Stud Struggles: We Just Out Here Trynna Function

Studs/dykes/butches/bois/masculine-presenting women and the like: Throw down your PlayStation controllers and raise your picket signs because enough is enough! How many more cookouts, conversation parties, kickbacks, baby showers, and other events must we attend where the conversation quickly and unnecessarily shifts focus to our very private business? Business that in no way involves the stranger asking and likely isn’t even relevant to the vibe? Soon as we walk in, it’s like game night to these people and I will no longer be played with. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been minding my own business enjoying very casual conversation before being asked some of the following foolishness at the function:

“How does strapping work?”

“Do you strap or do you get strapped?”

“So, why not just be with a guy?”

“YOU want to carry a baby??” 

“So. Question about strap-ons…”

“Do you like head?” (And proceeding to not offer any)

“Excuse me sir…oh my bad yo. HAHAHAHA”

Can I eat my honey BBQ wings in peace? Is the sex life you imagine I have more popping than what you should currently be doing on a handstand, sis? This is a party! There is a time and place for people to ask queer women these questions, I’m certain. However, I would appreciate the opportunity to finish my Prosecco and two-step with my friends without being interviewed by a bunch of bored, tipsy, nosey individuals. Please do not ask me about my bedroom activities in front of the potato salad! Please respect that I am uninterested in disclosing my plan to conceive children with a stranger I just met in the club. Please understand that you are NOT low when you use a tipsy game of Never Have I Ever to ask if I also enjoy dick. This is what happens when there isn’t enough food at parties. Mouths find less productive ways to keep busy.

I came here to get lit, and these recycled questions are not it y’all. Please consult YouTube for any questions you have for the community because the information is plentiful. The site is booming with women willing to explain themselves to anyone watching. I know masculine women are quite interesting and very fine, but I also know that people (women, men, etc.) can make conversation with us that does not include sexual harassment and other invasive inquiries. Especially in environments that offer free or discounted liquor! So with that said, if she didn’t volunteer this kind of information, please refrain from harassing that gay lady at the Rona cookouts I know you’re having. Find a snack and keep it pushing.

Dear World,

Black women deserve happiness and to live as much as anyone else. Recently, Breonna Taylor was murdered by police and Oluwatoyin Salau was sexually assaulted and murdered. She was know as Toyin and protested passionately for Black lives. Breonna was an award winning EMT- a highly physical job. There was another woman put in a dumpster. Another women was killed by her partner. Another woman stalked by an old partner. Another woman physically assaulted because she denied advances in the street. Another women tone “checked.” Another woman cat called. Another woman called a bitch. Another woman called a hoe. Another woman fat shamed. The list is infinite if the transgressions against Black women. We exist in world where racism is steadily chasing behind us while sexism is waiting at the sanctuary.

What is the value of a Black woman’s life aside from being a man’s peace? Where is the justice and passions for Black women who put themselves last and the world first? Where is the warmth and cuddle for a tired, head hung low Black woman? Who will protect me from the dangers of the works without trying to censor me in some way? How can I live my life freely? Am I not valuable unless I’m doing something that is valued by another person?

Existing in this body, in this space, in this time is not easy for a woman like me. For Black women, existence is not easy or valued. Our existence is expected because we have to be “strong.” We have to be a pillar. But my dear world, we are tired. We are weary and quite frankly, sometimes we get scared. My existence shouldn’t come at a price, loophole or conditions defined by patriarchy (which Black people have adopted and use against certain members of our community).

We deserve to be happy, joyous, carefree, and most of all, we deserve to live too. We are tired of being defined by stereotypes or tropes or pain. Let us define ourselves. Let us live the best way we see fit. Black women don’t have to fit your criteria for womanhood or Blackness to be deemed valuable enough to live.

This is an open letter to the many people who see through us or past us. I am the “ratchet Black women.” I am the Black women with long nails and lace fronts. I am the Black women who love anime. I am the women who love to create. I am the Black women who listen to Erykah Badu. I am the Black women who listen to Beyoncé. I am the Black women who studied tirelessly to graduate college. I am the Black women who come home from work with aching feet. I am the Black women who love thee Stallion and proudly stick their tongues out while they dance. They are me and I am them.

