CYPHER AVENUE INTERVIEWS: T.J. Williams – A Black Gay Londoner
Recently, I had an in-depth conversation with him about what life is like for a discreet masculine gay black man living in London, England and how (or if) it mirrors that of masculine discreet gay life here in The States.
In our frank and honest talk, T.J. provided stories and advice from his own experiences that may help many struggling discreet and closeted masculine gay men of color (around the world) realize that they are not alone. We discussed a wide range of topics from his first gay experiences, femininity and dating to the importance of having platonic gay friends.
T.J. Williams: You know what, to be honest, I feel like you guys are like streets ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to being a collective and also being strong in your identity. There’s people representing different areas of the spectrum but at the same time you’ve got strong characters within each area. So I feel like, as a whole, when you look at what is represented in a community sense in that area, you guys are like the flagship, as it were.
TW: I mean, you got different types. You’ve got the masculine, the feminine, the inbetween, you’ve got the intellectuals and you’ve got the activists. You know, not everybody identifies with one or the other. Some people might gravitate towards one more than the other and see one as more like a positive…not necessarily a role model, but more of a character that they can see themselves more in, if that makes sense.
ND: So what’s the overall tone in your country in regards to homosexuality?
ND: As you know our website is geared towards Masculinity and our feeling that it’s on the decline amongst gay men of color. Is that the case in the UK as well?
TW: You know, I would say it’s the opposite. Like, over here, you do get an abundance of masculinity. Point blank, period. However, what comes along with that masculinity is…while you do get your intellectuals you also get characters with no depth. Meaning, what you see is what you get. There’s nothing below the surface. For some people, that can be quite limited. It can be fulfilling on a sexual level, but if you’re looking for something more wholesome then it can be seen as a limitation.
But in saying that, what you do get with that masculinity is a lot of people that are “The Dream.” You know, what people kinda aspire to have. But going back to what I said earlier, about America being streets ahead in terms of mentality and just being assured in self, there’s a lot of issues that you have to work through in order to get what you feel that you deserve in a partner.
ND: It’s odd that you say that because I watch a lot of UK television and movies so I’m a big fan of British men like Ashley Walters, Noel Clarke and Simon Webbe. But none of these guys give me the “gay vibe.” So it creates this idea in my head that, “there must be no masculine discreet black gay men in the UK since none of the men in their media seem even the slightest bit gay.” But you’re saying these men actually do exist.
TW: In terms of Masculinity, what you see in them is the same kind of masculinity that you would see in people that you would deal with that are on that level. So when you picture what you feel would be British masculinity personified, that’s it.
TW: It’s a complex one. If you’re masculine and you’re British, you know the subtleties in another person to decipher from somebody that’s trying to appear to be a certain way in order to attract what they feel they want but isn’t necessarily meeting the criteria of the person that they’re trying to attract. I think it goes back to the whole idea of, “As a masculine guy would you date yourself? And if not, why not?”
So it’s looking for the elements within your personality that you gravitate towards. And then the rest just kinda falls into place. It’s human chemistry: eye contact and just really building on the initial connection. It all just goes back to intuition, really. Like, “If you know, you know.” Don’t just talk about it, be about it. Go with your hunch but at the same time maintain your cool. And everything else with just falls into place.
ND: So what is “your story?” At this point in your life do you consider yourself Out? If so, what was your process and if not, what are the main reasons for your hesitation?
TW: Okay. Right now I’d say I’m just at a comfortable place with myself. When I say that I mean: I’ve gone through acknowledging my feelings for other dudes; I’ve gone through the whole denial; I’ve gone through the whole suppressing and just getting on with life; I’ve gone through the experimentation phase; I’ve gone through relationships, breakups…the full work.
But in terms of level of Outness, I would say that…socially, the people that I’ve come to know on my journey who are like-minded, who are going the same struggles as me, who have similar experiences as me, they have transcended just being people that I’ve come into contact with via just exploring. Like they’ve actually become incorporated into my everyday life, as it were…where I now consider them friends for life.
I can say that I’ve got three tight friends for life that are all on the same tip: all masculine, all going through the same struggles and, over time, have shown me that because of the qualities that they possess, that we’ll be friends for life. At the point where I’ve even met their families, they’ve met my families. An unspoken respect.
ND: I can definitely relate to that. At one point in my own life, after years of hookups, I realized that I had no “gay friends” at all, just straight ones. So I went on a mission to meet people solely for friendships. No sex or flirting involved. Now I have a few masculine gay friends who I feel are closer to me than the straight friends I’ve had for a much longer because they know about EVERY aspect of me. But I still casually live that “other life” where a lot of people don’t know about me.
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