I have been avoiding writing this column for about three weeks now–and I might avoid getting to the point for a few more sentences.
I think I fell back into depression again these last few weeks. I am not entirely sure what “depression” actually entails, but I am pretty sure lying in bed all day and sighing, feeling unable to leave my room–not to mention my bed–being unmotivated to do my work, talk to my friends or do my extracurriculars (including this column) and undertaking mindless tasks like attempting to look through every photo I uploaded to Facebook (2,049 (I gave up before the year 2007 ended)) might constitute some sort of issue.
I started my column this school year addressing the underlying loneliness I had felt for most of my freshman and sophomore years. My experiences being black and gay left me feeling marginalized and alienated (in part my own doing and in part a result of larger social issues within the gay world around this country). Coming to terms with these rather personal feelings on such a public level gave me the momentum I needed to push past issues of internalized racism, self-hatred and self-destructive behavior–and so did living in a safe space for black students (Ujamaa House) and spending my winter quarter abroad in Cape Town.
Living in South Africa for three months largely gave me the break I needed. I was not tortured by my usual constant (and fruitless) desire for “masculine,” “str8,” “athletic” white guys and I did not face exclusion from social spaces by this same group. This is not to say that racial politics of desire did not exist in Cape Town, where gay spaces were segregated by class and race–much like every other social space. But being in a new context gave me a lot to be preoccupied with beyond my lack of a relationship (which I seem to be constantly reminded of on campus). In particular, being in a country where the majority of people I encountered looked like me reinforced the notion I had just begun to internalize last spring: that black is beautiful.
Slowly making my way back to campus with stops in Istanbul and Rome, I experienced something that I hadn’t before–being exoticized in a positive way, attracting a lot of interested glances just walking down the street or getting messages on my Grindr profile, among other hook-up apps.
I did not experience a post-Cape Town slump in part because I was only on campus for two weeks before leaving for another 10 days to attend the 2013 School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico City. As I wrote about in the last column I posted online, SAJ was an extremely euphoric experience. Most notably, I caught my first glimpse of what it might feel like to be in love.
Returning from Mexico at the start of week five, I finally hit the slump I thought returning from Cape Town would bring. Week five was only the third full week I had spent in the United States this year, and it was the first week that I realized the racial dynamics of the American gay world would once again become my norm. Having left Cape Town, Istanbul and Mexico knowing full well that other people saw my beauty and that I was capable of loving and being loved, returning to this American context was especially harsh.
And knowing what could be, I felt even more impatient than ever to find people to connect with.
Though there is something troubling about the instant gratification mentality behind online dating and hook-up culture, this did not stop me from trying my hand at it once again. And while I like to complain there is no one who meets my standards on campus, I know this is not the case. There are enough critically thinking, motivated queer men of color at Stanford–some of whom I’ve expressed interest in before.
Two things prevent me from following through, though: a fear of commitment and of actually getting what I want or deserve; and the nagging belief I have that if I phrase a message the right way or find just the right picture of me, I will nab the hot, masculine, athletic white guy that proves so elusive.
This latter issue is a frustrating one that many queer people of color I have spoken with experience. But it is also one that I think I can minimize by spending time in spaces that are more comfortable–spending more time around queer people of color, spending more time off campus, etc.
On the former issues, I mentioned two columns ago that the School of Authentic Journalism gave me enough free time to be open with myself and with others. This time to be less agenda-focused–of having time away from the constant demand of school work, extracurricular activities and career building–does not exist at Stanford (or any college campus). But this break from focusing on my own success is exactly what I need to feel comfortable devoting time and energy to another person or other people.
The two times I’ve been off campus since returning from SAJ I felt remarkably better, and the two times I’ve returned to campus since SAJ I have sunken back into feeling defeated. Self hatred and self-destructive behaviors have not been an issue–which is a huge development from my freshman and sophomore years–and the internalized racism I experience is much less of an “I am not beautiful” issue and more of a “I desire white guys and think they are more attractive, even though I know they are not” issue.
I write this column today because I am largely over the depression I had been experiencing recently. I also write once again to let anyone else who is experiencing something similar know that you are not alone.
A luta continua…