I was 4 or 5 years old when I first developed my queer analysis.
At the time, my family was very religious, and as I sat in our place of worship – my mind freely wandering in toddler dreams – I was quickly brought back to reality when a fellow worshipper proclaimed that they could no longer listen to “Macho Man” because it was an anthem of gay expression.
I vividly remember thinking “what’s wrong with men liking men?”
Fast forward a decade, and I was in high school. Hormones racing in the flourish of puberty, my sexual identity was intertwined with adolescent growing pains. Through this socio-biological rush, I realized I liked girls. I was attracted to them, enjoyed them, and was comfortable being in sexual partnership with them. In between hushed rumors and teenage angst, I came out as bisexual and — surprisingly — received unequivocal support for my sexual character.
But even with this label, I didn’t feel wholly captured. I didn’t feel represented, nor did I feel complete. Something didn’t seem right, and once in college — with the opportunity to reinvent myself with sophistication, maturity, and access — I dropped the “bisexual” label, while still holding my sexual complexion.
I grew up believing that “queer” was a vicious pejorative used to demean people who identified as LGBT. But while in university and through unintentional political education, I soon found that “queer” was an acceptable term. Still, I didn’t hold the term in personalized depth. “Queer” was terminology outside of myself — a linguistic expression that I respected although it didn’t define my sexual ipseity.
But once removed from college, radicalized in my reliable pro-Black feminist framework that solidly influenced and refined my critical observations of systemic and cultural oppression, queerness spoke to me with urgency, ferocity, and safety.
I no longer approached queer analysis as a spectator or ally, but as a student … a calling.
Of course, this process didn’t happen overnight. It took months — years — of reflection. It took recall; of thinking back to those moments when I found myself outside the stigma of bisexualism, but still within the confines of it. Still attracted to both women and men, though in different ways. Still open to and enthusiastic about sexual partnership with women under a specific set of circumstances beyond my immediate control.
These definitions of “queer” helped clarify my sexual complexion:
But the most profound, transformative, and pivotal impact on my sexual expression has been my commitment to the Black Lives Matter Movement. A Movement with clear uncompromising principles of queer inclusion, I’ve embraced all parts of my Black self. I’m confident in my ability to come whole. My sexual vulnerabilities are centered because such uncertain vulnerability is the product of heteronormative patriarchy — and by extension, white supremacy. I don’t need to impugn or challenge myself to fit into standardized and violent edicts that don’t speak to or acknowledge the strength, love, and courage of my Black sexual womanhood.
My sexual identity need not be wrapped in oppression, confusion, and self-doubt. And it no longer will be. So today, I say, with no reservations or ambiguity, I’m queer.