I was born in 1969, just as the UK switched from Imperial to the Metric system. One half of my old family were stuck with inches, yards and shillings. The other half of my family used millimetres and kilograms. I was stuck exactly in the middle. I learned how to be familiar with both, but I was never really comfortable.
This kind of straddling two worlds reflected itself in other ways. The place I was born had a huge Black Caribbean population, but I still felt like a minority because the white voices were very loud and pretty racist. I was not supposed to mix with white kids. I was not supposed to make friends with them. I seemed to have missed that memo however, and so I was called “Coconut” from the time I was five all the way until I was in my forties. I was never considered a “proper” Black person.
Feeling unwelcome in either world was something encouraged by my violent and abusive family – it seems a common thing that many survivors experience. Having no trusted friends meant having no source of help or support. I was totally dependent on the people who made my life a misery until I ran away from Tottenham.
I realised I was bisexual after a memorable episode of Star Trek the Next Generation. As I took in the bridge crew of the Enterprise, I knew I was sexually attracted to almost all of them – men, women, alien and android. My initial joy was short lived though. Bisexual was an orientation that was unwanted by everyone: from my straight white boyfriend to the rest of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Gay and Gay) communities. Black and fat was unwanted by most of the white bisexual community too. It was almost five years before I met a Black bisexual woman on holiday. I tried to straddle two worlds once again, however I was considered too straight by Black gay men to even hold a conversation with, let alone be friends. I was downright shunned by Black lesbians, presumably for ‘sleeping with the enemy’ twice over. White queer folks were openly racist. Once again I belonged nowhere.
I became an activist a few years after coming out. I fought against racism in the LGBT communities. I joined DIY groups that wanted fat liberation. I put a word to my romantic feelings: Polyamorous. I became vegan. I felt like a powerhouse! And then the bricks started to crumble away. Racism and Fatphobia in veganism was massive – and still is to this day. Fat liberation was a complete blizzard when I joined, and remains so in the UK. I was treated as if Black people were not really human in the first place, unless it involved sex. A high percentage of the white bisexuals and polyamorous people who were accepting of me, became distant and cold outside of the bedroom*. There was no place I could feel at home.
Now in 2020 I see everyone on this planet stating Black Lives Matter. Countless numbers of Black Trans women and Black sex workers are brutalised and murdered around the world every day. The perpetrators sometimes include Black men. Nobody goes on marches for them, or acknowledges that they were even part of the Black race. Black women are mistreated and murdered, by racist violence, the police, and often times by Black men they know. Very few people say their name. Even less want to look at the reality of living in a body that is supposed to shut up and put up with everyone else’s pain. Black Lives Matter, but as a fat, bisexual, nonbinary, disabled Black person, I have rarely felt like my life held any worth. I have lived with trauma, abuse, violence and my own self-hate for most of my life. I have been so desperate that I self harmed as a way to cope being an abuse survivor with several mental health illnesses. My first suicide attempt was when I was eight years old. Everyone says Black Lives Matter, but the reality is unless you’re a cisgender straight man living in America, your Black life doesn’t mean that much at all.
I do not feel hopeful for the future. I have seen the way older people without a family are left to rot by systems that are supposed to care. When I was last in a mental health hospital, the fact that I had no family meant I was destined to stay there for good, despite being assaulted twice by other patients in just eight days. It was my white friend with a posh accent, who called the secure ward and convinced them to let me out and into their care. As grateful as I am to my friend, it saddens me to know the hospital medics would rather listen to a white middle-class person they had never met, than listen to my pleas to be discharged before I was assaulted again. Medical racism, biphobia and fatphobia is literally life threatening for me.
Does my Black life matter to you? If you are white or a non-black person of colour, are you only concerned with Black folks murdered in the U.S, while ignoring those Black people being killed the next street over from you? If you are Black, do you only care about other Black folks who look like you? Do you ignore the most vulnerable Black lives because they are also queer, old, fat, disabled, homeless, or a sex worker? Do you pick and choose which Black lives matter to you?
There are some worlds I can straddle, but many more I cannot when I am shoved between the cracks. If the only way my Black life matters is to keep my sexuality a secret, ignore my gender presentation, and pretend I’m just like you, then my life never mattered to you in the first place.
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