PRIDE: QUEER+TRANS BIPOC VOICES VLOG SERIES
During Pride Month and beyond, HMF is sharing queer+ and trans BIPOC voices for a VLOG series to amplify their voices and give visibility. Folx will be sharing their experiences within their marginalized identities- i.e. their experience as a Trans/ or Queer+ BIPOC.
This is the first series that runs through June/July.
26, Queer POC (SHE,HER,HERS)
Grace Korley is a student, teacher, advocate, partner, friend. Grace has an educational background in Women’s and Gender Studies, English Literature, and is working toward a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Winter Park, Fl. She is a long-time activist and volunteer with Harvey Milk Festival. Grace is a native of Lakeland, Fl and frequently travels between Winter Park and Sarasota, Fl.
For a Better Future
My siblings and I are the first in our family to be born in the United States. My parents both have post-
graduate degrees and taught us the value of education from an early age. We were taught that
knowledge gained was something that could never be taken away from us. The neighborhoods and
schools of my upbringing were largely white and middle-upper class. I was often the only black kid in my classes, and one of a handful in my schools. My skin was too dark. My hair, too kinky. My family spoke a foreign language at home. My favorite foods were jolof rice and sweet plantains when those of my classmates were grilled cheese and PB&J I rarely saw myself represented in the films, books, and popular culture of my time.The images that I did see were almost always negative. For these reasons, being different made me uncomfortable.I didn’t gain much of an awareness of the importance of positive representation until I was much older.
I attended a pride organization meeting during my first year at a small, liberal arts college away from the town I called home. I was blown away by the amount of difference in the room. I made lifelong friends that day. Friends who honored and celebrated the differences that had previously made me feel like an outsider. While this was nice while it lasted, it is important to remember that what happens within the smaller LGBTQ+ community with concern to racism, sexism, and socio-economic differences reflects what is happening in the world on a larger scale. Today’s racism is more muted than it once was, but still just as harmful. It appears in the form of microaggressions, offhanded comments, a look, or a poorly-timed joke. It perpetuates as those who see it happening say or do nothing to intervene. While we like to believe we would do the right thing in the moment, the reasons we do not are culturally- bound and deeply ingrained.
Racism within the LGBTQ+ rights movement has existed since its inception. The beginning of the LGBTQ+ liberation movement as we know it today began with the Stonewall uprising. The first brick was thrown on June 28, 1969 and the riots began and ended with brown and black trans women of color. Co-occurring within the broader context of the Civil Rights and Feminist movements, the Stonewall uprising marked a major turning point for the larger LGBTQ+ movement as a whole.
June is Pride month and we have much to be grateful for as a community. Although the LGBTQ+ rights movement has come far, there is still a great amount of work to be done to achieve equity within our communities. Although the achievement of marriage equality was an exceptional victory for our community nationwide, the prioritization of this battle within the movement stemmed from a place of privilege. For those still living at the margins of the LGBTQ+ community- BIPOCs, Transgender individuals, those without access to essential resources- marriage equality was not a primary concern. Relevant issues to those about whom I am speaking still include housing protection, employment protection, food security, and access to identity- affirming healthcare. These are issues concerned with safety and survival. The larger community has stalled on rallying behind social issues such as these that greatly impact those who identify as LGBTQ+ people of color. Many of face additional social disadvantages as differences in sexuality combine with class, sex, gender, ability, or country of origin. We need to address homophobia and transphobia within communities of color. In turn, communities of color need to do the work to address violence toward trans women of color in the same way that we stand for an end to violence against black and brown lives.
Change is coming and we have an opportunity to be on the right side of history. Now is an important
time to stand in support of black and brown friends and neighbors. We must continue to educate one another and keep an open dialogue if we are to generate lasting change within systems of government and law enforcement. We must sustain the momentum of Black Lives Matter movement. While we cannot turn back time we can learn from past mistakes in an attempt to do better, be better, for future generations.
What you can do to support the Black Lives Matter movement:
DO not speak over black voices
DO amplify black voices
DO acknowledge your privilege
DO NOT take selfies at protests
DO listen to black voices
DO NOT become defensive
DO educate others
DO NOT resort to gaslighting- blaming people of color for their own struggles/ or invalidating their
DO stand up for people of color
DO use your privilege for good
DO NOT appropriate black people or culture
DO be intentional with your words and actions
DO remain educated about the issues at hand
DO march with us
DO donate to help further the cause
If you would like to learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement and what you can do to help,
please visit www.blacklivesmatter.com
23, Queer POC (she,her or they/them)
Commonly referred to as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.
