To all my black queer students at Penn,
I just wanted to say: I love you. And that’s it. This is not a piece proposing solutions. This is not a critique on some bigger issue in society involving black queer students. This is an affirmation — a round of applause for your existence.
I want this to be a timeless reminder that helps you cope with the countless problems that will come up because of your identity. I also want to list a couple of resources in case you feel alone and can’t find the support that you need.
We spend so much time talking about the systems of oppression around us, that we forget to unapologetically love ourselves. And although I cannot relate to all of your unique experiences, I know what it’s like to be “othered” for who you love.
As a black queer man, I am constantly vilified by both the white community because of my blackness and my own community because of my queerness.
I have been called a demon, a f****t and everything else in between. I have been attacked by my own family: I have been told by a family member that he would “f**k me up if he were my father and I told him that I was gay,” and I’ve even overheard countless conversations in which other family members blamed my queerness on the fact that my father was not in my life.
I’ve had family perform a mini exorcism on me as they prayed around me. I’ve had my high school threaten to cancel the prom if I went. And I’ve even had teachers make homophobic comments in class.
So believe me when I say that I understand the constant struggle between these different parts of our identity. It’s as if the world blames us for not being confident in our own skin, but at the same time forgets that it made us that way — or at least that’s the case for me.
I want to say I love you as many times as I can, because you might not hear it again for a long time. Or in my case, you might not hear it until you’re in a dark alleyway with the first man who showed you any attention. That is not to say that sexual freedom is dirty or evil; I just felt like I could have established a better sense of who I was before I sought it out from others.
I love you. And I’m sorry if you’re tired of hearing it. But I see the potential in you. Within you lies the strength to change the world. And if someone doesn’t tell you that you’re great, it may be hard for you to continuously believe it on your own.
If you need a reminder, I’m obviously here. But if you can’t reach me, there are a few resources that you can explore right here on Penn’s campus. First, the LGBT Center is a great space to meet new queer people or even just study.
And if that gets a little too uncomfortable for you because of the white-dominated space, Queer People of Color is a nice group on campus that meets in the LGBT Center and is focused primarily on the experiences of people of color who identify as LGBTQIA+.
I would also recommend Counseling and Psychological Services as a resource of support. I know that a lot of students have a weird feeling when someone mentions CAPS, but I found it as a great resource for me to hash out a lot of the trauma associated with my blackness, my queerness and the intersections existent between the two.
In these short hour-long intervals, I was able to take back the voice that was stolen from me over the years. I was finally able to explain some of the foggy things that happened in my life that contributed to some of the behavior I exhibit now in relation to the complexities around my queerness and my blackness. I’m not saying it’s for everyone — I’m just saying that it’s a great option to try and see if it works for you.
So that’s it. Practice self-care. Love yourself. Empower and support those like us, and never forget that your existence itself is revolutionary. So just continue to be you.
JAMES FISHER is a College sophomore from the Bronx, N.Y., studying communications. “Spilling the Real Tea” usually appears every other Thursday.