Our Guest Editor, Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul, shares her thoughts on this month’s Cover Story, and offers background on why elevating Two-Spirit voices is crucial for this community, and healing for everyone involved.
For the last few years, Black History Month has brought some of my favorite things to the internet. From Tracey Clayton’s (aka @brokeymcpoverty) “Little Known Black History Facts” to On This Day... momentous reflections, we focus every day of February on celebrations of unmitigated Black joy. Annual hashtags are reborn with a renewed vigilance. Librarians, scholars, activists and history buffs drop knowledge about the resilience and rebellion that sustains our fight for liberation. And we all share in the revelry of Black folks’ ability to survive, thrive, and generally make the most out of the absolute least.
Black LGTBQ+ histories, however, are so often left out of this collective storytelling. The forms of erasure that many of us experience in our daily lives is reproduced at a much grander scale. When we are invited to the party, we face trauma at every turn. There are those who would see us quietly excised from the legacies of civil rights activism as if our social movements were not one and the same. There are others who would rather spend this time debating our humanity as if our concerns have always been a “distraction” from a moral greater good.
We are Black History’s open secret. That little-known, well-known whispered thing among us.
When I first volunteered to guest edit this month’s cover story, BLACK, I knew I’d be engaging with sharp, talented thinkers. EFNIKS has been shaping the digital scene for QPoC interests to take center stage for just over a year now, but this was a moment of risk. It was a chance to carve a little space that Black queer folx could call our own and have full control over how, when, and where our stories would be told. This is no small feat.
The pressure was on.
I really need not have worried because our contributors showed up, and showed out. Together we moved critically through history, the best and the worst of it. We unpacked the complicated truths of living in and out of space. We explored the deeply beautiful creativity that holds our movements and communities together. And now, we invite you to journey with us.
This month’s three Deep Dives remind us of the richness of queer Black experiences. One tackles the complicated notion of diaspora by thinking through who gets in included and on what divisive terms. Another launches a charged criticism of when and where queer lives enter into the archives of History. Through it all, we still find ways to reinvent culture and our feature story shows us what is possible when we turn deeply rooted traumas and exclusions into safe spaces created for our survival.
The Stories of US take a personal detour into the different ways self-image and self-love shape how Black queer folks interact with the world. From unrooting internalized homophobia and misogyny, to learning practices of self-authorship — our contributors share the processes that have helped them make this world a little more welcoming for all of us.
To bring it all home, this month features a special collection of portraits and interviews highlighting the beauty of queer aesthetics and style. And this is only the beginning of an evolving collection you won’t want to miss.
Of course, there is no way that we could cover every aspect of Black queer life and history in just one issue. Even with the best intentions, there are narratives that remain unrepresented; and there are people who go unknown and unnamed. There is work yet to be done to reclaim the losses our communities have endured due to political and cultural violences intended to strike us from memory. But Black queer folks have been here every step of the way and we’re not going anywhere, any time soon. We still have room to grow. So in the spirit of EFNIKS’ 2018 mantra, I say: Let’s Build.
In January, EFNIKS will be talking about ELDERS.
Last month, I posed a question on my social media platforms. I asked folks if they had upper or lower bounds for people they would marry, people they would date, people they would have sex with, and and people they would be friends with. I really didn’t care about the responses to any category except for the one about friendships. I asked 4 questions but I was only interested in one of them.
Before I get to the responses, let me take a step back and lay the groundwork for you. EFNIKS tries, through the monthly Cover Story theme, to cover issues and concepts that are not only relevant to our LGBTQ+ PoC experience, but that may be under-discussed by our community write large. This focus on ELDERS is one of those issues that is not only important to us, but is also absent from our discourse.
I say this for two reasons. First, while it felt intuitive, while it seemed to be true that this issue wasn’t discussed enough, the process of collecting pitches and proposals for this Cover Story proved challenging. That is, while talks on FEMME (femme experience and gender presentation), WHITE (the face of subtle white supremacy in the modern era), and NERD (QTPoC experiences in geek culture and academia) brought more than enough pitches to work with, ELDERS was a struggle.
And I blame this struggle on both the broader media depiction of LGBTQ+ culture, and also squarely on the lap of our own gay media. With discussions largely absent about aging, about mentoring, about living activists, about resources, about the responsibility young folks have to our elders and they to us, the average LGBTQ+ person is left without the linguistic architecture, without the concepts to even begin a conversation on this topic. Growing old is something they never bothered to examine; forgetting our elders is behavior they were all-too ready to engage in. And so, this information is largely limited to specific activist circles and academics, our media sources having failed in their duty to inform and filter information through to our conversations.
My second reason for the belief that ? The results of my social media survey.
The responses seemed to run contrary to what people stated in their responses. While so many respondents said they would love to have friends of all ages, you never seem to see them with anyone not of their age group, let alone an elder. So there’s a disconnect between stated values and lived practice.
There is anecdotal evidence of a disconnect. And when so much of our history has been done in silence and our culture developed in darkness, it means we never got to learn from those just a bit older, and those a whole lot older. Role models, socialization, values, history--we end up learning from porn, media caricatures, or the spit-on-a-sidewalk depth in the works of corporate personalities like Andy Cohen.
We don’t even know how to talk about this, about elders and the intergenerational kinship in the LGBTQ+ community. Clearly, we understand the lesson. We understand the value and the meaning of the responsibility we have to our elders and the responsibility they have to us. We know there are lessons to learn, and lessons to teach. We know there is value in experience, value in lives not yet done, value in learning how others did it so we can focus not on rebuilding the ship with every generation but on keeping that ship moving as far as it will take us.
That is the lesson of this ELDERS collection. That is why we did this, and at the start of a new year, no less. We wanted every younger person in our community to know that we aren’t alone. We don’t have to start over again. That everything in life isn’t new just because it’s new to us. And if we know that it isn’t all new, if we pay attention, if we reach out, then we can learn from our elders and then keep moving forward.
It is the lesson that maybe some of us will have it hard, but not all of us have to. They build for us and we build on what they did for the next ones. “Each one, teach one” on an intergenerational level. Just like the growth of Martin’s words to an Internet meme to Jay-Z’s lyrics, we see these lessons play out in culture and we can apply these parallel lessons to our broader QTPoC culture and community:
Some of us will sit for the culture. Some of us will crawl for the culture. Some of us will walk for the culture. And some of us will run so that eventually we can all fly.
This, is ELDERS. And EFNIKS will be taking a look at these issues all month long…
For all of us.