I’m a black gender-fluid person who attended an all-girls’ high school and this is how I came to recognize my true self amidst all the drama.
Being black and queer is certainly one of the scariest things ever, growing up in a predominantly black community where gender and sexuality aren’t seen as relevant for literacy wasn’t easy as well. In fact, it takes a lot to come out as a black queer person.
I wasn’t one of those courageous queer blacks, and people rarely heard of them, the reason being that there was too much stigma compared to the benefits. This forced me to deny my gender identity and sexual orientation.
And anyone who saw me back then thought I was a black cis-gender woman who had an extremely weird and outgoing personality. In essence, I was a bit happy with the way society perceived me.
Until I met her.
The first time I ever loved a girl was when I was in grade 11, she was in grade 12. I’d usually have crushes on boys outside of school and the girls who were my friends always talked about their sexual and romantic relationships. It was nothing new in an all-girls’ school to hear chatters upon chatters of heterosexual connections, but there were also rare connections some girls had with their same-sex. It was highly prohibited — an instant expulsion of a student caught warming up to a girl was the punishment.
Still, there were a few lesbians who came out regardless of their young age. As for me, I never wanted to have that kind of relationship with a girl, even if I occasionally thought about it. I thought of how it would feel to warm up to a certain final year student named Kaycee. She was a butch.
Kaycee and I became friends when we were assigned roles to volunteer in a social competition. It was funny how we bonded so well, she had no flaws in my eyes and to some extent, I wondered why she wasn’t a guy. She was the type to put one at rest even at a time of stress, that’s probably why I fell for her without knowing. But my fearsome mind couldn’t stop reminding my heart that I had to back off if I didn’t want to end up like the few girls some homophobes disgraced in school. My denial was an act on impulse, and it became harder to hide it since I knew she liked me too. It was that type of connection and we were inseparable best friends, regardless of the age gap.
Daily, I felt like a girl. I had never woken up and felt otherwise, but something about Kaycee made me feel more female. I wanted to be more like a woman for her — I felt like I wasn’t a woman enough. The feeling was odd, I was certain she was the only one who made me feel that way.
Nothing of gender fluidity had even popped into my head, I wasn’t even educated enough to understand the LGBTQ+ topic. In my mind, I wasn’t a lesbian, I was just a girl who had a deep crush on another girl and liked it. My denial was deep, I never admitted it, but she did. And that day was the day something homophobic happened in school. Two girls were shamed for mistakenly coming out and the news went viral only to get hateful comments bad enough to make one feel suicidal.
It was then I knew I could never come out. Hell no! I wasn’t gay. There was no way on earth I liked a girl, and there was certainly no way I was black and queer. That was the message I used to convince myself. I used my mouth to send Kaycee’s love confession to the grave, it’s still fresh in my head like it was yesterday.
“I didn’t like it when we kissed. I’m sorry you like me, but I don’t think I like girls, so I can’t like you back. We should probably stop being friends too.”
That wasn’t the exact response but that’s the same message.
After I said that, she smiled, hugged me tight, and nodded without saying a single word. It meant Kaycee was hurt but at the same time, she respected my decision. Maybe she knew I lied too. In that warm embrace, I felt my eyes water, but nothing came out. In the process of breaking her heart, I broke mine.
At night, I cried so hard I didn’t remember when I drifted to sleep. The next month was her graduation, and she was going to attend a university abroad. I lost her and our friendship. The sadness I felt wasn’t the usual one, the type of sadness I felt knocked at my heart’s door, and it told me I liked girls. Still, I wasn’t ready to accept it. I thought it was a phase.
That same year after summer, I turned 18 and it was a new academic session. Being a final year high schooler, I made a promise to myself to avoid all sorts of distractions, excel, and get in college as quickly as possible. Well, that was my plan but there was a whole new twist.
A school without Kaycee was somber for me. My friends had often told me it looked like I was always searching for her. Over the past months, I tried my absolute best to get over a breakup that didn’t particularly happen. She even contacted me, we talked a little to exchange greetings and she seemed fine, it was like we never had feelings for each other. I met boys my age, studied with boys, hanged around boys, played video games with boys. I just wanted boys because I wanted to be certain. Surprisingly for me, I still found them attractive, I barely found girls attractive. I even had a small crush on a friend’s older brother during that summer. So, I definitely wasn’t a lesbian.
Yet, one and a half months into the academic session I’m liking another girl. The emotions I felt for the girl called Christine was a complete turnover, nothing I’d ever experienced.
Christine was a friend of my friend, we got to know each other through our friend. She was average in height and had a model’s body, her dark skin was her ultimate beauty. She had slender curves any girl dreamed of and a personality as good as gold. I couldn’t help but fall for her. Her being an 11th grader was a year younger than me, but she was mature enough to spot my feelings for her.
With Christine, it was totally different. I felt like I needed to impress her and treat her well for her to like me back. I found myself adjusting my clothes when I spotted her from a distance, I said sweet things to her, hugged her, and did things I’d never done before. It was like I was an entirely different person.
I wanted to be much taller than Christine, I was a girl but when it came to her, I felt different inside. My whole body screamed Christine’s boyfriend, my life got weird in a few months of getting to know each other. I had no idea why I saw Christine with a male’s eye. She was so sexy that I couldn’t believe that we had the same sex organs, one of my sinful thoughts was wanting to have a dick to have sex with her. All in all, with Christine, I felt like a man in a woman’s body. And that was the last thing I had expected after turning 18, so it put my mental health was in disarray because there was no way I was a man with a vagina, I had no literacy of sexuality and gender identity. I couldn’t help but think something was wrong with me; “what if there was something grave wrong with my hormones,” was my unending thought.
