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Driving While Black, Female, and Queer

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Public spaces include highways, and getting from ‘Point A to B’ safely, can be challenging for black women. I am #SandraBland a sister-activist, or any one of the Black women silenced and wiped away. I feel like Black people are walking and driving targets for white supremacists. Many of which include police officers. Add driving while Black, female, and queer to the equation, while examining history and you will see, that the deaths of Black people at the hands of police brutality, has changed me.

Dignity Matters

The lack of dignity they were served has pushed me to do more as an activist and to raise pen with consistency in fighting oppression. It’s a matter of survival.  Black women are dying from white supremacy and laws that do not protect us.  The world is more concerned about securing animal rights than spaces for Black people to breathe.

Driving While DWB

When we talk about experiences people have with “Driving While Black or Brown, (DWB)”, we generally think of men. My experiences speak to the reality that there are incidents that go unreported where Black women are targeted, because of race, gender, of non-gender conforming dress, or perceived sexual orientation. I have helped in the under reporting in the past, by not filing.  

It Could Have Been Me

The courage of Sandra Bland and Korrine Gaines, even in the face of death—doesn’t allow me the comfort of silence.I have been stopped for being both black and female, and adding the queer twist to the list, is too much for some people.   I should note, two of the six times I was pulled over, I was dead wrong. One stop involved a left-hand turn (not my forte). On another occasion, I was rushing to pick my kids up from daycare after work and earned the speeding ticket. My being late was no excuse to put anyone in danger, including myself.

I began to think about the many interspersed unjustified stops and the link between the stress of driving in a police state with an always present, undercurrent of death.  For me, silence resulted in feelings of anxiety and helplessness from suffering police abuse, and electing to “let it go.” Self-questioning dogged me.

Why Didn’t I Do More?

As a Black woman, I pick my battles letting some incidences of human and civil injustice slide. Though, each time a video from #SandySpeaks graces my timeline I see a determined sister’s face. Confident and beautiful, I see Sandy, speaking truth to power, that somehow, justice would prevail. Sandra Bland was about life and living, the world in her hands, a new job, and an action plan for returning to Texas to fight injustice. The character assassination and ad nauseam regarding past mental health issues have nothing to do with being pulled violently from a car, or why she was found dead in a holding cell. The truth remains relevant.

What’s In A Look?

#IamSandraBland, my dress for fifteen years included (African clothing, locs, and a nose ring). Law enforcement had several labels to slap on me if they chose to do so. My appearance, was as far from European dress, as I could muster. Along with my pro-black or militant (depending on who was judging) physical appearance, my car and by proxy the driver (me), were labeled as, Q-U-E-E-R, ‘Super Black’, and with an expressed affinity for women.

My rear bumper was riddled with progressive messages, in support of anything, not white and male. They included stickers on, “Keeping Black Families Together”, LGBT stickers with colorful rainbows, and an array of colorful stickers suggesting, “Women Unite Globally!” I don’t think it too far fetched to assume, that these self-indulgent acts, which strongly affirm self-love and pride in who one is, moved the cops enough to show me favor.

I Felt Completely Vulnerable

One particular traffic stop stands out. On a poorly lit and severely unfamiliar suburban street, I was lost I made a u-turn into a cul-du- sac to find my bearings. Upon pulling out of the exit, cop lights were in my rear-view. At twelve forty-five in the morning, on a back road, the loudspeaker on the squad car blared the voice at the other end commanding me to pull over.

I hesitated for about ten seconds that felt more like an hour. What if they were not real cops? It was dark and eerily quiet. Would anyone hear my screams if they tried anything? I read, and knew if the going advice for women traveling alone at night and believed they were being followed, was to go to the nearest police station.

Different Rules Apply

I wasn’t being followed, but I wasn’t sure I was safe either. Besides, that may be a set-aside rule for white women. With the light from the taller officer’s flashlight shining in my face, images of Black women being abused in the south,  by law enforcement and left to find their way home bloodied and traumatized, flashed through my mind

I certainly feared the possibility of physical attack, including rape, and maybe even, death in those minutes. I felt totally alone in that situation, some police officers lie and may get extra points when a Black woman is involved.