Tylia Janei is a multidisciplinary art student dabbling in everything from traditional acrylic and watercolor paintings to paper collage, screen printing, jewelry making, digital and mixed media, and more. As an outspoken, biracial Afro-Latinx, polyamorous, queer advocate, they use their art as a means of speaking up and shining a light on the communities they are passionate about. When they are not slinging coffee, they are working towards building their small online queer jewelry and vintage clothing business based out of St. Petersburg, FL. As part of a former DIY venue owner, their main goal is to continue supporting events like the Harvey Milk Festival and creating safe spaces for musicians, artists, and queers of all caliber to express themselves.
Identifying an Identity
Growing up, I continuously struggled to find my identity.
Being biracial, I grew up submerged in the culture of my Puerto Rican mother, and what heritage my Black stepfather’s family shared with us. My parents married the traditions both of my cultures had to offer and sprinkled in the traditions of other family members as well. We enjoyed spreads of Hispanic dishes interlocked with the Jamaican plates and southern soul food every holiday. We danced salsa, merengue, dutty whined, and had family line dances to music from all around the world that constantly played through our home. I was surrounded by a family of all ethnic backgrounds – some mixed with Dominican, Irish, Cherokee, Filipino, Mexican, Japanese, and every varying shade of Black and Brown in between. I was blessed to have a, sometimes loud, but extremely caring mother who always made sure to fully embrace our culture and keep as many of the traditions we were accustomed to alive, even when she became a single parent. I never once questioned my identity because, in a family as diverse as our own, I didn’t know I had too.
But as I stepped out of the comfort of my home, I realized everyone else was questioning my identity for me.
Strangers always wanted to guess my race, or touch my hair and make comments like “You’re too pretty to be black”. I was constantly being told by my peers at school and in the neighborhood, I was too ‘this’ or ‘that’ to fit in. The White kids constantly mocked me for my frizzy curls, or pointed out how their “weekend in the Keys” tan made them darker than me, even though “you’re half-Black!”. I spoke “too White” and listened to too much rock and emo music to fit in with my Black peers. And my Spanish was too broken for most of my Hispanic peers. I tried hard to fit in. I felt a societal pressure to present myself in ways that appeased what each of my minority groups expected of me. I spoke Spanish and listened to bachata and reggaeton with certain friends, rock & roll played as I drew anime with others, and I only bumped old R&B and rap with different groups of friends. I split myself, my cultures, and all the fun, quirky things about me up depending on what each friend group expected.
I lived this way for many years, through a majority of my childhood and early teen years. Most of my life I had vastly different friend groups, each full of amazing people, but only maybe one or two people who truly knew me. And by the time I was in middle school, I already knew I was Queer. As if splitting myself up and trying to understand my ethnic identity wasn’t enough, I was now scrounging to figure out if I liked boys, girls, or both. At this point in my life, I knew no openly Queer people or even knew someone who vaguely mentioned a possible interest in the same sex.
The only things I really knew about “gay” culture were very sheltered explanations of why the men next to us at a restaurant had kissed on the lips, the jumbled pieces of what I could gather from enigmatic pop culture references and, unfortunately, the negative connotation some members of my family held due to culture and religion.
I didn’t know the terms “Pansexual and Demisexual”, or of all the other sexualities that fell under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, and had no one around to help me figure things out.
but I did have the internet.
Living in the age of the internet, my curious mind surfed the web looking to answer any and all questions that popped into my head. I discovered genders outside of the cis ones I knew of, relationships unique compared to the hetero-monogomous ones that surrounded me and so much more. Most of the information I encountered during my young teen years was very dated in retrospect but had my interest never been peaked, I would not have had the same gumption to learn as much as I know now.
I eventually came to the conclusion I didn’t have a preference. Even prior to knowing about non-binary people and unlearning and replacing the derogatory terms used to identify trans people, I knew as long as I enjoyed a person’s company, personality, and they could make me laugh – I would be happy. It took time, but by the time I got to high school, I knew my sexuality but was far too scared to share or act on it.
