Content Warning: This post contains information about a survivor's experience as a black queer woman, so those with similar experiences may find some of this content triggering.
"How Ab[out] Now?" Anonymous
Note: All survivors who reach out to The Art of Survival are given the option to remain anonymous in sharing their story. Any specific details about the survivor are shared at their discretion, and not the creators of the page.
I seem to find myself spiraling when that question comes to mind… how about now? Is today going to be the day that I shout from the rooftops what everyone has been waiting to hear?
How about NO?
There is something about the use of “out and proud” that makes me cringe. Is being OUT really worth the risk? Am I not PROUD of myself because I don’t yet know how to explain to the people in my life that I’m queer or what that means to me?
From the sidelines, it felt great to be that supportive voice for my friends and family, and let them know that I would always be there, standing by them in the crowd of voices who want to tell them they’re not good enough.
When I think about the crowd of voices that surround me, I find myself unable to overpower them.
I’ve survived the worst already, I try to tell myself. There’s no way you won’t be loved for who you are.
I never imagined it would be so difficult to reconcile all of my identities. I get anxious thinking about every time I’ve had to omit information in a conversation, to avoid feeling pressured to admit that maybe I’m starting to believe what the voices have told me.
There’s no worse feeling than being used as a weapon. In a given moment, I am too headstrong but also too weak to defend myself, I am too unable to focus but still too fixated, I am too soft but all the while too sharp…
I remember the first time I was told that the world is threatened by queer black women. The world seeks to weaponize them, to demonize them, to set them aside from the norm… to tell them they are not soft enough, not beautiful enough, not focused enough, not feminine enough…
The world wants queer black women to feel like they do not deserve their lives, that their bodies are a privilege and not their right…
If I could learn to love my body as my own, love my curves, love my skin, I would be proud.
If I could close my eyes and imagine myself doing everything I’ve ever dreamed of without being told I didn’t work for it, I would be proud.
If I could love any person I choose without fear of being told my love and my existence is a sin in the eyes of God, I would be proud.
Someone told me that to truly heal, you must abandon the idea that you are able to control everything. I’ve not yet learned how to shake the feeling that I am responsible for where I stand today. I carry the guilt like an over-sized suitcase.
As a young girl, I told my parents I wanted God to love me the way he does all of my friends. They reassured me that he would always love me, the way they do. Unconditionally.
As an adult, I struggle to understand that love because I have never been able to fit society’s criteria of lovability.
Not feminine enough.
Not black enough.
How could anyone love me? More importantly, why should I love me?
I carry that guilt, knowing that I’m not the first to feel this way.
No one ever tells you about the struggle. The first time you get choked up because someone who says they would always support you unknowingly tears you down, in front of your face. The first time you muster the courage to tell someone you care about, with your mind fearfully running with the thought of them disclosing to others. The first time you’re told that you don’t have the love or support of someone you care about.
I want to wake up one morning and be proud of all of myself.
I don’t want to be “out and proud”. I simply want to be proud of myself, a queer black woman. I want to hold my queerness, my blackness, and my womanhood close to my heart with no doubts in my mind.
I want to love myself unconditionally.
I want to have faith in that love.
I don’t need a flag or a parade. I don’t need to shout it from the rooftops. I don’t need to provide the world with an explanation.
I don’t need out.
I need liberation.
I need space to breathe, to live, and to love alongside my community.
About the art:
I was super excited when this survivor gave me a pretty open idea of self-love as a curvy queer black woman. I absolutely love pin-ups, as you can see with some of my photography - so I took reference from a couple of photos, and created this piece.
I used rainbow paint in the dress to symbolize her queer identity, and left out the outline to symbolize the freedom that comes with loving yourself as you are and sharing yourself. I had a lot of fun creating this piece, and I'm so happy I was able to create something for her that can symbolize self-love.