Some time ago, I shared a secret with two friends: I find myself frequently searching for things that move me. A deep, insightful book. An exciting new song. A novel movie. An unusually critical article. An event that pulls on my heart strings. Something that will feed my spirit in a way that most things do not.
One of these two friends responded, “doesn’t that seem unhealthy?” She worried that having spiritual food located externally, and its actual whereabouts unknown and fleeting, was no way to live a self-sustaining live. I had never thought of this kind of hunger as unhealthy. I had actually convinced myself that this was my way of searching for meaning in the world, specifically for my own life. Isn’t it a good thing to want more from life, to proactively look for more and better rather than simply accept what is? And, don’t we all get excited when something “gives us life”?
My friend’s concern came to mind recently as I browsed a local bookstore. I sat on the floor before the disappointingly small selection of books on LGBTQ issues. I found myself looking for… well, myself. Where is that story about people like me? It finally clicked. Maybe this is not exactly what concerned my friend. But, it definitely concerned me. I am not (only) looking for meaning; apparently, I am desperately searching for myself, something more than my own reflection in the mirror.
The media. My workplace. My family. Politics. Religion. My own racial and sexual communities. People like me do not exist, apparently. I am invisible. Or, maybe I do not even exist.
Fuck intersectionality.1 As one part of myself becomes visible, the other parts remain invisible. Black is straight. Gay is white and thin. Black and white cannot coexist, so where does that leave me as a multiracial person? Where does this leave me, Black, white, queer, fat, something other than hypermasculine yet male-bodied? Fuck intersectionality. Fuck being unique.
It takes energy everyday to exist — to dare to enter the world as the other other Other. Some days, I am exhausted from it all, from forcing the universe to see me, from trying to carve out space in the world for myself.
But, that is the key to my survival. My existence is not a given. It is the outcome of a lifelong fight against invisibility, bias, exclusion, and even conditional acceptance. It comes from not giving up, or settling into subordinate status.
I will exist — or die trying.
1 To be clear, this statement reflects my frustration with existing at intersections among multiple oppressed statuses, not the theoretical framework of intersectionality. Indeed, intersectionality and Black feminist theory in general have been instrumental in making visible such intersections and highlighting the critical importance of studying them in academia. Intersectionality as a framework “gives me life” in so many ways.