Supporters of my writing, more seasoned people in publishing/writing and concerned friends would often write or tell me, “You are so brave.” The more I found myself sharing my personality and perspective, no matter how queer or dissenting, on the internet for public consumption, the more brave I was named. At first, I did not see it as such. I grew up in barbershops, hair salons, in the kitchen during holidays, and in basement rooms where parents were absent. I was trained to stand beside my opinion no matter who would or would not agree with me. It comes so naturally that there was never an idea that there was an alternative.
As I was able to produce more work and get more opportunities, my public platform expanded. I’ve had several significant opportunities with Buzzfeed, Vice, The New York Times, Essence, Cassius Life, Catapult and Afropunk. And most importantly, with Folio Literary Agency where I’m working with amazing people to assist in one of my biggest dreams to come true: publishing my first memoir. It was in these moments I witnessed how exhausting constantly putting your opinion in public space for engagement can be. I witnessed how dangerous it can be to put your personality, history and ideas up for dissection routinely, as well.
At the same time.
And the internet is ruthless. It is a space where people grow muscles and fangs in ways they would never imagine if they had a more personal interaction. I have cut friendships because of vile internet behavior. I have seen and experienced personal insults heralded based off of different political beliefs. I have seen identities weaponized and leveraged to gain access and profit. I have seen jealousy-informed internet lynch mobs form because some people are getting further, quicker. I have friends who have had their addresses and personal medical information released to the public.
I have had vile people I’ve encountered in the material world, attempt to use the internet as a way to delegitimize my work and reputation as a sort of revenge for me no longer wanting to be their friends. The internet, my writing, and my social media spaces have always been a deeply personal space that belonged to me where I can be private in public (the true calling of an artist, I think!) in a world where I actually own very little and never feel secure enough to be vulnerable. The internet has never been an excuse for me to behave cowardly.
With growing attention and the vile nature of people, I had to have an introspective moment. I took a survey on what I wanted, where I wanted to go, and the steps I was willing (and not willing) to take to get there. In that moment, I decided I no longer wanted to continue my Okayplayer column, #OkayMuva in the same way I was beforehand. I no longer wanted to continue doing critiques of cultural and political moments on a regular basis.