Pride Started With A Riot.

Pride is a time of joy, celebration, and being unapologetic in how you exist in today’s world. While Pride events take place all year round, let us not forget how we came to be as out and proud queer individuals who can – for the most part – celebrate in our fiercest heels, tightest tanks, and deliciously worn leather during the entire month of June. Pride is a time of remembrance and reflection as much as it is a party.

“Pride started with a riot.” This quote has been haunting me on Instagram and Twitter. Okay, fine. It’s probably just the internet doing what it does best and marketing to its target audience, but I feel a way about it. I’m now 32 years old and have had plenty of time to reflect on my journey as a gay, black man as I exist in the queer community. I think about the day I figured out I was gay. I reflect on all my relationships and how they’ve matured or stayed in my past as I’ve grown into my queerness. I think about how I was in my early twenties when it came to navigating new queer relationships. I think about what my interracial, gay marriage means to me and the message we want to send as a couple to our communities.

Every year I look out and around at the LGBTQIA+ community members and think if they’ve taken a shot or twerked in the name of any epic queer leaders. People like Marsha P. Johnson,  Sylvia Rivera, Harvey Milk, Alexya Salvador, Laverne Cox, or those who were peacefully enjoying themselves at the Stonewall Inn when the riots broke out in Summer of 1969.

My intention is not to make a blanket statement and imply that we as a community don’t take moments to remember these powerful individuals. I’m just curious if we know our history and reflect on them in our Pride celebrations. As mentioned above: Pride is a time of remembrance and reflection as much as it is a party.

With all of this in mind, I want to encourage all members of the LGBTQIA+ to continue educating family, friends, and allies.

I’m particularly triggered when people accuse myself or others of throwing our sexuality in their faces. “What do you mean throwing my sexuality in your face? By sharing my experience and by existing?” I usually find myself mildly entertained and suppressing the urge to raise an eyebrow or two when I get comments on the blog as they relate to fragile male egos or ignorance in general.  Please remember to be safe and respectful of everyone’s boundaries on topics of queer culture and what Pride means, but don’t ever let anyone diminish your existence. Internet trolls are going to troll, but give those who may require some time a chance at understanding. We get to choose our circles and family, you know?

I’ll leave you with some items to reflect on as our respective Pride celebrations approach:

  • Our trans brothers and sisters need our love, protection and support. ESPECIALLY TRANS WOMEN OF COLOR. In 2019 already, there have been six fatal attacks on trans women of color.Say their names:  Dana Martin (31), Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon (27), Claire Legato (21), Muhlaysia Booker (23), Michele “Tamika” Washington (40), and now only hours ago, Chynal Lindsey (26).
  • Racism and a lack of body positivity exists within the queer community still. “No fats, no fems, no Asians… White only, please… BBC (big black c**k) this way!” is what you will find on plenty Grindr profiles. Don’t be one of those queens online that fetishize myself or other based on who they are as people; only wanting them for that. We aren’t objects. We are human beings and most of us have been battling identity issues our entire lives. Do better and call your “friends” out politely when you catch them slipping.
  • Respect the pronoun. Please try to use peoples’ preferred pronouns. We are past the excuse of “It’s too hard to change now after all these years!” Try. Be a decent human being and have some manners.

Stand firm in who you are. What does Pride mean to you and what has your journey on the rainbow road been like? Pride is supposed to be fun, so have your fun, queens! Just remember to take time to reflect, check in, and support the community you love and are very much a part of.

J,

5 Married Years Later

Today is S and I’s fifth marriage anniversary. This question is beyond cliche to ask in a post like this, but, where did the time go? Five years isn’t a long time at all, and so far our history together has felt like a whirlwind and a lifetime all at once.

Let’s see, we started dating Summer of 2011, moved in together Summer of 2013, got engaged, bought a condo, got a puppy, got married in 2014, I completed my degree at Indiana University, we’ve both been on massive career journeys, and during all of this have had a lovely niece and two nephews join our family.

Life is going to life, and it did just that. We’ve faced our ups and downs and have managed to navigate darker days with the grace of a Swan Lake prima ballerina. Our relationship has been an easy one for the most part, yes, but that’s not to say we haven’t had our bumps in the road.

