A Message to Queer Black Men Considering Suicide

A Message to Queer Black Men Considering Suicide

I know what it’s like to write drafts of a suicide note that you secretly hope no one will take personal. Before the drafting, there comes the brainstorming: the visions of suffocating on one’s own breath; the imagining of the fierce pain of a bullet to the dome; researching the shutdown of the lungs brought together by gallows of swallowed medication. Suicide planning is a meticulous practice no one ever talks about even when they’ve become expert at it.

There is something incredibly cruel and sinister about being prone to believing that depression happens to every queer black man, and that it’s a functional part of our existence. And yet, there are a considerable amount of us that have suffered from feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, unresolved trauma, relapses, body image issues, and an inability to heal from continued suffering. Sometimes these issues get dealt with, most times they get left unresolved, but often it folds itself into something more permanent like suicide.

For a decade I was living with clinical depression and body dysmorphia.

I have suicide notes marked up in some of the journals I have kept throughout the years. Those notes stitch together the narrative of a young man who struggled with the basics of life, who couldn’t figure out a way to navigate his sexual identity, his latinidad, his blackness. A young man who didn’t realize that his humanity is what helps hold the world together.

There were many gray afternoons that I used to self-inflict wounds as I recalled the moments that jaded me. I would learn that it was up to me to decide what moments were worth holding onto. That we get to make this choice is perhaps the best leg of the journey. But depression is never an indispensable anecdote. It’s an icy offering and a sojourn that we are meant to resolve and relive again, and again, and again. Each time we conjure up the trauma, we have to work to shred it one last time.

But I write from what I know: that the formative years before the sexual abuse; the happier years before the pain of a broken heart; the seminal years before the dependence of addiction; the cheerier moments before we became adults; the metered years before the diagnosis; the year before we were called ugly cannot be replicated, but they can still be reclaimed.

And after the reclamation, you will have to bear the residue left behind.

There are still days when I get angry for waking up. There are days that I want to hold a private funeral for myself, because I feel worthless and inadequate. Those low moments, however rare, do happen. But it’s a part of my transformation. And it’s a part of yours, too. It has taken a lot for me to get to a space where I recognize that there’s so much beauty in living, and that the daunting episodes when I think otherwise, are just fleeting indications of a heart that is actually beginning to heal. I am asking you to give yourself this same grace.

It is true that death often looks like the most attractive option. Our suffering – the most marginalized essential element of the human condition – is often the organ that we are never afraid to barter. But in my experience, those of us who learn to manage our depression have reached passed our madness to make the conviction to stay alive. And in doing so, we clear a path for the next generation of queer black men and boys as they grapple with trauma that resembles our own. 

I don’t know what your healing will look like, or even what it will feel like.  But whatever it needs to be for you, I can promise you that your healing is out there. And still, don’t deprive yourself of joy when you find that there are keloids of grief that are left behind when your healing discovers you. Those are the markers of your becoming.  When you decide to forego dying, folding the suicide ideation, and the inclination to hurt yourself, you will find that there is a whole world waiting for your heart print.

So, I encourage you to hang on. Hang on to the vision of a life with calmer weather; hang on to the best version of friendship you have; hang on to the hope of the person you dreamt of becoming before you realized that it takes effort to live.

You have no idea how many beautiful days are waiting for you to breathe in its oxygen.

You have no idea the love that’s waiting for you once you crumble the notes and set them on fire.

You have no idea how many long and winding rocky roads will deliver you to a bigger life.

You have no idea how many nights cry out waiting to celebrate life with you.

There are so many.

Don’t be intoxicated by the thoughts of your flesh sinking six feet into the earth.

Because there’s so much to look forward to, brother.


More from Steven-Emmanuel Martinez:

In Praise of Our Poor Black Mothers
Friendship as Prevention: On AIDS, Laughter, and Disclosure
On this World AIDS Day, I Celebrate Black Gay Men