Black girl magic doesn’t just mean letters from the divine nine or a graduation cap. Black girl magic encompasses the girls from around the way, the girls with flowers in their Afros, girls in college, girls who love other girls, trans girls. Please let us live and see us for who we are and not what we can do for you.

Sincerely,

A tired Black girl who became a woman.

A Dream or a Nightmare ?

By Donovan Peterson

The local governments of New York and Rhode Island competed to be the capital of the North American slave trade and by the early 1800’s, Newport and Rhode Island outpaced New York to be the top slave suppliers

That is just to say; racism was never purely a Southern issue. And I say this because I know that it makes white liberals feel a bit better if they can pawn slavery on rednecks in the Appalachia with character defects. While they aren’t necessarily wrong, this characterization is a misrepresentation at worst and a deflection at best. If a racist threatens to hang me, I will know my enemy; confirm him. Act accordingly. But silence among friends in the face of tyranny is both deafening and complicit. And confusing.

Racism in fact permeates just about every facet of society. I don’t understand what else anyone would expect after a society is built on slave labor and native land. It doesn’t go away magically after 400 years with a stroke of a feather pen and it doesn’t just stay in the South like mullets and hot chicken. Human minds and values were corrupted. A 250 year machine was constructed that stole lives from birth to death and decimated generations. That’s not 90 second rice.

I believe this why W.E.B Dubois coined a term “double consciousness”.

If you’d like an explanation, you probably have one of those supercomputer things in your fucking pocket that could help. But seriously, the knowledge of my history combined with seeing what feels tantamount to black murder porn several times over the past few years…it makes sense to say that being black in America has caused me irreversible mental anguish and sadness. It’s become an impossible task to compartmentalize it all, but at the same time I’m grateful and proud to be black and to be a small part of the mad man sort of resilience it takes to have some respect for yourself in a country that recently figured out that your people were indeed human beings not too long ago.

Black people have always expressed pain through music or art.

As a gesture of both this sadness and love that I feel; I asked my friends to come and say what they felt on a mic. One of my friends lost his freedom the day after he laid down his verse and I knew this was urgent. For us; there is no refuge. There is no choice. There is no South, East, West or North. There is no taking a uniform off. There is no silence. There is only continued struggle. There is only total liberation.

Click here to hear the contribution.

Donovan is a guest writer who currently resides from Baltimore. Although his beginnings are not in the city, he embodies the Baltimore spirit and drive. He is an artist, cat enthusiast, and writer for medium. He

Eight Years Later, We Have Another Black Body

I was a senior in high school in 2012. This was also the year every senior in high school watched Trayvon Martin’s murderer walk innocently out of a courtroom. We all watched the trial diligently. My friends and I just knew that he would be guilty and he would go to jail. Eight years later, I am still shocked by the verdict but somehow Black bodies are still being publicly executed. Black bodies are still being disregarded because they are Black.

The year every senior watch the mockery of justice.

At that time, I was 17 and the not guilty verdict turned my entire world upside down and inside out. I knew racism existed but I didn’t know just how deeply it was engrained into American culture. AntiBlackness is not a new phenomenon that suddenly swept the nation. It happens on a grand scale and especially in small circumstances. Looking back on my high school experience, there were several examples of antiBlackness and racism from classmates and teachers. I had a government teacher tell me to think of slavery as a “business venture.” A middle aged, balding white man who strongly resembled Lord Voldemort told a room full of Black students to not condemn slavery but consider it from a different perspective. “Consider it a great business that benefited the American economy.” Another history teacher decided to ask me how much of my box braids was actually my real hair. Never had he asked a white girl this question. Never had he picked of a lock of a white girl’s hair and examined it.

When Trayvon Martin died, I revisited the moments in my head. I had revisited the lessons on slavery, the murmurs from white kids who separated themselves from the Black kids, other non Black POC students smirking with glee when Black girls feened for their long silky hair, or white boys who found Black girls physically attractive but couldn’t take them home. All those moments added up in my head to just how society viewed Blackness and Black bodies. We weren’t just peers or children. We were Black boys and girls who became Black women and men who would be seen as a threat.

