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Brother to Brother: My Story

Guest Contributor: Wayne Smith

A Vulnerable Dialogue Series for Black Men



What trials or challenges have faced in your life?

At the age of 13, I endured an extensive nine-month period of homelessness amidst my parent’s tumultuous divorce. With my three siblings, we sought refuge in various makeshift accommodations, ranging from church parking lots to the cramped quarters of relatives’ one-bedroom apartments, enduring the discomfort of cockroach-infested motels and the confines of our own cars. Amidst the challenges of homelessness, I also grappled with the complexities of my emerging queerness within the backdrop of a predominately white school, and navigated through this landscape fraught with social isolation, uncertainty, and hunger. 

 

How did those trials impact you emotionally, physically, or mentally?  

Long plagued by emotional reserve, I gradually withdrew into a shell where smiles ceased and reliance on others became a distant notion. The depth of my isolation became so profound that it played a significant role in my eventual hospitalization for psychiatric care, a turbulent period that left my soul ravaged and my sense of direction adrift the chaos I had endured.

 

What helped you to find the support you needed to heal?

My journey towards healing has been far from linear, lacking a single transformative moment but rather comprising a complex interplay of experiences and realizations. Failed relationships, rooted in my struggles to trust others, coupled with frequent outbursts of anger, pervasive anxiety, and a pattern of engaging in meaningless hookups


and substance use throughout my late teens, all contributed to my distractions from fulfilling growth. It wasn't until after college that I began to fully grasp how my past, and the subsequent thought and behavioral patterns I adopted, hindered my capacity to lead a meaningful life. I found myself trapped in a cycle, merely a hollow semblance of myself, chasing after chaos and instability as if it were a lifeline. Even the numbness of apathy became intolerable, driving me towards a deep yearning for genuine fulfillment and inner peace. This realization marked the beginning of my concerted efforts towards authentic healing and self-discovery.

 

Were there any specific resources or supports that helped you to heal?

I attribute much of my healing journey to the guidance and support of therapists who have aided me in managing my anxiety. While recognizing the ongoing need for mental health practices tailored specifically for Black and queer individuals, I acknowledge that without such assistance, I would have struggled to process the depths of my trauma. Moreover, finding solace and camaraderie within my first social group of queer people of color has been invaluable, teaching me the profound importance of trust and vulnerability within a supportive community. By curating a nurturing environment and surrounding myself with my chosen village, alongside regular therapy sessions, I continue to embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, steadily uncovering both my true identity and aspirations towards becoming a psychologist.

 

 


Guest Contributor

Wayne Anthony Smith (pronouns: he/him/his) is a domestic abuse victim & survivor, mental health professional, and self-proclaimed social rights activist, speaking out for the acknowledgment of African American, LGBTQIA+ experiences within the community and field of Psychology. As a victim and survivor of domestic abuse, Wayne Smith has first-hand experience of the need for conversations regarding accessibility and culturally relevant mental health services for LGBTQIA+-identifying people. Through his activism work, Wayne Smith has worked alongside community organizations throughout L.A. County, providing social support groups for LGBTQIA+-identifying persons, participating in marches led by Black- and LGBTQIA+ organizations, and support for the city’s homeless population. Wayne Smith has worked within the mental health field for the past five years, providing mental health support within organizations serving displaced refugees, adults, the LGBTQIA+ community, and individuals struggling with varying psychological disorders.






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