Profiled and Detained

My crime that morning was being in an unlit suburban area, in a vehicle that racist media painted as “hot” for drug dealers. My car was down and mother gifted me her older Pontiac 6000 when she purchased a new ride. Neither of us was aware, that the car was “branding” me when I drove in certain areas. That morning I was lost and when I turned around in the dark and unfamiliar area, the cops were sitting duck for me. They pulled me over, questioned me about where I lived, and what I was doing in the neighborhood of Farmington, a suburb of my hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

My Trunk Was Full Of Goods, Queer Ones

They had me walk the line (I was sober), searched my vehicle (inside and trunk), without a warrant. I wanted to challenge them but decided that may not be the wisest decision given the darkness, and not particularly Black or queer friendly neighborhood I was being held in. As they went through my trunk, I explained that I was staying at a friend’s home in the neighborhood who was out of town, while my girlfriend moved out of our place. Geesh, I was going through a breakup and now this! The queer newspapers and boxes of conference materials filling my trunk were left over from a Transgender Youth Conference where I had presented earlier in the day. The peace officers took care to go through each copy.

Finding nothing, but queer gear, they continued to detain me. I was handcuffed in the rear of their squad car for almost thirty minutes as they called in my license plate. My outfit in case it matters was an African bou bou, shoulder length locs, and a nose piercing. The only noise aside from the police radio feedback was from my bangles shaking as I prayed for a quick exit. Prayer works and thankfully, God kept me from harm. The rear door opened, and I didn’t receive a citation when my hands were uncuffed. My license, insurance, and registration were returned and the shorter officer decided to play nice cop, telling me to “Get in safely.”

My Voice Returned

Out of nowhere, with my dignity assaulted, my voice returned. I wanted badge numbers and the names of commanding officers. The “nice-cop” laughed as if I were joking. Still shaken, I committed the two badge numbers to memory, got in my car, and with them watching to make sure I wasn’t going to double back to retrieve or drop off bundles of dope in my “hot” Pontiac 6000, I found my way back to the main street.

I #SayTheirNames, because they matter and should never be forgotten. The Sandra Bland Act is a strong statement. It forces us to address the stigma of mental illness while holding law enforcement accountable to the people and communities they serve. White supremacy is a system that can only be dismantled by countless acts of resistance and people deciding to stand for right. Walking, driving, and breathing while Black, are all human rights, I stand for.

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Letters From Abu Ghraib: Visiting the Middle East

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THE MIDDLE EAST – AUGUST, 29TH 2017 – Most of us know how horrible certain areas of this region can be to our community.  To say that the temperament towards LGBTQ+ people is hostile would be a severe understatement. Unfortunately, this is causing us to miss out on a myriad of fun and magical experiences. This article will share some top attractions from the Middle East (predominantly Dubai ) and give advice on how to remain undetected while visiting the region.  It will also detail the horrors that could happen to our community at any moment if we are not careful.

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Boasting a very modern feel for a hot spot most people think is nothing more than picking sand out of your trunks, Dubai houses only the top destinations.  

If you love to shop and play all at the same time there is the legendary Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls on Earth. It is home to some of the top name brands such as Armani, Versace, and Alexander McQueen. There are children’s parks and gourmet restaurants attached, too. The mall even houses its own aquarium containing over thirty thousand species of marine life1.

On the flip side, some may prefer relaxation and leisure over activity. Certainly then, you must check out the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. JW is a Five-Star hotel in the heart of the city and sports cutting edge technology in its business center and a legendary spa. Bars and a top of the line fitness wing complete the hotel’s elegance2. Interesting trivia: You might remember Tom Cruise climbing up one of the towers in a certain film… from the outside!

 

Cairo, Egypt

 

Perhaps you are one of the people that yearn for a more rugged experience. Look no further than Egypt.  The nightlife may be fantastic, but even more impressive is the Great Pyramid of Giza, only a short distance away. The impressive, massive structure is actually a burial tomb of the ancient pharaohs and is one of the world’s seven wonders3. Be sure to pose by the guardian sphinx for some memorable snapshots. To cool off, take a stroll by the Nile River that runs past the city. Careful though: You must show respect for the Nile’s bounty lest you upset it’s protecting deities Isis and Sebek.

