On Queer, Black, Femme Survival: When The Spirit Says Move, You Move

I woke up this morning to tea and silence. I’ve been feeling a heightened sense of urgency in my bones. I can literally feel it like swift currents of electricity moving through unseen mazes of never ending walls and dark corridors.

I had a panic attack early Wednesday morning. I haven’t had one in so long. I fell asleep while in the middle of this attack and had a wild dream. It was so telling of everything that’s going on now and my reaction to it. Here’s a bit of what I remember: So much chaos was happening all around me. I’m in the car with my roommate, her dog, and kid, and we’re driving along some highway and listening to whatever playlist she’s made because she refuses to let me play music in her car most of the time (I’m very sporadic with my music tastes). As usual, I’m staring out the window, and I see people running to the banks of the highway from their cars, large masses of people about to hang a banner along a highway bridge — I’m hoping it says Fuck Trump. Into the distance I see what I think is a huge line of traffic in front of us. We’re rapidly approaching, and as we get closer, I see that it’s not traffic. It’s a massive pileup of wrecked cars. Fear begins to rise in me because I’m thinking, “Is she gonna be able to stop in time? Why are so many cars piled up? Why are there people to my right running from their cars and yelling? Why am I afraid to look to my left?”

 

All the sudden we’re coming to a screeching halt to avoid wrecking into the next car, and my thoughts are on what’s happening behind me. I begin to take off my seatbelt because I want to run like everyone else is. Something goes off in my mind, and I laugh. “WTF are you doing? Put it back on,” is what I hear. I look to my right and of course in the middle of all of the chaos there is this small pathway along the highway that is open. It seems as if time stopped but I’m sure all of these things happened within seconds. My roommate reverses, positions the car in the direction we need to go, and I’m calm. I wake up, and I’m just like, what the fuck?

 

I dream a lot so after waking I meditated on what all of that meant for me and how I was feeling before I went to sleep and when I woke up. I’m an observer and with everything that has been happening in my life in the past few years it always comes down to me trusting my observations and people who I hold close; trusting that we always can find a way out even in fear. There’s always a pathway that is there for us. Sometimes we are our own pathway. I feel this so hard, and I think my dream was a representation of that, that we have to trust each other in finding ways out.

 

This week has made me recall moments where I’ve pondered on fear. I always do things in spite of, never letting my fear get the best of me. There was a conversation I had with a guy from Russia at a vintage store I used to work in a while back. I can’t remember the entirety of our conversation, but I remember him asking, “What do you do about fear, though?” I simply responded, “I listen to it.” My fear always tells me something.

 

My fear made me think about my future. I questioned so much in the past several days. I thought about how hard it is to find work and how I’m the best hustler I know because I always make things happen and even when things fall apart around me there is ALWAYS something else that I move into. I thought about my creative desires and what would happen if they never come to fruition. I thought about how safe I would be going forward from the heightened security that I would see in future hours, days, and months. I thought about how I have never felt completely safe and how I fear for my friends, family, and lovers safety. I thought about my anger and frustration and what it means when I am working in customer service and have to hear white people talk about how sad they are about the state of America and how they can’t stop crying about it. How they feel at a loss. How I don’t have time to feel that. I have to keep going. How it’s been like this long before the election and how it’s gonna continue to be like this. How Wednesday morning, an old black man on the subway said, “I fear for your future honey,” as he got off the train. How I wanted to say to him, “I don’t. I’m ready.”

 

I went to work Wednesday morning and could barely cry even though I kind of wanted to. You know when you want to cry, and you can just feel the dryness in your eyes and maybe you get like one really hot tear that falls slowly down your face? That’s how I felt. That’s what happened to me that day. I silently observed so much. How I felt looking at the solemn faces on the subway. How every black person I locked eyes with smiled in passing, nodded their head, or said “I feel you,” in our short connection. The sense of urgency that is in all of us. I felt it all.  It’s like we were in a sort of silent back and forth in sharing of breaths. I held the sighs of the woman next to me. She held mine. We all knew that we had to keep going and all we gave each other that lil’ push.

 

Sometimes those little pushes come digitally. I’m so into secretly sharing resources. My ex-girlfriend taught me some basic coding a while back and always talked to me about how she wanted to figure out a way to really make the internet work to our advantage. How we should be able to find each other in that coded language that most people take for granted.

 

I saw a bit of that happening this week. With live Google docs and articles popping up like wildfire letting us know what we need to do, who we need to call, and where we need to go in these upcoming months. My best friend wrote a piece on Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, and it drove me to want to write short little poems about my anger and drop them into white people’s pockets so that they could somehow wonder about how I’m feeling. I thought about all the safe spaces that are being created for POC; how I know and love on some of those people who are creating these spaces; how this week it was intimate space that I shared with friends cause I didn’t really feel like going out. I feel so fucking seen right now and feel my consistent state of silence/solitude validated. I thought about this vibe of active listening I felt happening when I would be completely honest about my feelings as white customers asked me how I felt while working this week. I thought about how my friends checked in on me most days. I thought about how life didn’t stop for me. I had interviews to go to and phone calls to make, and people to meet with. I kept going.

