Queer, Gifted & Black
Often because of the work that I do I get asked to participate in university studies and I am very critical about how information is taken from communities of cash poor folks, folks of colour and 'at-risk' youth. Community members are rarely compensated individually or collectively and those who execute the study end up benefitting professionally, academically or personally from our strategies, our resilience and our wisdom. I wrote this response back to an ask I got, and I thought it was worth sharing for others who may be participating on either end of studies like these:
"I have a few questions.
Where will this information be housed and how will it be made accessible to communities that are its focus? Too often I think research projects are done about our communities harvesting incredible knowledge and wisdom and community members broadly do not have access to the information and continue to lack the autonomy and support to make decisions about the content and/or recommendations.
Does this study take into account the way other communities (i.e. through processes of gentrification) over exploit 'at-risk' communities? The term developing or underdeveloped when it refers to countries obscures the fact that these countries are in fact over exploited by the global north for labour, resources and as sites of waste. The use of this language for me suggests that there isn't an awareness of the ways that underdevelopment is intentional.
The development of joint policies and action plans also means holding governments responsible for the ways in which they contribute to the pathology of sickness within urban communities as well the ways that health institutions in this city are homophobic, transphobic, racist and sexist. What are the levels of commitment from the various partners to engage in institutional transformation to make our communities safer? Part of the ways that privilege plays out is the the ones in positions of authority are often exempt from perpetuating social inequity - this looks like pathologizing our communities as 'at-risk' as opposed to examining the systems that not only create it, but function based upon it.
I look forward to your detailed responses."
If there are any questions that you ask when considering your participation in academic studies, please share below.
We have to remember that racism is terrifying because it works. We don’t blame people for dying from cancer, for not being strong enough to withstand the debilitating affects of the disease; we blame the disease and the terrifying way that it consumes the bodies of people that we love. Our focus needs to be on figuring out ways to counter the messages of shame and violence and target the message makers not to further shame the ones who are clearly suffering from it. We need to support community media makers and artists who create images in ways that affirm and recognize our multiplicity and illuminate the many ways that beauty manifests.
Read the rest on the Black Girl Dangerous Blog.
Fam, to those of you out there who are survivors I am speaking only to you. As a survivor of rape and years of sexual assault in my home, I negotiate daily as well as in all of my relationships the effect these experiences have had on my body. I have had to negotiate my desire, expressing desire, receiving both wanted and unwanted desire. I have worried if these things have made me dirty, or unlovable. I have worked hard to be a 'good girl' with few sexual partners with hopes that somehow neutralizes the violation of my body.
And as I connect with more folks who want to decolonize, and deconstruct shame and liberate us, I have learned new and important things that have been integral to my healing that I thought I might share:
1. It's okay if you want to be sexy. Sometimes the people who abused us might have said that we 'made them do it'. It isn't true, there are many different ways to respond to something that is sexy. I am sure you have many different ones. Your sexy is not the problem. The problem is that capitalism and sexism commodify our bodies and people are taught to derive power from desecrating us.
2. It is ok if you enjoy 'rape fantasies', power play, S & M. It is okay if you enjoy even re-enacting your experience. You may find it feels liberating to have control over a situation that you didn't have control over. It might feel like going back in time and getting to have a 'do-over'. If you don't like or enjoy this or this feel scary, that is okay too. You deserve the sex that makes you feel affirmed. There is violence, and pain in sex that can be healthy if you consent to it. Violence isn't the problem, consent is. You are not dirty or bad if you like violence in your sex.
3. Racism, Ablesim, Transphobia, Classism - Some/all/other/none of these things may have been a part of your experience and your healing. There is a hierarchy that is applied in 'victimhood' (you may not identify with this term, that is okay too). Male or masculine of centre folks' experience can be met with disbelief, sex workers, Folks of Colour. These things can also affect the kind of help, support and responses you get from other people. Trust your gut and trust your struggle, if something someone says feels icky, go with it and remove yourself from that space physically, mentally, emotionally - disassociate if you have to. Disassociation can be a powerful tool that you have to take care of yourself.
4. This is real. It effects you, it doesn't define you, but it means things and it evokes feelings, strategies and responses which are all your bodies way of taking care of itself. That is really great. You don't have to force yourselves to watch movies with rape scenes, or cuddle if you don't want to, or hug a new friend or an old friend. It's okay to feel sad and get depressed about it cause it is hard and we often have to carry it by ourselves and never get to talk about it and the whole world just keeps going and expects us to do the same. That is fucked up and we didn't choose that.
5. You are precious beyond measure.
"I love Hood Femmes
Gold doorknocker earrings
Three inch teal nails adorned in jewels that put any queen to shame.
Love your curves and
the way you cuss me with that mouth
Baby it's like you speak in tongues
Love Chola Femmes
The gorgeous gradient of rich brown lip pencil outlines
Into whispers of cream
And all the Desi Femmes dripping in gold outside and in
Layers of coal black hair
You are made of so many browns that strain against the imagination
You made us possible
And the more I stole glances of you, the more I could steal glances of me.
This landscape covered in snow
You were as hot and luminescent as the houses I passed one Diwali night in Trinidad.
With practiced poise, you arched eyebrows and slicked down baby hair.
Filling scentless hallways with life giving smells of turmeric, coconut and Calgon
And there were so many of us who were both, who were all, who were so many versions of
Our possibilities are endless in the ways we do Black, Yellow, Brown and Red
And there are so many femmes I haven't named who exist in technicolor
And I write these femmes because these were the ones in my hood
The ones who I studied
The ones I first loved at 15
Posted up at their respective corners at the intersection of Keele & Eglinton
And for the Femme Sisters from The Middle East, First Nations Femmes, Femmes from all across The Continent and all the femmes I have not named
I will work to learn you
And love you
If only from afar
And up close if I get the chance"
I am so blessed for every femme of colour space I have ever had. This world works so hard to diminish our glory, to pretend that they don't/can't/won't love us. As part of my decolonizing practice, I work to be humbled by your ugly and your beauty, to listen more and check my ego and to love you like my life depends on it - because it does.