Editorial and Commentary
September 30, 2019
And thank you for sharing. “Groomed” By: Jerome L. Whitehead is a honest story about difficult to talk about subject told by a man who clearly remembers how he saw the world as a child but with the highlight and wisdom of where he is currently in life as a man. It reminds me of “A Bronx Tale” in a way where his words make me feel transported to a place and era I’ve never personally experienced. As he describes the trends, the music and how the world felt to him at those points in his life, I feel like I was there, which filled my heart with warmth and made the book such a pleasure to read. It also makes the things the author experiences hit that much closer to home because as you feel so connected to this young man trying to make it in a rough world. Which is something we can all relate too.
I would expect a story like this to be filled with anger, regret, or shocking details meant to sell copies or hurt people from the past. I have experienced stories like that and all those writers have every right to tell it that way, But what I got in “Groomed” was like nothing I have ever read before. There is a honesty in this telling of his life that doesn’t try to hurt anyone or paint victims or hero's, just people. Each with issues, that lead to more issues that at some point the author has to try and grab control of it all and change the way life is going. The story talks less about right and wrong and more about the journey of trying to understand things, accept them, and move on for the better. With every page I felt myself routing for him and I felt every low but also inspired by every high.
Because of that, I think it’s a book is for everyone who has experienced any pain, and who hasn’t? I could see similar patterns in my very different life thru the telling of his story and I can honestly say it made me question things that have happen that I have never questioned before. Have I taken control? Or am I still acting under the influence from the echo’s of my past? How do I spot it? What do I look for? These are some of the thoughts that filled my mind as I turned the pages wondering what life would have in store.
I know this book will now be inside of me as I move forward in my life and try to raise my children. In that way I am thankful to the author for being brave enough to share it with us. I will be able to share these stories at the right times with my son and daughter to held guide them thru life with experiences in mind I would have otherwise never been able to know. For what it’s worth, I see it as a tool I will be able to use to help them in times of need. I can ask them question I would have previously never have thought to ask, look for things I would have never bothered to notice. And for better or worst let them know that no matter what happens, none of us ever really alone.
September 7, 2018
JOEYPINKNEY.COM BOOK REVIEW – “GROOMED” BY JEROME L. WHITEHEAD
JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
by Jerome L. Whitehead
5 of 5 Stars
“Groomed” is a cautionary tale for adults who endured childhood molestation. Author Jerome L. Whitehead takes an intimate look at his life from childhood to middle age. The author shares his journey from confusion to clarity. He also describes the psychological damage he suffered at the hands of grownups.
Whitehead’s sexual encounters with adults warped important aspects of his personality throughout his formative years. For example, his need for acceptance developed into an unhealthy obsession. He still engaged in friendships and relationships like other kids his age, but it came with the baggage of his carnal knowledge. The author’s molestation by older men was a huge obstacle to his growth as a man. “Groomed” shows how Whitehead, in time, put his past, present and future in perspective. By doing so, the author regained control and his confidence.
The imagery and choice of title are witty. The book cover shows a safe place – a chair, an open door and a bed. It actually symbolizes a multilayered trap, which is written about in the book. When a child is being made ready for a sexual situation by an adult, that child is being groomed. Most people’s minds jump to the most extreme forms of abuse. Yet, Whitehead hones in on the more subtle and less overt techniques predators use. One of his assailants closed the door to his bedroom and propped a chair under the doorknob. This man groomed a young Whitehead to feel that he was safe. In hindsight, the author realized the entrapment.
Whitehead shares his ordeals while encouraging his readers to face theirs. This book also speak to the people who have family members and loved ones who struggle with being molested. His tone is candid, and his writing style is straightforward. This makes reading the book and understanding it very easy. He shares from a bird’s eye view, paying close attention to subtle details. He specifies the difference between inappropriate sexual behavior and succumbing to cunning advances. Both were wrong and felt good. Children exploring their sexuality isn’t unusual, but an adult’s manipulation of that exploratory time is inexcusable.
There are many layers to Whitehead. He grew up undeniably Black. In some social circles in school, he wasn’t considered Black enough. He was a boy who liked boys. He grew up during the 70s and 80s in a place where homosexuality came with public ridicule and violence. He even had a functional heterosexual relationship during high school. (It ended with a quote that will break your heart.) The perfect reader for “Groomed” is most likely to be the one who will not seek out a book like this. Most people push their darkest secrets to the deepest depths of their souls. They never deal with certain complicated issues in their lives. Most people are drowning in their day-to-day lives, their right-now struggles. They refuse to see how negativity from their past will continue to affect their future.
