Pride (A Deeper Love)
Today is June 1, the first day of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, a time we use to reflect on the contributions, history, politics, battles, and triumphs of people from LGBTQIA+ communities.
I always use this month (and not just this month to be honest) to try to understand why so many people hate and wish to destroy LGBTQIA+ people; how these people use their institutions—both religious and secular—to justify the harm they cause and camouflage it as “righteous,” “divine” even.
During the research I did for my novel, The Prophets, I learned that this anti-LGBTQIA+ pathology has a distinct and insidious origin. It begins with the European colonization and conquest of the world’s various Indigenous peoples. These early pirate/settlers used physical, psychological, and spiritual coercion to force the conquered to reject their own understandings of reality in favor of the ways outlined by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, where the sole purpose of human bodies is some form of production—whether that be reproduction, labor, or war.
In order to maximize that particular production value, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy requires that all people are crunched down into arrangements, boxes, and identities that lend themselves to providing the human supply necessary to keep the machine running (compulsory binaries like heterosexuality and cisgenderness; defining “womanhood” and “manhood” strictly by the genitals), and further, present this as the “natural, civilized order,” as “science.” And to ensure that we do not question and rebel against this falsehood, they enshrined this perspective in the dominant religions and assigned its origin to “God.”
This truth is not just hidden by its creators. Those who are mandated to embrace this way of being as their own are also complicit—sometimes with even more intensity than the oppressor. For it is as Ancestor James Baldwin once said: “You know, it's not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.”
Once I realized that my Indigenous African Ancestors, and the Ancestors of so many Indigenous societies, actually had an understanding and a place for what we now call LGBTQIA+ people, that they saw these existences as a natural part of the human spectrum and experience, it freed me from the dogma that has hounded me my entire life. I now had a lineage that contradicted all of the lies I had been told about who and what I was. This was a stunning and exuberating liberation.
And I continue to self-inspect to ensure that I am not falling into traps laid by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy to arrange my identity in ways that seem more suitable to its goals. This is part of the reason why I no longer refer to myself as “gay.” Gay, from my point of view, has become a very specific sociopolitical object. It seems to strive to emulate existing white supremacist capitalist patriarchal hegemonies and systems, with the only difference being sexual attraction. It appears to revel in superficiality, vanity, materialism, objectification, and nuclear dynamics; restricting beauty to skin-deepness, turning community into commodity, and equating affluence with love.
Instead, if and when I find a label necessary, I think of myself as same gender loving (SGL) or Queer because those terms describe a reality that moves in opposition to the mechanized, militarized way white supremacist capitalist patriarchy would rather have me think of myself and others. In rejecting that, I think very much of Black transgender, Intersex, and ENBY (nonbinary) people, whose existences generally fly in the face of all that we have been taught about biology and the human body by the power brokers and robber barons. They are some of the most pertinent examples of being liberated from the dominant class’s misapprehension of the natural world.
However, this does not come without a grave cost. The evidence is in the extraordinary violence directed against Black transgender women. Whether through words or action, the vast majority of the world is content with the dehumanization of this group; they measure their own humanity against Black transgender women’s, concluding that, as Ancestor Toni Morrison once said, and I am paraphrasing, that they can only be tall when Black transgender women are on their knees. In fact, when determining my own or another’s ability to be humane, to be politically progressive, to be an accomplice, the question I ask myself is: “How do I/How does this person regard Black transgender women?” The answer to this question usually protects me from danger and grants me access to safe people and spaces.
So much to consider, right? So much work to do to push this world in the direction of less harm when, increasingly, the world is demanding more.
But I digress. I realize that Pride is not supposed to be this somber. This is supposed to be a time of celebration. And if I have anything to celebrate, it is very much in the tradition of Lucille Clifton: “come celebrate/with me that everyday/something has tried to kill me/and has failed.”
May your Pride Month be safe, warm, peaceful, reflective, and loving.
As a bonus, here are my recommendations for books by Black LGBTQIA+ authors you should to add to your library:
I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux
Black Trans Feminism (Black Outdoors: Innovations in the Poetics of Study) by Marquis Bey
Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene A. Carruthers
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Yemaya’s Daughters by Dane Figueroa Edidi
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson
Homie by Danez Smith
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon