My biggest personal battle has been an ongoing one to find and internalize my own self-worth, a constant uphill battle to love myself in my entirety: my mind, my body, my soul.
By and large, this is not an issue I have battled for most of my life. In fact, this emotional roller coaster began during a time that I was told would be the happiest years of my life, in a place where I was told the students were the happiest in America.
Freshman year, I penned a column called “Obsessive Kompulsion.” What started as anecdotes of my various quirks soon turned into veiled tales of my identity crises.
But I never worked up the courage to articulate what was really going on. Beneath my cheerful relations with friends and teachers — and even beneath my guarded candidness about being “okay” and not “fine” or “great” — I was deeply unhappy. I loathed myself, thought I was incapable of ever being loved and allowed myself to spiral into a sadistically satisfying streak of self-destruction that affected my emotional and academic life.
What I did not have the courage to say then, and am comfortable saying now, is that I am attracted to men. I came out first to my roommate, then my dorm, and finally — after a tortured winter and spring quarter — to my parents and siblings. I still have not told my extended family.
Though I ultimately felt relieved to have told my parents, my issues with self-image and self-worth, and accordingly with self-destruction, did not end and still have not ended.
Sure, I have a large contingent of friends and colleagues on this campus whose presence and existence make me extraordinarily happy. But while these relationships are deeply meaningful to me, they do not replace the underlying feeling I have encountered for most of my time on this campus: the sensation of feeling incredibly alone and undesired.
As a high school student, I looked forward to college as being the place where I would have my first kiss, my first dates, and where I was told I would likely meet my lifelong partner. But, Full Moon on the Quad and scant encounters at Terra parties notwithstanding, none of these things has remotely happened.
Gripes with the lack of dating at Stanford aside, my experience has been guided by what I perceive to be a larger sociological issue: being an intellectual slim black male in the gay community.
My experience with the Stanford community, in person and online, has been that the type of men who are desired — and who are successful in hooking up — tend to be white or “Latin,” “HWP” (height-weight proportional), “masculine” and/or “str8-looking or acting.” Countless guys have told me that I’m not their “type.”
My experience would not be the same if I were a “jock” or “athletic,” if I were more “dl” and had waited until after freshman year to come out — or if I were white.
For almost two years now, I have internalized the notion that white is beautiful and black is not, that it pays to assume the forced lingo of being a “dude,” a “bro,” “on the dl.” And by virtue of this, I have struggled to see the worth and magnitude of my own light.
Every few months or weeks, I would have a change of mentality and feel comfortable in my mind and body, feel comfortable being single, feel happy. And I’d hope that this independent radiance would attract someone else.
And time after time, I’d lose this glow — falling and feeling even further down than I’d been before, falling back into the self-destructive streak of looking for someone, anyone online, falling into the vicious cycle of hating the body and mind I was born into.
This past spring quarter, for whatever reasons, had me at my worst state of loneliness and despair. Finding it difficult to get out of bed at the beginning of the quarter, I blew off most of my classes — eventually decreasing my course load and switching classes at the end of week three.
And around week seven, I found myself unable to communicate, to call for help from my friends, family, those I work with. I locked myself in my room for four days and did not answer calls or emails — didn’t eat, slept all day. I tried as hard as I could to make myself fail.
I’m not sure what I want to get out of writing this beyond expressing that it is incredibly hard to be a queer man of color on this campus — much more than I’ve experienced anywhere else.
I want, though, as another school year starts, not to remain silent.
Today, I proclaim my suffering. And tomorrow, I wait to see how my cries will be heard.
Contact Kristian Davis Bailey at [email protected].