It takes a whole village to raise a child is an old African Proverb that I would love to see reflected upon all youth. Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas I was perceived as a young heterosexual man for my entire time living there and it was a lie that I was living, I had known since I was a little boy that I was different and that I felt an attraction toward other boys; however I did not want to be rejected from the village that I was being raised in. In our society we actually teach our children that it is not okay to be different without even realizing it, youth everyday are denying who they are just to fit in. Where is the village that is there to raise our young LGBT youth, since they are being forced out of this other village that society has created?
Earlier this year I heard two horrifying stories about two little boys who took their own lives because their classmates where bullying them because they thought they were gay and I was deeply hurt, because I felt like I was letting down my own. Although I did not personally know either one of these children I saw so much of a young Dwight in them and that was a connection I could not let go of. As I sat on my couch watching Oprah the tears began to run down my face and I revisited the memories I had of children teasing me and the many prayers that I sent up to God asking him to make me normal, this village that I was being raised in had brainwashed me into thinking that there was something wrong with me and that I would go to Hell for me being the way that I am. In my adult life I want to be that support system that teaches youth through my example that it is okay for you to be different, it is okay that you may not want to play sports with the other boys or with baby dolls with the other girls, God created each of us all differently.
As a young person it is very important to see role models that you admire, so that they can aspire to be great, it was not to long ago that some of the first black shows reached television and people of color old and young were very excited to see themselves on TV. One show in particular that comes to mind was The Cosby Show that showcased a very successful African American family that reflected the African American community positively, as a young black boy that meant a lot to me and I wanted to be just as successful; however I began to get sad as I struggled with my sexuality and had no one to see in a positive light to help me with those difficult feelings, questions, or curiosities. This is why I have put so much effort in my own work, such as my series targeted at young LGBT Christopher Street (which has been tagged as a gay 90210), my reality dating show Dating Dwight (which shows that gay men do more than just have sex), and my blog Dishin’ It with Dwight (which highlights different topics from entertainment, fashion, and self empowerment topics) powered by The Future Forward.net. I have put so much effort in all of these works to create positive images of gay men of color, so our youth can see themselves in the media doing great things. I want to be their gay Michael Jordan, Madonna, or Beyonce’ I want gay youth of all colors to look at me and say if Dwight Allen O’Neal can do it, so can I.
The catch phrase for my series Christopher Street is “How many people does it take to hold a street together.” By saying that we are recreating the old African Proverb and urging the LGBT community to come together and mold our youth, because our mainstream community many times fail them and if they do fail them we should be there to help our own and offer them love, support, and most importantly acceptance.