 

Warnings from the Author

 

Low key is the key. With countless news stories showing beheadings, stonings, and even ISIS casting helpless victims off tall buildings, many people ask why no one has stepped in to end these atrocities. The answer is simple: Homosexuality is illegal in most of the Middle East. This is not just a government law, but a religious one, too. If you are still planning a trip to this region, please pay attention to the next section of this article and seek outside resources and/or protection. For more information on what it is like to be LGBTQ+ in this region, it may be beneficial to read Brian Whitaker and Anna Wilson’s book, “Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East” or another similar text4. I know many of us hate hiding who we are and if that is you, there is nothing wrong with that – but I encourage you to rethink your plans. I have a special word of caution for women: If you are travelling with men and they should happen to offend you in any way, do not let native Arabic men/women see any signs of an altercation. Address matters privately and quietly in the safety of your hotel room or living quarters.

 

Conclusion

Again, I urge you to seek additional help from others both inside and outside of the Community.  It only adds to your benefit.  Most importantly, though, enjoy your trip!

 

  1. “Revel In Retail At The Dubai Mall.”  Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing.  29 Aug 2017.  https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/dubai-mall.
  2. “JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai.”  Marriott International Inc.  2017.  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbjw-jw-marriott-marquis-hotel-dubai/
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica.  “Pyramids of Giza.”   Encyclopaedia Britannica.  26 June 2017.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pyramids-of-Giza
  4. Whitaker, Brian & Anna Wilson.  “Unspeakable Love:  Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East.”  Amazon.com.  2006.  https://www.amazon.com/Unspeakable-Love-Lesbian-Life-Middle/dp/0520250176/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1504028713&sr=8-12&keywords=gays+in+the+middle+east+books

Originally posted 2017-09-22 12:50:33.

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5 Best Educational YouTubers for LGBTQ+ people

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Students are heading back to school, but why should young people be the only ones getting educated? With that in mind, here are my top five educational YouTubers for LGBTQ+ people, no matter your age.

 

Best for LGBTQ+ information: Ash Hardell

Everyone has questions about being LGBTQ+, even those within the community, and it can sometimes be hard to know how to get honest, reliable answers. Luckily Ash, who is genderqueer and pronoun indifferent, has answered a lot of the most burning questions for you.

Whether you’re interested in learning about a sexuality or gender identity other than your own (I had some questions about asexuality which I felt inappropriate to ask the asexuals that I knew in real life) or you’re still figuring out how you identify or you want to know how to be a better ally to your fellow queer people, they probably have a video for you.

 

Best for LGBTQ+ History: Tyler Oakley

They say that to know where we have to go, we must know where we’ve been, which is why it’s important to learn about LGBTQ+ history and celebrate it. Too much of history erases the contributions of LGBTQ+ people and it’s time to put an end to it.

Tyler is in the middle of a series where he talks about the trailblazing LGBTQ+ activists who inspire him; making sure to amplify POC  to avoid whitewashing our history and combat the vilification of their voices.

He also hosts a series called Stories of Queer Resistance, in which he discussed the Stonewall Riots which kicked off the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the USA (which I also covered back in July).

 

Best for Sex Ed: Sexplanations

I think most people would agree that their sex ed classes in school left a lot to be desired; using hetero-normative and cis-normative language, teaching abstinence-only, not teaching you about contraception for sexual acts other than penis in vagina sex.

Now when I began this piece I wanted to include all LGBTQ+ YouTubers but I ran into a slight problem with the sex ed section because gay men would talk about sex ed for MSM, lesbians would talk about WSW, trans people would talk about sex for trans people etc etc. However, I wanted someone who would address all facets of sex ed, so that no matter your sexuality or gender identity, you could become educated too.

Dr Lindsey Doe is a clinical sexologist who not only covers sexual health but also how to perform certain sex acts (giving a blowjob, cunnilingus, and eating ass) using inanimate objects to demonstrate. She also does her best to avoid problematic language- like associating penis with male and vagina with female- or shaming people for their sexual desires.

A strong advocate for consent, completely non-judgmental about sexual acts, and willing to answer your questions. She’s the sex ed teacher that I wish I’d had.

 

Best for Politics: Riley J Dennis

Riley, whom you may recognize from my podcast recommendations piece, vlogs regularly on trending politics and social justice issues, such as Drumpf’s firing of Comey, the Nazi riots in Charlottesville, and DACA.

She also breaks down complicated topics that rarely make it into the news cycle (like civil asset forfeiture and queer coding) into easily understandable segments without making you feel dumb, so if you think you could benefit from a more in-depth knowledge of the political issue de jour, then check out Riley’s channel.

