Nine months after my breakup, I met a mutual friend to observe the occasion of a lunar eclipse while drinking cheap red wine on her patio.
She pulled out an old box of Christmas lights to wrap around the railing. She looked at me with beaming eyes as she plugged them in and told me that my ex-partner had raved about me a few weeks earlier.
“She said she had never felt more loved and cared for than when she was with a black woman.”
I looked up from where I was sitting and debated whether I was going to end the night in a flurry of tipsy text messages reminding all my former lovers and friends that I’m not binary. . Instead, I poured myself more wine and drank like it wasn’t a weekday.
The sentiment seemed harmless, but being black, queer and female means you’re battling the ‘angry black woman’ trope by day and the caricature of ‘mom’ by night, with little or no space to exist outside of it. of these roles.
I wasn’t necessarily offended that people perceived me as someone who can take care of others and take good care of them. I was no longer so exhausted by the broken record playing in both my relationships and my community organizing work: that I was created to do everything for everyone at all times. While it’s important to be loved and cared for, it’s also important to understand that it can be complicated to center someone’s identity on what they do for others.
The feelings I have about this are not new. Throughout history, black and brown queer women have been the backbone of LGBTQ+ equality movements. But they haven’t been publicly recognized as such in mainstream queer media, and they certainly haven’t been supported or encouraged as they deserve.
Marsha Johnson, Storme DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy were all prominent activists whose protests, riots and advocacy work, during and after the Stonewall Riots, led to the creation of many LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and organizations that still exist today.
Over time, organizers and community members have found ways to uplift the women of the past who played important roles in equality movements. Clearly there should be a shift in how we recognize queer women in this space, but recognition without action or accountability is a dead end.
In 2020, there was a large circulation of images of progress pride flag which artist Daniel Quasar developed in 2018. The intention of the flag was not only to recognize the diversity of our community, but also to pay tribute to those black and brown women who led the resistance movements.
Reinventing the flag seemed necessary, and it particularly affected us that year, as we were knee deep in the pandemic and the media offered little to no coverage of the alarming rate of transgender and non-conforming people who were murdered in 2020.
While acknowledgment is an important step, black and brown queer women in your community today should also be appreciated, valued, uplifted, and supported in spaces.
There were very few times I was able to navigate spaces without engaging in community work. Sometimes it’s because I’m open and ready to commit. Other times people look to me and other women to teach them how to be inclusive, how to be an ally, or how to understand queer terms and expressions. I often find myself frustrated because I’m not allowed to have an “off” button. When I assert my limits as an organizer, it confuses people, because society has told us that we always have to sacrifice ourselves.
When I first entered the advocacy space at 19, I joked that I was married to the cause. Five years later, it seems the same cause I fought so hard for served me divorce papers every year, and their reason for quitting was still that I had changed.
And that’s not completely wrong. I have amended. At the time, I thought I would come out of the closet, become an activist and change the world. These days sometimes all I can do is change my sheets.
Sometimes I feel touched by people thanking me for the work I do. But I’ve never seen society radically commit to protecting black and brown women and queer women. It’s always just us, protecting us.
“It’s extremely exhausting,” said Maite Nazario, a Guatemalan and Puerto Rican non-binary artist and activist based in Atlanta. “I have to be my own voyeur to make sure my words are clear and concise and aren’t read as overly emotional or even aggressive.”
“It takes up so much space in my mind, when really the only thing I would like to focus my energy on is the rights of my people,” Nazario said.
Black and brown gay women are exhausted. They not only deserve recognition for their contributions, but also radical support from the community, which can be different for different people.
It is important to ask your organizers what they need. Often we get so caught up in the community that we forget that we are also a community and that we deserve to get rid of certain things.
You also need to hold yourself accountable. Don’t just rely on your local queer women’s organizers to provide research, language and resources. While they can point you in the right direction, it’s important that they take breaks. I constantly find myself playing the role of spokesperson and I become severely exhausted when people expect me to answer questions about my identity every day.
Finally, prioritize the work they do and pay them. I often have flashbacks from my grad class last semester, when one of my classmates said that “people who do community service probably don’t care about making money from it” . Although organizing in your community is not a paid position, the fact remains that organizers work hard and should be paid for the work they do.
“Just pay black and brown women,” says Bri Joy, a New York-based performance artist and activist. “If you have extra funds after paying your bills and rent, you should always, always set aside some of it for black women.”
A majority of us will probably spend the rest of our lives devoted to this work, because the work never really stops. I’d like to think that today’s Marshas and Stormes aren’t dressed in Pride apparel in corporate ads in June, pushing the products of Rainbow Capitalism. Instead, I’d like to think they’re somewhere in the mix of self-help initiatives, handing out free condoms and sanitary pads and telling people where they can get affordable gender-affirming care and housing. .
As your city hosts Pride parades this year, take time to remember past organizers while actively uplifting and supporting those around you. It is not enough to wait. They deserve their flowers while they’re here.
We are tired. But we show up. All. Damn. Time.
The Huffington Gt