At times my content can slow down because I’ve been busy, sure, but it’s also because I may not feel like I have anything to share. I love seeing happy couples post on Instagram and in other corners of the internet, but I have to wonder, how many of them are actually happy? Are they posting all this lovey-dovey bullshit just for the gram to grab a like or two? I’m so not into that.

I love love, but love is hard. If what I’m seeing from happy couples online is their truth, then great! That’s amazing. I try to be honest with my readers and followers, and I connect more with those I follow who share this sentiment.

 

jamal stony 1

(Us on New Years Eve 2011, a few months into dating)

 

S and I have been married for five years, but come October, we will be together a total of eight years. I’ve written about what we’ve learned in our relationship a number of times on Gays in the Life, but one major lesson sticks out to us in this moment:

Honesty. You have to be honest with yourself, and with yourselves as a unit. If you’re not, you will fail.

I’ll leave all my lovers out there with this tip. Seriously, take this with you moving forward; it’ll change the game:

Check in with each other! Check in on each other’s personal goals, any issues you both may be working through, mental health, happiness, and darkness. Over the years we’ve learned not to take reactions or things said personally because you never know what someone is going through.  If you’re able to level with yourself in honesty, you’ll be able to help your relationship stay just as honest and strong.

Happy Anniversary, S! I love you so much, and thank you for being a constant source of strength and inspiration for me. 

XXOO,

04-04-1968: Remember the Love

On the 51st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., I want to remember one of my favorite quotes.

mlk candid

 

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

 

Remember the love. We all have our faults, differences, and lessons to learn. Listen to each other. Love each other. Be kind to each other.

J.

 

 

Seeing Red

When frustration strikes, she doesn’t hold back. Every couple has their expectations when it comes to their partnerships, but what happens when wires become crossed? Is that pile of laundry still stacked in the corner forming fresh wrinkles with every hour that passes? Do you find yourself having the same conversations about relationship items that need improvement? Whatever it may be, those are just two examples that rest at opposite ends of the frustration reasons spectrum. Here are some tips to help keep frustration at bay and your partnership healthy:

Time – Give the scenario a moment. We don’t have to collect all the answers and solve the problem right this second. Most of the time, an issue or touchy subject needs time to breathe. If you’re having a tiny disagreement, try waiting twenty minutes or so before approaching the topic again. Not only will this give you both a second to recapture some zen, but you’ll also adjust your approach when you reconnect.

If the problem is heavier or in the danger zone, do your best to allow necessary space in between communication or problem solving. It’s easy to jump the gun and rage if frustration is boiling over and you haven’t had an adequate resting period. Maintain the cool so productive conversation has the chance to breathe and flourish.

 

red block

 

Space – Walk away if the need arises. We all watch reality television, and know that circular discussion or yelling won’t fix anything. Do yourselves a favor and press pause. Go to different rooms – or for a drive or a walk – to allow the minds a recollection period. You’ll thank yourselves later when you notice the progress made in the resolution. The trick is safely processing the problem with yourself, and allowing your partner the same. Take care of number one so you can take care of others.

Communicate – We say this all the time on Gays in the Life. You have to communicate clearly and safely. You want to be honest with yourself and your partner. Share your true feelings and why you have them in the first place. This is not an attack. Communicate this and remember to listen.

When tension is high, or you’re at your last wits end, things can go left at an accelerated rate. Save yourselves the drama and don’t even go there. You’re adults. Listen to each other, be honest, and respectful. This gets easier with practice. So do your best and be kind to yourselves with this one. Communication pros aren’t manifested overnight.

 

red block

Special note: These tips apply to email and texting scenarios as well. Reading text is particularly tricky when dealing with frustration in relationships and marriage. You’re already on edge if a resolution hasn’t been met, so the brain will immediately highlight each word in red. To avoid constricting progress, read the text or email a few times and process the communication. From there you can decide to respond or wait a bit before following up. Use your best judgement and be open.

Remember these few tools the next time you find yourself furiously responding to a text, dishing out silent treatment, or screaming like a psycho at your partners. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Happy loving.

“Why we Broke up”

The ebbs and flows of life can be such a whirlwind at times. Adventure and massive success in relationships, while exciting and inspiring, can threaten the connection; the spark that started it all.

Mark and Ethan are a couple that has found huge success with both their YouTube channels. The energy that flows between the two of them is infectious and they shoot absolutely amazing content for their channels.

