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Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” 45 single sleeve, circa 1986. (https://medium.com)

This is more than just whether I knew I liked teenage girls and women by the time I was my son’s current age of fifteen, though. Between humping older women’s legs when I was three or four years old (too much information, I suppose), me and Diana slobbering on each other in first grade, and my crush on Ms. Shannon in third grade, that would be enough for most kids to know their orientation. But because I wasn’t “hard” like the boys I lived around at 616 and 630 East Lincoln and the young Turks who lived in public housing on Pearsall Drive, I was often the neighborhood “pussy” or “faggot.” I was mugged four times between April 1979 and the end of 1983. I spent more than one weekend dodging a hail of pebbles and rocks that the neighborhood kids pelted me with. That, and the then buried sexual assault I endured when I was six left me questioning my own sexuality, and with that, my place in the world in terms of friendships and relationships.

The whole Hebrew-Israelite thing, and the additional layers of abuse, hypermasculinity, and misogyny that came with it didn’t help my evolution one bit. One would think that a months-long crush on — really, love for — Wendy in the spring of 1982 would once and for all settle this issue. It didn’t. It didn’t because even I recognized that my love for Wendy was for the version of her who took up space in my imagination. She had become ethereal, and was detached from the flesh-and-blood human being with whom I shared little more than the confines of the classroom in the years between 1981 and 1987. I found her attractive, but had already judged myself unworthy.

Puberty, rebellion, and my switch to Christianity in 1984, and the contradictions that came with this switch over the next year, would tell me more about who I was. This was the beginning of my years of relative asexuality, at least as I presented myself in public. Since I dedicated my life to Jesus, every potential carnal thought I had or action I could take was met with self-doubt and loathing. Mostly, though, I feared for my newborn soul. I feared that somehow, I would go back to being suicidal, Hebrew-Israelite-and-going-to-Hell Donald, the one that got clowned and stoned before reaching six-foot-one.

One of my many attempts at being chaste between September 1984 and May 1985 involved toting my Bible everywhere and breaking it out to read during every idle moment. At school, which got me in trouble with my 10th grade history teacher, Ms. Zini. At home, when I wasn’t distracted by music, my younger siblings, or our fucked up living arrangement with one Balkis Makeda. As sanctimonious as it was, I was really trying to learn, to receive revelation, to understand how this 66-book, 1300-page document could transform me and my mini-apocalyptic world.

I also rode the buses and subways around the city with my red-covered Bible in hand. On many Fridays and Saturdays, whether working for my dad or hunting him down for money, or just because I needed to get away, I’d take the 2 from East 241st in the Bronx to 72nd in Manhattan, or further down, to Times Square, or sometimes, all the way out to Flatbush in Brooklyn.

No matter where I or we (when my older brother Darren would tag along) went, the most interesting part of these outings usually were the people who would be in the cars with me/us. Drunkards who reminded me of Jimme. Older Jamaican women on their way to do domestic work. Middle-aged, haggard-looking White guys who dressed twenty years too young for their faces.

Screenshot from “I Wonder If I Take You Home” video, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (1984/85). (https://imgue.com).

Frequently, Nuyorican or Dominican girls and young women would board somewhere between 180th and East Tremont and 149th and Grand Concourse (though because of the ethnic tensions I didn’t understand at the time, certainly not at the same time). I would look up from reading II Chronicles or Esther or Ephesians, and before I could comprehend the people my eyes took in, my dick responded. At 15, I already knew that even a mildly warm breeze was enough for me to get a hard on. I didn’t know that four or six young Latinas on a train wearing bright, tight clothes, makeup, lipstick, and perfume, and heels that would accentuate their breasts, hips, and round butts would completely counter my asexual front. Luckily for me, the Bible-toting phase of my life was during wintertime, and I could cover up my woody with my jacket.

Of course, it felt sinful, and I felt ashamed, that a second and a half of staring up from my Bible would lead to carnal stirrings. But it also gave me a sense of who I was and wasn’t attracted to, really and truly. When White girls with their voluminous ’80s hair got on the train, I hardly noticed. They were trying too hard, and their flat butts did nothing for me. When single Black women in their twenties and thirties would board, I noticed, too. I didn’t have what I would learn later to be colorism issues.

Of course, I learned that I was heterosexual, which I knew would please my Mom to no end. Which actually pissed me off. So, if I had discovered I was gay, she wouldn’t accept me? Wow!, I thought one April Saturday on way back to East 241st. At that point, my evangelical zeal for setting myself apart from the rest of world with my Bible as a baseball bat had waned. I was nowhere near ready to be involved in any kind of relationship that would lead to sex. But, I was ready to drop the idea that my eternal life completely depended on me ignoring both women and my attraction to women. I would remain publicly asexual for a few more years and endure f-bombs from my dad. Truly, it took until I was twenty to understand that whatever my orientation, no one has the right to tell me that my sexuality was anathema to my Christianity.