Story Update: Micah Peterson on Embracing His Blackness, Shutting Down Microaggressions and Challenging Others.

by Micah Peterson

Nathan: Hello and welcome to this week’s Story Update. Today, we’re going to be speaking with Micah Peterson, who we… we got like a story about three years ago. So before we speak to Micah, let’s take a look at his story.

Micah: Hi, my name is Micah Peterson and I’m from Phoenix, Arizona. So, when I was 21, I was in college at Oberlin up in Ohio, which is the middle of nowhere. I had an opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan. It was just a really – I was really excited to go because it was going to be a really great chance for me to break out of my boundaries and see a whole new world.

At that point, I was already kind of like, kinda crazy as it was. I was kinda a wild, not really a wild kid but wild enough. I had these green contacts in and I was just trying to be cute and stuff, and I figured I can go to Japan and make them love me, too. I figured, why not? Let’s try it out.

I get to Japan and I am so, I had such a culture shock that I – my eyes were so awakened in a way that I could not even imagine happening. I joined the school groups, I joined the track team and, you know, people assumed that I was going to be fast. I was like, okay, that’s fine, people assumed because I’m black I’m going to be a fast runner.

I recall people coming up to me and asking me, “Hey, do you prefer Kanye West or do you prefer 50 Cent?”

I’m someone who doesn’t really listen to hip-hop music at all, so I was just like, “Well, whoever you like!” I just remember having all these interactions where I kept having my blackness challenged and questioned. One of the things that I decided I would dive into was the gay scene because why not? Tokyo is also really fascinating because it has one of the highest concentration of gay bars in the world.

I found that guys were interested, but there were always these weird, little things. Like they thought it was because I was sexually virile or that I had a really big, Black phallus, or that I was going to be a top. It was either that or they didn’t want me at all because they had these assumptions that, based on media consumption, that I was a thief or a thug or that I was dirty and they wanted nothing to do with me. If I wasn’t white, then it wasn’t right.

I remember there was this one time I was on the train and there was this guy that I made eye contact with. I just assumed – he was kinda cute. He was in his, like, probably his mid-twenties. Naturally, you assume, you make eye contact with someone and you make eye contact again, you’re like, oh, maybe there’s something, you know, they’re interested in you. So I made eye contact again and we kept making eye contact during the car ride. Then when we got to the station, he got out of the car and moved to another car because he did not want to be anywhere near me.

I had some Black friends who were studying abroad and I also had some Japanese friends who had also previously studied abroad who were also living in Japan. Through them, they helped me really come into myself and help me really kind of understand that this is a different culture – and (a) that’s okay, I still, to this day, still love Japan and everything it represents – but also realizing that I come from somewhere different and it’s okay note these differences and still be okay with that.

When I got back to the States, I think one of the first things that I noticed that I hadn’t noticed before which is how many of us there are, how many Black – I didn’t notice Black people like I did over the summer when I got back. I didn’t notice Black LGBT people like I noticed before, like I noticed when I got back. It was almost as though I had been sleeping and I had just woken up from years in a coma or something and all of a sudden we have flying cars.

One of the first things I did was I took out those green contacts. I love my brown eyes. I wanted people to see my beautiful brown eyes. I started to hang out more with my Black friends. I had them before at Oberlin but there was something about the connection, being able to tell them things and have them know that they get it was just so amazing. I started to hang out with my Black gay friends more, and to be able to have those bonds and seek out other Black gay men as romantic partners, which was something that was new to me and was such a craving that I didn’t know that I was missing. I just learned to really love myself and love my skin.

The story for me, the issue I was encountering was that I was running into an issue because people didn’t want me to be who I am. I think, generally speaking, for anyone else who is going through a similar experience, just know that you should love yourself. At the end of the day, you’re going to come across forces who aren’t going to want you to be who you are. You just have to accept the fact that this is who you are and all your cultural experiences, your life experiences, they make you you and no one’s going to take that away from you. So be yourself, love yourself and challenge other people.

Nathan: Okay, Micah, welcome to I’m From Driftwood’s Story Update. How are you doing?

Micah: I’m doing well, thank you. How are you?

Nathan: I’m doing, you know, as well as one can do in 2020. I hope you are, too. Are you hanging in there? You doing all right?

Micah: Yeah. Yeah. So far, so good. You know, I got some new hair. It’s been a good time so far.

Nathan: Well, it looks great. I’m glad you’re doing well.

So I want to talk about some things from your story. There was one thing that you said in your story about how people made a lot of assumptions about you when you were traveling. Even though I… I assume that wouldn’t just have him when you travel, but just in general, how do you deal with those… or for example I think you said that they, someone mentioned that you’re a fast runner or that you listened to Hip Hop or R&B – how do you… I assume those kinds of microaggressions continue to happen and if they do continue to happen, how do you respond to them?

