When Issa Rae stated, in an interview at the 2017 Oscars, “I’m rooting for everybody black,” I knew immediately, that was my new life motto.
I am unapologetically black, and no matter what space I am in, I am rooting for everybody black. I think it’s time for the black community to have the important and tough conversations. We must come together and support each other, regardless of who we sleep with and how we identify. The time for unity is now! Especially, amidst the tension of the current socio-political climate, we cannot afford to alienate anyone; all our voices are needed.
The true work of allies to the LGBTQ community consists of educating the ill-informed and addressing misinformation when you hear it. However, this can be a tricky conversation because it’s not the sole responsibility of the LGBTQ community to explain to people why and who they are at all times. I also believe it’s important that I allow space for my family and friends to be ignorant at times, without judging them. It’s important for us to be honest and recognize that we all come from different places and have different experiences and upbringings. We shouldn’t judge people as they go through their learning process; that should be considered a safe space, as well. I believe allies, like myself, can actively lead conversations with our black, cis gender, [cis gender-defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.”] heterosexual family and friends, which could bridge the gap in some of these conversations.
When entering most hetero-black spaces, I notice we are unaware, misinformed, and down right scornful when issues of gender and sexual identity are brought up outside of the heteronormative narrative. I’ve noticed this same scorn, which is a result of misinformation, as I’ve engaged in conversations with my friends and family about Dwayne Wade’s daughter, who recently announced she is transgender. I have heard and seen very disparaging comments on this topic, and regardless of opinion, this is still someone’s child we’re discussing. We must realize the alternative to Dwayne Wade accepting his child’s decision would be for him not to accept her, and as a mother, that notion is unacceptable to me!!
Everyone deserves love, respect, and grace. We can share differences of opinion and still be able to have discussions and learn from one another. Therefore, I have compiled a list of tips on how we may have respectful conversations about gender and sexual identity in the black community; please see below:
- Listen with your ears and not your mouth. In conversations about social justice, we are so ready to defend and share our opinion, that we don’t open our ears and hearts enough to really listen to the person in front of us.
- Do not push your religious or spiritual beliefs on other people. None of us know the spiritual journey of others, so please respect that process, because it looks different for everyone.
- Information is your best friend. One or two conversations will not be enough to fully understand gender and sexual identity. Be sure to do your research so you’re not misinformed and can therefore educate someone else.
- Come to these conversations with an open mind and try to clear your mind of all your biases.
- Lastly, come in love and grace, meaning allow people the space to learn, and give love and light to those that are different from you, even if you disagree or don’t understand them fully.
As for black people collectively, I truly believe there’s more that unites us than divides us. We must be led by the spirit of unity. I’m rooting for everybody black!!
Sloane Bickerstaff is a wifey, mom, sexual health communicator and sex positive enthusiast with a passion for comedy, film, and twerking.