Striving = Death: The Scourge of Familial Silence on Black Gay Men

David Malebranche
10 min readFeb 3, 2022

Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after his body was found in a park in McLean, Virginia on January 25th, 2022. I was saddened to hear this news, for while I didn’t know Mayor Ward personally, I know someone who did. While the details surrounding his death are still being investigated, I wonder how a successful politician, with a husband and family, arrived at the point of wanting to take his own life. It got me thinking about a couple of other Black same gender loving men in recent months who have experienced recent life spirals and exhibited suicidal thoughts and behavior.

The first is a 40-something year old medical professional who confided in me one morning that he was thinking of taking his own life and had been struggling with dual addictions to sex and alcohol for years. He had recently wrecked his car after being inebriated and passing out while driving, his fourth alcohol-induced car accident where he remarkably never injured himself or anyone else. He knew he needed help and we discussed his options for rehabilitation.

“I wanna live,” he kept telling me.

He has since been to an inpatient residential treatment facility and is currently continuing outpatient rehab and therapy.

The second is a 50-something year old ex of mine from decades ago who had previously worked in corporate America and is now an educator. His family had called me for help back in November of 2021, worried that he was suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). They were right. He was admitted to a hospital with pneumonia, dehydration, and “failure to thrive,” and it was discovered he had a T cell count of 5 (normal is 450 to 1100) and was suffering from dementia. I learned his health had been deteriorating for a year or two, but he had pushed several family members away who had offered help. While he is now on HIV treatment and is improving slowly, he is still in a hospital awaiting long term rehabilitation placement as he is unable to walk or take care of himself on his own.

When talking to both of these brothers, I noticed some similarities. My friend and colleague in the medical field was raised in a conservative Christian household that endorsed judgmental beliefs…

David Malebranche

Physician. Public Health Advocate. Writer. Activist

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