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Art By: Amelia A J Foy
Queer Experience: What’s it Like Being a Queer Black Womxn
Being a queer black womxn comes with its good days and its bad. Unfortunately, we experience more of the bad. The literature (for example, Craven, 2011) suggests that black lesbian women's lives are typically at a greater risk than those of gay men. The life of a black queer womxn comes with a lot of challenges, triggers, mental health strains and more.
These challenges for me, personally, come in the form of first coming out to my black family and feeling a sense of fear overcoming me because I know their views are different and they’ve grown up in a different era: they believe in a god that doesn’t condone homosexuality. With that, it affects my mental health, making me feel isolated from my own home. Lonely and insecure, queer people often find themselves shaming themselves for experiencing the emotions they feel. It’s a long, difficult journey that comes with a lot of hardships, torn relationships, possible abandonment from parents and, ultimately, isolation. Feeling like a stranger, an alien In a society that rejects our identities. Being an openly queer womxn is a ticket for cishet individuals to take jabs at us. It’s a window for disturbed cishet men to physically hurt us and threaten us. Safety is our biggest universal need as black womxn. As lesbians in an often homophobic and patriarchal society, we face a further danger- the idea that we can be 'changed' and 'made' into (straight) 'women' through the assertions of "corrective" rape.
Another challenge is being this openly queer womxn in public and receiving head on scrutiny for it. Personally I’ve experienced threats and multiple harassments on the streets. I recall many times I was involved with someone at the time, we would go out to malls, holding hands and kissing like any normal straight couple would, yet we received deadly glances, snickers, were cat-called by men and had cars hooting at us on the street with men screaming at us. I recall one time this one security guard outside my college called us ‘f*gts’ telling us to leave.
Another time I feared for my safety was when I came across a group of cishet men - I let go of my (then) partner’s hand until we turned into a different street. She asked me why I did that. I replied “you wouldn’t understand”. I knew that many black lesbians, and black trans womxn were being killed in my country (South Africa),being tortured and raped. At that thought I knew that hiding my sexuality around a group of men was the safest thing to do. I got home and felt sick to my stomach. What kind of world do we live in that I have to hide myself while others live happily out in public?
Furthermore, Black womxn, Black lesbian womxn are forced to silence themselves whilst speaking about their sexuality and their sexual experiences. Society has censored sexual black womxn and labelled them as “slutty” and/or “dirty lesbians”. Amber Rose, a model and feminist activist has made it her mission to mitigate the concept of slut shaming and eradicate harmful slurs. She’s done this by organising ‘Slut Walks’ which is a is a transnational movement of protest marches calling for an end to rape culture, including victim blaming and slut shaming of sexual assault victims in queer communities and non-queer communities.
The double standards are not too hard to find when men praise white lesbian womxn partaking in sexual activities vs black womxn partaking in sexual activities and being opened about their sexual desires and sexuality.
Whether we admit it or not, straight white women have some privileges that black lesbian women don't have: more heterosexual women need to speak out and make ways against the brutality suffered by lesbian women in the hands of black and non-black communities. Stand up for your sisters, support them and stand against homophobia that you may witness.