 

I thought about how music creates a shield around me, so I listened to all of my favorite songs and screamed along at every chance. I thought about how now more than ever I see white people putting their hands into their wallets and creating sites for people to request funds. I saw my friends creating not so petty statuses about how their white friends need to show up and do some domestic work around their houses cause right now we need time to really dig into our feelings instead of doing menial work around our houses. YT people, it’s time to put in WORK.

 

I thought about what I really want. I want white people to accept the reality that their families are fucked up, and they can’t run away from it. I want white people also to understand that being pissed and not having space for white fragility in my life doesn’t mean that I don’t create with white people. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love on white people. I really, really, really want white people to actually get to know what whiteness is so real dialogues can happen.

 

I want to be able to have conversations across the intersections of POC. I want us to be able to yell about it, to call each other on our shit, and to really listen. I want us to be able to cry with each other about how frustrating it is to figure out how to be there for each other without hurting each other – because realistically – we gonna hurt each other sometimes.

 

I want us to be raw about how we see each other so we can know who we are looking in the eyes. I want us to admit that we are silent about what each of us struggles with; admit that we don’t take care of each other at various moments – and sometimes we just can’t, and that’s OK; that we hold hostile doubt about how we can move and shake shit up. How whiteness has caused us to be fearful of really being soft with one another. How myths of productivity have taught us to see the person whose creative moments have been put on pause as lazy, ignorant, and not using their full potential. How we see what we want and desire out of each other but we aren’t looking past that to really see what the other wants. I want us to build with each other and protect each other’s solitudes.

 

I want us to imagine what it’s like to really communicate with each other on that level of mutual respect and understanding. How digging into our own personal storms and walking through the debris will allow us to be able to survey the aftermath. Then we can talk to each other about what the fuck is happening and how we can make moves.

 

How then, do we dig into our storms? I am reminded of Audre Lorde’s A Litany for Survival — how we weren’t meant to survive anyway. But we do. We are subverting life itself. How fucking beautiful is that? I took several moments to look at myself and my own subversion: I am here. I am Black. I am femme. I am queer. FUCK YES.

 

When I woke up Wednesday morning, my thoughts weren’t on crying. My thoughts weren’t on “OMG HOW DID THIS HAPPEN TO US?” My thoughts were “Bitch you already knew. Get your clothes on cause you have an interview to kill today.” There was no pause in my thoughts. I pushed through my exhaustion, through the pain of migraines. I became the sun and moon all at once. I rise and I set regardless.

 

This morning I thought about how I couldn’t think of words for how I felt watching Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie try to have dialogue with Emmett Tyrrell on how Trump is literally endorsed by racists. How the lack of communication that happened in that convo is literally how I feel in conversations daily. Like the white guy who came into my coffee shop a couple of weeks ago to tell me that he wants to make an archival video of all of the media on the police killings of black people; how he wanted validation for his creative project; how he was questioned by people on why, and wanted me to tell him that his project is warranted. How on Wednesday the white woman I work with was so distraught that she had to go home early (totally valid or whatever), and I couldn’t cause I had shit to do later in the day and so in my exhaustion I stayed in the office and continued to work and it was a perfect depiction of how I can’t escape having to produce. This has nothing to do with my thoughts towards her. She’s brilliant, and I love working with her. But it’s the constant reminder that goes off in my head daily that I have to keep going constantly. My education doesn’t matter. My skills don’t matter. My blackness only matters in the guise that I have to be the best at all of it. I can’t be broken. Any little crack is cause for a spotlight to be shone on.

 

I thought about how white people’s relationship to their own whiteness is rooted in some sort of twisted sadomasochism. I could share an archive of references on the various pains that have been inflicted by whiteness, yet the reaction to that sharing would result in some sort of sick pleasure from the humiliation of it all. It seems to be a fucking never ending push and pull between blood and embarrassment. I’m so puzzled by it, and yet I have to sit and watch it happen.

 

At this point and time, I’m in a space where I feel those “can’t be bothered” vibes. I don’t want to hold space with white people on how they feel. I don’t even want to hold space with someone who is forgiving of white America on how they feel. Right now I want to talk about being angry. About how a system shutdown and reboot is in order. I want to talk about how we can imagine new systems of governance. New systems of protecting each other and what they look like. I’m looking to people who really delve into the unknown and create alternate livable spaces out of it. I’m looking to Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor,  and Zora Neale Hurston for inspiration. More importantly, I’m looking to Adrienne Marie Brown, and thinking of this specific post.

 

Because we obviously need to be looking to those drooping trees and to how the sun and moon rise and set with rage now more than ever. I want to hold space with people who want to talk about possibilities of the unknown. If you want to talk about that and create stories around it with me, let’s link. If you want to share resources, I’m down — just ask first. I am holding rage so softly right now and letting it happen. I’m looking at it in its fiery eyes. They are smiling at me and telling me to go. More than ever I am in love with the unknown and moving spirits.