I belong to the second largest disenfranchised group in the U.S.A. I didn't always know this, actually, I didn't even know I belonged anywhere. At thirteen, my aunt helped me find my voice. Once that happened I began to stand up for myself every day. By nineteen I knew that I liked women more than I had fully acknowledged. Like any young LGBTQIA person, I craved and had an insatiable desire for knowledge. I went searching for any books, magazines, movies and tv shows that portrayed us. I immersed myself into queer history and culture. I shared what I learned and found others like myself. I felt like I found a home among these strangers. I was gay not just in my sexuality but in my heart. I listened to the stories of my newfound community. I learned the beauty of this world. I learned the pain of it as well.
In my early twenties, I read a book named "Stonewall". This was it for me. This book connected my adolescent yearning of wanting to change the world; and my new world that needed change. I went back to books and movies that inspired idealistic views in me. I connected the common struggles of queer people and people of color. Sometimes it felt like they were one and the same. People of color couldn't hide from discrimination and queer people did so for survival. The reality that I had straight passing privilege hit me hard. I knew that I would be treated differently from my male of center presenting sisters and trans people within my community who did not necessarily pass as their identified gender. I knew that I could and would be discriminated against because of the color of my skin, my gender, my accent, my legal status, and my socioeconomic status but I could always enjoy straight passing and cis privilege due to the fact that I comfortably fit within the confines of a heteronormative narrative.
So many have been imprisoned and killed for my rights. I knew I had a duty be vocal. I had to do more. I have been granted the privilege of having a voice and a safe space to speak. I couldn't stand idly, hoping someone else would do it for me. I created a safe space for LGBTQIA people in my home. I joined organizations. I went to every queer event I could. I performed with a drag troupe. I told anyone who would listen the story of my community. I came out every day because for me it wasn't coming out. It was me telling the world who I was because for most it was easier for them to assume I was straight. I found out about laws that discriminated against the LGBTQIA community. I found out about the deeply rooted discrimination of people of color within the LGBTQIA community. I heard things like "I don't date black girls but you're....", "You don't look gay.", "You don't sound like an immigrant.", "You don't act like you grew up in Central Falls.", I heard things like: "Black and gay? That must suck!" I also witnessed people claim to love queer people but make hurtful comments. People who called themselves allies around queer folks but who permitted hateful and discriminatory rhetoric within straight circles. Queer people discriminating against trans people.
I knew I had to be visible in my community. I had to show up to rallies, marches, and protests. I had to be there because if I wasn't going who would speak for me and for those who did not have the means to speak for themselves. Who would speak for us? Us, the people of color. Us, the people who have been fighting for equality all along. Us, the ones who are inclusive in our fight. I understand not all of us have the ability to physically or financially be at every protest, march, or rally. I understand that not all of us have been granted a safe space to do so. For me being visible and vocal every day is my form of activism for myself and others. I can't blame anyone for lack of change if I don't do my part. Breaking down barriers and tearing down stereotypes is my obligation. I can't comfortably hide in plain sight. I hear the dog whistles every day. I break chains every day. I show up every day. No one that has ever been persecuted or killed for fighting for the right to be themselves ever did it in vain. My personal fight for equality is a matter of life and death. We have so much more to achieve. I need to honor and continue the struggle, for the ones who began it and were tortured for our rights. I need to be present and visible for every queer child of color. I am you and you are me, and this is our fight.
We are not free as long as any of us are persecuted for our gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion or legal status. This is why I unapologetically identify as a black, immigrant, intersectional feminist lesbian.
Simony of Simony's chair is an immigrant of Cabo Verde and a local hair and makeup artist. She's a proud mom to her 3 gorgeous cats; Autumn, Winter, and Summer. She reps Central Falls and stays woke and hustling in Providence.