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PrettyQueer.com | February 1, 2015

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Reflections Of A Black Queer Suicide Survivor

Reflections Of A Black Queer Suicide Survivor
Darnell Moore

To live, we must put an end those things that would, otherwise, be cause for our own funerals.

Death—once again—seemed like the only conceivable option after my boyfriend repeatedly cheated, verbally abused, physically assaulted, and left me. My early-twenty-something life, which was supposed to be full of sunshine and bliss, was characterized by days full of endless sleep, tears and brokenness. In retrospect, he wasn’t the cause of my leap into turmoil, though, he clearly aided in the spurring of many sleepless and tearful nights, but the “me” that suffered through those dark days—and those that followed him—was the same “me” that stood at the window, the same “me” that pondered-many-a-day the pain that I suffered at the hands of others, the same bullied, debased, self-deflated, broken, sissy, ugly, nerd, pussy me. I mastered the art of visioning myself as others had done for years. I fashioned myself as the victim in a world ruled by those who hated me. I imagined that I would become the victor when I took power over others by taking the life that they seemed to hold power over, my own.

The reality is: I never desired to die.

I wanted to be free from the painful situations that eroded the peace in my life. I was born into a world that was not ready for the arrival of a black, male/female loving, gender-maneuvering, book/dance/music-adoring, economically challenged, urban boy. Indeed, the world is not and has not ever been ready for me and other brown/black/queer men.

Whether it were ships that we jumped from in the Middle Passage, auction blocks and chattel slavery plantations that we ran from, lynching trees that our torn and naked bodies hung from, homes where our bodies roasted after having been set ablaze, streets where our legs and arms were ripped into by dogs, prisons, corners in the hood, suburban streets, courtrooms, war ravaged territories, doctors’s offices, each others’ arms…black/brown/queer men have been born into a world, and its various spaces, where we have been made hyperly-aware of other’s desires for our demise. It makes sense to me, then, why death has become a tool used by some to solve the problem of our existence. It is hard to live when others would prefer you dead.

This is the paradox that frames our existence and survival as queer black/brown male-identified persons in today’s global community. We live—some of us—despite the incessant negativity and violence that often surrounds and harms us, contested public policies and problematic state propaganda that attempt to define and malign us, and the condemnatory words of faith leaders and families that weaken and kill us. We die—some of us—because of the same.

But, we fight (and have fought)—all of us—through states of virulence and violence in communities where others (and, we ourselves) have yet to fully see us in our diversity of expression and beauty.

We have, yet, to be seen, beheld, beyond others’ characterizations of black/brown queer men as negations, as problems, as subjects of deficit-focused case studies, as social beings with the budding potential to do and be better as opposed to human beings who are—most of us—in real time, doing and being the better for ourselves and each other within our shared world. Yes, even in these times—the post-Nugent, Rustin, Baldwin, Beam, Sylvester, Hemphill, Riggs days—brown/black queer men exist within ideological terrains and amidst structural conditions that literally murder us. To live, then, we must commit to the hard work of provoking resurrections in our lives and the lives of other queer men of color. To live, we must put an end those things that would, otherwise, be cause for our own funerals.

If we are to offer eulogies, let them be on behalf of those things that push us toward death.

For example, a good friend scolded me recently and asked that I get “real” and let go of my “performances.” He called into question my seeming happiness and cautioned me to allow folk to see the real me: my hurts, my tears, my vulnerabilities, and my failures. I responded defensively by reminding him that what he perceived to be a performance for everyone else (i.e. my daily proclamation of life-producing affirmations; my intention to acknowledge my strengths and accomplishments as much as I focus on my weaknesses and failures; my practicing of self-love, self-care and even selfishness as much as I commit to the sharing of love and concern for others and selflessness; my building up as opposed to the tearing down of self; my smiling despite crying; my laughing in spite of hurting; my living regardless of my body dying…) is my mode of survival. Why did my brother-friend seem to insist that sadness and brokenness and pain and defeat (though, my life is certainly full of all of the above sometimes) were more realistic characterizations of my life than contentment, fulfillment, joy and triumph?

Why, why, why or we more prone to envision and believe the lives of black/brown queer man as those lacking victories, joyous stories, deep love for self and others, laughter, intimacy, bursts of praise to God and our ancestors and awe, but easy for us to imagine him as a societal burden, statistic, and corpse? My friends discomfort with my daily movement towards life, rather than death, is suggestive of a larger societal problem, namely, society’s attractiveness to the defeated and debased and dehumanized and dead brown/black queer men of color.

It is our time to live; indeed, it has always been.

Even if we live amongst those, necrophiliacs, attracted to our metaphorical and genuine demise, we have what is needed within us individually and among us communally to push through such desires in the same way we lived (and are living) in spite of the auction block, chains, whips, nooses, firing squads, laws, prisons, street corners, public health office examination rooms, strangers’ fists, lovers’ arms, and our own hands. It is easy to live when we can put to death others’ thoughts of us. So live, brothers.

This essay was originally published as a two part series on Yolo Akili’s blog.

