Be sure to check out my blog, http://RandyBoydsBlocks.com, which has info about my four novels—nominated for five Lambda Literary Awards.
Anthony, I want to tell you how much I admire you and all you’re doing for yourself and your brand. You are an inspiration to this 58-year-old man who couldn’t have imagined just being himself at 28, like you. Keep going, man. And don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
I want to bridge the gap between the baby boomers, and us millennial’s on a range of topics based on the Black gay community. I reached out to a supporter of mine, Randy an elder in the community. I think he could give us some insight regarding his experience and also some concerns he may have for the community moving into the future.
Hello Randy! Welcome to JBA, how are you today?
Doing great. Thanks for asking.
What’s your opinion of the millennial’s in the gay community today compared to your generation of gay men?
Today’s average Black gay man is more empowered and has more opportunities to express himself and reach his full potential. Many are doing just that, setting great examples for many more to follow! This is the best time in history to be a young Black gay man aiming for a brighter future.
I love that response. I would say in today’s society we have it a lot easier to be out, proud and open as gay men in society compared to maybe 20 years ago. We have a lot more work to do but things are easier for us.
Yes, gay men have it easier today because of all the sacrifices gay men made in the past: coming out and facing the fire, risking our careers, friends, families and our lives.
So let’s talk about your life as an adolescent gay man. How was that experience for you when you first came out? And what was some of the hardest encounters you’ve faced coming into your manhood as a gay man?
I turned 18 in 1980. Back then you had two choices: 1) be a real man [in other words] lust after women, or 2) become this deviant, disgusting thing called a fag, [the worst thing a man could be].
There wasn’t a single person in high school who was openly gay.
Ironically, it was Blacks who first rejected me for being gay. First my siblings, who chastised me for wanting to be a cheerleader, then Blacks at school. I’ll never forget one guy writing in my eighth grade yearbook, “to the biggest faggot in eighth grade.”
Wish I had the strength to kick his ass back then. Imagine having no one to talk to because everyone is so scared of anyone else finding out. That’s how messed up it was when I was young and coming of age.
Randy that must have been a horrible experience for you. Being that there wasn’t much support for you back then, how did you fully understand what being gay meant?
None… It wasn’t even being gay. It was being a fag. My understanding was that I wanted to be intimate with a man and that automatically made me a fag. Something I had to hide, same as if I committed a murder.
In fact, the first time I had sex with another boy, at age 15, afterwards, it felt like I had committed murder. That’s how bad it felt.
That would not stop my desire. I kept going, living in secret, not really having any idea about the concept of being openly gay and loud and proud about it.
As you can see, it was a very unhealthy way to live. And there was not a single role model to turn to or look up to.
Your first time was at 15 with another man. There weren’t any cellphones or internet connected computers. So the Jack’ds and Grindr’s of the world wasn’t an option for you guys. How were you able to discover other gay men who also feared being outed and lived in secret?
What was that experience for you to express yourself sexually with another man for the first time?
We hit it and quit it [LOL], but seriously…
I was on spring break, visiting my sister at college. In an off-campus bookstore, I discovered gay adult magazines and went to look at them every day [LOL]. One day, another boy was looking as well. Eventually, we walked outside without saying a word and he took me to a bathroom on campus. That was it, never saw him again.
Would you say it was much safer than to hook up than compared to now being that there are many reporting’s of robberies and other problems coming from online gay sex apps, etc?
I think it’s safer today. Problems also existed back in the day, robbery, getting arrested, danger from homophobia. Nowadays, it’s easier to do it in a bedroom as opposed to a bathroom, or a hidden spot in the woods. Talk about dangerous!
One topic I have spoke about on my blog was dating older men.
A lot of the gay millennial’s view older men as “old heads” [childish shade to the peers and pioneers within our community]. Being a man of a particular age, do you date younger men? Also, what’s your opinion on mature men dating younger guys?
Old heads? What does that mean?
It’s a term that many gay men use just like “no fems, no fats.” It’s shade to older men in a way of dissing them. Often they will say, “No Fems, No Fats, No Old-heads.” That’s their way of rejecting older men from contacting them or showing their lack of interest in dating mature men.
Do I date younger men? Not so much. Generally speaking, it’s comforting to date someone was also around for the first-run episodes of the Brady Bunch [LOL]. I’ve been on a journey for 58 years. When it comes to a relationship, I prefer someone who’s familiar with that journey because theirs has been more than likely similar to mine.
I don’t have a problem with younger men dating older men in general. I have a problem with anybody who wants to date me because I fit a stereotype in their mind. And these young whippersnappers who go around using the term “old heads” better hope they become old heads someday.
I agree, I think people who say hateful things should be mindful, plus with age comes wisdom!
Let’s speak about HIV because it continues to affect our community, and it’s far from stopping any time soon.
Here’s a crucial survival tool, probably the most important thing I could pass on. Do not take anybody’s word for it when they tell you they are HIV negative.
Even if they have papers, even if they provide you with a certain date, none of that stuff matters when it comes to your health and your future.
This whole idea that on dating apps people tell others they’re HIV negative is ridiculous.
Who gives a fuck what some stranger tells you about his lab results? The only way to protect yourself is to have true safe sex!
Even with your lover, if you have unprotected sex, understand that you are putting yourself at risk. He may not be faithful. It happens. It has happened.
To protect yourself, you must understand not to take anybody’s word for anything about their health. It’s better that you assume everyone you have sex with is HIV-positive and have safe sex with that person.
HIV rates in the Black community have always been high and continue to be high. Too high. People might live with HIV/AIDS now, but that still doesn’t mean you should get it! You don’t want to be a diabetic, do you? You don’t want heart disease, do you? Believe me, you don’t want HIV.
But plenty of people are still getting it because plenty of people are not getting the message: forget about what someone else says about their HIV status. Having safe sex with everyone regardless of status is the best way to protect yourself.
Wise advice and something that everybody should take and note down!
If you could have a one-on-one conversation with your younger self [30 years ago] what advice you would share with the younger you?
Good question. I wrote a blog post about that … http://randyboydsblocks.com/20
Do you remember the time when HIV first became a serious problem? Did you lose any friends because of AIDS?
Yes, I remember the time before AIDS and when the world became obsessed with AIDS in 1985. I remember the first two things I ever heard about the disease…
Please share with us how that period impacted your life as a gay man.
When I was around 20, I was talking about STDs with someone and they said, “yeah they have this new thing that can kill you.”
Then one time in the car with friends in college. We saw a candlelight protest and one of my friends informed us, “those are the fags doing a vigil because they’re all dying.”
It was a terrifying time. The biggest fear being everyone would find out you’re gay because you would die a humiliating, painful death from AIDS. I lost friends and acquaintances. You would see strong, healthy men suddenly reduced to skin and bones. And America was in panic. Society ostracized and rejected even babies and little kids with AIDS.
I found out I was HIV-positive in 1985 at 23 and I didn’t tell a soul for two whole years.
Meanwhile, I had to listen to the rest of the world verbalize their fears about the disease. It was a very challenging time.
Being that so many people were succumbing from it so rapidly, did you ever become fearful once finding out someone infected you?
It scared me shitless. I didn’t think I would live to see the 90s. Then I didn’t think I would live to see the 96 Olympics. Then I didn’t think I would live to see the year 2000. It’s like we’re making up the survival story as we go along. When I found out I was infected with the virus, the life expectancy was 12 to 18 months!
In today’s society being HIV positive is often looked at with less fear and with more support. Let’s speak about your strength at that moment of discovering that you were in fact HIV-Positive. Who gave you the strength to overcome your fears as you watched those around you fall victim to HIV/AIDS?
My mom. I told my mother I was gay and worried about dying from AIDS in 1987 at 25. Her response from that moment to this day has been full of love and support like only a mother can give. One of the greatest pleasures about surviving this long is the great relationship I’ve had with my mom all these years. I’m blessed.
That’s beautiful… Do you attend any gay pride events or functions for LGBT community? If so, do you feel like the community has gained more support from society?
I don’t attend pride like I used to when I was younger. I guess that comes from being an “old head.” [LOL] Today, gayness is mainstream and gays are much more integrated into the fabric of the country now. And now, Black gays are being represented in the media and in increasing numbers! So yeah, there’s a lot more support from society.
Over 20 years ago, did you ever imagine this much out-pour of support (although we still have a long way to go) within society for the LGBT community?
No, I did not imagine they would allow gays to marry or that we would have had a Black president by now. No way. I remember first hearing about the fight for marriage equality in the early 90s and thinking it was a premature and misguided folly. Boy, was I wrong.
To think 20 years ago this year, Ellen DeGeneres and her character came out on her sitcom. It was such a big deal, and now people like her and Neil Patrick Harris are representing for the community.
That kind of progress is a miraculous considering how it once felt like the aids epidemic reset gay rights back decades. The fight for survival fueled the fight for the rest of our rights.
But you’re right. We have a long way to go. We’ve produced a generation of ignorant young gay man, who call themselves clean and disease free and that’s just plain wrong. Because if someone without HIV is clean and disease-free, what does that make someone with HIV, dirty and disease ridden? Are pitch-people! That’s disrespectful to everyone who died of aids and also further stigmatizes those of us still living with HIV. Also, all the young people who will still get HIV!
Where do you see the Black gay community in 20 or even 50 years from now?
Reading and appreciating all the great works by elder author Randy Boyd [LOL].
We will end the HIV/AIDS pandemic happening right now in America’s Black and brown communities.
Most people are unaware of the problem because media coverage has been scarce, but HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the Black gay community. Plus, statistics show we’re less likely to get tested, stay on our medication and do the things necessary to maintain a healthy life.
A lot of good people, politicians, religious leaders and organizations are doing the best they can to deal with this challenge, but we need more. More attention. More money. More effort by all of us to address and solve this problem.
Because only when Black gay men are healthy as individuals, we can rise and fulfill our potential as a community. A community that has plenty of its own Black gay role models for future generations of Black gay men.
Well said and I appreciate you taking your time to speak with me. Please give the readers your social media links and tell us about your books if possible 🙂
Sure. My books are like my kids, I’m proud of the way they turned out. Four novels, so far, nominated for five Lambda Literary Awards. They all have main characters who are Black and gay, go figure! You can find out more about them on my blog, http://randyboydsblocks.com, where I also write about race, gays, sports, HIV/AIDS and more. Social media-wise, I’m @randyboydauthor on Twitter and Instagram.