“If you’re a writer, you are forced to look behind the word into the meaning of the word. You are responsible for what that word means. You have to find a way to use that word to liberate the energy in that word so that it has a positive effect on the lives of the people.”
– James Baldwin, “Soul! A Conversation with James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni”
Queer and Spirit. As soon as I begin to think I understand these words they shapeshift into other forms I didn’t know were possible. To me, they are like suns. Their clarity only exists in the peripheral view. They leave traces on everything they choose to illuminate and navigate around and through the blackness of time and space. Home.
So much is happening to and in our city (Louisville). The planet. I am overwhelmed, scared, angry, excited, and bewildered. Every day. Sometimes moment to moment. Sometimes all at once. Pandemics and injustice and uprisings. All the time. All at once. I’m in awe of the earth’s ability to assert boundaries with us, and I feel obligated to respect them by sheltering in place and social distancing when necessary. I respect them because we are all too familiar with the exploitation of our generosity and asserting boundaries with the people who have caused us harm. It’s impossible to look at what’s happening in our city, and not see the parallels in nature. The earth seems to be having her own uprising, and it’s a process not to become engulfed it.
As someone living with chronic conditions, how my body metabolizes trauma has an immediate impact on my health. My ability to contribute to my community also becomes impaired. Grief time-travels. My body is still feeling the impacts of the violence endured by my enslaved ancestors. The incessant pain I feel every day could very well be the gnashing of overworked joints in the fields or a lash still echoing throughout time. The way my body composts the grief of our times will be a conversation in my descendant’s bones and neural pathways, generations from now. We don’t deserve this suffering. We have had enough.
Decolonizing my relationship with myself is not just about what I’m doing, it’s also what I’m saying, thinking, believing. I don’t condone toxic positivity, it’s a little too gas-lighty for my taste. But what I believe to be true about myself, is true about myself. And we already have enough to deal with as black, queer, trans, non-binary, neurodivergent people existing in this paradigm of violence. We don’t also need to be dealing with oppression on a subconscious level. We don’t need it polluting our thoughts, motivating our behaviors, suppressing our internal voices, and colonizing the lands otherwise known as our bodies. We have had enough.
My queerness is a commitment to eradicating oppression and the legacy of white supremacy. My queerness is a rejection of power derived from the subjugation of others. My queerness is the cessation of the exploitation of earth’s resources, including human labor. My queerness is abolition. My queerness is black. A quiet knowing with a blunt tip. My queerness encapsulates so much more than I can name right now. Or ever, maybe.
Unironically, my motivation for this piece began with an insatiable hunger to extract meaning from the words queer and spirit. Just as I was about to shape it (or try to), it vaporized and rematerialized in the corner furthest from me. It went on like this for days, me chasing these words around. It took several false starts for me to realize they were avoiding me. And for good reason. My approach was out of alignment. I wasn’t connecting with the energy of either word because I was too busy worrying about the outcome of this piece. Was there a way for me to liberate the energy of these words without restricting their form? These words have provided shelter through many of my life’s storms. Does my approach to them reflect that? Has my process ignited a sense of liberation, joy, pleasure, culture, and autonomy? No.
So I sat with the trouble. Meditated on the transience of the words queer and spirit until I found myself navigating through and around blackness. After all, it was the first queer thing I noticed about myself. Blackness was always synonymous with other(worldly). So much so, that non-black people created entire systems around the color of it, of us. How queer is that? I thought about black and indigenous spiritual technology. I thought about how we’ve survived. I thought about how it shows up in my body, and how I can use it to embody liberation on a day-to-day basis.
Queering the Spirit is an odyssey. An ode to how messy decolonization is, looks, and feels. It’s an ode to queerness as an exercise in cartography. Our bodies are the maps.
“It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society. But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies,”
-Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic”
“…and those who do not realize that guiding their own destinies is a possibility.”
– adrienne maree brown, “Pleasure Activism”