Dear Brittney Griner,
I write this to you not out of judgment but out of respect and admiration. I see you. No one can comprehend what it feels like to be you, Brittney Yvette Griner. You’re 6’8” with an unusually deep voice. Only four women has been taller than you in the WNBA. You’re the first woman to model for Nike’s menswear. And you’re only 24. You’re young with access to resources and money that most people only dream about. But the growing pains are the same. I do not know if you have friends to be totally honest with you. But as an older lesbian who has been where you are, I see the same mistakes I’ve made. I want to offer you some advice.
I understand that you’re still trying to figure out who you are and how you fit in this world especially on this big stage. Unlike yours my growing pains weren’t broadcasted. I’d cringe every time someone brings up how I foolishly I acted with this ex or in this situation. I am so glad we didn’t have social media when I was making those mistakes. I am so glad people couldn’t screenshot my immaturity and my recklessness. But Brittney, you have every right to live your life, but I don’t want to see you hit rock bottom to learn your lesson. I know that three game suspension was hard on you because the court is a place of solace. The court is where you can be yourself and be free.
I see you. I see you’re longing for love. We all do. We’ve all done some stupid things in the name of love. You’re looking for that someone to make you whole from your past of hurt, disappointments and pain. You’ve been hurting since the Messy Girl incident and the many others in middle school. You still hurt when the naysayers say shit like ‘Brittney Griner is the first man to play in the WNBA.’ Those insults may motivate you, but you’re human, and I know that shit hurts. Acknowledge the hurt and get it out. Don’t let it fester to manifest into anger or rage. You have to control your emotions no matter how much anyone push your buttons.
I see you. I see the pain in your eyes when you talk about your father. I understand it. I feel your pain. I used to be daddy’s girl, too, until he found out I was a lesbian. At 19 he asked if I had a girlfriend. I answered, ‘Yes’ because I was tired of not being my authentic self around him. His reaction was a gun to my head. I calmly told him to pull the trigger, but that wouldn’t make a difference in the fact that I was gay. Needless to say, I still tried to be daddy’s girl, but I realized that I controlled who was in my life. I decided to only allow people in my life that loved me as is not who they wanted me to be. I definitely understand the torment of thinking ‘why my father doesn’t love me’ or ‘why I can’t be daddy’s girl like I used to be’. I’ve learned I should surround myself with people who me hungry for life, touch my heart and nourish my soul. And you should, too. It’s your choice.
I see you. I see that your journey has been lonely. You’re tired of being alone. You think love will cure this loneliness. The nameless college love. Relle. Glory. Lola (or maybe not). And all of the ones in between. According to your autobiography, In My Skin, you’ve been in and out of relationships since your freshman year at Baylor. You’re a serial monogamous. And you’ve continuously broadcasted your relationships on social media thus inviting the criticisms and insults. But you need to learn how to be with yourself. Take yourself out to dinner. Take yourself to the movies, for you deserve the royal treatment you give to others. And who knows you better than yourself? NO ONE!
I see you. I see that you should look within to find the love you’re searching for. Self-love is paramount as you seek love in other. It sets the tone in who and what you allow in your life. If you cannot love yourself, you will be unable to love others. And remember money, notoriety and fame cannot buy love, for love’s free. It’s unconditional by definition. All you have to be is yourself. Love is as defined in bell hooks’ All About Love is the ‘the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own and another’s growth.’
With that definition, who loves you, Brittney? For care is a dimension of love so you can be cared for and not loved. For love is combination of care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility and respect. Again, your dad and Kim Mulkey have not respected you as is. Your dad wants you to be forever ‘daddy’s girl’ who listens and obeys. You are NOT that person anymore. Kim Mulkey wanted you to be a great player for the team. If Mulkey respected you, she would have told you about Baylor’s policy against homosexuality when you verbally committed to Baylor. Both have manipulated you to get what you want. Neither one wanted to deal with who you are, an out black lesbian who is living her life on her own terms.
I see you’re hurting, but it’s time to work on self. You’ve been in and out relationships for six years. You need to focus your time and energy on you. The way you get wrapper up in others when you’re in a relationship, that’s the way you should get wrapped up in yourself to find your happiness, your light. You have to be selfish, introspective and maybe a little reclusive. You will discover that love lies within you all along. You will find love, first self-love and then that romantic love we all covet.
I see you. Like I did when I played you use the basketball court as a place of refuge. The one thing since 9th grade that has been steady in your life is basketball. Not only basketball gave you purpose, fame and money, but it gave you safe space to be yourself. It’s that freedom that allowed you to grow into greatness. But Brittney, I see your greatness not as a basketball player as impressive as that is. I see your greatness in your humanity, your compassion, and your authenticity. By being an example, you’ve reached many kids who are going through their own version of hell to show them that it gets better. But it’s about reaching YOUR full potential, YOUR best self.
I see you. You are brand. You are a face of the WNBA and the China league. At 24 I know it can be overwhelming, but this is what you signed up for. There’s not many to get this opportunity. Your hard work, athleticism and authenticity got you this far. And it can take you farther. Don’t let your immaturity and rash decisions take it away. Envision your best self and work towards being her. I am rooting for you, Brittney!
I see you. I see your greatness and wonder. It’s time for you to see it and act accordingly.
With respect and admiration,
A. Kenyatta Parks
A 38-year-old black lesbian who has made some of the same mistakes