October has come, and now it’s almost gone. Before I can let this month end, I must sing my October Song.
And this time, I dedicate this song to my fair city, my home, you. Our relationship has been a rocky one for some years now. Most of this rockiness comes from my experiences from age 19, up until the age of 23. At 23 I left you, with no intentions of returning.
From 19 to 23, that was a rough patch. I was a depressed and angry young man. I often felt misunderstood when all I had to do was just speak up and speak out. But it was fear that held me back. My fear consumed me, and further fueled my rage against everything and everyone I known. It was easy to just blame the city, blame you for it all. I know now, that’s not fair. It wasn’t just you.
It wasn’t the city itself that caused these hard times, but the inhabitants and circumstances which allowed me to see myself and not such a great light.
And partly, it was my fault as well. I didn’t know the beauty that I possessed inside of myself. I didn’t know that there was a possibility for me to be loved as I was. I didn’t understand that it was okay to not be what I felt others wanted me to be. I should have known that it was okay to love my body as is and not feel ashamed of any type of extra flab or stretch marks that I possessed.
Birmingham, did you know how beautiful I truly was? Why didn’t you tell me?
From 19 to 23, those had to be the hardest times of my life. Those periods were so hard that often I thought about leaving early. And by leaving early I didn’t mean packing up and moving. Because for a long time I felt like I just would never fit in. And all I wanted was to find peace.
You knew how I felt about myself. I was in dire need of understanding and love, and unfortunately, I didn’t feel I could get it from my family. I told myself lies.
And I looked for friendship in all the wrong places. I was also among other men who were looking for the same thing. It’s just that the only way they communicated was through short conversation and sex. That was the language they spoke. And that was the language I was unwilling to speak for quite some time.
And I felt terrible for that. I felt ill-equipped to make it as a discreet gay Black man in Birmingham, AL.
Yet the distinction between then and now is quite extraordinary. I came out at the age of 23, and I am now an out Black gay man living in Atlanta. Birmingham, I am 29 years old. Do you see that my journey didn’t end from 19 to 23? I’ve been evolving ever since. It’s been 10 years to be exact. I’m not the same, and I see that every time I visit you now.
19 to Now.
When I visit you now, things are different.
Still, I find myself on those gay apps to help ease my boredom when I have nothing to do. There I am, an open face in a sea of picless profiles. Spending time conversing with these men, I find myself black in a place I was at the age of 19 and 20. The difference this time is that I feel like a light among shadows.
I converse with men looking for connections. Some of these men remind me of myself when I was younger – afraid, insecure, and alone. Some are just horny. I understand.
No matter the case, at the base of it all they are looking to connect with someone else. And that’s all we’re looking for is a connection. That’s all I wanted at a time when I needed friends the most. But instead I found friendships in bottles of Jack Daniels and Lortabs.
I found comfort in lying to my friends and family about whom I was dating.
But every time I come back to you Birmingham, you remind me that I used to be that person. What’s more, in every conversation, in every glance, and in every location of the city, I remind myself that I used to be that person.
However, I am not ashamed of it. I embrace it harder than ever because I am more than who I was 10 years ago, even 6 years ago.
You see Birmingham, if it weren’t for you I would not be Kevin T. of BamaBoiBlues.com. If it weren’t for the heartaches, heartbreaks, depression, and hurt I would not be able to talk about the things that I have been through. Had I silenced myself many years ago, I wouldn’t be able to love on you now.
So, as the month of October comes to an end, I just want to tell you that I’ve grown so much. I no longer harbor bad feelings toward you or anyone who lives there. I’m older and wiser. What a difference 10 years make.
From 19 to 23, I wasn’t quite ready to walk in my truth.
From 19 to now, I walk tall and proud.
Thank you, Birmingham. I love you very much.
(photo credit: Jay Ray)