Have you ever peered into a stained-glass window? You stand on one side and you’re exposed to majestic reds, sullen blues, and emerald greens; then you turn a bit and those reds evolve into bright oranges, teals, and pinks.

I always thought of myself as a stained-glass window; there are different dimensions depending on how you look at me.

My name is Jathan Martin, and this is my Crystal Stair.

I was adopted at birth into a very religious family.  I’m what you call a PK2 , a Pastors Kid squared.  My mother and father are both Pastors, as well as my grandparents in the small, black town of Apalachicola, FL. (a mouthful I know).  As you can imagine, family, faith and prayer were deeply knitted into the fabric of our lives and Christmas was very big with us, down to the color-coordinated branches on our tree!

But the one thing many people may not know is that the life of a preacher’s kid means that you’re always on. Through anger, pain, sadness, discomfort, and tiredness, there was a certain standard we were held to as the first family at one of the largest black churches in Apalachicola, FL.  I subconsciously created this mask that hid my feelings of suicide and depression in high school for the sake of image.  In a space that preached the pedagogy of “come as you are” and unbridled freedom…I felt bound…

And from that I had to force myself to learn liberation.

I value liberation because I hated what it felt like to be bound, whether it be my body (I’m 5’4”), my sexuality, or the strictures of religion.  I felt like I couldn’t be myself because of the social constructs of what that meant.  As a queer black man and student at the Yale School of Divinity, I tried to hide my sexuality from God.  I was standing in the way of my own liberation, dealing with a God who wanted to me to be my true and authentic self, so I could eventually advocate for others’ liberation in whatever they were going through. 

There are a lot of pulls from a society that try and put us in a box, that suppress our magic as black boys and black men.  If society could only see the supernatural things black boys are able to do – whether it be our amazing athleticism, the sense of adventure in our eyes, our brilliance.  Until such time, I want Black men to see the magic in other Black men no matter how many colors their stained-glass window shows.