Months passed and I still liked Christine and I never told her about the problem I was facing, I never told anyone, I also couldn’t help but be a guy when I was with her. My gender shifts were affecting me and all I could do was feel anxious about it.
Christmas break came and my family was going to visit my grandparents who lived far away from my parents’ house, so we were going to stay with my grandparents for a week. It meant I wasn’t going to see Christine till school resumption.
I had a close relationship with my grandmother, she knew me down to my bones, my greatest fear was letting her suspect a thing. I didn’t want to cause my family any distress, no one even talked about the topic. In essence, my world was devoid of anything LGBTQ.
My anxiety rose as I thought of ways to compose myself, but much to my astonishment, the week I wasn’t with Christine, I went back to being female. It was at that moment I realized I didn’t know what I was.
Christine helped me realize I liked both boys and girls, the part I couldn’t understand was the gender shifting thing. I needed help but I kept my thoughts to myself because I wasn’t ready to receive a backlash or hear terrible comments of people telling me I wasn’t normal. I felt normal and I believed there was an explanation for my gender shifts so I resorted to the internet.
The term “Genderfluid” and “Genderqueer” filled my search results and this only made me more confused.
According to Gender Wiki:
Genderfluid is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies over time. A genderfluid person’s identity may change constantly, so it’s always best to ask what they are in that moment. For instance: You wake up a girl, then you suddenly feel like a boy. Except, it changes between ALL the gender identities. This may change dramatically, and rapidly, depends on the person.
Was I really a gender-fluid bisexual person who also happened to be black? Was I really a she or he or they or other? To me, it was the worst-case scenario.
Not accepting myself was one of the worst things I ever did to myself. I got into college without stress, I knew there was going to be more drama, more hardships, more relationships, I also knew that was going to be more unaccepting people. But I was prepared, I knew what I came to college for; to get a degree and make a name for myself, not get entangled with some bullsh*t drama.
Freshman year was good, everything went smoothly. By using the right statement, I’d say, I avoided everything that had to deal with gender, race, relationships, and sexuality. I turned a blind eye to everything I saw and heard, I had homophobes around me and it was more painful hearing disheartening comments. I hated it more because most homophobes I came across were black like me. Everyone just wanted to please society so they were all drawn by peer pressure. I kept shut nevertheless, to save my sanity.
Sophomore year, I was a male 70% of the time, I knew I had loosened up a bit, made a few friends who knew a few things about me — like the fact that I was bisexual. Surprisingly, no one cared because according to them, it’s completely normal for girls to be touchy.
A new guy who was black joined my friend group. He was really big and had a nice name “Nathan.” sadly enough, He hated his name because people said it was a gay name. Nothing has ever been so stupid. I and Nathan bonded fast, for some reason he had this vibe that I jammed with a lot. There was something about him that made me feel somewhat safe like I could say anything I wanted. I lost it.
I told him almost everything, including where I was from and about Christine, so he had a clue that I was queer. Nathan on the other hand never said anything. He was never with girls, never with boys, just him and books. I was the one who interfered even though he seemed okay with it.
Deep down, I knew I wasn’t entirely into him, but something in me wanted to break the shield, so I told him I had feelings for him. I did, it just wasn’t as deep, and if he asked if we could date, I’d have said yes. But that wasn’t the case.
The night I confessed to Nathan, he rejected me with a “you probably don’t know, right?”
What did I not know?
He smiled and explained that he really liked me but as a friend and family member. Never once did he even see me attractive, I’d expected it a little, yet I couldn’t help but wonder.
That same night as I reached home, I got a text from Nathan, I was stunned because I would have never known.
I couldn’t imagine how much courage it took for him to say that to me. Black and gay in a society where toxic masculinity and femininity reigns, that was why I felt safe with him. That was why he separated himself from society’s peers and rather stayed alone to avoid being in a situation where he’d have to ever come out.
A few days later, we talked about it, and I apologized for making him come out of his personal space. He responded saying that he felt relieved after doing so. Although I wasn’t convinced because as a person from the LGBTQ+ community, you come out every day.
Observing Nathan, I came to understand a lot of things that once seemed vague to me. He wasn’t scared of being gay, he was scared of being black and gay. As for me, I wasn’t scared of being bisexual or gender fluid, I was scared of being black and queer. I and Nathan knew we couldn’t match up to society’s standards of machismo or soft femalehood, so we cloaked our true selves thereby not accepting ourselves.
As time went on, Nathan became my strength while I became his. My goal was to make Nathan have some good sex with an awesome guy like him, hell! He’d been celibate for (only God knows when the number of) years. He hooked up with a white guy after I talked some sense into him. I had never seen Nathan so happy and comfortable around someone, I could see his eyes thanking me every single time. The more I saw Nathan, the more I realized how much it was to be true to oneself. I thanked him too because I was able to embrace myself, acknowledge myself as black and queer, and also stand up for myself when I heard homophobic statements around me.
It took me 4 years. I don’t know how long it takes for some people, but I’m sure it could take 10 years and even more, it could take a lifetime. As a black LGBTQ+ person, it’s not really about coming out, the thing is coming to terms with yourself and accepting yourself for who you truly are — no one can accept you if you can’t accept yourself. Standing up for yourself when you have to and being able to help others who may have a hard time accepting their gender and sexual orientation is a gift.
Previously published on medium
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