We are not all the same. LGBTQI* and gender non-conforming Black people do not all share the same stories of triumph over adversity.
We are not all living lives free from the agony caused by others’ penetrating hatred for us. And, yet, not all Black LGBTQI people, or the families we are in relationship with, despise us. Like non-black queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, we sometimes experience lovelessness. But we also experience love, too.
The personal narratives shared over the last two weeks through the #ThisIsLuv campaign and published here on EBONY.com attest to the power of Black LGBTQI affirming love present in some of our lives. Each story reminds us of the varied and multi-dimensional experiences within the lives of Black LGBTQI people. Some of us suffer emotional and psychological pain. Some of us feel spiritually lifeless. Some of us are slain.
In fact, during the two weeks we ran the #ThisIsLuv campaign, we also mourned the tragic loss of transwomen of color who were killed with no public outcry—even from their cisgender queer comrades. We lifted up stories from the living and well, while Lamar “Goddess” Edwards, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Vash Payne, Taja DeJesus, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Gomez Reinwald and Sumaya YSL were memorialized after their deaths this year.
The names of Black LGBTQI people like 23-year old Dionte Greene, who was shot and killed in Missouri, are still unknown. Some Black LGBTQI youth is still couch surfing somewhere in the U.S. Some preacher is still calling some believer a hell-bound sinner because of her “deviant lifestyle.” And some God-fearing, faithful LGBTQI person truly believes he is going to hell. How then are we ending a series focused on love as if we are unaware of such stark realities? We are not. In fact, we are convinced that we must fight until we are living in times when ALL Black lives matter. And until such a time comes, we will continue to name the oppressions we face and we will stop along the way to center on those who love us. We will make space to celebrate the love we have for ourselves in a country that teaches us that anyone who is not White, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able bodied, and wealthy is not worthy of respect or life.
But we know better. Queer and trans antagonism are merely flavors of the American apple pie whose ingredients also include colonialism, White racial supremacy, and corporate greed. Black folk do not own the patent on homo-hatred. We were not using the “Gospel” and rigid ideas of decency and morality to demonize the sexualities and gender expressions of indigenous peoples on this land as a way to disguise imperial conquest as an act of salvation. And Black folk are no more committed to ideas of heteronormativity and patriarchy than any White conservative Senator or Congressperson elected to represent our collective interests. Blackness is not a synonym for lovelessness, but history teaches us that America has been.
Given that, we end this campaign, or rather, welcome new beginnings of #ThisIsLuv, by thanking those Black LGBTQ affirming family members, friends, and strangers who daily give love to ALL the Black folk they engage, regardless of their actual or perceived sexual identity or gender expression.
Wade Davis, Tiq Milan, and I are thrilled to have sparked, what we hope will be, an ongoing dialogue rooted in the spirit of the #ThisIsLuv Town Hall we co-organized with our partners, the National Black Justice Coalition, Politini, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Our hope is that our expansive community of Black LGBTQI people and our allies will use #ThisIsLuv as a theme for future discussion and advocacy.
We love us. We love you. And if we expect to get free, together, Black love is the tool we will need to do so.
*LGBTQI: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex