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Phenomenally Black, Queer, and Trans

Reflections of Sam and Lauren

This post was written by Lauren Daniels ‘25(she/her/hers) and Sam McCrae ‘25 (he/him/they/them). Lauren is a Queer Black Woman and the Pride Center Intern with i3b. She is a BFA acting student and was in the top 1% of Beyonce listeners last year.  Sam is a Black Queer Trans Man and a CDM (community desk manager) with i3b. He is a social work and sociology major and a MASSIVE Spiderman fan. 


Image decription: A magazine collage in the shape of a face with the words “Black” in green with a black background, “Queer” in black with a holographic background and “Flesh” written in white with a res background. The words ``Rejecting subjectivity in the African American Novel” are written in black on top of a yellow background. “Alvin J. Henry'' is written in black on top of a blue background.

Ever since Freddy Gray’s death in 2015, I have considered being Black an act of resilience. To exist loudly in a world that was created to uphold whiteness, me simply being proud of my Blackness felt like an act of protest. However, I knew deep down that there was more of me to be discovered but continued to push it away. I realized that I was Bisexual in high school but as time went on and we entered the pandemic, I realized that wasn’t true, in fact Bisexual was not a big enough word to describe my sexual orientation. I found out that I was attracted to Women and Non-Binary folks (which would still be Bisexual but when most people hear the term they think of attraction to “men and women”). I then cycled through different labels such as, Pansexual and Lesbian but they never felt right, I even experiemnted with having no label for my sexuality but that didn’t work for me. I fell in love with the label of Queer as soon as I tried it. It was a broad term that did not require much explanation, an ambiguous term that I could define however I wanted and as I continue to grow over time, this word will continue to describe me and who I love. 

Seeing people like Janelle Monae and Cynthia Erivo, and having friends that had been openly Gay/Bi for years made me feel less alone and like I had some sense of community. Truly, being a triple minority is difficult but I have found joy in my intersectional identity. Knowing that not too many people get to experience this and see the world the way that we can. Since Black people, Black Women in particular, have been shut out for so long, we created our own spaces, and Black Queer people have done the same. This resilience empowers me, and as old folks say, we “make somethin’ out of nothin’ ”.

Image description: Janelle Monae wearing a white and black jacket with a Chanel brooch on the right side. They have two braided pigtails in their hair with a middle part at the center. They have a slight smirk on their face. 

Image description: Cynthia Erivio shot from the shoulders up. She has a neutral expression on her face with both of her hands holding her face. She has four rings on and long white/silver acrylic nails on each finger. 

Image description: “Somethin’ from Nothin’” hats via @auntiesla (Black Queer/Trans owned business 🙂 ). Three bucket hats, one white on top and two black on bottom. On the hats you see a green outline of a mug with a flower blooming out of them. 

I consider my existence as an act of resistance even more now. In a world run by cis-het white men, I am the exact opposite. To show up as my full self every day, to not just survive in this world but thrive as a Black Queer Woman is an act of protest. To be one of the few (millions) of people who get to experience this identity is a privilege and I plan on experiencing it to the fullest. 

Both of our intersectional identities involve being Black. But when you add being Trans and Queer to the mix it adds another layer of pride to our exsistence. Being Black, Trans, and Queer is a unique experience that not very many have. It isn’t one that you often see in the media, so even fewer understand it. Just because it isn’t shared in the media, that doesn’t mean we are any less proud because at the end of the day we are both very proud of our stories.

Growing up, I didn’t know any Black Trans people. I never saw any of us on TV, and there weren't any in my small town, so as a kid I assumed my identity wasn’t one that other people experienced. As I grew up and was able to name my identity, I started to seek out people who identify similarly to the way I do. In doing so I found not only people I shared an identity with, but a community of people who could understand my specific struggles as a Black Transmasculine person.    

Being Black and Transmasculine is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I got to see the world through the lens of a little Black Girl and be treated as such. Being able to experience firsthand how the world treats Black Girls taught me lessons on empathy and respect that I wouldn’t have been able to learn otherwise. Seeing the ways Black Girls are forced to behave in order to thrive (and even just survive) made me understand the difference in how the world treats them in comparison to other groups. Growing up with the fear of what could happen because I was seen as a Black Girl showed me how I, as a Black Man, can make the Black Women in my life feel safe, as well as respected. 

My identity allowed me to explore femininity as a kid without judgment for being “too feminine”. I got to have long hair and wear “girly” clothes; which is something that I would never have been able to do if I was assigned male at birth. I also got to explore more stereotypically masuculine clothing styles and activities while being viewed as a “tomboy”. This ability to express myself without having to truly explain my identity made it easier for me to understand my relationship with my Transmasc identity and femininity.

Depsite having to deal with the struggles that come with being Black, Queer, and Trans, I love the experience I get as a Black Queer Trans person. Being a part of this community that has a history of resilience, love, and solidarity that continues to hold those same values today, is something I couldn’t imagine myself without. The Black Queer community, to me, truly feels like a family. We may identify differently and move through the world differently, but we have this baseline understanding of one another. Even those with extremely complex identities can find somewhere within this community where they feel protected and loved. Having people who you can connect with when you’re in such a small minority can feel impossible, but having positive connections with people within those communities can shift how you feel about those identities, and how others perceive them. 

Being Black and Queer means facing oppression on all sides of your identity, but it also comes with a community that creates a feeling of belonging. Having these spaces and connections helps us remember that we are never alone in our struggles and have an entire community alongside us to lift us up when we are down and celebrate us when we succeed. For example when MJ Rodriguez won her Golden Globe she said that “This is for the entire LGBTQIA community”, as she is the very first Transgender person to win a Golden Globe. Anytime a Black Trans person is awarded and celebrated by those outside the community, it feels like a win for us all. Hearing her acceptance speech was a very moving experience for me. To see her awarded for her role in a show about Black Trans Women, as an Afro-Latina Woman shows that people outside of the community are starting to see us in a way that is similar to the way we see ourselves. 

Image description: MJ Rodriguez shot from the torso up. She is wearing a green metallic outfit with a cut out at the top from the collarbone down to the chest. with ruffles on the wrist. She is also wearing a silver choker with two silver earrings. She has a wide smile on her face and long straight black hair. 

To help create that sense of community on campus, UMBC has created some spaces for Queer BIPOC on campus such as The Pride Center (University Center, 201-D), The Mosaic  (The Commons, 2b23)  along with QPOC and LSU which helps us form our queer community. For me, I always feel safe and respected when I’m in the Pride Center, or when I’m attending Spectrum meetings in the Women’s Center. Despite where you are in your journey or how you identify it is important to know that your story and your experiences matter and that there is a place for you on campus during Black History Month and beyond.

Thumbnail image description: Illustrated by Jeffrey Belfield. Brown, red, orange, yellow, green and blue stripes in the background. 5 black cartoon characters drawn overtop. They are all wearing black except for the person in the center who is wearing a shirt that says “WE ARE HERE”.

Posted: February 18, 2022, 1:48 PM