We’ve followed them on numerous explorations around the world, family visits to the lake house, and my personal favorite, a little town called Bloomington – Go Hoosiers!

I wanted to write a little note about one of Mark and Ethan’s more recent videos, “Why we Broke up.” The title alone shook me. I quaked, honey. These two can’t possibly be separating!

False alarm. There’d be no breakup, but the two did share why Ethan had recently moved into his own apartment, five minutes away from Mark in LA. Some words the two shared hit me like a speeding truck:

Ethan: “We need to re-evaluate how we’re doing individually, because everything was just so habitually together.”

Mark: “Something that you had said, and that will always stick with me is that ‘you want to appreciate my love.’ There are days that I don’t appreciate him, and I don’t want that to be a thing. I just don’t want that to happen.”

This couple has shared so many good times through their lenses and YouTube channels with us. What we as the viewers forget is that these are real people, in real relationships.

It’s amazing that these two have been able to build their platforms together, but what happens when your relationship and business blends too well? Mark and Ethan explained how they need to focus back in on how they’re doing individually, and what a word this is.

Ethan goes on to quote RuPaul.. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Obviously, I don’t know these guys from Adam, but I get what they’re saying. You need time to focus on you; to take care of you. Without a strong sense of self-love in place, you won’t be able share that with the ones you love.  

I’ve talked before on Gays in the Life about making time for each other and not forgetting to take care of the relationship. A big part of that is taking care of number one so you can continue to be that support system for whoever it is on the receiving end of your love.

I want to thank Mark and Ethan for taking a moment to share these thoughts with us, and to remind us that relationships are work. The highs can be really high, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be low lows.

Put in the work, people! And don’t be afraid to face and enter the shadows – It’s the only way you’ll find that light in the end.

 

A Letter to Myself. An Ode to Self-care.

 Dear Jamal,
First of all, calm down. What are you doing getting yourself all worked up about nothing? When things are out of your control, remember, they’re out of your control. Do your best in the moment to ground yourself, dig deep into self, and use that energy as fuel. If you don’t like something, change it. If a certain environment or group of people aren’t good for you, or helping you achieve your goals, cut them out!
You’re a stubborn Scorpio, so you think you have all the answers. There’s something you’re forgetting to do, though, in all this misery and darkness you’ve been hiding from the world… Take your own advice. MAKE A CHANGE. I mean, seriously, bro. What are you waiting for?! Be responsible in your decisions, of course, but you’re too young and full of inspiration to waste away in your current state. Go for it.
In the end, you have to remind yourself that you have a beyond supportive husband, family, and friends who would slay anyone who got in your way. Spend too much time pondering on the “what ifs” if you want, but you’ll only have yourself to blame if you stay here. You have a tendency to put others before yourself, but it is to your detriment most of the time.
You can’t be a man of the people if you’re not taking care of yourself. I charge you to make a change and to fight through these dark clouds you’ve been surfing. Look forward to brighter days, greater love, and more adventure than you can ever imagine. The time is now, Jamal. It’s your time.
With love,
Jamal

Weekly Audit 4: Face the Scary Stuff

Every couple goes through a rough patch at some point in a relationship. Maybe it isn’t a rough patch, but a period of discovery. What’s the topic on the table? Do you have something you’ve been meaning to ask your partner but just can’t? Why is that?

S and I have learned to communicate whenever possible if there’s conflict. Communication is still probably the most important key in a relationship, but just because you can talk doesn’t mean there isn’t any lingering darkness from time to time. Maybe you’re just in your head, right? Get to the bottom of whatever it is. 

Don’t get me wrong, every talk doesn’t have to be sitting around having therapy sessions every night, but it’s important to check in with each other. Go on a walk and chat. Explore a new bar; someplace vibey and romantic.

Not every conversation needs to be heavy, but addressing any hurt feelings, disagreements, and new territory in your relationship is of the utmost importance if it’s going to last. 

There’s always a slight feeling of, “ugh, I don’t want to talk about this yet…” but you have to get over it – come into the light! Face the scary stuff in your relationship. If love is present, the support and love of  your partner should help you through the conversation.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! ANSWER THE QUESTION WITH YOUR PARTNER OR FRIENDS, AND SHARE YOUR RESPONSES IN THE COMMENTS. Ciao!