bitches be nonbinary

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A Black person with brown skin stares directly into the camera. Behind them a door is open. They have black locs and visible facial hair.]

When it comes to publicly-recognized gender nonconforming Black folks, the three people that come to mind are Roes (formerly known as Angel Haze), Amandla Stenberg, and Tyler Ford. Publications such as them, Wear Your Voice, and Everyday Feminism work to increase the awareness that some of us live outside of the bounds of gender as we think we know it. But even in the ways that I am structurally taxed by my Black queerness, I am advantaged through my perceived maleness. So what I end up questioning is: how much do I assert my gender identity when my gender expression provides me with unearned benefits?

The reality — rather, my reality — is that I have a penis, a prostate, testicles, and an adam’s apple. All of these physical traits are associated not just with the biological sex assumed by my sexual organs, but also my assigned gender. And I even like these body parts. So I look like a man, I like how I look, I definitely receive all of the benefits of manhood, and yet I am not a man. I have never felt comfortable around most men, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I began to tell people in my life that I am not a man. So again, what the fuck does that mean?

There is no well known and accepted precedent for a Black person with a penis and facial hair to identify as anything but a man. Black folks are always stripped of our agency, and room to interrogate our gender is included within that. So while affirming the identities of people around me, I constantly struggle with how to assert that my non-binary identity is real.

I default to gaslighting myself when I think about how spreading my legs lets people know that the space is mine. I introduce myself with “he/they” pronouns instead of just “they” to recognize how the bass in my voice overpowers many of the women and/or femmes in the room. I choose not to correct people when they call me a man because it honestly just feels easier that way.

In short, I do not want people to have to mourn the premature death of another Black man in their minds, even though I stand alive before them.

I remember how my parents had to mourn their heterosexual son, their imagined son. I watch strangers, colleagues, and friends when I talk to them and I recognize that same mourning. I pay careful attention when their lips shift from brimming upward to a polite and disappointed plateau as I tell them I date men. I observe the pity and judgement in their eyes that tells me “it’s ok, that’s not the worst thing” because at least I’m not [fill in the blank]. But I am that by nature of not being a Black man. I am still young, Black, and doing well, but my queerness in both gender and sexuality betrays their fantasy.

I am learning how to accept that the mourning of the imagined me — the heterosexual me, the male me — is on them, and not on me. It just takes time, and I am not quite there yet.

Anthony James Williams

Written by

writer/editor, organizer, & researcher | Like my writing? Please consider supporting at http://patreon.com/anthoknees | anthokneesplease@gmail.com

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