Trayvon Martin was seen as threat before he even entered the neighborhood of George Zimmerman. A 17 year old loving his life without regard for whiteness. A threat. A young Black boy freely walking without fears a threat. A young Black boy existing in his own space that didn’t serve whiteness in that moment. A threat. A young Black boy becomes dangerous when he puts on a hoodie because of the value whiteness has placed upon us. A Black body should be visible. A Black body needs to be announced; they need to see Blackness coming their way to determine what value they want to place on it. A hoodie becomes a shield and stereotype for Black boys.

Zimmerman was described as a white Hispanic. A term used to pacify his crime. His proximity to whiteness allows him access to innocence while being Hispanic condemns him. However, when your identity is associated with whiteness, you seem to have more leeway in a society that devalues Blackness and upholds and uplifts whiteness. You also have the keys to be just the right amount of racist. So racist that you can kill a child in cold blood.

After the murder, of course protests sparked around the nation. T-shirts and memorials all over to raise awareness. Even President Obama said, “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Yet somehow, after Trayvon was the unofficial sacrificial lamb to the Black Lives Matter movement (hence the Emmett Till comparisons), we still have Black bodies being brutalized. We still have public executions to keep our Black bodies from being as threatening as possible. The question is why?

Why is Blackness still a threat? Why is the value of the Black body not attached to the value of the things whiteness can take from it? Why does racism and antiBlackness still burdened the lives of Black people?

Racism is tightly woven into American culture. From the time European immigrants stepped on the shores of this land, they have done nothing but assault and erase people of color. They created laws that would uphold their ideals and power. Created loopholes in official documents that would allow racism to fester and spread. Span for hundreds of years and reinvent itself through various systems and vocabulary.

Before Trayvon was Rodney. After Trayvon was Sandra, Eric, Tamir, Freddie, Korryn, Philando, and many more. In the year 2020, eight years after my senior year and the death of Trayvon Martin, we have a slew of Black bodies being assaulted and brutalized. Obviously, we need change and we need justice. We need to redefine justice and how it is executed. We need a reform in policing, and most of all we need a shift in mindset, which is the hardest thing to do in a country that determines the value of your body based on what it can offer- including the satisfaction of invoking terror upon you- and what you look like. That is the hardest part. Accuracy in history and culture can create a shift. Representation and decriminalizing minuscule things associated with Blackness, like wearing a hoodie per say can create a shift.

As Dr. Angela Y. Davis once said, “we have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” This is the key to prevent Black youth from seeing more Black bodies lifeless in their lifetime.

Depression Has Been Kicking My Ass for Over a Decade …

I don’t know about y’all but I was a timid kid. I was agreeable and I didn’t cause much trouble in school. I was labeled as a “good kid.” I got great remarks on my report card and praise from teachers. At home, I was either quiet or had spurts of talking too much. For as long as I can remember, maybe around age 7, I had spurts of sadness that lasted days or fits of irritability that lasted for days. Of course, growing up in my household, “there was no reason to be sad.” I was a child and children were supposed to have one emotion- happiness. I did my best to keep up with that, although I had my first thought of suicide when I was 8 years old. I thought about shoving a knife into my stomach- childish, I know but I didn’t tell anyone. I learned pretty quickly to not speak of those things; I learned to mask what I was feeling. I used to play with Barbie dolls, and oddly enough every time I played with them, I ended up mentioning something related to sadness or suicide. That was unintentional.

