off. But when you dropped your picket signs and petitions, I think I crossed your mind. Was the blackest fleeting thought buzzing around your ear like a bumble bee. Luckily, though, you didn’t get stung.
I was in the clinic the other day and she asked, “Have you ever had sex with women?” To which I responded with a prompt and honest “no”. Honesty that I’d bled for and died for. Honesty that got me put out of my house, ostracized by my family and forced to eat on plastic ware, yet I stood in my honesty. I answered truthfully laying myself bare. I buzzed around the public health ear and she swatted me down with a “but sex with women is natural.”
This bitch tried it.
Doesn’t she know that without my dick sliding into that ass, she’d be out of a job? Without my inconsistent condom use, she’d be homeless on the street. Without my risk, she’d be begging for the services that my Black gay body allows her to provide. I wish this bitch would try me again.
Maybe she deserves a pass. Maybe she only exists in a system that thinks of me as a number on a page, a tally on a sheet, or a click at the door of some social activation. Maybe you relegating me to funding based on my melanin allowed her to sit inside her fortress of ignorance untouched by the thought of the actual dick that I actually slide into someone’s actual ass for my and their shared pleasure.
Or maybe it’s because your politics have begun to run my life. You weaponize the sex that I hold so dear that even my own touch, the mechanisms through which I engage with my fellow Black gay men, is to be covered. Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be touched only through latex? Or maybe you haven’t thought too much of me.
But she’s not alone. You, my Black gay comrade-in-arms, have forgotten me. It was you that dropped the dime on the pigs. You descend the elevators of your high-rise home, driving in the luxury of your leather coifed vehicle through the gay ghettos left by the public health machine, to ascend into corner offices and board rooms but forget about the actual fucking that you actually did last night. You forget the risk at which you put yourself. The condoms you didn’t use, and the man who banged your back out of unknown status. Your office doesn’t exempt you from the decisions we all make. And, even though you’ve forgotten us, Program Director, your power doesn’t exempt you from our experience.
My life has value. My life actually lives a life that should be enjoyable. My life is dictated by life’s riches, not the just the public health remnants your title, office, and outreach tallies afford me. My actions cannot be program calendared. My fcking cannot protocoled. And you, Executive Director, can’t tell me about me until you’ve given thought—real thought—to me. We, the people, are far more than the pennies that pay your paycheck.
I believe in me and the things that I do. Perhaps I’ve made a conscious decision on how I fck. Perhaps I like the way that I fck. And perhaps I’ve already thought about the parameters in which my fcking ensues. Perhaps my life is decided for me and by me and your nudges toward a life otherwise are not entertained. In fact they might just piss me the fck off.
They might piss me off at the arrogance of thinking that you, someone who is disgusted at the thought of my actual dick sliding into an actual ass that I’ve actually eaten with my actual tongue for the actual pleasure of me and my myriad of partners; that person who loathes me could give me advice on how I fck. Na, bruh.
Until you can fck a mile in my shoes, I’ll be basically waiting for you get a fcking clue.
This piece may never be read by those who it names. The program director may never see it. The executive director may never click this link and the funder may never scroll to the bottom. But if we, Black and Brown queer culture, can understand our true power in the services that are provided to us, the change we seek and the lives we live can do nothing but matter.