Black Pride is Same Gender Loving Pride …

Although It’s the end of August and the performative parade of appreciation of Pride has long ended, we need to talk about the intersection of Blackness and the LGBTQ+ community. We need to acknowledge boys, girls, non-binary, and trans people who love other girls, boys, non-binary, and trans people. More importantly, we need to realize much of the groundwork done in our communities has been done by Black LGBTQ+ people.

June is Pride month. In that month, we see a confetti like burst of “solidarity” for LGBTQ+/ same gender loving folks. When the rainbow confetti is swept away and the flag flooded with colors comes down, it leaves the question of “so now what?” Especially after the continued and senseless violence enacted upon transwomen and the erasure of transmen.

Before any of you decide to snub your nose at celebrating pride or LGBTQ people, ask yourself these questions:

“Do I love to watch Pose or RuPaul’s drag race?”

“Do I say shade, read, the gag?”

“Do I sympathize with civil or uncivil disobedience?”

“Do I say sickening? Do I say realness, fish, or serving?”

If you answered yes to any of those questions then welcome to the celebration because you owe all of those things to the community. Especially the Black LGBTQ community!

Black people are trendsetters. We are the backbone of this society and have worked to create a culture that is our own. In doing that, Black LGBTQ+ people created a culture because there was a divide created in our community. Black people have adopted patriarchy and other Eurocentric ideals that have damaged our relationships with each other. We have othered a group of people within our community. Eurocentrism promotes othering and having a lower group to enact power over. Eurocentrism also encourages heteronormative societies while establishing gender roles to be followed. When we have people who don’t fit that structure, othering happens.

“Disagreeing with their lifestyle,” is an invalid, ignorant statement. A lifestyle is a choice. A lifestyle is something you can change. It’s a way of “styling” your life. Health and fitness is a lifestyle. Being “outdoorsy” is a lifestyle. LGBTQ+ people don’t go through life as heterosexual, then randomly one day wake up and say, “… it’s Saturday. I think … I think I’m going to be gay today.” That’s not how it works. People usually know they aren’t heterosexual or cisgendered early in their lives. We usually ignore children or shame them into hiding their true selves. We must stop this. We are causing detriments in our culture and denying the importance of our people in history when we do. We can’t beat, pray, or force people to change who they are to make others comfortable and we shouldn’t want to.

They are several people that made contributions in our community that are Black and LGBTQ+ . We have:

•Bayard Rustin

•James Baldwin

•Ernestine Eckstein

•Alvin Ailey

•Audre Lorde

•Andrea Jenkins

•Willi Ninja

•Angela Davis

•Marsha P. Johnson

There are so many more people that we could and should acknowledge in our community that created space and opportunity for Black people. We need to stop othering and exile homophobia from our communities and our lives. We should not be asking Black people to choose between their identities because intersectionality exist. Stop asking, “Are you Black first or are you [insert orientation or gender identity] first?” Learn the difference between orientation and gender. Learn/ educate yourself on the topic of gender or the social construct that it is. Your opinions about a person’s preferred pronoun doesn’t matter. Call them by their preferred pronouns.

We have many issues plaguing our communities. It’s time to retire homophobia and transphobia.

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 various events where some girl invited us as her plus-one 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:

“So, have you ever been with a guy?”

“Do you strap or do you get strapped?”

“How does strapping work?”

“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? There is a time and place for people to ask masculine 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 masculine woman at the Rona cookouts I know you’re having. Find a snack and keep it pushing.

A Word with Baltimore’s own Kotic Couture

This month we celebrate PRIDE.  Pride is more than the parade, the beads, and the bars. Pride is the people, the history and the culture. The city has few spaces and voices for queer Black people to be happy and together. There is an artist, creating a space every second Saturday for these voices and the people. Meet the artist restoring Baltimore music and creating a voice for Black queer people in the city. That artist is Kotic Couture, born Kyle Wilson. Couture is one of those people that defines style and pride in every sense of the word. Proud to be Black, proud to be a part of the LGBTQ community and overall proud of the journey to artistry. Couture is like a sermon on Sunday without paying tithes. They are a word, a vibe, and a mood wrapped all in one. Kotic started creating music for the love of music and to complete a bigger picture: opening the door for other artists who are gay, queer, non-binary, lesbian, or identify with those categories at all. The more Kotic succeeds, the more others can look to them as an example to defy odds.

