It may sound strange but the Real World: Philadelphia (2004-5) was pivotal in shaping my own assumptions and prejudices.
Aside from "Teck" (Hawaii), I recall being disappointed that there weren't any (dope) black male characters on the show. So I was pumped that Karamo Brown was casted. I saw Karamo in me. He sported timbs, rocked fitted hats, and listened to hip hop. Some of the heads I grew up with, and who had never previously watched the Real World, were hooked. We had a character on mainstream television who neither exuded the politics of respectability (Cosby) nor the shuckin'-and-jivin' of chain-swinging, platnum-teeth wearing, ugly-cup holding rappers. Finally, I thought, there was a black male archetype to whom I could relate.
It was a gigantic shock to me when Karamo began hooking up with men on the streets of Philly. How could someone so dope, I wondered, actually be gay? Many of us were confused: was this some kind of cruel joke that MTV was playing on us? Why cast someone who looks like us only for him to be "instructed" to "act" gay? These were the ways my teenage mind thought about homosexuality: as a choice, as something incompatible with blackness, as a deviation from what "true" black manhood should be.
With time, a bunch of reading, and, as some of you have pointed out, learning that some of your closest friends and family members identify as gay, lesbian, and/or queer, transformed my thinking. I've also tried to situate the words, "live and let live," in the context of today's far more pressing issues. If you are ready to fight against police brutality, institutional racism, climate change, economic inequality, and anti-abortion fanatics, then I don't give a damn how you identify.