Good evening beautiful people! This morning, I had a candid conversation with God about life and what would the next move be. In our conversation, I tried my best to lay all of my burdens onto Him because I knew that He could handle it. I surprised myself by not jumping on social media in the morning, and I knelt at my bedside (so cliché LOL) and I spoke with Him about what life is GIVING (Rolling Ray voice). It’s really NUFFIN. But, seriously life is going pretty good, but I always try to find room for improvement. Especially when it pertains to making my life more enjoyable. I recently received a tarot card reading from a friend and she had told me that, “I needed to be grateful of the good that I have in my life currently, before I can possess anything else”. Gratitude is such an important part of my life because I tend to neglect the people who have always been there and the love that I have been able to receive despite life’s setbacks. So, I am learning to be more thankful for what I have, including basic human necessities, family, friends, pets, clean air, the ability to walk, talk, see and hear and learn to appreciate all that life has to offer. I think I have been stuck in this constant sad song loop and I want to get out of it and see the joy that is all around me. My friend also told me that I must be vulnerable with God to where I can share all my secrets, thoughts and feelings with Him. I found that to be very insightful because I struggle with vulnerability and openness, so through the blog, I will detail where that comes from and how I am actively trying to heal. When I think about the course of my journey, I never really got a chance to label myself because I was already labeled. Since I never got a real chance to share, this is my coming out story.
I was born on a late November day during the year 2000, in the Cooper Hospital located in Camden, New Jersey. I am the second son, and the baby of the family. My mother, commonly known as Ty, was my guardian angel from the beginning. My mom, my older brother, aunts, grandmother, and grandfather were the tribe that I was born into and let me tell you, I could not have been in a more loving family. Now, don’t get me wrong, we were not perfect, but my family did come very close because we all looked out for each other. We gave each other constant encouragement and our collective love language were acts of service. My mom was a teen mother, who had my older brother at 17, and times were hard. Many people in the church disregarded my mother. She was mistreated and mishandled for a long time in the church until she decided to make her own way. She found a job at a hospital in the Camden area, and worked there for a while as she raised my older brother. I always had a deep admiration for my mother because she could have been resentful and mean-spirited towards my brother and I. She was a young adult around my age and she had to take care of an infant. As her peers were socializing, partying and being youthful, my mom was taking care of my older brother and working long hour shifts at the hospital. She would later tell me about how humble a person has to be to take care of people day in and day out, sometimes not even receiving a thank you. Whether the patient was racist, inappropriate or flat-out rude, my mother took care of them. I believe that I have inherited her selflessness, strength and bravery. My biological dad on the other hand is a different story.
Ironically, my biological dad and father have the same first names. What are the chances? My mother met my bio-dad at a nearby convenience store in Camden. I think that is the most romantic thing because nowadays it seems so rare to have an encounter with a person. She told me that she really liked his looks, personality and sense of style. Well, I guess I did inherit a few things from him LOL. She told me that she was in love with him. Unfortunately, my father did not disclose to my mother that he had children outside of their relationship. My mother was completely blindsided and she felt deceived. As the relationship progressed, my mother found out she was pregnant with me and my father was not supportive of it. He felt that he had too many kids and suggested that my mother receive an abortion. It hurt my heart when she told me that, but I had to keep listening to get the full story. My mother had to make another lifechanging decision and she chose to keep me. I felt sorrowful for my mother that she had to make so many adjustments to her plan of happiness. She always found a solution and I will always respect that about her.
As months passed, on November 28th, 2000, I was born. My mother loves to remind me about my infanthood like how I was a really fat baby, with one piece of hair on my head like Homer Simpson. She told me about how I would talk in complete sentences as a child and I loved to dance, which I still do to this day. I feel joyful when I hear about my infanthood/toddler years because I believe that was the most pure version of myself. The Noah that was not influenced by the ways of the world, but Noah simply being Noah. I did not know that through the years, I would work to get back to that version of myself. The optimistic, fun-loving, carefree spirit that was deep within my gut. As I began to grow, I unconsciously demonstrated early forms of queerness. A memory that come into my head from time to time is my grandmother’s shoes.