Micah: I mean, it’s a great question. I mean, so ever since then, I… it still does happen to me. It’s kind of switched over from those like really… really generalized assumptions to being a little bit more targeted, I would say, especially in the gay community. You know, there’ll be things like, Oh, I want some, you know, BBC, which for those that don’t know stands for Big Black Cock. So there’s been a lot of just like assumptions about libido, my position sexually, you know… you know, what kind of love I am, if I’m, you know, quote unquote Mandingo type. So I think in that – when that… when those have come up and at that point, they’re not even microaggressions anymore. I just call them straight up aggressions. In those situations, I call it out. And I think something that I’ve learned since that experience of being in Japan and, you know, just becoming more of an adult is just learning how to actually stand up for myself and say, Hey, like, this is just me. If you feel a certain way and I’m going to correct you on that.

Nathan: I love that. I guess that brings up a good point of why call it microaggression. You know, it kind of makes it seem like, Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. And it is a big deal is what it sounds like. So just call it what it is, which is an aggression. You also talked about how your travels kind of taught you how to love and appreciate your own blackness. Can you elaborate on that?

Micah: Yeah, sure thing. I think when you live in… you live in the United States, I think it’s really easy to be – we’re in a bubble, right? And we don’t see how other… other people see us. And I think once you’re able to, you know, leave your town, leave your city, leave your state, leave your country, you just, we really come to really… really can see how other people see us, see us, how other people perceive us and also how stereotypes and ideas of how people interact with each other really… can really manifest. I don’t think I really realized at that – you know, when I was went to Japan for the first time, I didn’t realize what it meant to be black in the United States, much less… much less than the world.

So being able to experience that and then come back to United States and really understand my place in this society and how to challenge that, it was really eye-opening and I think, you know, continuing to grow and adapt and read and learn about, you know, America’s history and, like, how much of it we weren’t taught, it’s really opened my eyes and maybe you want to push more further to a love my blackness, and also just love being… being a human and being a part of, you know, the, the fabric of this country in a way that I just never had before.

Nathan: I love that. So at the end of your story, you talked about how, you know, you advise some people to challenge those who don’t want them to be themselves.

What would you… like, how do you… how do you do that? That’s kind of hard to do for anyone, but how do you… how do… how do you do that?

Micah: I know this is difficult. I mean, for me, it’s really just been becoming comfortable with my own skin. And just living. I think one of the biggest things to…  you know, if you really want to challenge somebody, like, just be present. You know, like I think people hate seeing someone just being present and being themselves and being authentic to who they are, which again takes a lot of time.

I mean, I’ve been in therapy for years, highly recommended as a great way to unlock your potential and to realize who you really are when you look in the mirror. So for me, that has been one of the ways that I do that, but I know it is not easy and it takes time. It takes practice. It takes a lot of work to get to that point, but it is so worth it to do that.

And then I think once other people can see that and they see how… how you’re living and how you are being authentic to yourself, it could change the entire game.

Nathan: I really love what you just said because it kind of ties into your story and it kind of feels like this character of who you are, which is the sooner you stop worrying about perceptions of other and you start just doing work on yourself and being okay with who you are and embracing who you are and loving who you are, then it kind of changes the world around you. Is that… is that fair to say? Is that accurate?

Micah: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think ultimately it comes back to, you know, self love, self validation, right? If you can’t do that, if you – like, you know, what RuPaul says, If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you supposed to love somebody else? I mean, it’s true. It’s so true. Like you have to be able to accept who you are and love who you are and love the skin you’re in or else you’re not going to make any… anyone else happy.

Nathan: So what else is going on in your life? What’s – anything else you want to share with people about what’s, you know, the holidays are coming up – Are you doing anything? Or what’s, you know, any big changes the past couple of years?

Micah: Let’s see, I think some of the big changes – I started learning how to play guitar. So it was exciting. I mean, watch out, you know, the country album might be dropping, you know, some day post pandemic, you know, learning my own TikToks. So yeah, I mean, that’s been, like, the really big thing so far. Yeah, it’s just been really just trying to enjoy life and enjoy me and do a lot more reading and just, yeah, trying to live the best I can be. And being a radio host, you know, that’s… that’s also going really well.

Nathan: You said you were being a radio host for… for what?

Micah: Oh, sorry. Yes. So I am a radio host on a program called Queer State of Mind. It is on Radio Free Brooklyn, which is an internet radio station. We have our shows every Saturday from noon to 2 Eastern Standard Time. So yeah, please feel free to tune in. We love having guests and everything else, so it’s… it’s a good… it’s a great time.

Nathan: Great. All right. We’ll include that link in the description when we… when we post this. Well, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. It was great seeing you again. I hope you have a safe and relaxing holiday season and good luck on the guitar and we’ll check out your… your radio show.

And everyone else, thanks for tuning in and watching. And thanks for checking out all of our Story Updates. Bye.

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