Validation and visibility as a queer black woman

Let me start by saying: protect black trans women, protect black LGBTQ people. Protect black people.

I am a black bisexual cis-woman here at the U. I’ve been here for quite some time now, but I can clearly remember when I started as a freshman, oh-so-eager to finally break away from the grip of my family and explore all of my being here at college. My first exposure to this exploration came while I was sitting in the SpectrUM office for the first time. It was amazing. I felt so seen and so recognized. It was unlike anything that I had experienced before.

Over time, however, it became apparent to me how the space was not what I initially thought it was. I was the only black person that continually frequented the office. Not seeing anyone who looked like me made it difficult to be my authentic black self. For example, when I would bring up different black LGBTQ people or just some famous black people in general, there was often an instant disconnect. By the same token, I couldn’t relate to any of the Youtube stars or “famous gay people” that my peers would discuss and rave about.

I can also recall being in the office once during a meeting, where there was a group of black male students passing by the SpectrUM office. They all paused for a moment in front of the door and one of them started to walk in. We usually kept the door open to be welcoming and inviting to anyone who wanted to stop by. I was so excited to be joined by someone else black, but to my disgust and dismay, he darted out of the office, snickering away with his friends. To top this off, at the time, I was also going through hell and back with my parents, who I had just come out to. Eventually, I stopped going to the office.

At the time, I felt like my blackness and queerness couldn’t exist in the same space on campus. Even if I did want to find this intersectional environment, it wasn’t like I could just ask around to find out where all the other LGBTQ black people were on campus, right? Well, I did try that and the majority of the time, I got an “I don’t know” with an awkward laugh.

Flash forward to the present: I found the black people that I was looking for. Some of them have become close friends, and while I am not as close with others, being conscious that they are present on campus is such a great feeling. Also, I am now happily in a hetero-normative relationship. As such, I often feel like I’m straying away from my queer identity since I am shrouded in the comfort of this privilege. Walking around with my partner is something that I do not even give a second thought, although I know things could be different if I was dating someone else. When people look at me with my partner, my bisexuality is erased by others who instantly perceive me as straight. If I was dating a female-identifying individual, I would likely be classified as “gay” by a lot of people. People tend to use “gay” as a blanket statement to describe the LGBTQIA+ community. However, for me, its use always felt so isolating because I’m honestly not gay. Boiling down my attraction for multiple genders to just being “gay” by others disregards my unique experience.

Overall, I feel like we now have more black people being outspoken about LGBTQ issues and living their authentic lives on campus and in the media. Scrolling through Instagram and seeing people such as Janelle Monae or Samira Wiley makes me smile a bit. Being able to see other people like me, bisexual or not, makes me feel validated. Still, there is work that needs to be done, so please refer to the first line of this letter.

Raven O. is a senior at the University of Miami.