So Lets Talk About Safe Spaces
A few weeks ago I decided that it was time for me to finally go get my hair cut. After searching high and low to find a place that could accommodate my busy schedule, I finally found a place that specialized in natural black hair. After confirming the date and time, I was finally on my way.
Upon arriving I noticed two black women standing in the shop. One would say hello to me and ask me to sit down while the other woman, well: lets just say she was not as friendly as the one who greeted me. I would try several times to communicate with her throughout my appointment and it was not until we began talking about trans issues that I realized that said individual was not a fan of my kind.
It was in that moment that I was reminded that safe places do not exist for folks with multiple marginalized identities.
The story that I tell above is one of many where I felt that safety was a luxury for me as a black queer person. From my college years where I was the only black person in an LGBTQ center to most recently where I went to an event and I was one of few black queer people in attendance, I recognize that feeling “safe” is often not the first thing I get to think about in most places I frequent.
For most queer black individuals like myself, I am constantly having to question the culture within said environment. Will the space be inclusive? Will people in the space understand or comprehend why I do not ascribe to the binary? In most cases, most places are highly heteronormative and do not provide space for LGBTQ people to feel included in conversation or community.
Further, being a queer black man presents it’s own sets of issues being that I am often waiting for racism or microaggressions to make themselves present.
I bring this conversation to light because I have realized over time that even in people’s attempt to make a space “safe”, there are still chances that someone might be triggered or overlooked. Even in moments where others have tried to create a safe environment for me, my intersectional lived experiences make me fearful. I recognize in these moments that sometimes I am the culprit of my own fear in said spaces, but the reality is that my lived experiences have proven to me time and time again that safety is often a word that comes with a privilege that I am not afforded.
Again, it is not to say that safety is not attainable for people with marginalized identities, but a reminder that comfort should not be confused with protection.
Because in this day in age, everywhere I go is a warzone.