There was an inter-school event, an attempt to bring together a lot of diverse people to relate to one another. When my group arrived, I found several people from my old neighborhood and school (none of my direct classmates) and more that knew of me. My friends from my current school jabbed at me that I was popular. I replied “I’ve walked the same streets as them. They know me.”
Toward the end of our time there, the organizers had us sit in another of many circles. Feeling that, over the last day or so, that we had time to get to know a variety of people they decided to have us raise our hands as they rattled off different groupings and traits.
When groups such as Christian and Straight were called, all my former neighbors raised their hands without hesitation. With a measure of collective pride they looked one to another and then around the circle. While smug that they held some line in the sand, they soured when they found that I did not raise my hand. Some of them were visibly taken aback.
We were allowed to say a bit about our truths, if we so desired. It went quickly for my former neighbors as they were all of one mind. I took up that extra time to explain to them how, even though we grew up in the same place, how I wound up being so different from everyone else. It became a separate discussion in its own right.
This was a bit of a hard experience. There is a lot that I did not know about myself at this point. Part of my persona was/is confidence. Even when I am wrong, I am confidently wrong. But when I find new information, I am confident it will make me and my next attempts better. As such expressing doubt and a lack of personal knowledge was not easy. It is strange. Many of those same people had long said “You’re not like us.” Finally standing and saying “No, I’m not like you and I haven’t been for a long while” took a lot of me. I suppose I was “passing” as a “regular Black person” to some degree up until that point. At this moment I openly admitted otherwise. I was able to, at once, sear a few past wounds and reveal myself to my new family all at the same time. Worth adding, I did see a few of the people from my old neighborhood again later on through my life. They did not want to have anything to do with me.