Not always falling into the generally preconceived notion of what a “girl” was like, my sexuality was questioned a lot by my peers and elders. The rainbow star necklace I wore every day until it broke often sparked people’s curiosity about my sexuality. The phrase “ARE YOU GAY?”, was frequently shrieked at me in question to my lack of blatantly feminine attire and various rainbow items. At first, I didn’t know how to answer. I would obviously lock up in shock and embarrassment before stammering out something along the lines of, “not really” to peers or a flat out “no” to my elders. After a while, I crafted my, “honestly it doesn’t matter to me” response I used for a large portion of my life. Except with my family. I never really came out to my family, I just relied on changing the subject when it came to sexuality. Having a cousin only a few years older than me who came out during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era of the military when everyone had his military career planned for him shook our family dynamic. Most of us knew he was Queer from a young age. No one in the family really spoke on it, but it was known. When he finally came out, it caused a lot of upset and arguments I wanted nothing to do with. Although my family has been enlightened on Queer culture and most are accepting, I feared the consequences and rejection of coming out. The only person who knew was my mom, I told her from a young age that I would love whoever I loved.
Once I moved away from home for college, I started becoming more confident in myself. Being just an hour and a half away from my family, alone in a new city, was enough to really allow me to find myself and comfort in being more vocal and outward with who I was. For the first time in my life, I was able to see and experience all the parts of life I had seen online and in social media. I took courses on racism, feminism, sociology, and learned so much about the history and societal issues of my cultures and community. It reinvigorated me to want more. I became unapologetic and educated myself on the components that made me, even outside of my classes. I started to experiment with protective hairstyles and stopped letting questions like, “Is that your real hair?” keep me from trying something new. I stopped wearing bras, shaving my legs, armpits, and doing what I had believed I had to do to be feminine. I would call my mom and Abuela to ask them for help on making certain Puerto Rican dishes I didn’t know how to make on my own, and taught myself a lot of soul food and other Caribbean dishes. I started going to gay clubs, pride, and frequenting drag shows. Through school and drag shows I started to meet other BIPOCs and Queers I could relate to. Hearing their stories and experiences helped shape mine. I began to realize if people aren’t interested in me for my frizzy curls, my favorite dish that sometimes smells real bad, (but tastes really good!) or my hairy legs – then I don’t really care to have them in my life. My culture, my body, and my love are all beautiful things that I get to share with whomever I please.
My identity still isn’t fully fledged out, and I am continuously learning new things about myself. My journey has been long but it is far from over. I still, and will probably always, have to deal with people making comments on my hair, headscarves, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, gender, body and what I can do with it – and the list goes on. But now I am confident, educated, and articulate enough to thoroughly explain myself and have healthy, educational debates. In the last couple of years, I have become more and more outspoken about my views and stances on social media – which once scared me. I feared losing loved ones over my views, people using things I posted against me, tarnishing future job opportunities, and all the other things they warn you about the internet in school. It wasn’t until catastrophes like Pulse that I realized what my community and I have to say is worth so much more than ignorant people or a job opportunity. There are millions of people and jobs – so don’t let that be the thing that holds you back from actively trying to make a change. I marched in protests on immigration rights growing up, and I march today for women’s rights, equality, Black and Indigenous people, and the minorities whose voices need help being amplified. Social media has become so much more than just keeping in contact with your grandma in another state and old colleagues. It’s become a continuously updated news source for the entire world. That’s why I use my platforms as a way to spread pertinent information, experiences, and sources to further individual education. Because humans as a whole have lots of unlearning to do. Whether it be from religion, culture, or lack thereof, most people innately stereotype or have a prejudice toward something. Many times they’re expressed as microaggressions and jokes we’re unaware that they are even offensive, but without the knowledge and tools – taking the steps to unlearn these deep-seeded prejudices is hard.
Don’t be afraid to speak your truth.
I have never put too much thought into how my journey via social media or posts affected others, they were just outlets for me to express myself. As of recent, especially after the death of George Floyd, I have had many people reach out to me and thank me for sharing information so they can stay informed, for protesting, for debating with close-minded people, for addressing problems Indigenous people are still facing, for speaking up for Black trans women and the injustices they face from the world and in their own Black communities. I initially didn’t share my experiences and ideologies for anyone but myself, but now I think about the impact my words have on others. If my experience can help one person with a struggle they face, I hope in return, it will domino and they can share some wisdom with another person in need.
Continue to share and speak on things you support and believe in because you never know all the people you are unknowingly inspiring.
33 (in Earth Years), Queer POC (he/him)
vincethealien is a singer, songwriter, and writer from Los Angeles by way of the planet Mars. He has a strong desire to understand people, lust, love, and trauma in order to find a sense of freedom through it all. His music is the record of his mission to find a planet, a people, or just a person, to connect with.
