Rejected By Their Mothers, Two Black Gay Men Open Up About Navigating The Pain
Ian L. Haddock, 35, Executive Director of The Normal Anomaly Initiative, vividly recalls the strange dichotomy of his late mother, Valerie Walker, hurling anti-gay slurs at him. But as hurtful as her colorful language could be, she was steadfast in her determination to keep him away from the illegal drug activities and prison sentences that consumed the lives of his two older brothers in Texas City, TX.
An effeminate Black queer child raised in a trap house with his mother and brothers, Haddock says he played football for a while to prove his masculinity. But he ultimately immersed himself in the Black church experience as one of two options given to Black boys in the football-centered Texas town as alternatives to the less desirable and dangerous elements chosen by many Black men in his orbit for survival.
"I knew I was different," Haddock says. "Showing up as any part of myself as a young kid was very difficult because I was really smart. But I was bullied for being a geek. I was bullied for being poor and dirty, and I was bullied for being feminine."
The bullying wasn't isolated to Haddock's experience with other students at LaMarque High School, where he attended. It was also a constant presence inside his home.
"My brothers tried to beat it out of me," he says. "My mother tried to ridicule it out of me. When I was younger, I was very much in fear of my brothers. My brothers would fight my mama. They didn't care. It was a very abusive situation."
Haddock tells The Reckoning that it was not uncommon for his oldest brother to "backhand" his mother. It was also not unusual for Haddock to perform masculinity in an attempt to shield himself from verbal and physical violence.
"I would try to pull it together a little more. I had a lot of girlfriends. I acted like I was promiscuous," Haddock says, although he hadn't begun exploring sex at the time.
"My brother seemed to think femininity was okay as long as a girl was attached," he adds.
As a teenager, Haddock soon found himself pursuing relationships with older men. But the unspoken truth about his queerness and attachment to the opposite sex was short-lived. One relationship, in particular, created uncertainty about his health, drove him out of the closet, and caused his mother and older brothers to issue him an ultimatum.
"I was 16, and thinking, oh my gosh, I'm gonna die," Haddock says, after learning of his possible exposure to HIV by his then adult partner.
Despite the overwhelming fear and reluctance to share this potentially life-altering news, Haddock says he took the risk of opening up to his mother.
"I told her, and surprisingly, I fell in her arms, and I cried," he says. "It was probably my only time crying in my mom's arms, to be quite honest. She said to me, 'We'll worry about your bisexuality later. Let's focus on the possibility of AIDS.'
But Haddock never identified as bisexual, nor did he mention the possibility of being bisexual to his mother.
"For years, that's how my mom came to terms with my sexuality," he says. "And once I found out I didn't have HIV, she was like, 'We're not gonna focus on your bisexuality. That's gonna pass. We're good. God saved you.'"
But Haddock's sexuality was not a phase. And because of this, the door to the trap house he once called home closed for good the next time he walked out.
"She and my brother gave me an ultimatum, 'You live in a trap house, or you live on the street.' And I was like, I want to be gay. So I chose to be gay," he says.
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