Yes, I can still be unapologetically queer while in the closet
My expression of my queerness is made possible by the sacrifices made by Black and Brown queer and trans people.
One of my personal attributes I am most proud of is my identity as a queer and non-binary afro-boricua.
Whether I am in a classroom on my college campus or a house party on a Friday night, I allow my fullest and most authentic self to occupy the space I am in.
Among my peers, I am known for doing exactly that and for creating spaces where all can feel safe and secure enough to attempt living the life as I aim for.
I am the founding president of Hofstra University’s Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition (QTPOCC) and will be serving my second term this academic year. With the support of my executive board, I have the privilege of facilitating phenomenal, intersectional programming that forces students and faculty to engage with race theory, queer theory, liberatory politics and with the reality of being a queer and/or trans person of color not only in the United States, but internationally.
In addition, a significant amount of my freelance work is also centered around my experiences as a queer and non-binary person of color. My most recent published work, titled I’m finally decolonizing the queerphobia I learned at home, chronicles my journey to decolonizing my queerphobia and growing into my queerness. My most shared piece, titled White Supremacy Shouldn’t Be Allowed at Pride and I’m Done Explaining Why, offers the history of the gay liberation movement and the contributions of queer and trans people of color as reasoning for the exclusion of groups including Gays for Trump have no place at Pride marches and related events.
I have poured much of my time, my resources, and my energy into the movement for queer and trans liberation and my resumé testifies to my commitment to my community.
So when people find out that I am doing all of this work from “the closet,” they often have a hard time digesting it.
To many, “the closet” means shame.
To many, “the closet” means internalized homophobia.
To many, “the closet” means coward and I’m making a conscious decision to hide from the world.
This holds true in activist spaces as well. When I cannot be a part of a group photo, I am shrugged off and asked to take the photo. When I cannot have my name listed in a social media post, I am met with eye rolls. When I cannot be interviewed about a program QTPOCC is hosting unless I can be promised anonymity or that only my initials will be used, I am met with looks of confusion and “Just give us the comment now and we’ll figure out the rest later. ” When I cannot be identified as the president of QTPOCC in certain spaces, I am all but explicitly told that if that is that case I should not be in this role.
Whenever I remind those around me that there must be a limitation to my visibility for my own safety, my work is suddenly unimpressive, valueless, and labeled “overcompensation since [I am] closeted.”
I am made to feel pseudo-queer and as if I should be ashamed and overcompensating, usually by members of the queer and trans community who either never had this problem or have forgotten their own experiences as a once-closeted member of the community.
I am not unused to this kind of shame or isolation. I have dealt with the anti-queer and anti-trans sentiment oozing from my mother since I was old enough to understand attraction. I grew up in shame, in fear, in rage, and in isolation. I learned quickly how to cope with these feelings at home and how to navigate the pain that came with it so that I could remain financially supported.
I’ve had years of practice flying under the radar, presenting palatably and quietly meeting others’ expectations of me. Replicating this pattern of behaviors would have taken me little effort here and remains to be the safest option.
Nevertheless, I truly do not believe my spirit could handle that nor do I believe I could mentally or physically bend myself and chisel away at myself until my exterior was pleasing enough to the gaze of those who did not possess the frames necessary to fully see my narrative. More importantly, I should not have to perform in this space so I refuse to.
My queerness is unapologetic.
My queerness is revolutionary.
My queerness is Black and it is Brown.
My queerness is vibrant and bold and bright.
My expression of my queerness is not rooted in compensation for “shame” or “cowardice.” I do not feel shameful or cowardly.
My expression of my queerness is made possible by the sacrifices made by Black and Brown queer and trans people and to honor this movement’s ancestors.
My expression of my queerness is rooted in the promise I made to myself to never hide, to never assimilate, to never worry about whether or not my gender or the way I experience attraction is confusing to the outside world.
I do not feel ashamed that I must keep my family at arm’s length to secure financial support; I feel brave and empowered knowing that I will survive this balancing act and soon be able to support my damn self with a Bachelor’s, with Public Policy and Public Service as my primary focus of study and Journalism as my secondary focus.
And while I do not expect everyone to understand that self-preservation and unapologetic queerness are not at odds with one another, I do expect the necessary accommodations I need to stay alive to be made.
I expect that I will not have to pull up my resumé in TLGBQ+ spaces to prove that I am entitled to them, especially not when queer and trans people of color in my very situation actively laid the foundation for all of them.
Indigo, who uses both they, them and he, him gender pronouns, is a Black Puerto Rican lesbian essayist and recovering community organizer. While pursuing their undergraduate degree, Indigo served as the inaugural president of their campus’ Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, organizing educational program on social, economic, and political issues impacting primarily Black and Latinx queer and/or trans persons. Currently, Indigo is pursuing a juris doctorate degree at CUNY School of Law.