Black Joy Is For Black Queer Youth Too

Black queer love is underrepresented in the media and so is Black queer joy. Black queer youth, who face the unique challenges of double marginalization, deserve #blackjoy too.

Smiling young non-binary person with skateboard looking at female friend in park
Photo: Getty Images

I realized I was queer during my last semester at a predominantly white high school in the suburbs.

My parents transitioned me from online schooling to brick-and-mortar school, hoping that it would ease my way into attending college for the first time. At the time, I had gone through phases of feeling as if I wasn't straight but knew that my thoughts around it were too complex to handle. So, I entered school hoping that I would fit in— despite it being a space of white heteronormativity.

Naturally, I had trouble navigating who I was. I found myself in a whirlwind of emotions and a plethora of conflicts. I ended my first semester of 12th grade with an out-of-school suspension record and a wavering GPA.

When my two-week suspension ended, I ran into a girl in the hallways named Iman. She had a curly afro, a hoop nose ring, and wore pants with flowers on them. We ended up in the same senior elective class, where we peer-facilitated and spent days in the library together when the students would go on field trips.

As we sat in a room we booked in the library, pouring over homework assignments, she disclosed to me that she was queer. I looked up from my Chromebook, seeing something bigger than myself for the first time.

I twiddled with my thumbs and thought about how I would respond to her. "I think I am, too," I said nonchalantly. She looked at me and smiled.

That day in the library was the first time I acknowledged my queerness out loud. Media stories, like Kevin Hart declaring that he would "smash a dollhouse" on his son's head if he ever caught him playing with one and rapper Yung Miami from the City Girls claiming that she would "beat her son" if he was gay, taught me something.

I wanted to experience the love that was in the movies. Not just fairytale stories—stories that reminded me of Love and Basketball and Love Don't Cost a Thing. But there were no movies showing me how deeply queer people can love each other.

Years prior, I was sneaking downstairs to the computers in my parents' living room under the disguise of bi-girl1998 in forums and chat rooms. I thought about the times that I would openly spew words of hatred toward the community that I knew I somewhat belonged. My actions were an attempt to gaslight myself into believing that it wasn't who I was. This internalized homophobia showed up in other ways too. When I was 12, I walked through Wal-Mart, proudly declaring that gay people were sinners. Years later, in the frozen aisle of Kroger, my sister pulled me to the side and asked if the rumors of my high school fling were true. At first, I denied it. I had played a role where I would assimilate into the culture around me—afraid my queerness threatened my ability to fit in—for many years. I eventually caved and told my sister that I liked girls, and I didn't know how to deal with it. But it would be years before I realized I did this to protect myself in a world that was unkind to queer Black kids.

I found that I felt unsure of who I was growing up because I was falling into multiple marginalized groups. In 2020, The Trevor Project reported that "38% of Black LGBTQ youth reported discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity" and "35% of Black LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away." While as an adult, I found community and learned that being both Black and queer is a beautiful and enlightening experience. But many youths don't experience this because they don't have support.

I realized Black queer kids are underrepresented in the media and rarely shown having joy in their identity. They often face people and groups who hope to silence who they are instead of nurturing them into the people they know they want to be. Some may argue that they accept queer people but do not wish that upon their own children. This rhetoric is dangerous, and it dismisses the journey that an individual must go on to accept themself fully.

I wanted to experience the love that was in the movies. Not just fairytale stories—stories that reminded me of Love and Basketball and Love Don't Cost a Thing. But there were no movies showing me how deeply queer people can love each other. The times when I was introduced to queer love, it was often brushed to the side and kept behind closed doors.

I dreamed of marrying a woman, but gay marriage wasn't even legalized in the United States when I was growing up.

Still, I spent the rest of my semester writing emails to Iman and tried to rid my memory of the stares from teachers that we received while holding hands or the backlash that we feared would announce itself if our families were to find out.

I felt conflicted everywhere with my identity. After high school, I somewhat came out of the closet. I worked as a nanny to get me through college. I was 21, trying to teach kids how to be inclusive but was met with hesitancy when they asked me if I had a boyfriend and if I planned to have kids.

I faced a similar conflict whenever I would take care of my cousin. His dad would reprimand me for allowing him to play with brushes and combs because boys don't do that.

I almost had to do the tango, dancing between trying to be accepted by society while also navigating my own identity and being the older person to someone else that I needed to have in my life.

Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey, LPC, a doctoral-level licensed professional counselor and former graduate school instructor of multicultural and social diversity, emphasizes: "It is commonplace to explore the collectivism and social support found in minority populations, particularly among African Americans. However, that support is often not reflected when addressing Black queer youth."

She says Black communities can better support Black queer youth on their journeys by listening. "It is important to quiet yourself to understand the feelings and experiences of your loved ones, rather than trying to somehow change them." Person-Ramey says, noting listening brings understanding. "She says we should ask questions in a respectful manner. "Oftentimes, loved ones ask questions prematurely, and most of the time, these questions are judgmental and even offensive."

"By truly understanding the unique challenges that our loved ones face, we are better able to ask ways to offer support." Lastly, she says we should Make sure that Black queer youth feel seen, heard, and validated. "Make sure that your loved one is not simply a hashtag. Love and support them in the light and the dark."

In many ways, I wish that I could rewind and give myself the representation that I deserved. Black queer kids deserve the space to feel crushes, experience heartbreak, and most importantly, receive love from their family and community members.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles