“Underneath all that Red is Something Beautiful Trying to Happen:” I, 2014 Black Lesbian Realized that Despite My Past Passing Passed “I thought I was Straight” Life, I recent said to another black queer woman “God Made Me a Lesbian” After Critical Life Sexuality Examination Coming to Intimately Understand That My Black Lesbian Identity as Finney NPR 2011 Stated Always Was “An Accumulation of LifeLived”
- Porsha L. Eden 2/17/14
White NPR ‘Talk of The Nation’ man open up asks listeners to penetrate the membrane between guest and themselves, in the 2011 golden year for a ‘Black lesbian fire writing poet, Black South Carolinian speakin’ Nikky Finney after she won the 2011 book award, “When did you assign yourself the title poet?” My heart soul collapsed into my earl grey sipping tea cup with the New York Times staring me ‘Sunday review’ article down with a couple underneath a fern green umbrella hue, which evoked my all time Jay-Z classic ‘Song Cry’
“we used to use umbrellas to face the bad weather/i can understand why you want a divorce now/though I can’t let you know it, pride won’t let me show it/pretend to be heroic/but deep down a nxgga so sick.”
As a Wellesley College alumna ’10 who loveadmired a black woman in silence for almost three years, I was as Nikky Finney said, well what I deduced from her between the lines saying ‘I’ve always been a poet,’ I paraphrase and apply to my life and say, ‘I’ve always been a black lesbian,’ and parallel to Finney’s journey as becoming a poet in steps and not having a linear pathway to this revelation of her poetess identity, I too, had a maze-esque journey toward becoming self-actualized not only in my sexuality but also in the vernacular and lovesexualitylanguage I used with myself and others.
For a long period of time, I often used the term queer in that I felt that it was a term that gave me more flexibility–as in it was less rigid and more fluid for me to not have to give someone an explanation as to what my actual sexuality politics were–as ‘queer’ can be used as an undefined term that people splice their own politics into or not. I had largely considered myself bisexual because I was still physically attracted to men or so I thought and had former male relationships which made it seem logical to keep the door open to men as a possibility.
I considered myself bisexual and used that term in specific private spaces in which I felt safe to use it, meaning people would receive it well and not cast and move judgment on my sexuality. In public spaces, I intentionally did not use the term bisexual because I knew and felt that other Black queer/lesbian women would shun me for the term bisexual, seeing that there is a lot of disdain toward the term and pretentiousness that comes from Black women who have “issues” with self-identified ‘Black bisexual women’—since when did your sexuality politics fall on a totem pole of superiority? Oh, ok.
Furthermore, the term bisexual is one in which is heteronormative, as in the straight community understands that term, it’s almost as if it’s not another language for them because it’s very polarized and extinguishes any critical thinking. Push the envelope back on your sexuality politics/trained/societal constructed thinking processes and allow for there to be grey area in someone’s sexuality in that it is largely nuanced and it often transcends beyond black and white, but rather shows itself regal a deep plump purple and ocean turquoise, which is what the term ‘queer’ embodies to me. Cheryl Clarke in her fiery essay wrotespeaks:
“Bisexual is a safer label than lesbian, for it posits the possibility of a relationship with a man, regardless of how infrequent or nonexistent the female’s bisexual’s relationships with men might be.”
Clarke’s sermon delivery through her cutting edge, yet truthful words around label touchusing ‘bisexual’ compelled me to divest from my assumptions about the term ‘lesbian’ in favor of ‘bisexual’ which in actuality I said ‘queer,’ for privilege so that I may tuck in my hair. However Clarke compelled me to (as I stated January 5, 2014 in my Goddess Column ‘Living Naturally Interview’), “However, in truly evaluating my sexuality trajectory and my conceptualization around my past experiences, and mainly my present self in how I function (largely drawn and only wanting to be with women) in actuality aligns more so with the term ‘lesbian.’ So at one point the term ‘bisexual’ was easier than identifying as ‘lesbian.’ However, now I reject comfort and go with what’s real.”
I remember Fall 2013 re-reading this essay which always takes on a more poignant and nuanced meaning every time I call it’s name. However, upon reading such a blatant ‘undressed, raw, only wearing the fiercest nude lingerie for your carnal flesh visible whole to your partner’ statement that being, “the tenuous business of heterosexuality” was a fly-fierce, bold and unafraid–#bawse. That sort of unshakable fearless tone spoke epically to me, which compelled me to unpack and better understand my own internalized homophobia around the term lesbian, as I thought it highly read: You like to only have sex with women, White women who only have sex with other white women, and I assert white privilege privileged with my sexuality.’
However, I forced myself to work beyond these long time inculcated visages around the term lesbian, for it never originally, as Audre Lorde stated in ‘Poetry Is Not a Luxury,’ appeared to originate from a place that “is neither white nor surface, it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.” In understanding my Black Lesbianism and embracing the term ‘lesbian’ which meant black queering it and infusing it with my own black girl love song truth, Cheryl Clarke wrote my self-actualization Black girl lesbian self, when she wrotespeaks, “For me personally, the conditioning to be self-sufficient and the predominance of female role models in my life are the roots of my lesbianism. Before I became a lesbian, I often wondered why I was expected to give up, avoid, and trivialize the recognition and courage I felt from women in order pursue the tenuous business of heterosexuality.”
Stay tuned for #QueerTalk: Nikki Finney, Part II!