My generation has seen a rise in the number of openly queer-identified people, who are black. As a 17-year-old living in the “Deep South,” I often find myself in a beautiful atmosphere of openness and understanding, when conversing with my peers. We often talk about topics, namely sexuality, which is conventionally seen as taboo and should be kept to ourselves. Often, our parents are either over-intrusive in their attempt to “find us out” or they simply do not ask because they do not want to know.
African-Americans have faced oppression for centuries based solely on the color of our skin. In Louisiana, where I have lived my whole life, black people with fairer skin often chose to “pass” as white. Many made the difficult choice to leave their community behind and take on the role of a white person in order to survive their oppression.
I see many similarities between “passing” and being “in the closet.” Ironically, while many black people view passing as betrayal, they fail to see the similarities between being black and being queer. By dimensioning queerness as a choice that can be acted on or avoided, they are asking us to choose to “pass” rather than live openly in our truth. Which begs the question, is being in the closet not just a survival tactic? In both cases, we are choosing to hide a part of our identity for the sake of protection. Both practices can be extremely damaging to the individual in that they require dishonesty and the leaving behind of one’s full self for the sake of protection.
While no one likes lying about being black and queer, we can never be fully prepared for the hardships of being black and queer; both respectively and together. The idea that bisexual women are “doing it for attention,” or that transgender men are “just confused,” or any other ignorant, but common misperception about living in our true LGBTQ+ identity does not make sense in a world where we are targeted, hurt, and killed at alarmingly high rates.
Tragically, blacks are also targeted, hurt, and killed at alarmingly high rates. Even so, why is it so hard for us to acknowledge these intersections? Perhaps it’s because, we allow our black pride and resistance to mask our compounded oppression of sexual orientation, gender, ability, or otherwise. This misunderstanding of intersectionality undermines our need unity or potential for change. Sadly, this problem is all too prevalent in virtually every social reform movement, albeit it feminism, LGBTQ liberation, or economic justice. As one situated in each of these margins, I wonder what it would take to bring about a day when no part of my black bisexual female is lost at sea.
This Black History Month, may we strive to live in solidarity with others and ourselves. My we remember that #AllBlackLivesMatter on Black History Month. May we remind others and ourselves, to not leave any part of ourselves behind in order to survive the road to justice.