My grandmother, commonly known as GG, is the “house mother” if you will LOL. She is our beginning and we are her continuations of our family story. Fun fact, GG and I share birthdays, and I always thought that was the coolest thing in the world. GG’s house is a landmark in our family history because we all spent time there. It was the start to all of our respective journeys as we grew into adulthood. One day, my mother, brother and I went to GG’s house to converse and check up on GG. GG’s bedroom was upstairs on the left-side of the house, and she had this long banister which ran up into the upstairs hallway. I would run upstairs and usually catch GG in her bed. Sometimes I would do a quick nap with her. This time, she wasn’t in her room, but all of her shoes were. I looked around and seen all of her different shoes. Heels, sneakers, work shoes, and so many different shoes. I felt the urge to try on one of her heels. When I put them on, I felt so much joy and freedom. I felt like myself, but I did not know how to describe that moment. In the midst of my walking around in GG’s shoes, my older brother Elijah caught me. His eyes widened and he said, “Ooh I’m telling my mom”. I think I felt really scared and I didn’t know why it was wrong to wear GG’s shoes, but my brother’s reaction let me know that I shouldn’t feel this comfortable. I quickly jumped out of GG’s shoes and ran out of her room. As I reflect, many of my stories about how my queerness came to be included my older brother, who typically caught me. Remember how I said I loved dancing to this day, well I was the dancing king in my younger years according to my mother. I can recount doing the choreography to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”. I watched her strut and dance so effortlessly. She was one of my first examples of femininity and I always loved her ability to own her space and have such a strong presence. My mom would ask me to do the dance from the video and as I did it, I looked towards my older brother and he had a disapproving look. It was in that moment that I thought, “Maybe my body is not supposed to move like that? Am I embarrassing? Am I not allowed to do this dance?” I felt really bad about myself and I think that I either sequestered myself to my room or sat down and criticized myself for being so free. The feelings were so complex and I did not even know how to describe them. I felt different but I thought that didn’t make me special. I thought it just made me weird. I didn’t know that weird is a good thing. In hindsight, I had fallen head over heels for a few boys in my youth. There was this one boy in grade school, who I was physically attracted to, but I did not know how to healthily express it. Guess what I did to express my affection? I had poured chocolate milk all over him at lunchtime. He didn’t even do anything wrong. I was so mad at myself for even doing that because I did not even have a reason for it. I think that was fear that wanted to push away my feelings for him by being a complete jerk. I hope he knows that I am so sorry. There would be so much happening in my head, I did not know how to control it. My younger years are not the greatest, but then again, whose is?
Pre-adolescence was quite the time. My previous grade school before Our Mother of Sorrows, was Blankenburg in Philadelphia. My mother had left Camden to go to Philly. New surroundings, new opportunities and a new start. At Blankenburg, I don’t think I ever fit in. I can look back at the younger Noah, who just wanted to make friends and be accepted. However, kids can be mean and trust me it hurts really bad when you’re in it. You had to be tough to be in Blankenburg, but I never felt tough. In my mind, I was strong, but in reality, I always felt weak and not good enough. I did not think that I was the best looking because I was never really told that growing up by my peers. My family would give me compliments, but I assumed that because they are my family, they were just saying that. I wouldn’t say that I was bullied per say, but I did get called “faggot” and “gay” more times than I could count. It did hurt to always deny, deny, deny, but to accept the reality that I was gay, was out of the question. I knew that gay wasn’t good by the facial expression and tone of voice that people would attach to it. The question “You gay?”, put my entire world into a spiral and within seconds, if I was not convincing enough, I could be possibly beaten up or bullied more. I would say no, but no one ever believed me. It was as if they had seen it in me before I seen it in myself.