A look at Kotic’s bold style.

Kotic got their humble beginnings on the Eastern Shore and made their way to Baltimore. Outgrowing subtle racism and homophobia and a town whose first LGBTQ parade will They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a Myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. l this year to hosting version every second Saturday at the Crown, Couture has come a long way. As they put it, “I was made in the country but built in the city.”

They came to Baltimore for the style, the culture, and followed the sounds of 92Q jams (which they grew up listening to). Couture started freestyling on the bus in middle school (think back to Myspace era) which is where the name comes from. The line, “Bitch, I’m chaotic,” became not only a myspace name for the artist but a part of the glam of Kotic Couture. That and the Remy Ma song, “Fresh” where the line was, “This is couture hip-hop.” And that was the style, Kotic wanted to embody. To do Couture hip-hop. But they realized, “I can’t create my own style of hip-hop. So imma just take that name.” Thus, we have the birth of the fierce artist Kotic Couture. From the spelling of the name to the bold fashion and make-up, Couture brings genuine sound back to Baltimore. Songs ranging from hyped up-tempo like “Get Ya Life,” to heart-felt truths like “Diary of a dreamer.” Couture is essential what Baltimore music is missing, a queer outspoken artist. “As queer people or people in arts community, we are very hyperconscious of gender, gender presentation, and sexuality. You have outside entities where if that’s not a thing to them they don’t think like that. They see straight, gay, male, or female. So, when somebody sees me for the first time, [they’re like] okay that’s a gay man in make-up. They can be a little weirded out, they can be a little iffy. Another thing I’ve learned is move in between these communities and being myself.”

As we continue to recognize June as Pride month. We should appreciate the lessons taken from Kotic. Appreciate yourself, develop your style, and be upfront about who you are and what you want. They have a simple yet clear message, “I did a little tastemaker’s series with Big Improv. They interviewed me, and all their sketches were based off my answers. It was hilarious. But one of the questions the interviewers asked me was, ‘what is something hip-hop fans would be surprised to know about you?’ Well I don’t know if it’s apparent but I’m queer. In our culture, in hip-hop and Black popular culture, queer people are always a cliché. My mentor told me when I was younger, ‘don’t ever pigeon-hold yourself into being a gay artist but always be authentic and who you are because outside entities will use that and oh yeah we like your music but you’re strictly a gay artist so there is nothing we can do with that.’ I think it’s important to represent myself but it’s also important to show people as queer people we’re not monolithic like there are so many things we can do.”

Remember the people and experiences that make pride what it is. From the first frontiers of Stonewall to everyday extraordinary artists like Kotic. Baltimore has a large LGBTQ community which needs to be acknowledge, not vilified or demonized. Kotic gives our city what we need, a fearless artist, fashion forward, and unapologetically Black.

Catch them every second Saturday hosting Version at The Crown or stay plugged in with SoundCloud

Elementary, my Woe

If I were to take an honest look at my early-childhood education, I would have to admit I was more blessed than I’d previously believed. Despite going to a public zone school in one of the many hoods of west Baltimore, I had teachers who showed me genuine care, support and love. For the most part, I felt respected, safe and guided.  I went to school close to my home in Easterwood with many of the other children from this low-income, African-American neighborhood. My classrooms were usually led by Black women who looked like me and the women in my family. They spoke to us in the language we spoke. They identified with our struggles, and did not judge us for going through them. Even with all the awkwardness that a young child feels as they adjust to an environment outside the comforts of home, I felt at home.

From the teachers, to the administrators to the volunteers, I was surrounded by Black women and men who cared at least a little bit. I never fully appreciated the diversity of the staff and parents at this school.  We had people from an array of cultures, family structures, age groups, gender identities and personal styles. The teachers and parents sported various hairstyles and colorful clothing. I particularly recall one administrator named Ms. Bullock, about mid-50s, who rocked this glorious, curly gray high-top fade. The fade stayed clean, okay? I think she even had hard curls at the top. The haircut was very much reminiscent of the Living Single and Martin-esque styles of the time. Thinking about this definitely reminds me that I started school in the ‘90s. A different time.

