I would be lying if I said growing up gay and black on the South Side
was easy. By age 14, I was constantly fighting--with my words and my
fists--and I was afraid life would never get better. At one point, I even
tried praying the gay away. (It didn't work.)
Just a few days after I came out to my parents, I decided I wanted to
play football--something I hadn't done since the seventh grade.
I showed up to tryouts and, at first, couldn't catch the ball. I was
tackled, thrown, dragged, dirtied and bruised--all things I loathe.
Yet after enduring that first practice, I sensed I had gained the
respect of most of my teammates, who I think honestly believed up to
that point that a gay man could not play football.
Eventually, word got out in the league that a gay guy was playing
football, which made me the target of some extra taunting and more
aggressive tackles. During one game, I caught a pass and gained 35
yards. As I was being tackled, the opposing player yelled, "Get down,
fag!" Before I could reply with my fist, something surprised me. I
didn't have to stand up for myself--my teammates were there to defend me.
It was during that moment that I realized my teammates were not the
same people they were at the beginning of the season. I learned that you
can change the way people think, and people want to be accepting but sometimes they just don't know how. They're scared.
That season, my team nicknamed me "Bruiser." I didn't understand it
at the time, but several years later, I think I finally got it. They
thought of me as a fighter--a fighter who broke barriers. They saw my
determination and who I really am.
When I heard about the "It Gets Better" movement, I felt compelled to
make a video with three of my friends and post it to YouTube. To our
surprise--and delight--our work was selected to be in the new book based
on the project by Dan Savage and Terry Miller.
The book retells our "It Gets Better" video, and it does something
else unique--it shows that African-Americans are an important part of
this gay struggle for equality in America.
We now have a survival guide, full of real stories from real people
overcoming their struggles in the real world. True "Bruisers."