Josh Odam is the founder and curator of Healing While Black, an online platform devoted to normalizing conversations around mental health for Black and Indigenous queer, trans*, and gender non-conforming people. He understands his mental health is inextricably linked to antiblackness and queerantagonism. His goal is to provide comprehensive and care for marginalized communities. His work has been featured in Essence, The Nation, America Hates Us, Buzzfeed, and New Sincerity.
-Critical Masculinity, Unlearning Unhealthy Gender Roles
-Oppression, Racism, and the Impact on Mental Health
-Self-Care and Support for Activists and Healers
-Graduate School Hardships, Pursuing an Advanced Degree
When I reflect on trauma I endure as a result anti-Blackness, queerphobia, and toxic masculinity, I understand how deep those wounds are and the intentional effort it takes to heal. I deeply believe in our capacity for healing and growth as men, as Black men, and as people.
At the time, I believed conscious efforts towards self-care called my manhood or my Blackness into question. Caring for myself was selfish and sign of weakness, and the only meaningful contributions happened when I pushed myself to exhaustion. By default, I aggressively stifled and severed parts of my being deemed undesirable – the unsure parts, the softer parts, the queerer parts.
After deep reflection and intensive therapy, I realized my downward spiral was exacerbated by upholding rigid and restrictive standards of masculinity. Subconsciously, I embodied the coveted masculinity which I thought had long escaped me. However, when I was alone, I saw the myriad of ways in which my humanity was compromised.
I withdrew from school, lost several meaningful relationships, faced potential commitment into a psychiatric facility, and attempted to take my own life.
Jack W. Sattel, in his article The Inexpressive Male: Tragedy or Sexual Politics, puts forth several hypotheses as to why men do not delve into such vulnerable, expressive spaces with each other. He posits “that, in itself, male inexpressiveness is of no particular value in our culture. Rather, it is an instrumental requisite for assuming adult male roles of power.”
Getting better meant relinquishing power – communally and personally. To truly heal, I had to shift the ways I engage and relate to other Black men in my circle and vice versa. This essay is only a small glimpse of the manner in which I lost and found myself several times over.
My emotional journey altered my academic and professional trajectory. Black people deserve healing to cope with the stressors of repressive gender roles and our anti-Black world. The questions I am most interested in are: how do Black people heal when the structures designed to kill us are still functioning? What must be confronted for Black men to see each other as confidants not competitors? How do we break the colonizers’ grip to ensure all Black lives are centered? How do we hold each other while healing from trauma so the burden is not displaced on to our loved ones?
Most importantly, how do we heal ourselves, for ourselves?