Pride. What a word! What a term to land upon today, this week and all month long. Pride represents various things to various communities, but in light of this blog today, I’m specifically referring to the 6th month of the year where here in my hometown—NYC—we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. That’s right, it’s time to come all the way out of your corner, because why exactly is there a closet? I don’t know. That’s for a different blog. And live fully, embodied as yourself, in all of your glory, honoring who you are, where you are, what you’ve survived, and at least to remember those who never got the chance to. And for those who led movements for the gay community that haven’t seen today. And for the communities that intersect at homosexuality and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color.)
Way before COVID-19, I was afforded the opportunity to work alongside some beautiful, warm, loving, passionate SGL (same gender loving—more to come on this momentarily) folks. I was a Mistress of Ceremonies for a digital magazine show titled “XEX” and pronounced, “X” of the magazine with the same name. XEX was way ahead of its time. It was founded by my then, very young colleague Sailey Williams who is a dynamic photographer, voguer, creative director and sweetest human. Sailey was maybe 21 years old at the time that we met. I had never seen someone so sure of their vision, their purpose, and their brand as much as Sailey was at that time. That time was the mid-2000s and we were on set together–Sailey shooting beautiful models—from all around the world and me, hosting his online show for the magazine and interviewing renowned LGBTQ+ industry people at the parties and launch of the magazine and show. It was a spectacular season of life we were in.
Back then, we were going into modeling agencies in NYC to talk w people about getting talent to shoot w/ Sailey. We were also at one point in the illustrious apartment of famed photographer, Mike Ruiz watching Mike work the camera and collab w/ Sailey and his team (me and other folks) to design a futuristic look for POC to land in and on the magazine that Sailey owned, designed and created. It was a hot time. I sat in awe of this young person, gleaning some tips from him and others on how to embody fabulousness! I watched what was the very beginnings of the term “transgender” people move, glide, sway, and sparkle in front of a camera so beautifully and powerful. I felt special, at ease and uncomfortable all at the same time, sometimes. But mostly I felt on the cusp of something great.
You see, there are all of these stereotypes about the SGL community. But, what about the hetero community—the one I come from—that has zero exposure or knowledge about the other side. What about all of the projections, assumptions and fears living inside the minds and bodies of the straight community who centers ourselves on being righteous, and often wrong about people and their experiences. I never saw anything but pride and love when I was working with Sailey and his colleagues.
As I slowly get out of my own way even today about what I don’t know about the gay community, I have been informed by my activist colleagues of the importance of also using appropriate, affirming language. For example, when I refer to brown and Black gay people in love I say “SGL” or “same gender loving”—a term that my dear friend, activist and mental health specialist, Dr. Cleo Manago is credited for founding. Using the term gay for B & B people is like using a pejorative for a racialized person. The gay community, as I’ve learned has been quite harmful to the brown and Black community and we must recognize that, while they also have to dismantle and reform it. So, as in many other movements, being intentional about our language is necessary and important to the healing of people who’ve been harmed.
Earlier today, I read a disturbing article in Cosmopolitan magazine detailing the experiences of the larger LGBTQ+ identified community with the medical (& mental health is part of that, too) system. Folks shared personal anecdotes of birth control being pushed on them even after they expressed that they are lesbian and only sleep with women. Others talked about the numerous times they were misgendered by their doctors or abandoned when they attempted to make a medical appointment following exclaiming to their provider that they were SGL or LGBT. Someone was even quoted as saying their mental health provider stopped seeing them once they discovered that they were not heterosexual. How violent is that!
An article, a few conversations, a parade, a rainbow of colors nor 1 blog post is going to circumvent the levels of local, national, governmental nor global violence that this community continues to endure. Today’s blog is not about making a specific point, nor admonishing or highlighting all the things I still don’t know, understand, reckon with or haven’t done to become better acquainted with the entitlements for people in the SGL, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (queer, non-binary) community. It’s a hodgepodge of my brief stint as an MC for people I shared incredible times and space with, a moment of recognition for a brilliant and resilient community that has and continues to be marginalized and tortured by their own struggles with oppression, and one where multiple intersections meet to question our own participation in violence. Maybe that’s what this was about for me today. I don’t know. I’m okay with it being all of those things. I don’t want to pride myself on being the omnipotent one on a topic that I’m still being schooled in. I simply want to remember and reminisce on some of the good times, while also being grounded in so many bad times for a group of people who often go invisibilized and say to them, I honor and respect you, and your movement. I will commit to doing my best to become more learned, compassionate, and invested in breaking cycles of violence. That is my declaration.
Until next time Village,
*This blog is about becoming free. It’s a reflection of introspective thoughts and experiences that have crossed miles of self-discovery. I created this blog to inspire others to live life with less self-criticism, judgment and openness to new experiences. May you find that you learn how to live a life by design and on your own terms!*