That is the irony of “Groomed.” Whitehead did not think to dissect his past until he interviewed another author. That author wrote a book sharing his own trials and tribulations stemming from the juxtaposition of homosexuality and child molestation. With that said, Jerome L. Whitehead confronted a delicate topic with honesty and empathy. “Groomed” will serve as a guidepost for others to navigate their path to healing from sexual abuse.
Author’s website: https://www.fourbrotherspublications.com/
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The publication of "Groomed" is approaching faster than I could have imagined. I am both excited and nervous because even though I embrace the reasons why I decided to write this book, I hear small voices in my head wondering how it will be received. Will people accept the message and not brand the messenger as some type of pariah? Will I change the thought processes of anyone? Will I make a difference?
I've always wanted to make a difference in this world...no matter how big or small. Sometimes I executed this in the right way and sometimes I didn't. I have been branded everything from being fake to an outright liar...and for years I looked at myself through that lens.
Now, I've decided to view myself through my own lens because I know that there will always be people that will try to make me feel that I am less than what I strive to be.
What I hope to accomplish with "Groomed" is to create a much needed dialogue that men of color regardless of sexual orientation need to have.
See, men of color have been taught to be pillars of strength in our communities. We have been taught to be fearless and to stand tall in the face of adversity.
We were raised to embrace images of our brown and blackness almost as if our ethnicity supersedes our humanness. And there is nothing wrong with this.
Nothing at all.
But it is in our humanity that we find traits that are just as important as the ones instilled in us as little boys. We need to understand that there is strength in loving, nurturing and feeling. Some of us have successfully grasped this. Many of us have not.
Hopefully, someone will see my words and view them for what it truly is meant to be...a catalyst for a conversation even if that conversation is to be had with ones self.
~ Jerome L. Whitehead
Sunday, June 25, 2017
I'm sitting in my dining room listening to Earth Wind and Fire. I found That's The Way of the World by chance and purchased it immediately. It was one of my favorite albums back in the seventies. This group brings back memories of school dances and secret crushes. It reminds me of the better times of being a boy slowly edging his way into manhood. They remind me of a time when bus rides were thirty five cents...forty if you needed a transfer. My mother could take me and my three younger brothers and feed us for five dollars at McDonald's.
The seventies were more than just bell bottom jeans and platform shoes. And I willingly accept everything that era held...the good and the bad.
Every now and then, I think of what happened to me in that era. I think about the friends that I had and lost...and sometimes, I think of the pain that came along with my molestation. I'm talking about it because in addition to the therapeutic benefits that the dialog may hold, I think about how those events helped shape me into the man I am; the good and the bad.
I embrace everything that I am as well as everything that I am not. And admittedly, there are points of regret; choices and actions that I wish I could take back and do over perhaps giving me a cleaner slate than I rightfully deserve.
You see, like it or not, I am an abuse survivor. That doesn't roll off my tongue easily, but it's my truth. I still struggle with what I lost even though I don't feel like I turned out half bad. My bouts with depression don't come as often as they used to. I don't drink nearly as much as I used to. I don't drug at all.
But there are men out there that do. They don't know why they sink into the depths of depression. They don't know why they drown themselves in alcohol. They don't know why they seek out drugs or sex without thought.
Sometimes, we just need to make the correlation that something we may have tried to forget occurred. Sometimes we need to take a good long look in the mirror and say that we weren't at fault and honestly believe it. We may need to forgive not just our abusers but ourselves.
It takes time. It may take more time than we realize.
But every journey begins with that first step.
~ J.L. Whitehead
Monday, April 17, 2017
What makes childhood sex abuse such a difficult topic?
We live in a world where we would like to believe that everything is as perfect as it can be. We want to believe that our lives, as unremarkable as we sometimes believe it is, is still something that belongs exclusively to us and no one is at liberty to take it away from us.
We want to live in the illusion that our neighborhoods are safe. We cling to the fallacy that harm will not befall us…until it does.
And when it does, we are shell-shocked. We ask ourselves the questions that have resonated with victims since the beginning of time.
How could this happen to me?
What could I have done to prevent this senseless tragedy from occurring?
