My name is Brandon Shaw. Thank you for reading.


The word “queer” wasn’t something I heard a lot of growing up. I remember watching “Queer As Folk” at my uncle’s place while he “watched” me after school, and I watched “Undressed” really late on MTV, and those were the first times I had seen anything gay on TV. The men on those shows were often skinny twinks with abs or just generally attractive, promiscuous men. Completely opposite of the soon to be fat gay goth kid I was.

The word “queer”, to me, was liberating. Being queer doesn’t leave you feeling like a checked box, the sky’s truly the limit on sexuality. I was doing the absolute most at times, too. Coming out a 11 at 6th grade graduation, losing my friends and switching middle schools, I was cutting myself, dad wasn’t around, and my mom and I were not in a good place. I went through an abusive relationship when I was 17-18.

I got through these things, I had to. All in all, I’ve become aware of who I am and the feeling as if two people fighting over this body has subsided, as if they’ve molded into one and that’s who I am. I love myself beyond words and it took me a long time to get here. I was born in New Albany, IN, so basically, Kentuckiana.

Growing up had its ups and downs. My cul-de-sac was all white except for my family, so I grew up surrounded by white faces and that was what made up most of my friend group. There wasn’t any racist behavior that I had to deal with growing up and I am thankful for that. My family tried to raise me Baptist, but I just despised going to church. When I came out, a few family members had some opinions they had to get off their chest and that was fine. I was already the black sheep of the family as it is, and as far as I know, the only gay member to boot.

Personally, I’ve recently come out to my partner, and now you, as non-binary. Through the years I’ve worn combinations of both women and men’s clothing and feeling as if this body isn’t my own. I know, I know, it all sounds strange, but I’ve also felt like I’ve been both men and women in past lives. Also, I feel as if I meet people by their soul or energy first, before gender, and I try to make out the rest of their being as the encounter goes on. My boyfriend supports any wild thing that comes to my imagination.

Seeing how we are charging one another for the better is truly a beautiful experience. It’ll be a year we’ve been together this month. If I had to give advice on how I came to love myself is to give yourself time. Take time to learn about who this person is, how to make this soul of yours truly happy, take yourself out on a date occasionally. Learn to love yourself before you pass that cup of your being to someone else to sip.

Also, none of those “perfect” looking people on IG, Facebook, the media, et cetera speak for you or are what you should aspire to be. Look up to and surround yourself with people that make you feel empowered and have beliefs that align with yours. Watching your friends grow and become successful alongside you is incredibly beautiful and rewarding.

Don’t let anyone take your voice away and leave those toxic relationships and people behind. Last, everything will be alright in the end, if it’s not all right, it’s not the end. My identity is a funny story. It’s hard to put it into words but I’ll start now. When I worked at Forever 21, yes THAT one, I got into a whole new lifestyle. The people I worked with allowed me to be completely myself, and I am grateful to them for that. I was surrounded by a lot of wonderful people for over 40 hours a week, yes, we were working but it was a melting pot that exposed to a plethora of people.

I was smoking weed, staying up til sunrise, drinking black coffee with aderall, working all day, going to house parties on molly any day that ended in y. I underwent a transformation and I named the product Freeda Slaves. Yeah, you read that shit right! FREEDA SLAVES. Bitch, she was everything. I hope I can cuss, I’m sorry. I apologize a lot. Ms. Slaves was wild, confident, funny, witty and just a good time for everyone, ya know? She shaped a lot of who I am today. It took some time but when I hit 23 I realized that Freeda is who I truly am.

Freeda is me in my element. She broke me out of just feeling like I was the black gay guy. Whether I was alone or in a crowd full of people, I was myself. I value my alone time. My time by myself allows me to recharge and collect, so I can be 100% me anywhere else. I am happiest when I was able to be myself. I found myself loving to travel alone and having one on one experiences with people and just the thrill of being surrounded by strangers and exploring somewhere new. It took a LONG time to become happy with who I saw in the mirror.

The only issues I ever really faced came from the hook-up apps. Ya’ll need to stop calling them dating apps because we know how the “date” ends. Guys covering up their racism under the guise of calling it a preference and having to see those guys that blocked you after asking for more pics out in the three bars we have. That’s fun. There’s also all the athletic, fit, sane, downto-Earth men and their muscled torsos versus my hairy, drive past the gym twice a week, average bod on Grindr.

I must remember that racism is everywhere but also that Kentucky’s still considered the south, but I do know that moving must be in my plan. There’s always this label that’s forced on you when you’re a gay person of color. Your cock must be monstrous, you must be hard or thuggish, and people assume we’re on the DL calling our baby mommas roommates. We are fetishized, and I get so tired of “I know you’re black but what are you mixed with…” Or “You don’t look fully black” like what the fuck does that mean? As if being black isn’t good enough on its own.

Bottom line, I want our community to support its black and trans groups. Gays want to basically portray black women with their mannerism and drag personas but not respect black women and their struggle. I know it’s corny, but I feel at my best with my friends. They allow me to be the best person I can and that’s myself. Shout out to them, they’re the real MVPs. They also kept pushing me to do this and pulled me out of my slump. Thank you for your patience. I’m tapping my feet to type out and think of who influenced me.

There’s a man named Dave who I always look up to. Whatever he aspired to do, he did it. He never lets me make excuses and calls me out on my bullshit. He also was one of many other great people that pushed me to go to school. This man even drove me up to the financial aid office and made me get that shit taken care of, so I could start. My grandfather is another person who influenced me. He’s the reason I have a love for photography and try to see the beauty in things.

I even watched America’s Next Top Model with him and learned to pose from models my grandad would photograph. He gave me these camera-like eyes and taught me to see the world on picture at a time. My name is Brandon Shaw. Thank you for reading.