School is hard. I would later be transferred to Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic School, due to my father wanting me to have a change of scenery and to be honest, I felt that my world was caving in at Blankenburg. I always felt like the “weirdo” and I never felt that I had friends. I would have crushes on boys, but it made me hate myself even more, so it was an endless cycle of self-hatred. When I switched over to Our Mother of Sorrows, the gay rumors kept going, but by then, I had been used to it. When you get called a “faggot” for so long, you start to get used to it. So, I had tried to get comfortable with people having their own opinions of me. I still struggled with shame, so I was trying to find ways to cope. As I got older, I started to see things begin to get better. It felt like life was beginning to come together, but I was not ready for how life was about to go. I had began to develop acne and other growing pains as I went into young adulthood, and since I never felt confident in myself or my looks, it hurt me to the core. I tried to look for validation in any way that I could and at the time, the app “Kik” was very popular.
That is where my sexting experience began. I did not have many opportunities to meet other queer boys, so when I heard about how “Kik” was this interactive app that can help a person meet people and find romance, I was sold. My reference for romance other than my parents were romantic comedies. I wanted to be running to the love of my life in the rain and tell them how much I loved them at 12 years old. Like who am I? I went on Kik to find validation and I found much more. I quickly learned that boys that I was conversing with on Kik liked to send and receive sexually explicit messages, and I was very naïve so I had to learn how to “sext” at 12/13 years old. I was a baby when I was doing this and in a way it exposed me to sexual material far too early. I had wanted to skip past self love and have someone to love me for me. Maybe it would show me that I was deserving of love. My world would come crashing down when my family found my messages with other boys. They were all shocked and surprised. I felt so shameful sitting in the chair watching them go through every message. I wanted to just be invisible.
There was not many resources at the time for queer children or parents of queer children, so I do not blame my family because they did not know how to respond. They were growing just like myself. I also did not know how to express myself about the numerous suicide attempts I had done as well. I did not feel the urge to push on. Life always felt so hard and so overwhelming and I felt that I could not keep up. I always felt like a weirdo and unworthy. I did not think that God cared about me. I felt so much shame about being queer. It felt like that was what kept me from friendships, relationships, and happiness. Around that time, I had taken many attempts at my life and I told no one. I never thought that I would live beyond 12 years old. I still struggle with suicidal ideation to this day, but I try to remind myself that I am stronger than my thoughts. Therapy helped a lot as well, and I was privileged enough to have access to therapy and counseling. It was just so much happening all at once and I did not think that I should be here. I think I subconsciously wanted to get to know myself more so that is why I started my dreadlocks journey at age 13/14. I wanted to have a fresh start and it seemed like a good way to go. Besides, Wiz Khalifa was very popular and I really wanted to be cool like him LOL. So, if anyone did not like grade/middle school, I get it.
High school, high school, high school. It was quite the experience and full of learning curves. West Catholic High School is where I spent four years of life and I must say, I learned so much from it. During my time at West Catholic High, I began to find myself in ways that I had not been able to in my formative years. It was a struggle to find friends, but I started to become more sociable and open. I tried to be more positive and I had done so much prayer and self work, that I felt comfortable in opening up. I started to meet people and get to know people from different walks of life. The school was predominantly Black and we had a strong Latino presence as well. There was also White, Asian and other racial identities at West Catholic. My experience was filled with highs and lows. Most of my lows were in my private life and I did not discuss them that much.
My mother was a big advocate for, “Do not share your business because some people will use it against you”. It took a while for me to open up about myself with others. I noticed that in high school, the gay jokes still came, but I decided to make myself as invisible as possible, so that I could survive to live another day. I would try to fit in with “the guys”, but it would never work. I remember a classmate was “bidding (joking)” in class and I was trying to defend/stand up for a person in class, so I tried to make this weak ass joke about him, and he quickly shut me down and laughed. I felt so stupid. I wanted to be the person in the movies who stands up for his friends. I always wanted to be strong, but I began to feel weak again.
