Life as a Black, Non-binary Teenager Is Difficult
Growing up Black and queer is a perspective that not many people get to experience, but it’s one that helps you see and understand intersectionality between race and gender — especially in a state where neither identity is particularly favored: Texas.
The relationship between queerness and blackness is one that has always existed; one of the first drag queens documented in American history was a Black man named William Dorsey Swan, a slave that lived from 1858 to 1925. From the Harlem scene in the 1920s to the gay liberation movements in the 1960s and 80s led by queer BIPOC, black and queer folk have been a constant target for oppression: the Florida gay club shooting and the countless killings of young black men and women. But although there is a rich history of Black and queer communities, there has been a strain on the two identities.
Personally, I haven’t lived my entire life fully accepting that I am bisexual, let alone non-binary. In the Black community, the topic of LGBTQ+ issues is looked down upon. With the interconnectedness of religion and Black America, being Black and gay to many people to this day still seems like a foreign concept due to a religious barrier. At the height of the BLM movement, when people were bringing attention to the lack of action in regards to Black trans and other queer folk in a fight for civil rights, many Black people sought to alienate the identities of being queer and being Black -- a position that lacks an understanding of intersecting identities in every aspect.
Around mid-October in 2020, I ultimately came out to not only myself but also my friends as well. Luckily, I had very supportive friends during that time, but unfortunately, my family wasn’t on the same page. I was outed the same month to my parents, an issue that almost led me into ending up in conversion therapy with many other teenagers like me.
Being Black and non-binary has brought another major rift between my parents and me. Before I was outed, I tried to ease my parents into the idea of my queer identity by introducing myself to them as an ally to the community. After explaining my position, they decided that even being supportive was unacceptable.
Now, living in the Bible Belt South, I understand that being bisexual is more accepted than being non-binary, especially as an Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB). With trans youth and people who identify outside the traditional gender spectrum becoming the new focus in American culture as seen with the bathroom bills across the states and other anti-trans bills being or in the process of being passed in recent years, it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain discretion regarding gender identity.
Just like the microaggressions that come with racism, the same applies to being non-binary. Questions such as are you AMAB or AFAB? When it comes to cis people, why do they still feel the need to place people into certain boxes, or why don’t you dress androgynously? In mainstream media, representation for people outside the gender binary has increased with platforms such as TikTok and Youtube, but it has taken a form that is white, androgynous, and AFAB, excluding so many people that use the same label such as me.
All of this has caused me to actively not be myself in front of many people. I hide part of my identity, as a nonbinary, out of fear of being targeted by those who are not so accepting.