Shamari Reid| May 21, 2018
In this piece the terms “queer” and “LGBTQ+” will be used interchangeably to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks, while simultaneously recognizing the range of variation within the ever-evolving constructs of gender expression and sexual identity.
::Love is Love::
The other day I was frolicking around in Brooklyn- I can’t seem to recall exactly where , it ain’t
really important- and I saw the rainbow (or pride) flag. Now, I know that this flag is supposed to
somehow signify to me that the establishment upon which it flies is a safe space, but I just wasn’t
buying it. How could a flag with so many colors be so exclusive? Questions that need answers.
Like, I only needed to see one “color” and they had six chances to get it right. So often, spaces that focus on creating safe and inclusive environments for the LGBTQ+ community often fail to mention how these spaces are rarely ever “big” enough to provide shelter, security, and love for Black and Brown queer folks.
So, every time somebody tries to convince me to visit a gay village, a queer-friendly city, or an LGBTQ+ neighborhood; or to patronize an establishment decked out in rainbows and “the flag”, I always respond with: nah, I’ll pass. I’m not in the mood to be surrounded by folks who will try all night to persuade me that they “get it” and understand what I’m going through when three minutes ago they replied to multiple advances on from Black folks with “No Blacks”. Miss me with the BS. I have many other things to do with my time which don’t require me to spend hours listening to “the girls” re-name Bey (Beyoncé) to Bae and share how much they love Black men, but always find themselves inundated with work and school during Black Lives Matter events. These are the same folks who will proudly declare that love is love, but that all lives matter. The same people who smile when sharing “I love your skin color”, “I’ve never been with a Black person before”, and ask if the “myth about Black men is true”. The same folks who touch (read:pet) me without asking and are taken aback when I request that they keep their hands to themselves. The ones who struggle to understand that believing Black Lives Matter and deriving pleasure from (fetishizing) the Black anatomy are not the same thing. And so I walk by that flag every single time not thinking twice; never entering.
I’m a BlackQueer man (yes, all one word) and because of my inability to separate my racialized and sexual identities, if you can’t offer me space, time, or resources that aren't dripping in White supremacy, then you can’t offer me shit. If your establishment, even with its rainbow flag, isn’t a space where I can seek refuge from homophobia and racism, then instead of offering me safety, you’re inviting me to engage with peril that you’ve so wonderfully cloaked in a multi-colored piece of fabric.
Every day, I, we, are out here trying to navigate sticky social terrain littered with heterosexist and racist landmines, and if the best you can do is remove the heterosexist landmines, you’re still leaving us to die.
And so where is our space? Where is the space for those of us who are not queer on Monday and Black on Tuesday, but BlackQueer every day? For those of us who have recognized that our intersectional experiences differ from those of the white LGBTQ+ community? Those of us who know that we do not live through or in fractured bodies? Those of us who on a daily are contending with heteronormative views and racist practices and policies, too (Bartone, 2017)? Who “stand on the outside of state sanctioned, normalized White, middle- and upper- class, male heterosexuality” (Cohen, 2004, p.29)? Who are well aware of the verity that being BlackQueer in the current socio-political context presents complexities, largely avoided by White queers (Bartone, 2017)? Where is our space?
::Black Lives Matter::
The other day I was frolicking around in Harlem- I can’t seem to recall exactly where, it ain’t really important- and I saw the Black Lives Matter logo. Now, I know that this is supposed to somehow signify to me that the establishment upon which it finds itself is a safe space, but I just wasn’t buying it. How could a logo racially identifying me still feel so exclusive and uninviting? Questions that need answers. Now to my BLM family, we gon' need to make a few things make sense. We can’t be going around proclaiming that Black Lives Matter while refusing to acknowledge the fact that two of the architects of the BLM movement identify as queer.
"This notion of erasure of Black women and queer Black people from liberation movements has historical antecedents in the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Movement.
Indeed, it is important that we recognize the contributions and perspectives of Black women and queer Black people as they not only helped shape movements for liberation but also represent and contribute to the diversity of the Black experience in the United States that is often portrayed as monolithic and homogenized."
-Adrienne D. Dixson, 2017, p.235
We can’t be going around proclaiming that Black Lives Matter and refusing to acknowledge that not only are Black men and boys being gunned down, but Black girls and women have also their had their skin weaponized (#RekiaBoyd, #AiyanaStanleyJones,#TarikaWilson, #MiriamCarey, #NatashaMcKenna, #TyishaMiller ).
We can’t be going around professing that Black Lives Matter when we really mean Black heterosexual men’s lives matter. Do (all) Black Lives Matter or nah? And we gotta stop encouraging our youth to prioritize their Blackness over their queerness to align themselves with Black peer groups (Goode-Cross & Good, 2009; Goode-Cross & Tager, 2011; Patton, 2011). We gotta stop parading around hollerin’ Black Lives Matter while trumpeting that “Black transwomen are just wrong” and trying to “pray the gay” out of our Black youth. Can today be the day we stop demanding that white people refrain from saying nigga while we continue to refer to our family as fags, sissies, sweet, funny, dykes, faggots, homos, and perverts? If BLM spaces are not safe from transphobia, sexism, and heterosexism, then they ain’t safe for all Black lives. Point. Blank. Period. We gon’ stop reading, throwing shade, werking, and using “slay”, if we aint showing up when We are being slayed -#MeshaCaldwell, #KekeCollier, #ChynaGibson, #ChayReed-(Love, 2017). I was at a poetry slam about a year ago and a young BlackGay man delivered a piece that ended with :
Why is it that boys who slay and get in formation are always the first to be eliminated?
Questions that need answers.
Where is our space?
I end with a big thank you to the organizers of MOBIfest for creating a space that visibilizes
and celebrates BlackQueer people! One of these days other folks will take notes…
Bartone, M. (2017). "Nothing has stopped me. I keep going". Black gay narratives. Journal of LGBT Youth, 14(3), 317-329.
Cianciotto, J., & Cahill, S.R. (2003). Education policy: Issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.
Cohen, C.J. (2004). Deviance as resistance: A new research agenda for the study of Black politics. Du Bois Review, 1(1), 27-45
Consolacion, T. B., Russell, S. T., & Sue, S. (2004). Sex, race/ethnicity, and romantic attractions: Multiple minority status adolescents and mental health. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 10(3), 200-214.
Dixson, A.D. (2017). "What's going on?": A critical race theory perspective on Black lives matter and activism in education. Urban Education, 52(2), 231-247.
Goode-Cross, D.T., & Good, G.E. (2009). Managing multiple-minority identities. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 2(2), 103-112.
Goode-Cross, D.T., & Tager, D.(2011). Negotiating multiple identities:How African-American gay and bisexual men persist at a predominantly white institution. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(9), 1235-1254.
Love, B. (2017). A ratchet lens: Black queer youth, agency, hip hop, and the black ratchet imagination. Educational Researcher, 46(9), 539-547.
Patton, L.D. (2011). Perspectives on identity, disclosure, and the campus environment among African American gay and bisexual men at one historically Black college. Journal of College Student Development, 52(1), 77-100.