There was a queer, masculine woman named Ms. Florence who volunteered at our school almost every day. She was very kind and funny, but also delivered the necessary stern approach that teachers could not. She would remind whatever unruly student like “Hey, I’m not your teacher, I’ll beat your butt and tell your muva I did it!” Despite the opposing opinions of people who never have to deal with children, you do in fact have to be firm with them sometimes. And they will live if you roast them back a little. Anyway, Ms. Florence was probably around from grades K-4th, and made every lunch time, recess and movie time a fun, yet structured environment. For those of you who use the “my children will be confused” excuse in attempt to keep the existence of queer or same-gender-loving people away from children, I’ll tell you some of us were confused. I wondered why we called her “Ms.” even though her clothing and persona were more masculine than I had been taught to associate with women. Perhaps a better word would be curious, because that’s how I would describe my thoughts at the time.  I certainly wasn’t afraid to ask questions, and one day during movie time, I did. It went like this:

Me: “Ms. Florence, are you a boy or a girl?”

Ms. Florence: “What are you?”

Me: “A girl.”

Ms. Florence: “Well, okay then.”

That answered my damn question! No more confusion and I went on about my third-grade life. It was that simple. Talk to your kids!

There was also the very colorful, young, gay Mr. Ellis. He was the best art teacher I ever had. I loved his bold, sarcastic sense of humor and how his pastel crayons matched his many pastel sweaters.  He somehow planted a seed of confidence in me that snuck up on me later in life. He taught for a couple years then left after being struck by a car for the second time in two years. From what I heard, he was fine but no one really answered our questions about this situation. I certainly never forgot Mr. Ellis.

We had a classmate’s mother volunteer with us as well. This woman was the poster child for Lexington market in the early 2000’s. If you know, you know. She was a very kind, gentle, and funny woman. Every time I saw her, she was sporting a long, greasy dark brown ponytail, a black bubble coat and a big Styrofoam cup full of half-and-half (iced tea and lemonade). She was an either white or biracial woman who stood close to six feet tall with a very slim figure. Her teeth were somewhat crooked and discolored, but she still had one of the brightest smiles in the whole school. She, like many other parents, often brought her daughter a fresh chicken box for lunch a few times a week. She may not have been an official volunteer, but rather a parent who showed up often and shared her warmth with the other students. Her daughter was one of my earliest friends, and stayed my friend despite the fact that I threw up on her a little when I had the flu in kindergarten. She was as kind and gentle as her mother. Of all my memories of loving parent-child relationships, they will always stand out to me. I hope they are doing well.

I could go on through the entirety of my elementary school experience and the impact of each teacher because it was just that important to me.  So many kids in this city grow up ahead of the average child in traumatic experience, yet behind in all the resources deemed necessary for success. Somehow these teachers, administrators, and parents managed to provide me with a hilariously unconventional education that has kept me grounded two decades later. This is where I fell in love with the passion that would never leave me: writing. I saw my friends fall in love with drawing, dance, and music. I had no idea how fortunate we really were.

To many people (likely including my classmates) this school would be dismissed and condemned for both its location in central west Baltimore and the backgrounds of the students and parents who attended. It would be deemed unworthy of mention and assumed to offer nothing of value to its students. Just another ghetto Baltimore school. To be real, the school did have its fair share of issues, and maybe some things happened there that should not have. I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t have watched Scary Movie 3 AND Set it Off in the same week, but we didn’t die. I understand that many of us have been hurt at our schools in ways we believe others cannot understand. I understand that many of us feel that we have been cheated and abandoned because being born Black and poor disqualified us from a quality education early in life. I also understand that we look to our wealthier and whiter counterparts for what a good school environment should look like, and see that we didn’t have that. No, we did not have horseback riding and state-of-the art computer labs. We did not have organic chicken nuggets in the cafeteria and luxury hypo-allergenic reading rugs in the classrooms, but we had people like us who cared. We had the benefit of being under the care of people who were reflections of us. They effortlessly related to us and never had to be reminded of our humanity.  We were educated within our own culture, and never had to question our identities in the process. We were enough for ourselves.  This is an important difference between knowing and being proud of who you are, and having to spend your adult life trying to discover it. Two and two makes four no matter where you learn it. It’s everything else that counts.