Dear Black and Bisexual Woman
Dear Black and Bisexual Woman,
Life has been a rollercoaster to say the least.
Your earliest years were spent in one of Manhattan’s wealthiest neighborhoods, bordered by John Jay Park and the East River. Your Saturday mornings were filled not with the sounds of gunfire and police sirens, but the joyous, carefree cries of children playing, the satisfying ‘pop’ of tennis balls against rackets, the jingle of the ice cream truck parked outside of your building. There were playdates, sleepovers and endless invitations to birthday parties. When school let out for summer, you spent it traveling, usually to Jamaica or England.
But enjoying a privileged life didn’t mean you were always secure in yourself.
There was not much blackness around you, except your parents, your first tutor and no more than two friends. Appreciating your dark skin was an uphill battle. The effects of living in a white supremacist country had seeped into your blood and were eating away at you, bit by bit. You see it now, all these years later. But you didn’t have the life experience as a child to contextualize what was happening.
In kindergarten, you looked sadly at all the children with their flowing hair. Yours was thick and matted, pure hell for any comb to get through without special products. You came up with a solution. You snuck a pair of stockings in your backpack, put them on your head, and let the legs dangle to emulate the only paradigm of beauty you knew. You pranced around, proclaiming, “I want long hair!” only to return home, pull off the stockings, and see the same, nappy mass. It was so unfair. Why couldn’t you be pretty like your white peers?
Your elementary school friends embraced you and you embraced them. But they didn’t know of your personal struggle. They weren’t aware of the stocking episodes at Multimedia Pre-School, nor did they know that you sometimes scrubbed your skin during baths to try to lighten it. They didn’t hear you groan, “I’ll never win,” which was your way of putting yourself down. But at eight or nine years old, why would race enter the conversation, when the only thing that mattered was whether or not the new Spice Girls CD was as good as the first?
Your third grade teacher, an old white woman, never told your white classmates to “shut up,” nor did they have to degrade themselves by fishing their food out of the garbage after she threw it out. She lost patience because you were bored and wouldn’t stop tapping your lunchbox with a pencil. You were too stunned to react and she thought she could get away with it, because what chance did a black child have against a white, tenured teacher in a white majority school? Your father, your staunchest defender, made sure you were transferred to another class with a teacher who treated you like a human being. Still, the damage was done, irreparably in some ways.
Fast forward to those awkward high school years when, after much hesitation, you came out as bisexual when you were seventeen. Your first sexual experience was with a girl you met while touring potential colleges. One thing led to the next, and though you spent most of the night on your back while she did the work, you loved how she felt, her smell, the warmth of her eyes and smile. You fell in love with her but that was shattered when she revealed she was elsewhere committed.
Your father wasn’t surprised. He said there was something about the way you carried yourself, a certain masculine energy you exuded that made him wonder. Your mother asked, “how do you know?” not be cause she wanted to change you, but she worried about the difficulty the additional hurdle would bring.
Look at where you are now. Loud, proud and unapologetic in spite of omnipresent prejudice. Living your truth as a queer, black woman has cost you friendships along the way, but you made peace with that ages ago. You can move through any circle you choose, but you know who you are and you make sure everyone around you knows it, too.
It has been a challenge to get to this point, but be happy you arrived. Many don’t.
You at Thirty Years Old