How Prince helped me be Black and genderqueer in America’s Bible capital

I still remember when Prince sang on “Muppets Tonight” in 1997. I was seven years old in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was a few years after he started using his symbol instead of his name, which the Muppets played up for laughs. I remember him wearing these overalls in one scene for a farm skit and a ridiculous chartreuse turtleneck for a music video in the next. Even the Muppet-ified Prince had a pompadour.

I watched him sing about Cynthia, the Muppet who didn’t care what people thought: “If you set your mind free, baby you’d understand.”

After that, I wanted more. I looked for Prince in music stores and online. I’ll never forget seeing the cover of his 1988 album “Lovesexy.” Here was this naked black man on the cover of his album with flowers behind him. And people loved him.

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The End of Selfie 2K14

It's been a year.

A year since I decided to conquer my self doubts about my appearance and take selfies. As many selfies as I could take. No matter what the situation was I needed to take more selfies. 

I did it. 

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I took so many selfies that I had to leave out some. Looking back at this time last year I only had a few photos to choose from. A few times in which I took pride in my appearance. So for 365 days out of the year I tried to do that. 

Halfway through March I realized that I didn't have to always like myself.

I just always had to be true to myself. 

Years of insecurity and self doubt no longer to the front seat in my mind when I looked in the mirror. Instead I saw myself. I saw myself existing with happy moments. I saw myself existing with moments of struggle. 

I saw myself existing. 

That's all that mattered.

Seeing the moments of joy and sadness in which make my life. I enjoyed being able to go back and recall those moments. To see how I got threw them. To see how I got under my own skin and pushed through. I realized that I was allowed to cry just as much as I was allowed to laugh. I was allowed to feel whatever I felt at any moment in time because all of my emotions were valid.

2014 overall was not a friend of mine. Talk about being on the struggle bus and making every struggle stop on route to get to Struggle Central the capital of Struggletopia. It was rough. 

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But then there were also a lot of highlights. 

I got to be brave and tell my story. 

I got to meet amazing leaders and personal heroes that have inspired me. 

I got to meet and working with amazing young activists who are going to change the world even more than they're already doing. 

Beautiful humans doing amazing things. SPARK Media Justice Camp QP 2014

Beautiful humans doing amazing things. SPARK Media Justice Camp QP 2014

I got to grow and love my body, soul, and existence more than I ever thought possible in 2014. Which is what I'm always striving to do. I'm always trying to grow and push myself beyond my comfort zone for the better. 

So here's to you, 2014.  Nah. Scratch that.

Here's to you, Jordan Scruggs.

You set out to love yourself more. You set out to remind yourself of your inner and outer beauty. You decided to take action and love yourself despite what external and internal voices might say. 

And you did it.

Legendary.

When I was very young I found a book on my grandmother’s coffee table.

“I Dream A World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America” was the title.

In my mind these women were legendary. They were icons. They were the almost untouchable dream because I couldn’t grasp the concept of ever being that good at life that I inspired others. 

Every time I would visit my grandparents I would go through that book and read every biography and run my fingers across the faces of these strong women and be in awe. I often wondered if I could write another one. Write another one that would include all of the legendary women and men in my life that seemed to change the world for me.

I was surrounded by adults who showed me strength, beauty, resiliency, laughter, and prayer. But most of all they showed me the power of love.

For the people that know me, hearing me say the words “I have social anxiety” or “I’m shy.” might come off as a lie. It’s not. I’m also an incredibly private person. Not out of shame, just out of the desire of not wanting everyone to know everything about me. Let’s bring these three together. I often feel overwhelmed by how much I feel. I very rarely feel things halfway. Whether it’s a negative or positive emotion that emotion is at 100%.

Even though I was surrounded by love through family and friends, I had a hard time loving myself. I stressed whether loving myself would bring pain to my family. I was convinced that my mere existence would harm them in any way. Society placed doubt in my mind that my family’s love would continue if I told them who I was. So I hid myself. I decided it would be best for everyone if I kept myself secluded internally. I refused to open up to anyone. I refused to be myself around anyone in order to protect everyone.

I was 10 years old when I made that decision.

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It took me another 10 to realize that it was time to love myself.

10 years of a battle with depression. 10 years of loneliness. 10 years of self hatred. 10 years of denying my own existence.

Even now I still have moments where I allow external voices and the words of strangers seep in and tell me that those 10 years were truth.

When I turned 20 years old I was exhausted. I was running on the fumes of unsaid lies. I was no longer allowing myself to feel the love and strength that my family had surrounded me with.

I came out and never looked back.

I didn’t wave a flag. I didn’t lead a parade. I didn’t throw up rainbows.

I just...started loving myself.

I stopped apologizing for my heart. I stopped hating my existence.

I stopped hating my maker for creating me the way I am.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” - Jeremiah 1:5

I have always been the prophet that love can heal the world.

There are so many different forms of love in the world. I spent 10 years denying myself love in any form and it almost ruined me. I will forever be an advocate for love. Loving my family. Loving my friends. Loving my neighbors living in some house in some place I’ve never heard of.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  - 1 Peter 4:8

I don’t expect everyone to approve of my life. I actually expect that I might lose a few friends. But I’m not writing this to seek approval or permission from anyone.

I’m writing this because I am an advocate for love and I am not ashamed of it. I’m proud of the work that I do that allow others peace, support, and happiness. I'm writing this because this is me striving to be someone's legend. Striving to be in that book that inspire someone else.

I’m proud of the amount of love I put back in the world.

Neighborly love. Relationship love.

Spiritual love.  Agape love.

Self love.

So from my heart to yours,

Go. Be happy. Love others. Love yourself. Love the earth. Just love, ya know?

Jordan Scruggs

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