To be a Black, Queer, Unrespectable Christian in an Era of Unrest

I got a “Monroe” piercing yesterday. I got it for my 31st birthday. Several times – after geeking out about how cute it is – I reflected on the words of my very staunch Christian Pastor and maternal Grandma growing up. When I was 11-years-old, I told her I was interested in ministry. In reply, she said “If you want to sit in a pulpit, you’re going to have to stop getting all those holes in your ears.” This was the first time I realized how much of my Christianity was wrapped up in performance. It was also the moment I started dismantling and unlearning the man-made systems of control meant to delimit my personhood while masquerading as “proper” Christian faith.

My mom and I chuckled about Grandma’s warning about earrings on several later occasions. First, we laughed as we drove to get my first nose piercing just about a year later. Then, we chuckled again when we drove to my favorite piercing and tattoo shop in Berkeley, California to get my first eyebrow piercing for my fourteenth birthday. We laughed again around my 28th birthday when we got matching eyebrow piercings just because we could. Frankly, we’ve been laughing ever since at the idea that piercing my body makes me less of a Christian.

Anyone who has read the Bible knows that ceremonial laws and rituals were abolished when Jesus Christ died on Calvary (find this in Romans – throughout especially 3 and 7, Galatians 3:20-25, Ephesians 2:15, and Hebrews 7 and 10: 1-9). This includes dietary rules, bodily restrictions (i.e. tattooing and piercing), and other performances of worship. Instead, God gave us moral law in the form of the Ten Commandments to guide our Christian walk. And, given that the Commandments mention nothing about sexual orientation, gender, nor bodily accessorizing, any messages from anyone which suggest otherwise are simply unfounded. This also extends to sexuality.

Read the full article at WCC.

In Defense of Nene Leakes’ Femininity

Let me start by saying: Nene Leakes is incredibly problematic. She has said terrible things about LGBTQIA folks, she called a biracial woman a “half-breed”, and she may have distributed t-shirt designs that weren’t her own work. She isn’t perfect. But, this piece isn’t in defense of her actions. Some of those are indefensible. Instead, it’s in defense of her right – as a tall, dark-skinned, outspoken cisgendered, heterosexual woman – to be feminine. That’s something, to me, that shouldn’t be up for questioning. Ever.

I was parousing the internet last night and was reminded of how often Leakes’ gender takes center stage both on RHOA (which I still watch) and in general. Last year, when Leakes got into an argument with Marlo Hampton, someone who was once her dear friend, Hampton pulled the “you look like a man” line with ease. It wasn’t the first time Leakes’ gender and femininity were questioned.

Kim Zolciak and Sheree Whitfield – ex-cast mates on the show – also questioned Leakes’ gender and physical appearance with reference to her femininity. A simple google search yields hit after hit of questions on the web about Nene Leakes’ gender. Like Wendy Williams, another tall, Black, outspoken woman, there seems to be this perception that taller than average Black women with large personalities are “manly” or less feminine than other women. Unfortunately, this is an issue I can relate to.

I have been tall for as long as I can remember. I have been over six feet tall since middle school. In elementary school, I frequently saw the tops of the heads of my peers and teachers. I towered over all the girls and the boys. And, coupled with my outspoken nature, billowing voice, and forward demeanor, I was often called a “tomboy.”

I never really knew what that meant. I wasn’t a boy. I didn’t feel like a boy. But, then again, I didn’t know what being a boy felt like. I just felt like me.

For one reason or another, other children and society in general separated me. I had to play basketball with the boys while the girls played Four Square. I played tether ball (and whooped everyone) while the other girls jumped rope. By fourth grade, there was a clear distinction between me and the “cool girls.” Whenever one of them felt threatened by me, they’d say, “Jennifer, why don’t you just go do ‘boy’ stuff?” To which I’d answer, “Why don’t you shut up?” A reply that almost immediately landed me in the principal’s office at my very parochial Catholic school.

Read more at WCC.

On Only “Feeling” White When It’s Uncomfortable

I have heard white people say that race bothers them. I have noticed the involuntary spasms of discomfort when black and brown people discuss “sensitive” topics regarding racism and patriarchy in the US. But, I have never had a white person tell me, “I don’t like being called white,” until just recently. Though perplexing, this conundrum points to deeper issues with understanding the boundaries of race in the US.

Anyone who knows me knows that race is something I am unapologetic about. I discuss my blackness freely as I do every other characteristic I hold. I am never ashamed of my upbringing or background. I never contort myself to fit within a stereotypical image projected by mainstream society. And, while I used to do all those things, I am a wholesale believer that authenticity is the only way to bridge racial, sexual, and gender divides in the US.

But, I’m not white.

I am a black woman. My experience with race is my own. The lenses through which I view the racialized world are fitted specifically to my perspectives and colored with my lived experiences. I don’t expect everyone to see race in the way that I do. I especially don’t expect white folks in the US to understand what it means to be black and woman in this day and time. What I do expect, however, is an understanding that race is not a feeling. One doesn’t have to “feel” black to be black. Social inequities in the US clearly articulate the palpable differences for whites and nonwhites. This isn’t really a conversation about how white people “feel” about race. Or is it?

Those intangible feelings folks ascribe to race are actually not the random phenomenon of skin color variation at all. Those sensitivities, discomforts, privileges, and internal rumblings are what happens when a social construct takes on a life of its own.

Let me unpack that a bit. In a sense, our boundaries of citizenship and identity are directly linked to what amounts of our private selves we get to take with us in public. Our hair types and styles, our food preparation and consumption practices, our dialects, our colloqialisms, so on and so forth, are pieces of our private selves that we carry along into interactions with other human beings. And, in that public space, we make race the social construct it is by assigning certain intangibles, mentalities, and propensities to entire social groups based on limited experiences with several members from that group. We create race when we ignore it. We create race when we are adverse to it. In our interracial interactions, we are always, inevitably, reinventing and reconstituting race.

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.