We ask these questions in times of extreme duress. And there is no right answer. Every response given to us sounds like a bad cliché; something that is more suited for a Hallmark card rather than real life.
I think about this on a daily basis. How do you initiate a conversation that no one wants to have?
No one wants to believe that there are predators in our midst. But there are.
No one wants to believe that sex trafficking exists. But it does.
We want to believe that we are isolated in our illusion of safety and that no one person or thing can infiltrate our world, until it does with devastating consequences.
I attribute this to the simple logic that human beings don’t want to know about the ills of the world. They don’t want to prepare for it because deep down, we don’t want to believe that tragedy could come knocking on our front door. Instead, we will act like the person that doesn’t want to receive an unwelcomed visitor and hope that the person knocking on the front door will go away if we simply don’t answer.
Or better yet, we will treat someone else’s pain as something that they got because they simply didn’t care enough to plan ahead and educate themselves.
We may even treat horrifying circumstances as if they are something that happens to someone else; that it couldn’t possibly happen to me or my family.
But tragedy has a way of coming around and knocking on everyone’s door at least once. And when it does, people surround and try to comfort you until it’s time for them to go back to their tragedy-free life.
It’s not that they don’t care…they just don’t know how to respond given the depth of your pain.
But I ask you, if you can’t take the time to talk about what matters before it happens, possibly preventing it from occurring, what happens when the unthinkable strikes?
What happens then?
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Dispelling myth number seven about childhood sexual abuse among males!
Myth 7 – The myth that boys who are sexually abused will go on to abuse others.
This myth is especially dangerous because it can create terrible fear in boys and men. They may not only fear becoming abusers themselves, but that others will find out they were abused and believe they’re a danger to children. Sadly, boys and men who tell of being sexually abused often are viewed more as potential perpetrators than as guys who need support.
While it is true that many (though by no means all) who sexually abuse children have histories of sexual abuse, it is NOT true that most boys who are sexually abused go on to sexually abuse others. The majority of boys do not go on to become sexually abusive as adolescents or adults; even those who do perpetrate as teenagers, if they get help when they’re young, usually don’t abuse children when they become adults. (See Am I Going to Become an Abuser? What if I Already Have?)
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Dispelling myth number six about childhood sexual abuse among males!
Myth 6 – The myth that if a female used or abused a boy, he was “lucky,” and if he doesn’t feel that way there’s something wrong with him.
This myth, like several of the others, comes from the image of masculinity that boys learn from very early. It says not only that males can’t be sexually abused, but that any sexual experience with girls and women, especially older ones, is evidence that he’s a “real man.” Again, the confusion comes from focusing on the sexual aspect rather than the abusive one – the exploitation and betrayal by a more powerful, trusted or admired person (who can be a child or adult).
In reality, premature, coerced or otherwise abusive or exploitive sexual experiences are never positive – whether they are imposed by an older sister, sister of a friend, baby sitter, neighbor, aunt, mother, or any other female in a position of power over a boy. At a minimum, they cause confusion and insecurity. They almost always harm boys’ and men’s capacities for trust and intimacy.
A gay man who experienced sexual arousal when abused by a female may wonder whether it means that he is actually straight or wonder what it means that he was chosen by a woman or older girl.
Being sexually used or abused, whether by males or females, can cause a variety of other emotional and psychological problems. However, boys and men often don’t recognize the connections between what happened and their later problems. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is never a good thing, and can cause lasting harm.
To piggy back off of this statement by One in Six, another aspect of this is the one of gay men. A gay child or teen who may have had sexual contact with an adult male may wear the experience as a badge of honor, almost treating it as a rite of passage depending on how traumatic the experience was for them. They may have no idea that any type of emotional damage has been done simply because they prefer to sleep with members of the same sex. We now know that sex with an adult, regardless of the child’s orientation is not an act of sex or love. It is an act of manipulation and dominance.
Originally, when I wrote “Groomed”, I thought that no gay man would read it because they would not believe that they experienced any psychological harm as a result of their encounter(s). But the fact remains that harm has been done regardless of whether they choose to believe or acknowledge it.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Dispelling myth number five about childhood sexual abuse among males!
Myth 5 – The myth that boys abused by males must have attracted the abuse because they are gay or they become gay as a result.
