Yes, I am Queer. No, I won't Be Attending Pride.
This will mark my first official Pride month being truthful to who I am, sexually. I’ve always been queer, but due to the smallest details I denied myself that honesty. This will mark my first official Pride, but I will not be attending any of the official Pride celebrations*.
Last year, when I wasn’t being honest with myself and living authentically, I wanted to go to Pride but I felt it wasn’t my place. I believed myself to be straight, and I knew Pride to be a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community. The last thing I wanted to do was walk in and use it as an excuse party even if I knew better and it wasn’t my intention. It felt that way, so I picked up shifts at the job I was working for other co-workers who were in the umbrella who wanted to go instead.
When I realized I was queer in August, my first thought was “Pride is for me too.”
The months rolled on and growing excitement was spreading for June, knowing that I would be in another space full of people from my intersections. I downloaded LGBT by Cupcakke (a true bop), studied up on the history of Pride more than I ever had before, and started thinking who I wanted to go with.
Everything changed when I went to my first gay club.
It was February 2018. I had just finished seeing Black Panther for the first time, which was truly a cultural celebration unlike any other. The conversations were needed, the skin was dark, and I walked out both so proud of who I was while also knowing more work needed to be done within my own community.
One of my friends (yes, he’s gay), reached out to me and asked if I wanted to hang out. It was a quiet night at first as we just went to a restaurant and chit chatted about our lives. He wanted Kava, so we went to a Kava bar after and that’s when we got a text from one of his (also gay) friends.
They were at a club (yes, a gay club) and he kept asking for my friend to come. I recognize that I can be excruciatingly paranoid. I thought he was in trouble. Why else would he be begging for my friend to come to him? Maybe this dude got too drunk or his friends left him. Regardless, I convinced my friend to go to the club to make sure he was safe.
The dude was fine. He just wanted to see my friend. My friend promised me we wouldn’t be there that long. I had two tequila shots (although his friend wanted me to have like, four more) and spent most of the time on the dance floor since I didn’t know his friend that well and the music was poppin.
During one of my breaks away from the dance floor, I felt it-- a hand in my hair.
“Your hair! It’s so gorgeous!”
Black Girl Rule #1: Don’t touch our hair. Your compliment is now automatically null and void.
I jerked my head back, and the guy (yes, he was also white), reached out farther to keep his greasy sticky hands in my moisturized 4B curls.
This happened multiple times that night, more than it ever did when I went to straight clubs. The orientation of the club didn’t matter. The same entitlement that comes with white people and black bodies was apparent.
I was feeling violated and othered. I was the only black girl in the entire club. I too was queer, so it was supposed to be a space for me and yet it felt everything but that.
Later, I was standing outside the club with my friend and his (very drunk) friend. He was without a doubt a little too wasted, and like so many white dudes the minute he got a little drunk he started saying racially insensitive things towards me. Without having touched my hair, he made me feel just as angry.
“Girl, I am like the blackest person you’ll ever meet.” He looked at me with his lip cocked. A certain rage bubbled in my chest, and I promised myself earlier in the year that I wasn’t holding back anymore when someone said something messed up to me.
I cocked my head and looked him up and down.
“So, in that case why is it you have the complexion of raw chicken?”
My friend, who was exceedingly embarrassed by his friend’s racist and problematic behavior nearly choked from shock and hidden laughter.
His friend who wasn’t done with me yet, then “jokingly” tried to pour alcohol on my brand new pink timbs (I’m from the Northeast don’t mess with my timbs b) and then tried pouring some on my phone.
My friend knew I was about to lose it. He was snapping at his friend constantly, doing his best to stand up for me. I was too flustered and angry to do anything else other than sit there and try not to deck him.
I insulted him and got under his skin earlier, but it didn’t feel like a victory. That night didn’t feel good. The entire time I was at that club felt like a loss-- an othering, saddening, racist, loss.
The space was supposed to be for me too, since I wasn’t straight. It was supposed to be a safe space, and yet I felt anything other than safe after a while due to the way my apparent community was treating me.
I had heard stories from black folk in the LGBTQIA+ umbrella in which they were targeted in the same ways I was that night, made to feel smaller, or just simply erased from our own narratives within this community over and over again.
The argument in 2017 over a new LGBTQIA+ flag where brown and black stripes were added highlighted that issue. The same white gay dudes who were saying “This flag is already for you!” were the same white gay dudes without a doubt to make me feel like that club wasn’t for me at all.
Black culture (especially black culture originating from black women) is often appropriated within the LGBTQIA+ community and rephrased as gay culture. Some things do come from gay culture first without a doubt, but a lot of it is from us. Just like other aspects of black culture being co-opted and stolen by the cisgender heteronormative part of society, we are erased from our own history by people who are preaching equality for all.
The thought of going to pride after seeing how black people, especially black women, are treated by the rest of the Pride community makes me sick. The idea of being poked, prodded, and treated as anything but human by people who are supposed to be in my corner makes me nauseous in the same way the Women’s March did.
These events-- events that are supposed to be intersectional by nature so often forget black women, and I’m tired of going to events and fighting to be seen. I will not fight for a seat at the same table that “forgot” to bring a chair for me to begin with.
If my experience and my life as a black queer woman is a second thought to you, a community, or an event, then I don’t care to be apart of it. Yes, some black queer women will fight to break down those barriers and I respect them. My hat goes off to them. I simply do not have that energy and would rather spend my time building my own table where me and mine and can sit, twerk, eat, cry, and celebrate our black queerness together.
I won’t be attending my city’s pride events this June. I will not subject myself to being further treated like a circus animal with the way they point, touch (without permission), and imitate my culture and essence.
Besides, Janelle Monae is coming to town in July and Dirty Computer is the perfect celebration of black queerness and intersectional feminism. That’s the only pride event I truly need.
* I did attend one Pride event and it's the only one I'll truly be revisiting.
Blog Photo (c) Brittany J., LLC