There is power in declarative statements.
I am a black, fat, queer, genderqueer, male bodied person. I am a writer, artist, poet, scholar, dreamer and thinker. A central theme of my politic is the right of each person to discover, uncover and create who they are. This is important especially for queer people; people who historically are seen as outsiders or deviants, with no ruling expectations except to go against good, cultured society. I want to dissect that statement so you don’t misunderstand my meaning: our history is pregnant with the stories of our queer forefathers, foremothers, and foreothers; forgotten and erased, abused, exploited and refused their humanity. I contend that for a queer person of color simply existing is revolutionary. Born into a culture that would exploit our bodies and our minds for financial, political, sexual, etc. gain, queers of color must create their own realities; build themselves out of the debris strewn before them from a heteronormative white supremacist patriarchy that wishes to use and abuse them.
Growing up, I never really saw anyone who looked like me; not many who loved like me; no one who would dare to disrupt my preteen melanchol. I have always been fat, always been queer and I’ve always contended that my gender lie on a spectrum where masculinity and femininity are not polar opposites. However, finding a black queer icon to embody even half of that was far and inbetween. I can remember seeing RuPaul on shows like “Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” and the L.L. Cool J led, “In The House”, where Ru was featured in and out of drag, as if her exploration of femininity was only a costume to be put on for plot development and entertainment. I want to point out how important this is despite the clear problems these guest-slots posed. I remember these episodes to this day because they were so important in answering certain questions and raising others; I longed to see expressions of blackness and queerness that mingled in ways that were complicated, messy and problematic. RuPaul’s appearance on these shows disrupted the notion that I was alone for those few seconds she was onscreen. However, those few seconds in the 90s wasn’t enough to combat the narratives that often permeate the minds of black queer folks: black homophobia and black neglect.
Years later RuPaul has his/her own show, and a Drag Convention; RuPaul’s Drag Race is so popular that it has transcended gay culture to land a prime spot on VH1 where everyone can enjoy it. However, the strides made by RuPaul and other black queer creative often goes unappreciated, uncelebrated and under acknowledged. When I say “black homophobia”, I am referencing the belief that black culture is virulently homophobic, more so than mainstream American culture, and by “black neglect” I insist upon specific kind of neglect pushed by narratives of black parents as innately lessor and worst than their white and non-black counterparts. One of the major problems with a lack of representation in media is the belief that being gay or queer can only coincide with whiteness; that notion alone led to dishonesty, heartache and an early depressive distrust of my family. This is not to say my family wasn’t homophobic, it is nearly impossible to not be homophobic in a society so entrenched in hetero-supremacy. However, having to deal with the reality of coming out with the unfounded expectations of hyperhomophobia was compounding the issue.
Years later, I am appreciative of the growth my family has made in the area of queer identification. They have opened themselves to being educated through conversations, observation and exposure to new information. I would like to say that years later my life as a black queer person is significantly better; however that would be too simple for such a complex reality. It’s been about 14 years since I told the first people of my queerness, and the landscape for black queer identity has changed, but I’m not sure how significantly when the groundbreaking black queer film of the century was Moonlight which left me with more questions than answers (one being: is this actually a gay film the way people are touting or is this more complex and complicated than we care to dissect?). In the age of unparalleled inclusivity, it would appear we are more concerned with checking off boxes to show our support for diversity than we are with actually empowering the voices of underserved and underappreciated groups. Black queer artists, makers and scholars have been taking and reclaiming their space for centuries. Through the erasure we have been able to declare: we been here, we be here, we gone be here.
I personally declare, I am loud, I am queer, I am black, I am here!
I ain’t going nowhere!