There are different theories about how sexual orientation develops, but experts in human sexuality do not believe that sexual abuse or premature sexual experiences play a significant role. There is no good evidence that someone can “make” another person be homosexual or heterosexual. Sexual orientation is a complex issue and there is no single answer or theory that explains why someone identifies himself as homosexual, heterosexual or bi-sexual.
It is common, however, for boys and men who have been abused to express confusion about their sexual identity and orientation, whether they identify as straight, gay or bi-sexual. Some guys who identify as heterosexual, fear that, due to their experiences as boys, they must “really” be homosexual. They may believe this would mean that they can’t be a “real man,” as defined by the larger society. Even men who clearly indentify as heterosexual, and men who project very traditional heterosexual traits , may fear that others will “find them out” as gay or not real men. Men who identify as gay or bi-sexual may wonder if their sexual orientation was influenced in any way by the abusive experience or may even be the cause of their orientation. (See How It Can Be Different for Men.)
Also, many boys abused by males wonder if something about them sexually attracted the person who abused them and will unknowingly attract other males who will misuse them. While these are understandable fears, they are not true. One of the great tragedies of childhood sexual abuse is how it robs a person’s natural right to discover his own sexuality in his own time.
It is very important to remember that abuse arises from the abusive persons failure to develop and maintain healthy adult sexual relationships, and his or her willingness to sexually use and abuse kids. It has nothing to do with the preferences or desires of the child who is abused, and therefore cannot determine a person’s natural sexual identity.
Over the years, I’ve found myself thinking how different my life would have been if I had been born heterosexual instead of gay. Would I have been a good husband and father? I will never know this. This is not to say that it is because of what occurred with me that I identify with the LGBTQ community. I believe that I would have been gay regardless. I think that I just discovered it earlier.
Stan, Mr. Jackson and Zeke were all different individuals but they had one thing in common: They enjoyed having sex with underage children. Stan did not have a girlfriend to my knowledge and spent all of his free time with the boys in my elementary school. Mr. Jackson was a married man with children. Zeke…well, I know of at least two additional minors that he had sex with. I don’t know if there were others but I can only speculate.
Sexuality is not defined by a sexual encounter and a sexual encounter does not determine what your orientation will be. I interviewed a male abuse survivor who identifies himself as heterosexual. He survived his abuse with his manhood intact although I suspect that he may have struggled emotionally in his early teens.
In my book, I talk candidly about my relationships with both men and women. I always knew who I was at my core; it was just my initial reluctance to accept it because to do that would be to deny being accepted in mainstream society.
Bottom line is that being gay is something that you are, not something that you do. And molestation is not about sexual orientation…it is about power and dominance.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Dispelling myth number four about childhood sexual abuse among males!
Myth 4 – The myth that most men who sexually abuse boys are gay.
Studies about this question suggest that men who have sexually abused a boy most often identify as heterosexual and often are involved in adult heterosexual relationships at the time of abusive interaction. There is no indication that a gay man is more likely to engage in sexually abusive behavior than a straight man and some studies even suggest it is less likely. But sexual abuse is not a sexual “relationship,” – it’s an assault. The sexual orientation of the abusive person is not really relevant to the abusive interaction. A man who sexually abuses or exploits boys is not engaging in a homosexual interaction – any more than men who sexually abuse or exploit girls are engaging in heterosexual behavior. He is a deeply confused individual who, for various reasons, desires to sexually use or abuse a child, and has acted on that desire. (See Why Do People Sexually Use or Abuse Children?)
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Dispelling myth number three about sexual abuse!
Myth 3 – The myth that sexual abuse is less harmful to boys than girls.
Most studies show that the long term effects of sexual abuse can be quite damaging for both males and females. One large study, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, found that the sexual abuse of boys was more likely to involve penetration of some kind, which is associated with greater psychological harm.
The harm caused by sexual abuse mostly depends on things not determined by gender, including: the abuser’s identity, the duration of the abuse, whether the child told anyone at the time, and if so, whether the child was believed and helped.
Many boys suffer harm because adults who could believe them and help are reluctant, or refuse, to acknowledge what happened and the harm it caused. This increases the harm, especially the shame felt by boys and men, and leads many to believe they have to “tough it out” on their own. And that, of course, makes it harder to seek needed help in the midst of the abuse, or even years later when help is still needed. (See How Unwanted or Abusive Sexual Experiences Can Cause Problems and How Being Male Can Make It Hard to Heal.)
