I felt different from the rest of the boys growing up but didn’t quite know how. Sure, I played with action figures and watched Saturday morning cartoons like what every boy was “supposed” to do yet secretly enjoyed wearing my mother’s fabulous heels. I participated in playing tag and other sports that boys are supposed to play but equally liked Double Dutch and Hopscotch. I remember “the talk” about developing feelings for girls as I grew older but also ran away from girls in elementary school when they shared they were developing a crush on me. I felt different and didn’t understand why.
I continued on my educational journey burying the questions I had of myself and did not dare ponder why I was looking at some male classmates in a dreamy eyed state compared to female friends. I found myself masking and doing my best to fit in a heteronormative fashion to deflect any suspicions that I might be... gay. Was there even a guidebook to figuring out where you fit in the sexuality spectrum? Is there any test sensitive and specific enough to detect my level of possible gayness? Do I even know if I am gay? I continued to bury these questions and told myself that I should focus on my educational career and wait until I’m done with school and training before broaching these questions.
College and graduate school years came and went, and I continued to bury myself in education and work with the blissful thinking that I will figure out that part of myself once I finish medical school and get into residency. At least the first half of the previous statement was true since I did enter medical school but life had other plans for me confronting that side of myself.
A close medical school friend of mine was in a happy gay relationship and was about to get married to their partner. I was so happy for them and then the buried thoughts about myself started to reappear and I finally sat down and questioned, “Why am I hiding and not wanting to come out to myself?” Is that why I felt different when I was younger and why was I afraid of confronting questions about who I was?
So during Pride month and I finally said to myself that I was gay and felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. It wasn’t easy and there were other interactions that helped me come out but I wanted to transition into what I found during that time. I found strength in allies who were there to be supportive and stronger friendship with the LGBTQ+ classmates after letting them know. The term “love thyself” started to make a lot more sense to me and even with the mixed emotions of elation and fear of how future relationships would be forged because of my identity; I knew I had to take it one day at a time.
I wish this were part of the story where I state, “I found my man and we went on to be happily married,” but that definitely did not happen lol. Instead, I went on a self-journey of who I was and finally bringing light to a part of myself that I wanted to ignore for so long. I finally get to discover what the LGBTQIA+ community is, get to witness the multifaceted intersection of being black and queer in America and constantly explore my evolving queerness.
Being part of the pathology and laboratory medicine community has also expanded my feeling of acceptance into medicine. Especially in a field helping to re-address race and eGFR, evolving discussions on laboratory values in transgender patients and having pathologists and laboratory medicine professionals who identify along the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
I am black, queer, and fabulous, and don’t you forget it people.
This personal essay is part of June's PRIDE in the Laboratory campaign. Read more here.