InspiHERed By: Adrienne Thomas
InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each month ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This month ELIXHER spotlights 45-year-old Boston-based sociologist and GO magazine ’100 Women We Love’ Adrienne Thomas.
ELIXHER: Who is Adrienne?
ADRIENNE: I’m a New England transplant of 12 years and a proud native of Beaumont, Texas. My work experience in the development field includes positions as Director of Development at several community based non-profit organizations. I’m currently an adjunct instructor of sociology at two of Boston’s educational institutions.
ELIXHER: What are your responsibilities as co-producer of Provincetown’s Women of Color Weekend?
ADRIENNE: To be the “Hostess with the Mostess,” and the personal concierge to our guests when they hit the beautiful Cape Cod shore. I don’t remember who tagged me as “The Mayor,” but that’s my name for the weekend. This was our sixth year. We do it every first weekend of June. This year it was May 31 – June 3. It’s an opportunity for women of color that love women to get together, rest, relax, eat good food, sip nice drinks, shop, get your mind right, party, read a good book, walk the beach, play, learn something to take back to your community, bring your girlfriend or wife, find a girlfriend, meet old friends, make new ones, or to literally stand on the very tip of the East Coast and gaze out with a working lighthouse as your backdrop.
What makes us different is our location. It just doesn’t get any better than Cape Cod, Massachusetts – Provincetown. This was Jackie O’s spot. This is where the real lesbians that you see on TV, read about, and listen to, come to vacation and summer. You never know who you’re standing next to here. We won’t even talk about the gay boys, big time fashion designers, record label people that live here part-time or own businesses here. You can really walk in a shop, “Joe Blow’s,” and there’s Joe Blow in shorts, flip flops and a tee, asking you what you think about his latest t-shirt that he’s dropping in New York in two months. I’m sure they all appreciate me blowing them up right now. [Laughs.] Sorry. I still can’t believe some of the experiences I’ve had in this town over the years. When you come here, yes, you’re on vacation – big time, but always stay prepared to tastefully network. The opportunity will definitely present itself if you keep your eyes open.
We’re for singles, couples, groups, everyone. My job is to make sure everyone is happy, having a good time, and that they see a familiar face. Don’t hear about it later, be about it: www.womenofcolorweekend.com.
ELIXHER: Tell us about Bad Ass Freckled Boi/Incorrigible Romantic Productions and what inspired you to create it.
ADRIENNE: Oooh, I’d love to! Bad Ass Freckled Boi/Incorrigible Romantic Productions is my company that I run my artistic ventures through. By artistic ventures I mean the workshops that I do around Black women and masculinity (specifically studs, AG’s and doms), the copy writing that I do for advertising, websites, etc., and some really exciting projects that will materialize soon.
I actually incorporated under a different name, RunDontWalkProductions, Inc., 8 or 9 years ago. Some people may remember the 16-month calendar project that we did featuring all Black and brown women from the Boston area – this was before calendars became cool.
The name change came about because like our President, I “evolved.” People know me as “FreckledBoi.” Kim, they don’t call me that. They just know me as that moniker. For some unknown reason “Bad Ass” got tacked on. [Laughs.] Funny thing is, I am so not a “Bad Ass,” but I’m definitely “mischievous” and I always find myself and my life in these ridiculously amazing situations that best reality television. I mean, no one could make them up. Anyway, I digress.
So, Incorrigible Romantic is there because I am exactly that. I am a true Piscean romantic. I believe in the fairy tale. I believe it actually can have the good existence with two properly matched people, and even though I have yet to get it exactly right, I have a pretty good idea of what it needs to look like for me.
ELIXHER: What other hats do you wear?
ADRIENNE: I facilitate and produce fun, thought-provoking, and interactive workshops for studs, AG’s, and doms. Thus far venues have been Pride celebrations and universities, and I’m excited about taking them else where.
We look at things like what makes a stud a “stud,” an AG an “AG,” and more importantly, what gets you excluded or your card revoked. Prerequisites are a sense of humor, a willingness to have your mind open, and a commitment to participate. It’s not a dog and pony show, no spectators. It’s for grown-ups. We get challenged to grow. We go deep. Sometimes the issues that people bring with them may seem lightweight to others, but our folks are really weighed down with a lot of this stuff. Things that other groups of people probably dealt with in their teens are new to many of us, because many of us have only recently, and recently is fluid, begun to fully embrace our orientation.
Some of the more heated topics have been strapping, pillow princesses, her grown-ass kids, touch-me nots, dating straight and/or closeted women, your grown-ass kids, resistance to dating bi women, cheating because what she won’t do, another will, trying to go to a straight Black church with our presentation, she bailed and ya’ll had a joint checking account, what to do or not do with our breasts, non-consensual physical fighting within the relationship (and there is an incredible amount of that in Black lesbian relationships, you might be stunned at the level), etc.
