While returning home on the subway recently, my best friend and I were talking when all of a sudden he blurted out, "Orville, I don't know if I can live any more. My parents are really getting to me. I hate being Indian and gay. I want to die." The words hit me like a boxer's punch. It was crushing to learn that he still harbours unresolved feelings about being gay. I sat holding his hand as he sobbed on my shoulder.
Sadly, it's not unusual for gay people of colour to be so torn.
While white gays receive support from society's mainstream, there's little to help young gay people of colour deal with their feelings of disconnection and displacement.
I knew exactly what he was going through. On a late Sunday evening a few years ago, I slashed my wrists, swallowed a ton of pills and prepared to leave this earth.
The tension at home between my parents and me had reached the boiling point. I wasn't going to go straight, as my mother insisted. I wasn't going to get married to a beautiful black woman and have kids.
I wasn't going to give my parents any grandchildren.
The constant heated battles at home came to a head. I wanted out of this life and this world and I was determined to do it.
My male pride wasn't making things any better. It wouldn't allow me to seek help from the other men in my family.
In the black community, men are told to be macho and strong like our heroes Michael Jordan, Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. I feared they would only tell me to "buck up and be a man.'
Feeling isolated is a terrible thing, and in my case it was worsened by a sense of cultural alienation, a sense of not being at one with other young black men. All my life I've felt as if I don't have as much melanin as others in my neighbourhood -- I like rock and roll, not hiphop; and I don't care about basketball, I'm a golf and tennis nut.
My depression soon coloured everything. I really should have died that night, but as I forced the white, chalky powdered poison down my throat, I left a distressed phone message on my younger sister's phone.
I ended up in Peel Memorial Hospital.
Finding the right therapist can be a little like trying to win the lottery. Often, a person may need several combinations of the right counselling and medication in order to get onto the road to recovery.
It's ironic that I'm now helping my best friend. We located a gay-positive therapist for him in Mississauga, and he's taking one day at a time -- as I am.