Before I really dive into the subject matter, I’d like to take two sentences to thank my teachers Dawn McNairy and Pete Justus for urging me to continue to string together words through writing. These individuals really helped me navigate some of my earliest creative expressions even though one was my science and math teacher and the other, a dean and my political science teacher. Thanks, in a small yet impactful way, for helping me feel like I belonged.
As a child, the word “belong” triggered me. It tasted really bitter in my mouth whenever I would say it. Even when thinking of the word, this horrifying image of a bee stinging me for a long time would play over and over in my head – I was five; that’s nightmarish. But it wasn’t until I was in the fifth grade that I knew why the word “belong” bothered me so much. I was walking to class and a student attending my mostly white elementary school decided to spit on me and call me a “nigger queer”. I knew what the first word meant but had never been called it by someone. I didn’t recognize the second word, yet somehow connected it to the word “faggot”, which kids threw around to describe a group of boys that secretly included me. I remember the rage that caused sweat to appear and heat up in the palms of my hands and at the center of my forehead. I had experienced anger, but this was next level. I stood there, weighing my options of fighting and getting suspended and missing English class for a week or running and telling my teacher what happened, fearing that she would not understand because she was white. Just as my fists began to ball up and frustrated tears started to escape, my closest friend Peter jumped in and pushed the word lobbyer to the ground. Though I didn’t advocate the violence, it was the first moment I felt like I belonged. Someone, after years of me feeling like I wasn’t straight enough, black enough, cool enough, understood, seen, needed, or wanted, had declared that I was worthy of being stuck up for; that my existence was worthy of acknowledgement & respect. That moment added a sweetness to the word “belong” for me.
Though I shared that moment with Peter – who ended up getting suspended, along with the word lobbyer – I still struggled to completely rid my mouth of the bitter taste that “belong” left on its roof. As weird as this sounds, the latter half of the two-worded insult placed into my memory was the one that really stuck with me. See, I recognized pretty young that I was “different”. I knew that from the way my older cousins would make fun of me or look at me when I would find an extreme amount of joy when winning at the game Pretty Pretty Princess or when I would sit in the back of my mom’s Grey Mazda, staring at men walking down the street, aware that I was looking at them the way boys were “supposed” to look at girls, yet still not really knowing why. I knew I didn’t fit in. I was reminded all through junior high daily; “You’re gay aren’t you?”, “You like rock music? You’re not really black are you?”, “You must be gay because you speak weird?”. I was reminded with the micro-ignorant statement that my white friends would occasionally say, “You’re not like other black people, you’re different”, “We like you because you speak so well for a black guy”, “We’re so happy you’re not like them.” And through it all, I became quieter, I made myself smaller, I hid in the shadows of my mind, creating worlds through my writing and my music in order to find a place where who I was made sense; a place where I belonged. But I was longing for others to understand me, to see me for me; a black queer kid who needed love, who didn’t want to be a symptom of the system that was built against him. A dreamer who wanted to find a place, a people, a planet where I could stand tall and celebrate my difference while celebrating the differences of others.
So to bring this full circle to now. I have, since my childhood, been at the intersectionality of being black and being queer. It’s something that I have learned to love and to celebrate yet the messages that have been placed in the collective memory, inflicted trauma upon physical bodies, and defined the history of both of these experiences have tried to convince, and with much fervor, that we do not belong. And this is why we are fighting; we want the word “belong” to finally taste like sugar in the roofs of our mouths because we are tired of the unnecessary deaths at the hands of police, the murdering of our beautiful trans brothers and sisters, the economic inequality within education, the continued dispersion of a revisionist history that supports classism and racial superiority, the political games that allow racism to thrive, and the constant taste of bitterness that sits at the tip of our collective tongues while we scream, mourn, chant, tell our stories, sing our songs, protest and unite to change a system that emboldened a little white boy in my fifth grade class to call me a “nigger queer” without pause. That experience, though micro in the larger picture, was a symptom and a piece of the system that we are fighting against. Because regardless of the messaging, regardless of the progress, we are all longing to be seen; allowed to live, thrive, and exist through a lens of opportunity and equality. And it will not be enough until our black and brown lives matter; until we belong.
Please support groups that are fighting for us to belong:
Black Lives Matter
Grassroots Law Project
Center for Black Equity
You can also explore my universe and listen to my music at www.vincethealien.space
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