There were many other times where I would try to joke around in class and be a part of the “guy culture” in my school, but I didn’t work. I always felt that my queerness would always keep me from truly being “one of the guys”. Fashion was a weapon in my arsenal that I would frequently use to feel less invisible. It felt good to be seen as the best version of myself. I did not feel confident in my looks, but clothes always made me feel good about myself. Any dress down day was an opportunity to feel seen, so I relished the opportunity. It was as if clothes showed how I felt on the inside.
During high school, I did fall into the sexting pool again. It was a comfort zone and I did not feel confident enough to ask a guy on a date or even ask a guy if he was gay, so to avoid all of that I would use social media to meet guys. I do not recommend it because it does not give you the human connection that you deserve. However, since we are in a quarantine, be safe but go AWF lol. Unfortunately, I still felt shameful about being gay. Being told it so many times made me feel that it was a curse I could not get rid of. During my high school years, I desperately wanted a boyfriend. Many of my peers began dating or were in relationships, and I wanted to have that as well. I did not see myself as special, so the the thought of a guy seeing me as cute was really nice.
As high school would come to a close, I was excited to go to college. Number #1 on my list: Howard University. I had completed my admission essay in my junior year and as senior year approached, I felt my heart smile at the thought of me attending a world-renowned HBCU. Little did I know that Tyrone Hankerson would be scamming the Howard girls. Spending their hard earned tuition payments on Gucci sandals and mink furs. Purrd. But, in all seriousness, Tyrone messed up the financial aid at HU, and that really put a rain on my parade. So, I began to look at other options such as Morehouse University, NYU, Dartmouth, Cornell, University of Pitt, and Clark Atlanta. I had applied to them all and got into all but maybe four.
I was anticipating my stay at Morehouse due to its HBCU environment, Atlanta weather and the men are freaking gorgeous. It’s like putting all of these male supermodels in one school. I was sold. Along with my dreams of becoming a doctor (at the time, because man the way biology read me for filth… but, anyways), I was elated to join the Morehouse community. Sadly, Morehouse was not financially feasible for me and it was difficult to find scholarships, especially as a Black teen from the inner city area. So, I decided upon the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford, which was quite the adventure.
Around junior/senior year of high school, I agreed to meet my biological dad. My mother brought it to my attention and asked if I would be okay with it. I gleefully replied, “Yes”, because I wanted to meet this man. For so many years, I wondered about who he is and what he looks like and where has he been? I had so many questions, but I knew that I wanted to lead with love and compassion. My mother met my father around my second grade school year, so the void of not having a father had been filled. If anything, I looked at him as a potential friend. The best friend that I was not able to have before. The day I met him, it felt unreal. I saw his face and I was stunned. He looked exactly like me and I could not believe how much we looked alike. The physique, facial features and he even has the birthmark that I have on the right side of my face. I didn’t feel the need to ask him why he was not there because I came to terms with maybe it was for the best. I started to love him within minutes of us hanging out. At the end, we parted ways and kept in contact. As months passed, my birthday approached and this would be my first birthday with him. In the morning, as I left for school, I started to text him. I wondered when he would say, “Happy birthday!”. He didn’t. I asked him do you know what today is and he responded along the lines of, “I don’t do birthdays”. I was heartbroken. This was the first birthday that I spent with him and he didn’t even acknowledge my existence. I felt stupid. That would not be the last time I felt stupid.
