Whether it’s June or not, we’re talking about PRIDE: queer lives, lusts, disasters, drama. If you like the work DADDY does, feel free to pitch us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a manuscript all in itself. Female. Male. Queer. Non-binary. Transfemme Goddess. Genderfluid. Genderqueer. Nonbinary trans. Black-queer. Cis male. Cis female. Black Non-binary Femme. Girly tomboy. Third gender. Gender expansive trans femme Black mxn. I define gender by who I wake up every day as, I don’t prescribe to the one doctors presumed me to be. I’m a third Gender. I am both masculine and feminine and other. BLACK.
These descriptors are just the tip of gender consciousness within the Black community. The current movement of self-expression we are experiencing in this decade is allowing folx to speak out and self-articulate. With this newfound awareness, I began to investigate the ways gender and racial constructions are interwoven. As we deconstruct and decolonize our various individual and communal identities from the pervasion of “whiteness”, how do we acknowledge the ways they impact each other in a generative way?
Instead of seeking this journey alone, I sought the guidance of loved ones, friends, community members and family (chosen and genetic) from across the African Diaspora in an anonymous survey. The questions I asked - touching on themes of personal discovery, appreciation and experience of gender - wouldn’t be the end to the discussion but a simple gesture towards the start of discovery.
I clearly am not the first person to ever have this thought or spark this conversation. In the Afropunk article “My Gender is Black”, Hari Ziyad gives insight into their personal journey within gender: “Blackness ruptures the laws of gender just like the laws of the state seem intent on rupturing Black life.” Like Ziyad, many of the folx I talked to expressed the exhaustion of having to explain one’s existence and pronouns on a daily basis. These explanations are a direct byproduct of life outside of societal “norms”, a space that Blackness often inhabits.
Clearly, gender stereotypes also occur within the Black community but these constructions were for the most part inherited during colonization. Ziyad highlights this, pointing to Hortense Spillers’ infamous essay “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe”, which outlines the construction of gender for Black people during and post-slavery. Historically, Blackness has been deemed inhuman – a simple tool for whiteness – where three-fifths of you might have been considered a person if you were a man. The Black man had to deal with echoes of this during his transition from controlled machinery into a feared freedman. Whereas Black women, used solely for the maintenance of slave populations, were demonized and eroticized for not fitting the “white” concept of womanhood.
For my friends whose queerness has been questioned for not having the “look”, and for the cis men and women who are constantly confronting “Love & Hip-Hop“ fantasies – could Black gender present a new way of being?
The tribe has spoken:
“Ha, I have no idea. What I do feel is that being a cis Black male is a very rigid identity because of these persistent expectations of being macho, of being a superman. In the past I found it exhausting.” - Coleus ‘Black Prince’
“I feel like Blackness isn’t a monolith just how I feel Gender isn’t a monolith. Black Gender is ever evolving and we as Black people are continuing to find how we want to present ourselves to the world. Right now Black Gender is colonized but we are slowly moving out of that as a people.” - Helleborus 'Onyx Odyssey'
“Black gender is Blackness. It doesn’t fit into the system of male/female that has been set up for us by society. Nothing about us truly fits inside of the small bubble that is societal norms.”- Black Baccara Rose
“I don't have a separate Black gender definition. I am of the belief that gender is fluid and determined by the individual living in that body.” - Petunia, Sophistica Blackberry Hybrid
“Black gender for me is an internal and collective process of liberating ourselves from white gender constructs and norms that deny culturally vital parts of our Blackness. It's more fluid than the white gender construct allowing for hyper-masculine folks to express more feminine aspects of Black culture like Black men obsessing about their hair (waves, braids, perms, blowouts, you name it) even as we combat pressure to conform to rigid eyedeas about gender expression. But, I would say most importantly that gender for Black folks is shaped by our Blackness and the influences of our Indigenous African roots.” - Colocasia ‘Black Magic’
I have always questioned gender since static performances of gender were not part of my childhood household narrative. Not only was mine one of four Black families in my neighborhood, but I also had the only stay-at-home dad. Female gendered tasks such as cleaning, grocery shopping, and playing were fulfilled by Marlo, my dad, who due to his name received invitations to subscribe to numerous garden and crafts magazines including Fine Gardening. He supervised and participated in a melange of my make-believe worlds including but not limited to larping Power Rangers and staging Barbie melodramas where Christie (the official name of Black barbie before Nicki Minaj) rocked a fade and dated Pocahontas. When my mother died, he was the one who went dress shopping with me and took me to get my hair done.
Regardless of which gender Black people identify with, or if they have chosen to exonerate themselves from gender constructions like Niv Acosta, having the conversation itself is liberating.
Black Gender is the Black uncle with permed hair who wears a pastel-toned two-piece suit and smells like Bulgarian roses. The Black auntie who predicts the changing of the season with her latest hairstyle, who belongs to a motorcycle club and never had kids. The best friend whose spirit animal is Cardi B but constantly gets mistaken for male model Don Benjamin.
My gender is Jstlbby
My gender is in these streets
My gender is Pure Hell
My gender is Blood Orange
My gender is Impossible
My gender is Beyoncé’s Homecoming
My gender is FUPU
My gender is Ts Madison
My gender is Outkast
My gender is No Sesso
My gender is Grace Jones
My gender is Basquiat
My gender is Super Bitch
My gender is Sylvester
My gender is Golden Girls Gospel
My gender is Pootie Tang
My gender is Janelle Monae
My gender is Junglepu$$y
My gender is Sade
My gender is Jay Versace
My gender is Prince
My gender is Celia Cruz
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