Ever since I read the chapter called “Queering Black Female Heterosexuality” by Kimberly Springer in the fabulous book, Yes Means Yes! Visions Of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape, by Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti, I have wanted to write this piece.
I see two key elements of queering sexuality from the book. The first one is “the idea of coming out of the closet as enjoying sex on our own terms.” The second is “about being a sexual person whose wants and needs are self-defined.”
I’ve become interested in queering my sexuality because I see it as a way forward, and a way of truth for me, and a way to just enjoy life. The old definition of my sexuality has become a tight little box that doesn’t fit me anymore. I had allowed my sexuality to be defined by my boyfriends, and by where I would stop things depending on the situation, but the notion of sex on my own terms hadn’t even dawned on me until recently. Sex depends on the other person, right? …at least it seems that was where I was with the subject.
Ms. Springer also clarifies:
Queerness, then, is not an identity, but a position or stance. We can use “queer” as a verb instead of a noun. Queer is not someone or something to be treated. Queer is something we can do.
The chapter is written for straight black women, and I (as a white woman with a fairly predictable and somewhat homophobic sexual past) really identified with this writing and found it super-helpful. It’s just good advice, and I’ve chosen not to edit out the references to race to more easily suit me. It does not stop the message that I also needed to hear.
Queering black female sexuality would mean straight black women need to:
1. Come out as black women who enjoy sex and find it pleasurable.
2. Protest the stereotypes of black female sexuality that do not reflect our experience.
3. Allow all black women—across class, sexual orientation, and physical ability—to express what we enjoy.
4. Know the difference between making love and fucking—and be willing to express our desires for both despite what the news, music videos, social mores, or any other source says we should want.
5. Know what it is to play with sexuality. What turns us on? Is it something taboo? Does our playfulness come from within?
6. Know that our bodies are our own—our bodies do not belong to the church, the state, our parents, our lovers, our husbands, and certainly not Black Entertainment Television (BET).
Sexuality isn’t just about picking persons who have similarly or differently shaped genitals in comparison to what a given individual has, as in gay or straight connections. It also seems to have something to do with buying into a whole slew of ideas and assumptions about what’s supposed to happen when people get together.
Queering for me means I want to loose the assumptions. I’ve been trying to climb the matrix mapped out by mass culture, but it just hasn’t fit for me. I am not an animal to be preyed upon by a predator man. I am not into making myself appear available to be ensnared in that way. But I do believe that this mindset has been a part of my enculturation, and learning to be, based on the visual check of my external genitals at birth. “She’s a girl so she will learn the way of the meek,” could have been said at my birth.
Well, I did learn that, and I see that when I play with those rules, whole rich and beautiful tracts of my potential inner landscape are lobbed off with big “do not enter” signs.
It is really this heavy, sex-assigned conditioning that makes watching queer performance so liberating. I love watching male bodies exploring their feminine and masculine range, and watching female bodies exploring their masculinity and femininity. It blows my mind in a most beautiful way!
So when I had the opportunity to “walk the runway” at a recent queer DIY dance party, I planned a little special something to honor what I had enjoyed seeing others doing, and what I wanted to explore myself. I sewed two snakes on a repurposed Hard Tail shirt from yoga over my boobs, and had placed a rubber snake in the front part of panties that I had put on over orange leggings. Just for fun! This special third snake came out during my walk. The pictures in this article (Taken by Zack Frazier) are from this stunning moment…
* Thanks to inspiring Chicago queer icons: Trandroid, Vajaqueque, and Jyldo! And if you’re in Chicago you can see them on June 18th at Links Hall in Poonie’s Cabaret – Robots, Centaurs & Cheerleaders! *