 

Best for Mental Health:  MarinaShutUp

I don’t think it’s a secret that LGBTQ+ people have a higher rate of mental health problems than the general population (one of the unfortunate by-products of discrimination) so we should be honest about our issues and unafraid to voice them.

Marina, a queer woman of color, is very open about her struggles with mental health problems (like negative body image, depression, and social anxiety) as well as providing practical tips for self-care (look after yourself folks!). She’s honest about her own struggles, her mistakes, and her journey, which makes those watching feel less alone with their mental health issues.

 

So what did you think of these YouTubers? Who is your favorite on this list? Who do you wish I’d included? Let me know in the comments below.

Originally posted 2017-09-20 14:18:00.

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TSA: Transphobic (in)Secure A**holes

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Traveling is stressful for everyone, especially when it’s time to go through airport security. People of color, those who speak English as a second language, the elderly, and trans folks are groups of travelers that often face different struggles when interacting with TSA agents than their white, cis, and straight counterparts. Not only are these encounters more frequent and unique, they have higher risk factors and more severe consequences when things don’t run smoothly.

If you aren’t deemed “normal” by the individual TSA agent supervising your line or X-ray station, you may not be able to get on your flight; you may be detained, harassed, and assaulted.

In September 2015, Shadi Petosky faced all of these monstrosities, and recorded her experience on her twitter account. Hida Viloria, a writer and intersex activist, also had a traumatizing experience in 2017. Apparently, little progress has been made regarding the lack of respect, and courtesy displayed by TSA agents.

#NotAllTSA

The Transportation Security Administration is but another example of a federal institution abusing their power, and causing more harm than good. It’s true that not all TSA agents fall under this description, but that doesn’t make the TSA as an agency or going through security at an airport any better. In fact, these “good” TSA agents are the epitome of “apathetic Americans.”

In this setting, the severe concentration of multitudes of microaggressions, coupled with a powerful position, do not yield a positive result.

Symptoms of a Larger Problem

Overcoming an obstacle is always easier when it is broken down into smaller pieces. By addressing individual factors that create the problematic TSA that we have today, we become one step closer to finding a solution. Three key features that intersect with one another can be identified not only in the TSA, but also federal institutions like the police, armed forces, and even corporations.

  1. Toxic Masculinity
  2. Insecurity
  3. Greed

Toxic Masculinity – the Root of Many Problems

According to Huffington Post,Toxic masculinity is built on two fundamental pillars: sexual conquest and violence.” When pat downs turn into groping, and escorting passengers becomes shoving, pushing, and literally dragging individuals, it becomes clear that the TSA stands firmly on both of these pillars.

Once introduced to this level of power, it’s easy for it to get to one’s head.  The National Center for Transgender Equality strongly encourages avoiding confrontations with TSA personnel if at all possible. Like a hard drug, just a taste can leave you craving more. Not only is this problematic, but it can easily become deadly with the simple addition of a baton.

Like a bully finding out their victim won’t be pushed around anymore, TSA agents and police officers feel scared and insecure when they are called out for their behavior. Their power is being threatened. These are the moments that we watch on the news and read about online. These are the moments when innocent people die.

Our Existence is Resistance

It may look like our future is bleak. We are living in dangerous times. Many do not “understand” our community, and with ignorance comes fear – a high-risk emotion, especially when coupled with access to weapons.

It is important to remember that not all violence is created with guns; never has the pen been mightier than the sword than when it is creating legislation.

However, we are not paralyzed; we can remind our senators and representatives of their true employers: their constituents.

Click here to find your senator and representative and how to contact them.

Now more than ever we need to unite as a community. We need to remember that we are magical. We are beautiful. We are a strong, resilient, and courageous community, and we will not let these transphobic, insecure assholes keep us from getting on our flight!


Resources

For a PDF of The National Center for Transgender Equality’s Guide to Airport Security and Rights of Trans People, click here.

If you have been mistreated, or had an unsatisfactory experience with TSA personnel, click here for information on how to file a complaint.

If you have access to a smartphone, consider downloading the app FlyRights. It provides a way to immediately file a report of an incident of discrimination with TSA and DHS when it occurs. Click here for more information. It is available for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

Originally posted 2017-09-21 19:42:36.


Also published on Medium.

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