By Rezilience Williamson, ’21

This past summer and into the fall, I set out to build on the work of Marlon Riggs, which showed how identifications are lived in a specific place and time. I believe this is especially true among people who slide through the intersections of many identities, like queer women of color.  From Riggs’ film, I saw how blackness is positioned in opposition to sexual orientation. Riggs focused heavily on the experiences of Black cisgender men; the obscuration of queer black women in the film led me to wonder how do Black queer and transgender youth navigate racism, sexism, and heterosexism as society pits their blackness, womanhood, and queerness in opposition to each other. 

I originally planned to interview community leaders and local spacemakers who create community and provide support and resources to queer youth. However, amidst both a racial revolution and viral pandemic, I realized it would be a much richer exploration if I talked to queer young adults directly. I transformed my project into an independent study this semester entitled, “#BlackQueerKidsMatter: An exploration of how black queer students navigated racism, sexism, and heterosexism through childhood and young adulthood”. As a Black queer woman, I’ve observed that people are always curious about how I was able to survive childhood and how I still move in this world. For queer kids, survival means rely on anything from sex work to hiding in the closet. Black queer kids are quite resilient, even though we deserve better from our communities. Most representation and research about Black queer youth fixate on pain and struggle, so they rarely highlight our strength and resilience. I wanted get a range of stories, so I set up life history interviews with other Black queer students to hear their stories and journeys through their own eyes.

I am currently fleshing out my interview transcripts into rich narratives that uplift the resilience of the Black queer young adults who participated in my research project. From the interviews, my key takeaway is that the weight of intersecting identities for Black queer kids requires immense code-switching and compartmentalization to remain safe and sane amidst the racism, sexism, and heterosexism. As I reflect on my interviews, it is apparent that Black queer kids have to put on mask and performance to protect themselves from the people who are supposed to protect them.