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For a lot of us, the term "gold star" goes back as far as barrettes and jungle gyms. In our kindergarten days, we were often given these shiny tokens of success for coloring inside the lines and keeping our snot to ourselves. You'd think that after retiring our playdoh and starting to celebrate our glow ups with cheap pinot grigio, we'd left these juvenile symbols of accomplishment behind.
Well, for us black queer womxn, the gold star re-emerges like a creep out a bush in a new, much weirder context the second we come out the closet. Gold star womxn—womxn who haven't had sexual intimacy with cisgender men—are not only highly coveted in the black queer world, but put on a pedestal so high that birds dodge it mid-flight. It's seen as sexual purity—confirmation of our queerness and proof we're untainted by the touch of the inferior species. When the sticker was slapped onto me, I was fine wearing it at first, because being considered a hot commodity boosted my Leo ego and my dating stock. But as I matured and diversified my social circle, the fake gold started to peel. Seeing gold stars weaponize their status against womxn who have pasts with men and hearing gold stars drag bisexual, pansexual, and fluid womxn for enjoying intimacy with men felt wrong. Dating womxn without gold stars made it clear that the hate they got from these purists was misguided and illogical. All I could think was, "What is the big deal?"
To pussy purists, sex with men is a sin as egregious as reneging during a game of spades. In their minds, male genitalia are riddled with STDs, and any womxn seeking pleasure from it are diseased by default. Queer critics police people’s pasts and judge them for even wanting sex with our male counterparts no matter how long ago, invalidating their queerness and alienating them from the rest of the community. To add insult to injury, many of these gold stars think the choice not to sleep with men is easy and clear, even when our circumstances are complicated.
Look, sexuality is way more complex than folks make it out to be because there are so many factors that influence how and when we explore it. Between the heteronormative, misogynistic world at large and the religious, homophobic environments many black queer womxn grow up in, we're conditioned from a young age to choose dudes over boobs and throw our queer curiosity into the shredder. Straight sex runs rampant through TV, movies, music, literature, and everything else we consume, while black queer sex went invisible until recent years. Knowing this, it shouldn't be a shock that many black queer womxn have had sex with men before addressing their attraction to other womxn. It doesn't always have to be ocean deep, though. Some womxn simply like both. Some want to try sex with guys before they rule it out. Whether their reasons for seeking it out are simple or Da Vinci code complicated, they’re all valid and we must respect them.
Though stickers were back in our playground days, it's time for us to grow up and stop handing them out to shame others over their sexual pasts. Not sleeping with men is a choice, not an achievement. It doesn’t make you gayer than the next person, nor does it give you the right to judge the queerness of others. Womxn who have dated men in the past are the majority in the black queer community and are just as dateable as womxn who haven’t. And if a womxn has been with men, if they can pass an STD/STI test, who cares? Instead of worrying about the sexual history of others, check your own sex practices (unprotected sex, no STD testing) at the door and focus on building a safer, accepting, welcoming black queer community that womxn of all orientations and pasts can thrive in together. Leave the gold stars to the kiddos and let the labels go.
Written By: Eden Carswell (@locs_on_the_rocks, IG)