Do you ever wake up and ask yourself, “What’s the point?” or “Why even bother?” Maybe you wake up to one of those days when you just don’t feel like getting out of bed.

I’ve had more of those mornings than I’d like to admit. Every morning I have to deal with family members with whom I don’t want to talk, so I just do it before 10AM to get it over with. They know this is the only time they’ll get from me during the day; whenever we do talk, I do my best to limit the conversation to five minutes.

I know that sounds callous, but I really don’t have anything in common with my family other than being Black and otherwise biologically linked. They don’t like that I speak my mind or even facts to them, or that I don’t show empathy when they cry. Again, I know it sounds callous, but I stopped showing empathy for my mom and sisters when they continued to deny nearly three decades of my homosexuality, including what happened to me at churches and in the military.

They’ve finally learned that their tears don’t work on me, so they’ve stopped trying. I don’t hug them unless I want to, which is usually only when someone is sick. And they’ve learned not to show up at my place unannounced because I get annoyed if they don’t call first.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I hate being fake because enough people have acted fake around me at school, work, and especially church. I don’t want to be one of those people.

But sometimes it’s just easier to project an alternate reality where everything is fine, when in fact everything inside is spiraling out of control. We’re too worried what others may say or think about us if they knew the truth about what we’re feeling.

Why do so many of us feel obligated to put on this mask for people? Family, churchgoers, coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances, friends we’ve known most of our lives, even strangers — we only like to show a part of ourselves with each of them.

And if we’re being honest we also only like looking at certain parts of ourselves with ourselves.

I haven’t looked at myself in the mirror since I was 18. Other than when I shave my head and beard. I’ve hated myself so much for who and what I am, and the church and the Black community didn’t help me at all.

How could two communities who claim to love their people so easily turn their backs on me without a second thought?

I quickly learned that neither community wanted me, so I had to fake my life — and I got really good at it. I had to be. It was the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and people weren’t as open about their sexuality back then. Society dictated how we acted, whether we liked it or not. I went out nearly every Friday and Saturday night to the clubs, bars, and bathhouses, “playing the game,” getting all dressed up, flirting, drinking, and having sex.

Then I went home to face my reality, which included a lot of crying, depression, loneliness, and medication to cover it all up, only to fake it again on Sunday morning. I really don’t know why I cared about church people so much. It’s not like they knew me or ever tried to get to know me, but I felt compelled to attend every week being raised in the Bible Belt.

Looking back, I now know it was God.

I understand some people have to portray themselves in certain ways for cultural reasons, or because they don’t want to hurt their families. But how many more mornings are we willing to wear this mask around people just to cry into our pillows at night?

I’ve had three fiancées in my life, but I only intended to marry each woman because of societal norms. You have no idea the pressures guys like us went through back then.

My last fiancée was in 1984, and not one of those relationships had anything to do with love. I can’t help but wonder if I had gone through with marrying one of those women how long it would have lasted.

How many times would I have had to wear the mask of a straight husband — and maybe a father — while attending church socials, business meetings, or family barbecues?

I would’ve hated every minute of every single day of that fake life. I’m just so glad none of it happened.

I’m tired of putting on masks for people, especially those I don’t know. But I’ve also realized no matter what I’ll still be wearing masks for the rest of my life. I’ll share my real story with anyone who will listen, but I still find myself deciding which mask to wear whenever I attend a church where I’m barely noticed, or with the neighbors I wave to, or for the guys I find attractive.

Try as I might, I guess I can’t escape which mask to choose for which occasion on which day.

The whole thing is exhausting. It’s like being in the 80s club scene all over again, only without the smoke machines and strobe lights. It’s only with God’s help that some of us get up in the morning and keep going.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

Do you find yourself wearing masks with the people in your life? How do you decide who gets to see the real you and who gets more of a facade?

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