InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. Check out some of ELIXHER’s highlights from 2011!
ELIXHER: Is there a certain power in claiming a label and saying, “Yes, I am a dyke”?
YVONNE: I love this question. There are certain people that are not into labels. But I love them. I understand because, honestly, this is why I have so many names. A name is an expression like if your spirit had a sound what would it be. The spirit is huge and beyond words. So that’s why I like it when people call me different names of mine and they have different meanings. I’m more than just the one name. Same thing with labels. I understand that no words could ever capture someone’s soul.
As far as labels, I understand deeply that people sometimes feel confined by them. Sometimes depending on what community created them, people feel as if it’s erasing parts of themselves. I respect it, but for me, I love labels because they create a lot of ambiguity in the world. People don’t want to offend anybody, so they don’t actually want to say what the fuck they mean. They end up being what’s called “politically correct” and I just think that’s garbage. I just choose to be who I am. To be explicit and to be out especially because so many people, given the fact that I am perceived as feminine, will just presume that I am heterosexual.
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the Black queer community?
ADRIENNE: I am proud of the particular truths we tell. We sit on an edge of the world and from that vantage point we can see a lot about how important love is.
ELIXHER: What changes would you like to see in the community?
ALEXIS: I really do believe that we could have more active tangible love and support for each other and stand up for each other better. I especially think that we need to stand strong together to support transgender Black women who are targets of such blatant and extreme violence, both in the media and in the streets. But instead many folks in the Black LGBQ community participate in marginalizing, disrespecting and calling Black trans women and trans and genderqueer folks in general out of their names. We can love each other better than that. We can choose each other over whatever cis-gender privileges some of us have. I believe that is possible, and I believe it takes tangible practice, speaking up, supporting each other materially in every way that we can and even in some ways that we cannot imagine doing at this point.
ELIXHER: You blog about your journey through sexuality, polyamory and womanhood. You’re also a sex positive teacher. How has exploring these topics so openly been liberating and what advice do you have for other women undertaking this journey?
ASHLEY: In writing about my journey through sexuality, I’ve learned to love and accept my queerness and not to feel shame for my desires. I’ve also learned to embrace my plus-sized body as a sexual object of my own design. I write to document the journey but also to encourage women to create sexual freedom as a rite of passage.
My advice to women on a similar journey: Learn what you want and learn how to communicate what you want to others. When you learn to communicate what you want, you can start to create the beautiful, juicy relationships you’ve always desired. I would also advise women to find the communities that encourage and support their sexual explorations so they can embark on the journey without shame or criticism.
ELIXHER: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
MO: Having the confidence to be successful, to not just play the background or tool around with mediocrity.
ELIXHER: What drew you to [your] craft?
DANA: My girlfriend at the time wanted me to take a yoga class with her and I was a dancer so I love being in my body. I figured I would try it and I hated it the first time I went. I did not get it. I didn’t like the mantras. It just felt kind of hippie and weird. [Laughs.] I had a bad taste in my mouth after the first class. The one thing that I enjoyed though was that the teacher played this meditation gong at the end. I also have a love and a passion and an affinity for music. The sound of the instrument made me want to come back just to hear it again.
Later I learned when you get rid of the garbage, get rid of the toxins, get rid of the density of all the thoughts and stuff that we hold onto and don’t need, you get light, you feel good. It was a magical experience for me that second and third time around. I’ve been hooked ever since.
ELIXHER: Who or what inspires you?
KIM: My grandmother, the young people I work with, their resilience, their brilliance, their visions. We are not meant to last forever. For me, I think that we should invest so deeply into the people coming after us, so our movements can carry on, and change as they see fit. I have an enormous amount of trust and faith in the brilliant people I work with every day. I am inspired by ancestry and the womyn who came before me who spoke up, and fought and also those who lived quiet and loved. One of the most radical things we can do is take care of ourselves and each other especially as Black womyn, who are so used to taking care of everyone else to our own personal detriment.