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Comments

  1. comment

    great article. i had some similar experiences, and appreciated reading something that incorporates the inscription of queer identities upon bodies – not only talking about letting “out” some essentialist queerness people always presume we carry inside ourselves.

    perhaps those who categorize your joyous “performances” (as you said they say) are simply anti-traditionalists who reject the way “victories, joyous stories, deep love for self and others, laughter, intimacy, bursts of praise to God and our ancestors and awe” function as mythologies that also have a detrimental side. these are all, in a way, cliches of the “healthy black communal experience” and those people might simply be as suspect of that.

    i know for myself i am reluctant to engage in dominant communal forms of “celebrating life” (including those that come from minority and ostracized communities) if only because those celebrations strike me as inextricable from undesirable and painful power dynamics that take on the power of status quo dominations in one context or another. as a result, i am more drawn to seek out joy and pleasure in terms/forms that do not rely upon a language of affirmation. and simply by not sharing in that positivist language and ritual, i end up being perceived as joyless (which is not true). so, although i clearly have no real idea about the friends you speak of, i could imagine myself possibly being in that group if you and i knew one another. i base this on the fact that when i got to the more “upbeat” part of your essay, i found myself a little alienated somehow. ;)

    i write these things not as a challenge to your views, but just to possibly shed light onto something you seem to feel is a bit of a mystery, having you asking, “Why, why, why…”

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Thank you for your thoughtful engagement with the piece. I appreciate your offering of, yet, another way to read affect.

      • comment

        no, thank you! i’m really glad my response was taken earnestly, and not as flame bait, because – yes! – your piece is amazing and totally helpful to me! respect!

  2. Sophia

    “I responded defensively by reminding him that what he perceived to be a performance for everyone else (i.e. my daily proclamation of life-producing affirmations; my intention to acknowledge my strengths and accomplishments as much as I focus on my weaknesses and failures; my practicing of self-love, self-care and even selfishness as much as I commit to the sharing of love and concern for others and selflessness; my building up as opposed to the tearing down of self; my smiling despite crying; my laughing in spite of hurting; my living regardless of my body dying…) is my mode of survival.”

    Yes. Yes. Yes! With Love.

    • comment

      yes, exactly, survival tactics… and for people with negative associations to those tactics they (if i may say, “we”) feel compelled to avoid and reject them whenever possible as an inverted mode of survival. mystery solved! yay! :)

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. In peace. :-)

  3. I was deeply moved by your piece!!! Your voice is very important!! keep lifting it so that the world can truly hear our blues.

    • Darnell L. Moore

      I appreciate your words, here. Thank you for the push. Darnell

  4. AMAZING! Powerful words here. Thank you for sharing your life with the world…we need more testimonies like this spoken to the world!!!

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Joshua, thank you very much. Darnell

  5. james tolbert

    Thank you for your testament. I too, am a survivor. Thank you for speaking out. Blessings my Bruv..xx

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Thank you, James! In peace, Darnell

  6. This is beautifully written and very powerful.

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Lucian, many thanks! Darnell

  7. rosalyn

    I appreciated the attempt not to speak for others by focusing on this as a narrative for men. But I don’t think it’s that different for queer Black women. The kinds of violence and harassment we face may be different, but no less real. I know this was not the intention of the phrasing of the piece, but it hurt a little every time I was saying “yes that’s me,” only to feel excluded by the attentiveness to the story as one of men and men only.

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Dear Rosalyn,

      Thanks for your response. I hear your concern and respect your honest feedback. And, yes, Back queer women are affected by similar violences and often are subjected to much more because of the ways that racism, sexism, and transphobia cohere to form a matrix of oppression. That being said, there are moments when we do need to create the space to speak to certain bodies/communities…I am thinking here of women-centered spaces, for instance. So, this piece was not meant to exclude, but to open up the space to speak to Black queer men and those folk in our lives. It is a sort of litany (borrowing Lorde) for our survival…and the spirit of my Black feminist queer sister/comrades/friends/she-roes is very present in the piece as well. in peace, darnell

  8. Darnell, thank you for sharing this with us. Your voice has power as does your story. I’m glad to have experienced a little of both in reading this.

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Thank you for reading it, Savannah! Darnell

  9. Keith T. Moore

    Darrell your words echo my life’s experiences; for many years I considered death as my the only option for escaping my life and what had been deemed by others as a meaningless existence. Through much trial, error and personal exhortations from God (as I understand him) to honor my life, I uncovered meaning and the freedom that ensued.

    Today I walk in freedom and confidence and teach others to do the same. Thank you for sharing. Your experiences serve as added validation that our life’s experiences serve a larger purpose.

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Dear Keith,

      Glad that you survived, brother! Thank you for your words and thank God for your strength!

      Darnell

  10. pink

    This is an incredibly stunning piece. Thank you Darnell 100 times over and to PQ for bringing this to us. More like this please: brilliant, tender, fierce, real, inspiring and damn gorgeous writing. “So live, brothers”. Chills.

    • Darnell L. Moore

      Many many thanks! Darnell

  11. Stephani Booker

    This is my story in so many ways, and I’m a Black lesbian.

  12. Rachel

    This is a beautiful peace. Thank you so much for sharing it, and continuing to fight.

  13. Heinrich

    Oh you serious black man, you serious, serious, serious black man. I used to blush whenever Keith walked on set when I was watching Six Feet Under with my parents. I wanted one of those men for myself, I realised. After Keith threw David to the floor after an argument and they began making love, well, I barely thought of any other type of Man sexually again. Let along women. That’s right, until I fell in love with a TV cop, I considered myself almost entirely straight, as straight as I was white, white collar, basketball league mom white, as white as a white rabbitt in the snow… Welcome, night. Might I dare say you are handsome, so black that you have stars.

  14. That was beautifully written and thank you for sharing!

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