I grew up in a household with a mother who was young and still trying to find herself and a dad who was worried about who he was going to screw next. My mom was 18 when she had me and my dad, who had been in the army for 5 years, was 23.
When my dad entered the room, I could see my mom automatically adjust her body position and what she was doing. I wasn’t sure what this meant but I knew from an early age that something wasn’t right. When I was 3 years old, my dad moved my mom and I to Germany. Once we got to Germany that’s where the abuse, both verbal and physical, started for her.
I remember one night my dad came home from the barracks (or at least that’s what he said) and my mom was cooking dinner. As soon as he walked through the door he started to yell at her, “Bitch, what is this slop that you’re making!?!” I remember seeing my mom straighten her body and say, “Well if you don’t eat it then you can fucking starve!” Without missing a beat my dad backhanded my mom and she landed across the room on the floor.
I was standing right in the doorway watching what he did. He turned to see me and quickly picked me up and took me to my room. The apartment walls were so thin that I could hear my mom softly sobbing. I looked out the door to make sure my dad was nowhere in sight and ran over and hugged my mom. She began to cry even harder. She whispered to me, “I’m sorry for being so weak baby! I’ve got to get stronger to protect you.”
When I was 9, we moved back to our hometown and my mom told my dad that she wanted a divorce. Since he had been screwing other women, he didn’t care. He walked away from my mom and me for that fact. This would ultimately shape the way that I thought love was supposed to be. There would be moments I would talk to my dad about seeing me and he would never show up. There would be holidays that he was supposed to be there and he would never come. That eventually made me cold and bitter towards people who actually loved me.
Growing up in small town with a very strict upbringing didn’t really allow me an opportunity to be who I was. Being gay and black in a small town that was predominately white posed its own set of problems.
It was at college that I met my best friend John. He took me to my first gay club. I had never been away from home and I was super naïve. While we were driving to the club John looks over at me and says, “Omg I have the perfect guy for you to meet! He’s going to be there tonight.” I looked over at him and said, “Stop the car and let me out. I’m not doing it.” We both knew I was joking but I was super nervous.
We walked into this club and I felt like I was home. The music was pumping, the drinks were flowing and there were boys dancing with boys, girls dancing with girls and drag queens. We made our rounds around the club and John whispered in my ear, “There he is!” He points to the go-go dancers on the box and says, “He’s the one in the red speedo!” I will say upon my first glance at Todd, he was one of the sexiest dudes I had ever met; but I didn’t know the trouble that he would cause at this point.
We walk over and John introduces me to Todd who says, “Hi beautiful!” I shyly look away and say, “Hi.” We all sit around and talk for a while and then he asks me if I want to dance. Once we get on the dance floor we are grinding against each other, we are both sweating and hormones are raging. I push him away and run off the dance floor. He comes to find me and ask what is wrong. He says, “Can I have your phone number?” With a little hesitation I give it to him. He calls the next day, comes over and we hangs out. He starts to kiss me and unzip my pants and I push him away and say, “No I’m not ready.” I can tell by his body language he is mad and he walks out the door. This is the moment I should have known he would be trouble.
We hadn’t seen each other for a year when we ran into each other at the same club. He sees me and runs over and gives me a big hug. We start to talk and decide that we could give it another chance. In the beginning our relationship is great. We talk all the time, laugh, spend tons of time together and eventually we even have sex. My first time. Someone should have told me that I would get so attached. One night I was walking into the bathroom and there stood Todd, snorting a line of cocaine. He said, “Babe, just go back to the room!”
As our relationship progressed, his drug abuse got worse and the verbal abuse started. He would call me stupid, worthless. He would yell at me because the drugs were yelling at him.
I vividly remember the event that ended our relationship. I had just gotten home from work and was working on a paper when Todd and our mutual friend got home. They had been at a rave and had done TONS of drugs. I was in the living room talking to Todd’s roommate when we heard the bed squeaking. I walked in the room and there was Todd, having sex with our friend. In that moment I was frozen and only saw red. I scream, “What the fuck!” As I’m picking up a lamp to throw it. I realize what I’m doing and grab all of my stuff to walk out.
I run out to my car in the pouring rain and remember him saying one thing, “If I don’t love you now, then I probably never will.” Those words stuck with me forever and would be how I would gauge falling in love for years and years. It would be the reason I would miss out on great relationships because of the fear of hearing those words.
We were lucky that it didn’t escalate the way it had with my parents. People have asked me why I didn’t report the abuse. But I was scared no one would believe me. People focus on the gay in the relationship. But that’s not the point. This wasn’t gay domestic abuse anymore than my parents’ was straight domestic abuse. For that fact, I responded the same way my mom always had years before; I stayed quiet.
Still, was the fear of no one believing me? Or was it that they would believe me but not pay attention because I was gay?