In school, I was labeled “weird” and “smart.” I was also accused of having an attitude problem because needless to say at times I was moody. Something was always wrong but I didn’t know what and I wasn’t sincerely being asked either. I just thought I was weird, like everyone said. As I grew into being a preteen and teen, my “weirdness” grew with me. In middle school, I was rather shy and hid myself. In high school, my 10th grade year in particular, I noticed something was way off. There were days when I felt extremely upset. I didn’t want to get out of bed and I just felt like I just couldn’t that day, whatever that was. I had teachers who were obnoxious, peers who were annoying, friends who I didn’t want to bogged down, and I’m sure there was some boy that was on my kind. My school work made me incredibly tense. I stressed everyday about something. I was asked, “how and why could someone your age could be stressed?” But by this time, I thought I as just going through teenage girl mood swings. I was pushing my “weirdness” and “sadness” to the back of my mind to pursue other things that made me feel happy for the moment. I graduated. I started college. The beginning of college was one of the hardest times in my life. I felt so miserable. I felt so drained before my classes even started. I was not enthused or anticipating this newfound journey. I watched as the girls bounced happily around the campus and there I was, watching them bounce around me. This was the second phase in my life when I started to randomly cry. The first time I ever cried randomly was when I was 6 years old.

Bouts of tears has become normal by the time I was in college and it was here that I became addicted to working. It was here that I realized something was off and it was here that I discovered therapy. After that moment, my spiral into therapy started but so did the spiral of my life. I learned after 2 therapists and 2.5 years that I was depressed. I have major depressive disorder and of course, it invited its friends: anxiety and a form of PTSD. I was surprised slightly. I had small glimpse of my life leading up to that moment, starting with childhood. That was in 2014-2015. Here I am now, on the brink of 25, still battling and still hoping. Hoping that when I have my highs, they last forever. A high is when I don’t have to nestle the sheets and cocoon myself in the morning. A high is making plans with my friends and following through with them. It’s making jokes, waking up on time, being somewhere in time. It’s going to the gym. It’s looking the mirror and smiling. It’s planning my outfits. It’s planning effective lessons- yes, I’m a teacher. It’s saying, “hey, my days wasn’t so bad after all.” It’s not feeling life the world and life is just happening around me. It’s a lot of things that don’t always happen.

So what does depression look like for me? It’s:

  • Forgetting
  • Being irritable
  • Not writing
  • Not reading anything
  • Wanting to stay in, all the time
  • Not doing my usual things
  • Extremely upset
  • Extremely sad
  • Waking up late
  • Waking up but not getting out of bed
  • Getting to work 15-20 minutes late
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Wanting to sleep all day
  • Crying
  • Not meal prepping
  • Not putting effort into my work or assignments
  • Not seeing my friends
  • Over eating
  • Not eating
  • Not talking
  • Crying after almost every conversation

Depression and the lows I have look like a lot for me. They can last for days, up to a week. Then comes the high. I envision myself as a scale. I’m trying to find balance but it’s very delicate. A lot of things throw off the balance. A lot of things are triggering.

I think about my battle with depression because a new decade is starting soon and I’m turning 25 next month. Depression has been kicking my ass for over a decade and I am tired. I don’t want to see myself as the confused, sad 7 year old I was. I want to move forward optimistically but also realistically. Living with depression is not easy. Living with anxiety or PTSD is not easy. It is not something that you can ignore- I did that all my life and it got worse. (I have stories about that. I’ll tell y’all that later. Whew). It’s not something that you can just “pray” away. (I am a Christian and understand the complexities of being a Black Christian. However, I am a realistic Christian.) It’s not something that you can smoke away- didn’t try that and I really don’t want to. You can’t drink it away- fell down that rabbit hole. And you can definitely not sex it away- no comment here.

So the question becomes, what’s am I going to go after being beat up for over a decade?

I have to remember to ground myself. But I also have to remember that in a way, I just started confronting these things. 2013 until now seems like a long time but it really isn’t when you’ve ignored the issues and the root causes for so many years.

Yes, depression and it’s friends have acted like lunch money bullies for most of my entire life. Yes, I have been stifled and made regretful but there are some lessons that came from this. So, I’ll be a work in progress for some time but that’s okay too. I’d like to apologize to my friends everyday, but I’m sure they would get tired of hearing , “I’m sorry for…”.

With a couple months left in the year and a birthday on the way, I am going to make strides try to alleviate stresses, triggers, and whatever else I can. I am going to work hard to focus on what make me happy and what makes me smile. It’ll be hard work but not as hard as living with depression for about 18 years.