Becoming Boi Before Hashtags: An Open Letter
Dear Old(er) Bois,
If you are like me, an older boi (30+), you probably came out before the social media generation. We didn't have hashtags and profile pictures. We had very little resources for the LGBTQ+ minorities. Let alone be an African American of the LQBTQ+ variety, that was a whole different world.
For us it was more like "Does ya mamma know?" , in whispered tones and secret stares. If you grew up in an urban city you may have had an LGBTQ+ center in your area. You may have had a Gay Straight Alliance at your high school or university. There may have been a handful of books at your local library. Like me, you probably didn't own or have the courage to rock Pride shirts and jewelry commonly seen today. If you did, well a gold star to you!
I am writing this letter to simply let you know I am proud of you. You had the courage to step out of the closet and affirm yourself. When all you knew was that your mama was gonna kill you, at Sunday service your preacher was gonna preach "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" and you might get called a "bull dagger" or "butch" walking to the grocery store. Still everyday you woke up and put your best "tomboi" swag on and said a big "F U" to everybody. That was not easy for us. We made it this far.
As we look at this new hashtag generation, as I call them, it can give rise to many feelings. Sometimes I feel envy, sadness or anger at what I wasn't able to have as I came out. There was not billions in social media rooting for me. In fact, I had to guess who might have been apart of the community. Was it that boy that hung out with all the girls? Was it the girl on the basketball team with the cornrows? Our visibility was not as strong as it is today. I remember in high school passing notes to kids I thought were gay, saying little community slogans to see if they caught on. Most of the time it worked, and when it didn't-- I suppose I outed myself.
It was very different to figure yourself out even if you did have access to computers. I had to look up stuff in the stillness of night all the while hoping my mama didn't wake up and find out. I had to hide clothes in my backpack and change when I got where I was going. I had to lie and say I was going to an after school program, just so I could go to Christopher street and soak in the gay vibes before I went back home into hiding. If you are an older boi like me then you may have had similar experiences. Don't feel out of your element, we did the best we could with what we had.
Now that we are growing older in this hashtag era, we can use it to our advantage. We can find local areas for older queer folks, black queer folks and disabled queer folks. I plan on buying all those Pride shirts and things I was eyeing as a young boi in hiding. I plan on being apart of this social media revolution in all it's glory. We no longer have to live in silence or shame. Many culturally black places like church, the hair dresser and barbershop are advertising inclusion so you can find somewhere to go that affirms you. Us older bois have a chance to become visible, proud and strong. We can reconcile our past by finding peace in this hashtag land. Join me while I enjoy reclaiming my black queer pride online and out loud. One more thing, if ya mama doesn't know, send her a link, drop a text or tag her!
Ya Boi Tyler Celvin