Obviously, I can’t speak for the harm that molestation causes females; I can only speak for me. I am acutely aware of the harm that took place when the incidents of my molestation occurred. I know that to this day, I am still dealing with some repercussions of it in one way or another.
Self esteem is probably the biggest struggle because it is the one repercussion that I can remember clearly from a very early age. I was always socially awkward, and even though I’ve overcome much of this, somewhere inside of me I will hear the voice of the child that will tell me that this is still an issue. It’s almost like the obese person that loses a great deal of weight. They look great, and to anyone that meets them at this point in their life, they seem to be the person that has it all together. But when that person looks in the mirror, they still see that fat person even though the image staring back at them is pounds lighter.
I work on this constantly. I remind myself that I am stronger than what I’ve given myself credit for. I remind myself of all of my accomplishments and blessings. Most importantly, I remind myself that I am not the horrible person that people in the past have said that I am. This is not to be confused with the times were I have hurt people. As I’ve said before, I have been on both the receiving and giving end of hurt, and neither feels good.
You work on your imperfections and strive to be the best you that you can be.
Monday, February 13, 2017
Dispelling myths about sexual abuse!
Myth 2 – The myth that if a boy experienced sexual arousal during abuse, he wanted and/or enjoyed it, and if he ever did partly want the sexual experiences, then they were his fault.
Many boys and men believe this myth and feel lots of guilt and shame because they got physically aroused during the abuse. It is important to understand that males can respond to sexual stimulation with an erection or even an orgasm – even in sexual situations that are traumatic or painful. That’s just how male bodies and brains work. Those who sexually use and abuse boys know this. They often attempt to maintain secrecy, and to keep the abuse going, by telling the child that his sexual response shows he was a willing participant and complicit in the abuse. “You wanted it. You liked it,” they say.
But that doesn’t make it true. Boys are not seeking to be sexually abused or exploited. They can, however, be manipulated into experiences they do not like, or even understand, at the time. (See Guilt and Shame.)
There are many situations where a boy, after being gradually manipulated with attention, affection and gifts, feels like he wants such attention and sexual experiences. In an otherwise lonely life (for example, one lacking in parental attention or affection – even for a brief period), the attention and pleasure of sexual contact from someone the boy admires can feel good.
But in reality, it’s still about a boy who was vulnerable to manipulation. It’s still about a boy who was betrayed by someone who selfishly exploited the boy’s needs for attention and affection to use him sexually. (See Sorting It Out for Yourself, which discusses feeling like you (partly) ‘wanted’ it then but now seeing it as an unwanted experience, in terms of it being part of your life and having continuing negative effects.)
At the age of 13, I thought I knew what I wanted. I thought that what I wanted was a man to fill the void that my father left behind. I looked to “Stan” for this because for a brief moment, being with him felt normal. At times, it felt like the only sense of normalcy that I had in my life. When sex was added to the mix, it didn’t confuse or alarm me. He already had my trust. And while in my own mind, I was a willing victim, I now know that at 13, you cannot be any more willing than an infant.
Stan aroused me but that door had already been opened years prior by my uncle. Hindsight being what it is (and this is very important), a minor child cannot give consent for sex even if they offer themselves to an adult. It is the adult that has to govern with a clear head and understand that it is their responsibility to be the voice of logic and reason. I didn’t know this at the time that the abuse occurred. But I know it now. This (in part) buys the child’s silence. The child feels like he is a willing participant because in his mind he is, so why would he tell anyone?
Was I aroused with Mr. Jackson? No. Was I aroused with Zeke? Once…maybe twice. But none of that matters. Male bodies will react to stimuli. That’s what molestation is after all…a harmful stimulus.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Facts about sexual abuse!
I am always researching the issue of sexual abuse among males. First and foremost, it helps me to understand what actually took place which I simplified and in some instances, written off as just an experience, whether it was good bad or otherwise.
One of the best resources that shed some much leaded light on the abuse that took place with me as well as countless other boys in this country is the website “One in Six.” The link will be listed at the end of this post for reference.
I will list the facts and myths as it pertains to abuse to help you understand what really takes place when a boy finds himself the victim of an abuser.
Here are the facts as listed on the website:
Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
If a boy liked the attention he was getting, or got sexually aroused during abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.
Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
Boys can be sexually abused by both straight men and gay men. Sexual abuse is the result of abusive behavior that takes advantage of a child’s vulnerability and is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the abusive person.
Whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, a boy’s sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse. By focusing on the abusive nature of sexual abuse rather than the sexual aspects of the interaction, it becomes easier to understand that sexual abuse has nothing to do with a boy’s sexual orientation.
Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not “lucky,” but exploited and harmed.
Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.
Now since the myths are rather lengthy, I will list them individually on separate posts and then correlate them with my own circumstances:
Myth 1 – The myth that boys can’t be sexually used or abused, and if one is, he can never be a “real man.”
Everyone absorbs the myth that males aren’t victims, to some extent. It’s central to masculine gender socialization, and boys pick up on it very early in life. This myth implies that a boy or man who has been sexually used or abused will never be a “real man.” Our society expects males to be able to protect themselves. Successful men are depicted as never being vulnerable, either physically or emotionally. (See How It Can Be Different for Men and How Being Male Can Make It Hard to Heal.)
Whether you agree with that definition of masculinity or not, boys are not men. They are children. They are weaker and more vulnerable than those who sexually abuse or exploit them – who use their greater size, strength and knowledge to manipulate or coerce boys into unwanted sexual experiences and staying silent. This is usually done from a position of authority (e.g., coach, teacher, religious leader) or status (e.g. older cousin, admired athlete, social leader), using whatever means are available to reduce resistance, such as attention, special privileges, money or other gifts, promises or bribes, even outright threats.
What happens to any of us as children does not need to define us as adults or men. It is important to remember that that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18 (see The 1 in 6 Statistic), and that those boys can grow up to be strong, powerful, courageous and healthy men. Examples are found on our website (see Other Guys Like Me), and there are many others out there.
I thought that what took place with me was simply something that happened to me. Often times, I dismissed the incident or turned it to something that it really wasn’t. With my initial abuse, I was too young to understand what was happening with me; but by the age of thirteen, the abuse continued with someone that I admired and wanted very much to fill the void of my absentee father. The abuse with my homeroom teacher was something that I didn’t enjoy, but I dismissed it with the reasoning that if I had somehow been attracted to him, I would have gladly let it happen. I was wrong on both accounts. My last abuser played an older brother role but I had no idea that he had a history of having sex with underage children, male and female. I now understand that in all of these scenarios, I was a victim. Did I feel like a child at the time? No. But did the abuse make any less a child? No.
~ J.L. Whitehead
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Excerpt from "Groomed"
I struggled emotionally from the fifth to the eighth grade. My entire time at that elementary school seemed like I was caught in the middle of an ocean amid high waves and gray skies. I would go under only to resurface gasping for air and then be submerged again. Every now and then, the sun would peak out and I would have a triumphant moment. Maybe I would sink a basket by accident when playing ball or I would come to school with a brand new pair of fashionable shoes and for a fleeting moment, win the admiration of my classmates. Those experiences were far and few between.
My mother knew that something was wrong but I believe that she didn’t know how to help me. I knew that she wanted to because I was her first born son; but sons don’t come with instructions or manuals to help fix them in case something goes wrong. She didn’t have the assistance of my father to intervene in this situation; not that he would have known what to do if he could. As I said before, my parents came from the “old school” where the answer to a child that was a disciplinary problem was to beat or punish them. And it wasn’t that this was necessarily a bad idea, but looking back on it now, I think that it was a simple answer to a complex problem. Now don’t get me wrong, many kids could benefit from a good old fashioned ass-whipping. In fact, if there were a bit more of those ass-whippings administered when needed, kids probably wouldn’t be as out of control as they are today. But that’s just my opinion.
My mother took me to at least three psychiatrists that I can remember. The first one was a white man with a large behind that asked me on my first visit if I knew what “effeminate” was. I told him that “it was when a boy acted like a girl.” He said to me. “Well, your mother thinks that you’re effeminate.”
I don’t remember going back to see him again.
I realize now that it wasn’t so much that I was effeminate as I was just different. Back then, a boy being different often translated to him being gay. If you were an introvert, you were gay. If you weren’t aggressive, you were gay. If you preferred reading to playing sports, you were gay. It seemed that the worst thing that you could call a boy in the seventies was gay…and believe me; I had that name thrown at me quite often. I firmly believe that when a male child displayed behaviors that were deemed as out of the norm for a boy, he was labeled gay…but it wasn’t so much that he displayed homosexual tendencies as it was that most people didn’t know what they were seeing when the child didn’t behave like a “typical” boy.
