“School Daze

Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham   

Recently, a group of my classmates was in a meeting, planning for our 50th high school class reunion. As we reminisced, the subject turned to high school crushes. For the first time, without naming names, I shared my own crush.

To a certain extent, times have changed due to the greater visibility of the LGBT population and movies like Love, Simon. For those of us of a certain age, having a same-sex crush on another student or a teacher was a minefield during high school, especially as teenagers of color.

I remember well my days as a sophomore in high school, aware but not yet coming to terms with my sexuality and having a crush on one of the seniors. I was an introverted nerd. My body was at that awkward stage since I hadn’t yet grown to my full height of 6’3”.

To my 15-year-old eyes, this brotha was phyne!  In my sports-heavy school, of course, he was a jock and a letterman. I considered myself in stealth mode, checking him out when I didn’t think anyone was watching. My creative mind spun fantasies about him. I would see him in the halls or the cafeteria, either with his running buddies or with his girlfriend (yeah, he turned out to be straight), wishing it was me he was with, giving me my first kiss. And there was no one to share it with.

In those days before Stonewall, a brotha couldn’t say he had a crush on another brotha outright, and my gaydar wasn’t fully developed to pick up on those who were like me. There were no safe spaces in school for LGBT students. In hindsight, I know that several brothas in my high school were dating girls to conceal the fact they were gay; it was an eye-opener to discover just how many after I graduated, which was right at the time of the first Pride parades.

Teenagers, as we know, have different ways of handling a crush; some often act like they don’t like the object of their crush. How did I cope? By trying to be something I wasn’t. I couldn’t compete in the arena of sports; I only participated to please Dad. On the other hand, I was a serious contender in the academic arena. The attraction I felt for other men came so easy; with women, it was forced, therefore disastrous. At the end of the day, when I came out at 18, I knew who I was, and that began the journey of living my truth.

We still have a long way to go when it comes to addressing toxic masculinity in schools; think of the brothas who gave you hell in high school because they were struggling with accepting their sexuality. And yes, sharing a same-sex crush is still risky business in some schools. At the end of the day, however, change starts with the inner strength to live your truth. We all can be role models; looking at my life today, I realized that I became the visible role model I wished I’d had when I was 18.

As for the brotha I was crushing on in high school? I only saw him once since those School Daze long ago, and then only in passing (yes, I have something far better in my husband). I choose to look forward to the LGBT/SGL teenagers of today, as more of them are out and proud; they represent the hope I had at that age. More power to you, and I tip my hat to you.

W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits, and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelists E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison, who believed that an author should write the books he/she/they want to read.

W.D. is a book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper in the Twin Cities. His column is titled, “Sharing Our Stories.”

His Christopher Family Novel series can be found on the shelves of 13 public library system collections in Minnesota, the Des Moines Public Library System in Iowa, and the Quatrefoil (LGBT) Library. Current works in development are a continuation of his series: four M/M romance novels, “To Thine Own Self”(a 30-plus couple), “Dare To Dream” (single dad), “Playa No More” (age gap), “Built to Last” (friends to lovers), and “The Rise of Sherry Payson,” a story seasoned with humor, romance, mystery, and a story within.

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.com; on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1; and Facebook. And email W. D. at wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.