Chris McMullen, sharing his experience as a gay man of color in recovery.

I’m More Than a Statistic

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These last few weeks, just like many others, have been heavy-hearted.

The news is filled with negativity and hate. Social media is filled with opinions of all sorts.

So many statistics are being thrown out left and right. Between racism, unemployment, gun control, and COVID, the number of statistics being reported is astronomical. It’s a math equation from hell. Everything is being divided into numbers and categories. This put me into a state of reflection. How have I become a statistic/categorized in my life?

I felt like I was apart from those around me.

Even from an early age, I felt separate. Although I am not Black, I am a minority. I was adopted by a white military family. My earliest memory is from when we were stationed in Louisiana, and it was driven by racism. “Why would you adopt him?”, my parents were asked. “He will never grow up right with different colored parents.” My mom was once asked if I would grow up speaking English, since I had a different color skin. My mom was told that my father must have been very dark-skinned if I came out (was birthed) this dark. Ignorance and racism have impacted my family greatly over the years.

At thirteen I became a statistic again. I was sexually assaulted and raped. I was a gay male of color who lived in silence for years. I am the statistic who didn’t press charges. I began living my life in fear. This experience reaffirmed that I was unworthy of happiness. This drove me into every statistic of mental health you can imagine. Depression, anxiety, self-mutilation, PTSD, rehabs, abusive relationships, alcohol, and drug abuse. I would seek anything to make me feel good. My life consisted of drugs, sex, and money for years.

I finally came to a turning point.

In 2018, I became a statistic once again, and it became a pivotal moment in my life. I went to a local health clinic and was given the diagnosis of being HIV+. I remember that moment vividly. All I could think was: of course. All the statistics I was brought up with, the sexual assault, the sharing of needles, all the unprotected sex. This was what my life was made to be. I was meant to have HIV. My childhood to the present time rushed through my head in flashbacks. The doctor interrupted my thoughts and states, “You qualify for a grant for your current situation. They will fund three months of inpatient treatment.” At that moment I knew I had the option. To remain a statistic, or to break free from the stigma that I and society had put on me. That day I chose to go into treatment.

When I made it into treatment, I witnessed so many more statistics in treatment. Only two of us in the facility were a members of a minority. None of the people employed at the facility were people of color. We were taken to 12 step meetings and again I felt apart. I never saw, or heard, my story. I eventually realized my story matters. Chris being 100% Chris was my way to freedom. I decided that I had to break down every wall, every stereotype, every statistic I was ever placed into. I spoke my truth to everyone. I learned I had, and moreover, deserved to be heard.

I learned to celebrate my differences and my similarities to others.

I have learned to live my life with feelings, empathy. We all come from different walks of life. We all have our own struggles and stories. I look for the emotions behind them: Not feeling accepted, anxiety, loneliness, ignorance, hurt, fear, rage, sadness, and even numbness. We all can relate to these emotions. They show up for us all in different forms. This is the key to connecting one another.

My hopes and dreams for the world are a mile long. My hope and dream for you is that you can unapologetically be your authentic self. Rather than being doomed to be a statistic, I thrive as a statistic. I am a minority. I am gay. I am a sexual assault survivor. I am HIV+. I am an addict. I am Chris.

Chris McMullen is an advocate for the LGBT community, sexual assault awareness, and recovery. He uses his own experience, and wisdom as a platform to help others.

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