About 2-3 years ago, I was molested by an older man. I needed help with directions because I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. I am awful with directions, so I decided to ask around for help. It was so dark, and I could not see details or anything on the street, but I was around 60th street and I needed help getting to a certain hall. I asked this older man, he had to have been late thirties/early forties, for directions to the hall and he seemed well-meaning and helpful. He walked me around the street and I thought I had found help. I would later find out that the party was scheduled for the next night, instead of the night I went out. So, I thanked him for his time and apologized. I thought it would end there, but he had said that he wanted to show me something. He had helped me and I looked at him as a kind guy, so I followed him. I thought that I could quickly see what he needed me to see and hurry back home. It felt as if lead were in my feet as I followed him down the corner. Streets became more unfamiliar and it got much darker. I felt terrified. As I stood outside his place, he urged me to come inside, and I replied “It’s okay, I’ll stand out here”, but he pushed me to come inside. I agreed out of fear and I felt so afraid. It happened so quickly, and I pleaded with him to leave. I did not understand why I could not scream or fight like I had envisioned in my head. “Why was I weak yet again? Why couldn’t I be strong?”. Those were all of the thoughts circulating in my head, and as I walked out of his house behind him, I felt even more shameful. I had later told my parents and I was completely hysterical. I still could not process what happened to me and I felt really stupid. I could not believe that it happened to me. The next day, I went with my dad to file a police report, but I knew they could not catch him. I did not have enough details and that is usually all that detectives care about. As I recounted the story, the man gave the impression that he really did not care about what happened. His repeating of my personal account made me feel that it wasn’t so bad what happened to me. I did not feel that I got closure, but in that moment, I had to learn to come to peace with it. College seemed like a fresh start that I needed, so I put all my energy into college and leaving Philly.
My time at the University of Pitt-Bradford was so much fun. I met so many amazing people and had such a wonderful time getting to know even more people. There was so much diversity among the Black population at UPB, because there were so many cultural differences. There were people from Philly, New York, Delaware, California, and even Atlanta. So many different personalities all in one space. It was pretty cool. My roommate was very dope as well and he’s one of the best swimmers I have ever seen. My favorite part of UPB was LACASA, ASA & BSU. I loved being able to see and hear from so many different cultural standpoints. LACASA (Latino American, Caribbean American and South American) Club was so refreshing because I learned about the Latino/Hispanic experience, which I have such a deep respect for. ASA (African Student Association) Club, was a great place that taught me so much about African history and the current state of Africa. I learned about so many different dishes, languages and dance moves in the ASA. So much fun. Lastly, there was the Black Student Union, which was a club that held meetings every Thursday and I looked forward to them because I love conversation. I befriended people within the clubs and organizations and I felt so grateful that they considered me a friend.
I actually felt like I was a “cool guy”. It was surreal and I still struggle with the idea of people finding me cool, but maybe I should just accept it. Although I loved UPB and the people in it, I am an extrovert and I love spaces to de-stress, unwind and socialize. Bradford, Pennsylvania is one of the coldest places on Earth, and very remote. The nearest store is a Walmart that requires an hourly ATA bus. I despised getting on that bus and having to wait half-an-hour after I finished routine Walmart shopping. It was pure agony.
During one of my phone calls with my aunt Halah, she recommended Temple University, which was more city-oriented with opportunities to socialize, have more interesting classes and gain that sense of community. So, I agreed and made the necessary moves so that I could transfer. I do believe that it was God because after I performed my poem for the Black Excellence Gala, my beloved teacher Ms. Ang, took me aside and said, ” I do not think this school can help you grow in the ways that you need.” When I told her that I was transferring, she was so happy because she knew that it would be the best move for me. A part of me did as well, so I decided to keep going and make the change.
Here I am. A second-year transfer student at Temple University. Who would’ve thought? It took so long for me to be this comfortable with myself and I still have many ways to go. I am growing constantly and unlearning so many toxic habits that I once practiced. I am learning to not look for love, but give the love that I have been giving to others, to myself. I share my personal story in hopes that you can reflect on your life and remind yourself that you didn’t come this far for no reason. You are purposeful. You are beautiful. You are amazing. If no one told you, I love you and I hope you have an incredible week. God bless you.