I think that what made matters worse for me was that I was trying so hard to keep that secret about me out of plain sight, but it seemed like everyone could see it in me, and I didn’t know what to do about it. The only solution that came to mind was to date girls, but I didn’t know how. I had no one to tell me how to interact with girls, and when I think about it, there really was no reason for me to have been entertaining the notion of dating girls. I was ten, eleven and twelve. To my knowledge, ten, eleven and twelve year olds didn’t date. But I didn’t know that at the time. I only knew what the other boys were doing (or saying that they were doing.)
When I reached the seventh grade, I remember that some of my classmates and a few of the boys in the eighth grade would go to dinner and the movies with a young man named Stan. Stan was in his early thirties…old enough to be my father; and I wanted to go. I wanted to go with my classmates and enjoy the company of this older man. My mother told me “no” immediately. To her, something wasn’t right about a man in his thirties spending so much free time with young boys when none of them were his own children. My mother’s instincts were dead on, but it didn’t matter to me. I would hear the boys talk about going to the movies to see Bruce Lee movies or going to dinner at Paganos, one of the more upscale Italian restaurants in West Philly at the time. Once again, I felt left out…like I wasn’t good enough to go.
Looking back, I know now that me feeling like I wasn’t good enough was another byproduct of being molested at such a young age.
I wanted to belong. I wanted to be included for once. And I’ll be honest with you; Stan was a very handsome man. He was African American, dark-skinned, tall, solid…the ideal candidate for the father figure that I was seeking. He was funny. I would see him occasionally in passing with the other boys and he always seemed to have them laughing…and I wanted to belong.
I pleaded with my mother to let me go and eventually, she let me. I had joined the “Woodshop” team. It was held at night in the upper portion of the church. We were taught the fine art of wood craftsmanship. But because it was held so late, we all needed a ride home and that’s where Stan came in. If it were early enough, he would take us all out to dinner. We loved it and our parents probably enjoyed getting us out of the house and having innocent fun with each other. I was finally part of the “in” crowd. And that’s when I noticed Stan…I mean, REALLY noticed him. I wanted to be close to him. I wanted to be like a son to him. I was allowed to go out on more and more excursions and the more I went, the more I wanted to spend time with Stan.
Eventually, he took notice of me, and I was elated. He made sure that when we went to the movies, I sat directly beside him. When he dropped us off at home, I was the last boy to be dropped off. This slowly evolved into me spending more time with him without the other boys, and I felt special.
On some Saturday’s, I would go over and help him wash his car. At the time, he had two vehicles; a huge station wagon that he would use to take all of us boys to and from our destinations, and a bright orange Volkswagen Beetle.
When I helped him wash the cars, it was so much like a father and son experience that I was on emotional overload. It was like all of the television shows that depicted father and sons. We laughed like no tomorrow and I started feeling things about him…things that I wasn’t sure of at first. I wanted him for myself. I wanted him to continue playing the fantasy role of my absentee father. I say fantasy because that’s exactly what it was. It was the good parts of parenthood with none of the bad. There was no discipline…only love and fun. If things could have continued like this, I would have been the happiest boy in the world. But things changed. Not immediately and not overnight. When I look back on all of this, I know now that I was being groomed and that it wouldn’t be too much longer before Stan would make his intentions known.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
People STOP...and let's regroup!
It was one of those nights last night where I lay awake in bed staring at the ceiling. I couldn't turn my mind off to save my life. The inauguration is over and we have a new administration in place and for the first time in my life, I feel uncertain as to what the future holds for me, both as an African American and a member of the LGBTQ Community. In many ways, it's like waiting for the next shoe to drop.
My country has been divided...polarized in ways that I have read about in history books and watched in documentaries. People are hurt, disappointed...and angry. Donald Trump coming to presidency should have never happened, and it could have been avoided if the government officials that we appointed to do the jobs that they were elected to perform on our behalf had simply did their jobs.
What is needed now more than ever is for leaders, young and old, to step to the forefront because this administration does not define who we are collectively as a people. We all want the opportunity for advancement as well as equal pay for equal work. A woman's right to do what she wants to do with her own body is not anyone's decision except for that woman. Banning all Muslims from entering this country will not stop ISIS. And while we are on the subject of terrorism, what about the men that have caused a senseless loss of life for a myriad of reasons from mental illness to white supremacy?
