By Ashley Young
“Maybe that is all any bravery is, a stronger fear of not being brave.” – Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – A Biomythography
A year ago, I did the bravest thing I’ve done in my young adulthood: I quit a 30k non-profit job to embark of a full-time career as a writer and editor. I’ve lived by a twisted myth that working as a writer in this economy is a fruitless pipe dream, unrealistic and a blind choice of poverty. Another myth that has followed me was that I had to walk in the footsteps of the women before me and become a teacher and a caregiver. These myths – the tales I’d invented for myself and the ones that have been handed down to me – have become the backbone of my existence and have guided me in determining the kind of woman I want to be.
Unfortunately, the non-profit work model was not a story I wanted to live by. Around the time I finally quit, I learned that the myths we live by either liberate us or suppress who we are.
I’m learning to dismiss the myth I once created that I am not worthy of love. It’s a myth I’ve discovered many Black woman have and my daily fight is to learn how to dismantle it. My queer livelihood has been all about unraveling myths
In choosing to write, I choose to be liberated. I decided to embark on creating a full-time writing career and started to compile my non-fiction work to write a book. I teamed up with my amazing editor (Toni Amato) who pushed me to use Audre Lorde’s work as my guide. Now, I am writing an Audre Lorde-inspired biomythography about my journey into Black queer womanhood. I am using Lorde’s unique genre of biomythography, a mix of biography and cultural myth, to document my struggle to continue breaking and remaking the myths I have learned to live by.
Biomythography creates a thin veil between fact and fiction but if we think about how memory works, we are always recreating moments from our past. Every year I learn and grow, I recall the same memories differently. I see something I may have never seen before in the past. Armed with age, life experience and social information, I make bigger connections as to why I am who I am and use my imaginings of the past to inform my future.
In order for me to write full, whole and complete characters, particularly multifaceted women of color, I had to start examining myself. I had to start telling the truth about who I am, my pathology, my passions, my struggles, and my triumphs. I’m using the form of biomythography to tell the truth but tell it slant, based on who I am today and who I continue to create myself to be.
This process forced me to take a hard look at myself and bravely use my voice to tell my story.
My childhood and family history have created many myths in which I learned to live by. Raised by a parent living with a mental illness, I learned to adjust to a loved one who was physically present but not always mentally there. In my case, I tried to be my mother’s caretaker, a role I was not supposed to play as a child. Not only was I wrapped up in her care, I tried to take on her pain as my own.
I learned to cope through writing. I created a quiet world that was entirely my own, a place where I could safely express all my feelings and confusion. I lived through my fears on the page. I wrote because back then, my psychological survival depended on it.
My childhood imprinted onto me many fears: fear of love with conditions, fear of not being worthy of love, fear of being unable to authentically experience fun and joy and fear of always being alone. This is what I have made my childhood mean about myself and it stops me from fully connecting in every place in my life. Oh, I forgot one more fear: fear of being labeled “crazy.”
What’s most reassuring about being a four-year veteran of my therapist is that she knows me like a book. When I come to my sessions filled to the brim with “little girl triggers,” she reminds me how I grew up and what was modeled for me. She reminds me that sadness is a learned behavior for me and that I have to take care of myself if I ever want to successfully connect with others.
I’m learning to dismiss the myth I once created that I am not worthy of love. It’s a myth I’ve discovered many Black woman have and my daily fight is to learn how to dismantle it.
My queer livelihood has been all about unraveling myths. Writing my story continues to be key in dismantling multiple myths – the myth that I am destined for loneliness and sadness; the myth that family consists of a male father, a female mother and children; the myth that love can only be shared monogamously; the myth that if I practice BDSM and embrace submission, I must be “troubled;” the myth that if I am a woman, I can no longer be a girl.
Writing this book has been acceptance of the fact that I am both a woman and a girl. I will always carry my “little girl triggers” with me but it is the woman in me that needs to learn how to communicate and care for herself.
And I am learning to create a new home for myself, a place where I feel safe to bring out little girl me when I am scared. I’ve made my home with my partner, my lovers and the friends that I hold dear to me so I can learn the joys of trusting and connecting despite fear. Most importantly, I continue to build the comforts of home inside me so I can take it with me wherever I go.
My dream is that The Liberation of the Black Unicorn serves as a guide for queer brown women to define how they liberate themselves each and every day.
The Liberation of the Black Unicorn will be available in 2014. For more information on the book, including excerpts, visit indigostheory.wordpress.com/indigos-smut/.
Ashley Young is a Black queer feminist writer and poet working as an editor in New York City. She received her B.A. from Hampshire College where she studied education and theater and is earning a certification in copyediting at New York University. She is a 2010 Voices of Our Nations Art Foundation Poetry Fellow and a 2011 Lambda Literary Foundation Creative Non-Fiction Fellow. Her feminist poetry and prose have been published in Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal, Autostraddle, Her Circle Magazine and more. She authored a chapter in “Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion” (Seal Press, 2012) and will appear in Wisconsin Press’ anthology “All About Skins: Short Fiction by Award Winning Women of Color” and Andrea Boston’s anthology “Oddflower.” She is working on her first novel, an Audre Lorde-inspired biomythography titled The Liberation of the Black Unicorn.
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