It’s one day post Pride month, post the first Queer Liberation March, post taking my son to his first major action and I’m in deep contemplation about my own relationship to the movement. Just the other day, my mom and I were discussing suicide within the LGBTQI-GNC+ youth of color community. I had a moment of feeling like it was the twilight zone. How many times are we going to have the same conversation? This is after the murder of two trans womxn of color within the past three weeks.
When suicides and murders happen for being who you were born to be and at the rate that it’s happening these days, it is not something to just shrug off like it’s any ordinary Tuesday; it is a preventable crisis. It is an unnecessary tragedy. Lost lives demands our intentional action and at the very least, a moment of silence and respect. Not to be pedestrian or to serve as an echo chamber however; it’s important to keep screaming: Black LGBTQI-GNC+ Lives Matter cause it feels as though folx are not getting it despite how many lives are lost. I keep asking, how is it possible for folx not to care?
For me, it's important not to look away from the pain or to distract myself. I try not to dissolve into despair from the weight of helplessness and rage pressing at my temples making me see red especially since we are being attacked from outside our community and within. Instead, I sit with it as a way to honor their existence and untimely transition; remembering that most likely, they were uncomfortable every single moment of their lives. I whisper “Kalima, you can be uncomfortable for a few minutes, hours or even days.” Aside from that very personal and internal process, I’ve been thinking about my responsibility to the movement. What is my commitment? More specifically, what am I willing to lose in an effort to stand up for what’s right?
I actually hadn’t plan to write about Pride. I’m certainly no expert and will not say anything that hasn’t been said before; the blogosphere is saturated with rich and laser sharp content. Instead, I made a conscious effort to use my social media platform to highlight books and politics about the LGBTQI-GNC+ community. And, I did this despite watching my followers decrease. However, we plan and the universe laughs. Life happens and sometimes it’s an invitation to engage.
I recently celebrated my son’s first trip around the son. Along with it being a beautiful and joyful day, I was also run ragged by so many emotions. I was so happy that we made it: we made it through prenatal visits, through a c-section, out of the hospital, through one year of checkups, through the ups and downs of what it means to be a dark-skinned Black mother in a racist, classist medical system. We made it through the misrecognitions (is his father Hispanic? White?), invisibilization (Kalima, you didn’t do anything here) and colorism (he’s so handsome; look at that complexion and all that hair). I was breathing a sigh of relief that we made it until my friends shared that someone said to my one-year-old son “stop crying, you’re a man now.”
Given my audience, I am almost confident I don’t need to explain the obvious. 369 days of life and you’re now a man? My friends and I shared a good laugh; one steeped in sarcasm yet laced with sadness. What are we talking about when we say boys cannot cry? What legacy, attitudes, belief systems are we reinforcing when we say these things and how does it serve the collective?
I was instantly taken back to last week’s episode of “The Read.” In the “pass the read (1:46),” a mother of a 15 month old said “folx are more afraid of hugs than of going to jail” or words to that affect. That line shook me to my core and brings me to my point. I remembered an episode of “Ear Hustle” where an inmate said he had to go to prison to get his first hug and to hear another Black man say to him “I love you.” WTF are we doing, Black Fam?
Black boys need to be allowed to boys, children, innocent, human and for my 12 month old and her 15 month old, BABIES. They don’t need to man up as in “not be gay” because let’s get real, that’s exactly what you’re saying when you make gendered comments about the natural developmental behaviors of Black boys.
The Black community; I’m focusing on us because this is who I know and the community that I am part of, we seem to be saddled with a debilitating fear of our boys being “soft.” And, I’m not one to judge; Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary taught me well. Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome is alive, well and comfortably dwelling in our hearts and homes. However, we have to do our work; there are aspects of PTSS that serve us and others that frankly do not. Our hate of the LGBTQI-GNC+ community is killing people and dreams alike. Our uncritical acceptance of toxic masculinity as good disciplining is killing people and dreams alike. Black womxn who revision homophobic comments as “an opinion” worth respecting – we’re killing people and dreams alike. And more insidious, Black womxn who support the public spewing of homophobia or engage in it themselves are participating in anti-womxn rhetoric as those comments about being soft, innuendos about being gay or otherwise are all rooted in the belief that the worst thing to be is a womxn. And, anyone half awake and somewhat paying attention, knows that the worst thing to be is a Black womxn and forget about it if you’re dark-skinned.
I am not against free speech, differing opinions or specifically, people who believe a man should be with a womxn or 12 month olds shouldn’t cry. While I think it’s lame, your opinion is none of my damn business. So, let’s keep it that way. SHUT YOUR MOUTHS. If you believe in traditional relationships, fine. If you believe in traditional families, it’s all good. If you believe that 12 month olds are men and should behave as such, so have it. And, if you believe the rest of us are going to hell because we don’t agree with you, I guess I’ll see you there. Making public homophobic comments has consequences; it’s not the same as saying Pepsi is better than Coke. No one is jumping off a building or a bridge because you demand an exclusive Pepsi party! However, LGBTQI-GNC+ are jumping off of bridges, building, etc. because of your comments. SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Reserve your unsolicited comments for yours and leave the rest of the world out of it.
Y’all, I’m being a bit glib here; if anything I’m saying feels too light, I apologize. Nothing about homophobia whether in small or large doses is ok. However, there is a part of me that goes to sarcasm because the heaviness of what it means to raise a Black boy is sometimes too much to have to defend, explain or experience. This is especially so when I have do it in my own community; it hurts to be made to feel like I’m taking a homophobic joke too seriously just because my son is one. At what age should I take it seriously? Really, is there an age requirement? What about for racism or colorism, what is the age criteria for a response?
As a Black mother, I’m afraid every single day. As a dark-skinned womxn, I live in a dark space not of my own making. As the person responsible for protecting my custom made baby, I live combat ready; I will be damned if anything or anyone threatens my baby’s livelihood and wellbeing at age one, 21 or 51. I don’t want to be this way; I’d much rather be light and “it’s not that deep” type that my friends and I hear so often. Except, I didn’t create the situation we’re living in right now; I’m only responding to it with equal measure and power as your harmful words have.
Cafe con Libros is a direct response to the hate of womxn, womxn of color, poor, institutionally uneducated, fat, short, immigrants, disabled, incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, LGBTQI-GNC+ folx, religiously persecuted and anyone else who falls at the margins of society. I and 100% my family members fall into one of these categories or more so, CCL is also a reflection and affirmation of the roots from which I sprout. The space is certainly not perfect however; it is accountable and we do our best to live our values even if it comes at a cost. And, make no mistake folx, there is a cost material, mental and emotional. Yet, if it means I have contributed to making the world better, I’m willing to absorb the Ls.
As you can see, I’m deep in my feelings about this. The tentacles of hate are far reaching and arresting. If I’m not clear, courageous and resolute, I will fall to the forces whether explicit or those weaved into seemingly benign jokes that are designed to annihilate me/us one microagressing smiling face at a time.
To the Black folx in my immediate family, community and beyond, remember: “the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house” (Audre Lorde). We have to do our work; no amount of material gains or disassociating (I may be this but at least I’m not gay) will guarantee safety. We have to release our unexamined desire for power over; the game was not meant for us to win. More urgently, I believe we have to make room for all; “we are each other’s keeper, we are each other’s bounty” (Gwendolyn Brooks). I’m not saying you have to like us all; I hardly like some of ya’ll either AND I will forever be your militant comrade until you F*&! with my baby.
Shut your mouths; hate kills people and dreams alike.