Saturday, January 6, 2018

Deez Nutz: The Anniversary

At first, I was afraid, I was petrified…
thinking I could never live without you by my side.

On January 06, 2017, I got a vasectomy.
(If this level of sharing is too much for you, you may want to back out of this page now.)

For better or worse, whenever I have to make a major decision, I instinctively Google the topic. Before I made the decision to have my male parts partitioned, I searched for vasectomy reviews, posts, and blogs. I didn’t find any from black men. I know, biologically, men are 99.9% the same, so a procedure on non-black nutz would be the same as one on black nutz, but I needed to hear from some brothers. This was not an All Nutz Matter moment. I needed to know, are black people actually doing this or is this like hummus (a good idea, but something black people are just not feeling)? This post is for black men out there (and those who love us) who are hoping someone would open up about being opened up. Below are some of my reflections on the process.

Eugenics vs. Ego
As I said, I was extremely hesitant about it all. Eugenics, the horrid history of genetic determination and population control imposed on marginalized groups, worried me. African-Americans and other groups have been targets for attempts at "perfecting" the American genetic makeup. Like James Baldwin wrote (and Jay-Z repeated recently at the start of the "Family Feud" video), "The [dispossessed] of the earth do not become extinct; they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply; life is their weapon against life. Life is all that they have." I didn't want to give up my weapon! (Baldwin's words, not mine) Even more, my ego was under attack. What would it say about my manhood if my semen could no longer make babies? Was I still a man? I know, biology and gender identity are not the same, but I still felt I was giving up a defining part of my masculinity at the relatively young age of 34. Many men (and particularly this man) have fragile egos. Will I lose my sex drive? My powers and abilities? Can people tell by looking at me? Being honest yall, this is how I was thinking.

The deciding factor for me was my wife Ashley. She has an auto-immune condition that flared up when each of our two children were born. She became so weak she could not lift our children, had prolonged double vision and struggled to speak and swallow. She also did not need to endure another surgery or medication. That raised the stakes for me. However, even beyond her medical condition, as a woman, Ashley had carried, birthed, and nursed our children. She had physically endured enough. In a true partnership, both people sacrifice. Was I willing to give something physically? I resolved that sterilization would be my responsibility.

It took all the strength I had not to fall apart
Kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart

Pro-creation vs. Recreation
Now that my wife and I were on board, I decided to move forward. But not before I dared to reveal my plans to some other black men. Many of them shocked me by saying they’d had or were considering a vasectomy too. I found that I wasn’t doing anything taboo at all, I was just taking a step to transform sex from a matter of pro-creation to one of recreation. This was liberating! I was not out of the fraternity of Scrotum Phi Scrotum and my wife and I could have baby-making sex with no baby-making! After a year of reflecting, researching, and talking, I was sold.

The Quick and Dirty
There was little prep work. I had to shave the area a little, bring tight underwear, and show up to the appointment with someone to drive me home (Ashley). The process itself, was painful, but brief. I lied back on a table naked from the waste down and legs open. The doctor placed local anesthesia on the area and then prepared me for a moment of pressure. They warned me by saying it will feel like being kicked in the nutz. (One of the worst pains a man can feel.) When they snipped the first scrotum, I bit down hard. That hurt! They knew I was a chaplain and minister and so I asked politely, “Do you all mind if I cuss?” The nurse, who had likely seen many men react this way, said “Not at all”. “Sh**!” I said immediately. Whew, that felt better. They sealed it up with a laser and then moved to the next one. Anasesthia and then *snip*, another kick in the groin followed by a louder, more guttural, f-bomb (the nurse and doctor looked at me in awe – I didn’t care. Pain is not a time for political correctness, ask Jesus.) The feeling was not piercing or stinging, but a dull pressure that diminished over minutes. The whole procedure took about 10-15 minutes.

The recovery was brief too. I had it done on a Friday and was back at work Monday. I had to wear tight underwear and put ice on the area for the weekend, but it got better soon. One perk is that in order to get out all of the active sperm, the doctor encouraged lots of sexual intercourse afterward. It’s the best homework ever! After a couple months, and a sample to see if there were any active sperm left, I was done.

Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive
I will survive

A year later and there have been no surprises or complications. Ashley has not had to carry all of the physical or psychological responsibility of family planning. And I still have bass in my voice (I know, another crazy fear I had beforehand). I hope this helps someone who is considering the procedure. Any man that’s been kicked in the balls can have a vasectomy. Trust me, you’ll survive.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thank You Black Women...Again

Black Women are constantly rescuing Americans. From Mahalia Jackson shouting to Martin Luther King, Jr. "tell 'em about the dream" when his speech was becoming awkward, to Aibeleen and Minny "helping" Skeeter get a good job, to BeyoncĂ© buoying Eminem's latest single, Black Women lift others. Black Women, in their knowledge, courage, and solidarity, are magic. Last night in Alabama's special senatorial election, Black Women did it again, with 98% voting in favor of Democrat Doug Jones. did an awesome job capturing this glorious moment. Warning, there are numbers ahead.

Doug Jones - 49.9%
Roy Moore - 48.4%

Black Women were 17% of the vote which means Jones only received around 33% of the entire voting bloc outside of Black Women. Doug Jones' campaign got virtually ALL of black women votes. Not only Black educated Women or Black Women who watched The Real or Black Women who rode horses (yes, I know I'm being petty). Black Women didn't vote against their own interests or against one another in the voting booth (looking at you 2016 white women voters). But Black Women, in a near unanimous decision, pointed their finger toward the white guy in the blue tie and said "we want that one" and Alabama took him off the shelf.

The moral and spiritual repugnancy is that Black Women continue to HAVE to save the rest of us from ourselves. True, this time Black men voters listened to their nanas, mothers, sisters, and lovers, voting overwhelmingly for Jones too, but the overall race was this close for an alleged pedohile? A xenophobe? As a warm-blooded, medulla oblongata-having mammal, if eight women said they were abused by someone, that person would immediately become disqualified as a candidate. A company wouldn't hire a CEO with those kind of accusations. A PTA wouldn't let that person bring paper plates. Yet, 48% of Alabama voters chose him to be the CEO and paper plate-bringer of their state. We can't forget whiteness, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and more are still at their American best.

This highlights the more salvific nature of Black Women. They continue to keep rescuing us. It was Black Women who
voted overwhelmingly against this current president. A Black Woman risked her career without a hashtag movement behind her to tell us sexual harassment in the workplace was real (#AnitaHill).  In this Advent season I'm also reminded that a woman of color first received the word from the angel that the messiah was on the way - through her. 

Now, it's time to vote for THEM. To put up Black Women candidates and give them the kind of support that Black Women have often given to others. Hopefully, we are ready to listen. Ashley Gilmore, another notable Black Woman who I am grateful to be married to, said it to me this way today, “Listen to Black Women. It will save your life.