In more academic terms, what we’re doing is looking at the ways in which we are limited by a simple understanding of gender expression. We examine how old family and community taught baggage, as well as the politics of gender tie together with the feminist, gay, and civil rights movements.
We definitely discuss the pervasive lack of understanding surrounding a need for cis, biological, masculine identifying Black lesbians to be able to simply “be” together – at the risk of accusations of being exclusionary towards others. Sometimes you just need a space to “be” in with others who are like you and share your experiences.
I’m also a mommy to two adorable and overly rambunctious Pugs (my fur babies), Lulu and Lucas, the absolute loves of my life. They both snore very loudly, by the way.
ELIXHER: Why is it important for older masculine-identified women to be role models for younger masculine-identified women? And what are existing spaces/opportunities for mentorship?
ADRIENNE: Oh my. “Older”? I’m not there yet. I think I’m having acceptance issues around that term. [Laughs.] Let’s go with “women of a particular age.”
Many Black families hold that “only a man can teach a boy to be a man.” If this is how we were/are socialized, first, who’s teaching little Black boys to be men since most of our households are run by single parent mothers, next, who teaches us to be “masculine-identified”? We’re women – how do we learn to treat each other and feminine or perhaps I should say, less-masculine identifying women in our lives? Where are our own role models, and what are we presenting to the young studs, AG’s, and doms?
Those are the questions that I ask, and my social circle asks, on a daily basis. This is why I enjoy doing my workshops so much. We get to work across generation lines. It’s important because my age bracket didn’t really have role models. We sort of put the IKEA furniture together with no instructions.
What I personally know is that there is a sister in New York who is getting a church-based mentoring program off the ground for young AG’s, and a southern-based relationship expert has a program concept in the incubator. Here in Boston, a young person saw that something she and her friends needed didn’t exist, so with some help, she created it – a social/strength group, ButchBoi Life. I’m looking forward to doing some work with them as soon as my schedule frees up just a tad. The young woman I’m speaking of is a big deal, an example of a young stud superstar, and I really want to make sure that I’m doing my part. She recently got her first mani, and now we’ve got to get her to the pedi chair, no polish, of course. To mentor, you don’t have to be perfect, just willing.
ELIXHER: Tell us about this Kawasaki Vulcan 750 motorcycle rider. (I have to ask: Is it a hit with the ladies?)
ADRIENNE: I do ride, and love it, but I’m not riding nearly as much as I used to. When I was riding more often, it was definitely a hit with the ladies. Now Lulu and Lucas are wonderful lady magnets. Well, except the ones with allergies. Oh well. One thing I do want to say about bikes and ladies, especially since it’s riding season: “Ladies, if s/he has you on the back of the bike in booty shorts and heels, you are not in the ‘one’ position. S/he would never have ‘one’ riding like that. You are injured for life if the unthinkable happens, and you go down.”
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the Black queer community?
ADRIENNE: This is an amazing time to be Black and gay. The Obama age. I am so proud to be a part of the core group of people that are going to determine what being Black and gay really means for future generations. The NAACP announcement was gargantuan. Black LGBT people who are alive right now get to figure all of this out. The most powerful man in the world, who just so happens to be Black, just said it’s okay to be gay – at least that’s how I’m choosing to interpret it, and the organization that speaks for most Black church folks in our country just backed him on it. I never ever thought I’d see the day when the NAACP took such a stand. I knew that Ben Jealous was a community ally, but I was caught completely off-guard with the announcement. I had a “stick a fork in me, I’m done” reaction. As I’m getting over the shock and awe, I’m trying to figure out what it all really means for us now, and more importantly how it shapes our footprint for the future.
ELIXHER: What changes would you like to see in the community?
ADRIENNE: I want to see us change to become more politically aware and involved. You don’t have to be a “Rainbow Gay,” but at least know who the candidates are, know who your elected officials are in your district, and be a part of the process. The reason the President has such a difficult time in office is because of the Congress that we elected. We thought it was done when we got a Black President, not realizing that he can’t do anything other than make nice symbolic gestures and take great pictures without Congress.
ELIXHER: What’s next for Adrienne?
ADRIENNE: There are two big projects being cooked up in the lab right now, as we speak. You’ll definitely be seeing and hearing more about those within the next 12-24 months. I’m so excited, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. Quench NYC is coming up the first weekend in August this year, and I’m telling you, the production on this is first rate. I’ve been to many countries, and everyone who knows me knows that New York City is my most favorite city in the world (sorry London and ATL – I see you, though). Quench NYC is going to blaze the city, I encourage you to check it out: www.quenchnyc.com.