Image: June Millicent Jordan Caribbean-American poet, an activist & driving force behind issues of race, gender and identity.
As a bisexual, biracial woman of color, I often find that my identity is full of in-betweens. LGBTQIA/Queer culture can often feel like somewhere I am not always welcomed in, parallel to my experiences with the African American community. So where do I fit in? How do I fit into this culture that, although is centered around love and acceptance, is often polarized by how “gay” you really are? Even when in women loving women relationships, I’ve still been told to “pick a side”. I’ve also been told to choose whether I am Black, Native American, or white. I want to draw between these two parts of my identity, how they intersect, how they clash, and how I fit into cultures that I love, even when they don’t always love me back. How do “people like us” find space?
I didn’t know I was bisexual until I was 19 years old. I was at the pivotal point of transitioning into adulthood while also discovering who I was and what I was attracted to. I never thought that my racial identity and my sexual identity would ever intersect with each other. Yet, when I go anywhere with my white girlfriend or her family, I become crippled by more than just our obvious queer relationship because I am almost always the only person of color in the room. Even in a queer-friendly or queer-centered environment, I feel the otherness of race. It’s even more difficult for black transgender women; according to the Human Rights Campaign Black transgender women face the highest levels of fatal violence within the LGBTQ community and are less likely to turn to the police for help for fear of re-victimization by law enforcement personnel.
It seems like no matter where I turn, which communities I belong to, I always fall in the in-betweens. Being in the in-between means you will always be an outsider. It means when you’re 15 and in the lunch line someone will tell you that you “talk like a white person” and you will never really, truly, be one of them. It also means that the first time you tell someone you are bisexual they tell you “just pick one” as if you hadn’t tried that already.
That isn’t to say that there’s not a level of privilege that comes with these in-betweens, because there are. My lighter complexion will and has made my life easier than someone of a darker complexion, and that is why it can often be hard to include mixed and biracial identities in the conversation. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. That speaks for queer people of color as well. We can’t have a conversation if we’re not including the entire scope of the community, and that includes everyone.
It’s complicated, obviously. And a bit of a double-edged sword; it will probably always feel this way. So I try and embrace the in-between. No one will ever fully understand where you come from, and that’s okay. I think most people feel that way. The best thing to do is share your experiences in whatever way you can. I like when people ask me about my sexuality because it helps them realize that not everyone’s experience is the same.
Realizing that your experience may be easier, or harder than someone else’s, helps you better understand the complexities that come with sexuality and identity. It isn’t always as cut and dry and people make it seem.
The intersectionality of identities allows for minority spaces to be diverse in themselves; when I realized how what seemed to just be me, not parts of me, all intersected in different ways I realized that it matters. It does matter if you are a woman, POC and queer, because your voice, experience, and needs are completely different than those of a cis-gender, straight, white man.
I will always feel a little in-between. No matter where I go, chances are, I’ll stick out like a sore thumb or feel like an outsider. That’s why diverse spaces are so important. The good thing is, there’s a lot of us who feel that way, and maybe because of that, we’ll feel a little less alone. We can create our own space and be heard.
Words by Abby Jamison.
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