My Own Skin
Becoming Whole: The Making of a 21st Century Man
Becoming Whole is a series of autobiographical essays about the life of a gay Caribbean-American man, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1953. In these essays I wrestle with the psycho-social challenges that I encountered in my particular cultural context. Through the arc of this personal narrative I write about how, as a child, I struggled to find an identity and a way to belong; how I overcame the fierce dictates of my father and discovered what it feels like to follow my own dreams; how I raised my daughter as a single-parent; struggled with the issues of race and class; and ultimately entered ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.
This story of becoming whole provides not only a window into what it means to be gay and black in post-modern America, but what it feels like to be a stranger. I wanted to articulate the unique experiences of an immigrant family, as well as aspects of the lives of men and boys that connect us all to one human global community – attempting to survive life’s obstacles and searching for a place to belong.
With contextual historic and geographic references, issues we all face such as gender, identity, and alienation are explored. Family, infidelity, abuse and sexuality are also discussed with as much honesty, humor and insight as I could. Additionally, later in the series I address illness and mortality, as I describe the challenges of my own pre- and post- cancer surgery and the deaths of friends to AIDS.
In this first collection: My Own Skin, I have included essays that introduce you to me and my family – a complex system inside a complex American landscape. I explore what it feels like to be a first generation person-of-color during a time in America before “diversity,” “multi-culturalism” or “gay pride.” This is a story about an outsider, a story about the “other” trying to find his own skin.
Though not a book about religion, these stories hold a spiritual resonance that connect its parts and provides a foundation for my personal journey. My Own Skin describes a spirituality of hope that I think most people can identify with (whoever they are, or wherever they may live in the world). Perhaps the following pages will encourage you to overcome the things that hold you back and keep you from becoming all that you can be – the things that get in the way of your becoming whole.