As I've watched our new president in action, I understand that by nature he is somewhat of a bully. Those tactics work well in the business community but does not necessarily translate well to the leader of the free world.
Everyone is not going to agree with him nor will they always have praise for him...but sometimes that seems to be the expectation. And if you don't provide either, you are branded "false news" or that somehow, you are a traitor.
I do not subscribe to many of Mr. Trumps ideologies because he has never addressed the concerns that directly impact me from both an African American and LGBTQ perspective. Many of his supporters/followers (and yes, there is a difference) voted for him knowing that he will not govern for all of America the way that a presidential leader should. They are primarily concerned that his decisions does not adversely impact them and if those decisions impacts another demographic group negatively, it's okay. It will not hurt them in the long run.
Out of his supporters, there are those that are genuinely concerned about the restoration of jobs to America. I get it. People are concerned about the safety of the citizens of this country. I get that too.
And while personally cannot change the disposition, defects of character or temperament of Mr. Trump, we as a people can change the way that we view him and hold him accountable to the policies that he is implementing because if those policies will do more harm then good, he is liable.
Our government works for us. Sometimes, we forget that. And the leaders of this country are held to a standard that they are to govern for the people because they were elected by the people.
Now is the time for our voices to be heard. What is needed now more than ever are effective orators, planners and leaders. We need to get beyond riled up so that we can make this country what it has and always should have been.
Making America great again would imply that somehow, it wasn't great. We have always been great, even if every race and ethnicity couldn't reap the benefits of that greatness based on something as simple as equality. We are a nation that is comprised of a vast melting pot of cultures, backgrounds and skin tones. Our differences should be celebrated, not feared. Injustice impacts all of us. Injustice will erode the fabric of who and what we are as well as what we stand for.
In short, it is not about "me" and "mine" as much as it is about "we" and "unity."
Never forget that!
~ J.L. Whitehead
Monday, January 9, 2017
I've just completed the first draft of my next book. It took me several years to write it even though the actual page count is a little less than two hundred pages. The reason why it has taken me so long to write this book is because it was painful for me to recall several low points in my life that I have struggled to forget. The work is titled, "Groomed."
My initial target audience for this book was for gay men, whether they were young or old, black or white. I thought that it was so important for them to know the true down and dirty that entails sex abuse as well as what constitutes a victim. There are more of us than we as a society care to acknowledge. The only problem is, I realized relatively early on that most gay men wont read it.
They wont read it not because the content isn't worthy of reading, but because the subject matter has been done before; maybe not by an African American man, but done all the same.
After completing the first draft, I thought who would want to read this work and what purpose would it serve?
The content of the book is heart breaking at times, written from a truthful and honest perspective. Who better to tell my story than I? It wasn't until I wrote the book that I realized that not only had I been molested, but that at one point in time, I had been raped which is something that still doesn't sit well with me because I still subscribe to the ideology that men cannot be raped. I still subscribe to the thought process that somewhere, the boy must have wanted it otherwise he would not have put himself in that position.
But it's that same thought process that buys silence. It's the reluctance to say what really happened that empowers a pedophile. Initially, I kept that part out of the book. I did until someone who read the manuscript said to me that I was holding back...she could tell. And then I had to talk it out with my partner and found that in talking about it, I was still, after all this time, upset about it and didn't understand why. I added the piece into the story line because it, regardless of how painful it was, is part of my truth.
In order to help someone else, you have to get into the down and dirty. You have to let the "ilk" rise to the surface so that you can set it free.
I wasn't sure that I could do this. I wasn't sure that I could bring myself to talk about a chapter in my life that I fought to leave behind.
But I'm breathing now...a little bit deeper and my head held just a little bit higher. It will be okay because it has been okay up to this point...even if being okay was just a facade.
I realized now that the importance of the book isn't just for gay men. The importance of the book is for any single woman who has a child. I tell the story from the perspective of both a 13 year old boy as well as an adult man. Both of these people are me. I describe what happened, what was going on in my head and what happened to me after the incidents transpired.
Hopefully, it will give a mother something to think about if she suspects that something is going on with her child. Because statistically, it happens to every sixth boy. That's one in six.
I hope that I'm getting all of this out right. After all, these are factual events, but just because they are doesn't necessarily mean that you will have a happy ending. Sometimes, you just have an ending.
After all, we're all works in progress.
~ J.L. Whitehead