To be young, Black and queer means you are exceptional at navigating spaces and places that are not meant for you. You know what it means to hold your own against people and systemic institutions that want to erase and demean your identity.
But how can you find an ounce of peace in this lifetime when your mere existence causes stirs amongst not only strangers, but your own family? We’ve all heard the horror stories of what it means to live fully and loudly in your identity as a queer individual in the black community. Personally, I’ve had to face one of my worst case scenarios after coming out to my parents. I was thrown into independence in the most toxic way. I buried myself into the deepest parts of my trauma and isolated myself almost to my detriment. That’s what you shouldn’t do if your family doesn’t accept you.
Here’s are some tips:
Seek help! Lean into your chosen family; friends, partners, mentors, etc. If you’re like me, asking for help feels like a weakness. In moments where you find yourself receiving verbal abuse or even being kicked out of your home, it’s important that you utilize your resources. Talk to your friends, let them know what’s going on and how they can best support you. I’ve done my fair share of couch hopping and let me tell you, it was a lot better than sleeping in my car.
Therapy! Now I know how elusive mental health support can be. It’s a privilege to be able to not only afford a therapist but to find one that you feel understands you deeply enough to heal your trauma. However, if you have the option of securing a mental health professional, please do so. This not only validates your feelings but gives you a secure place to release any harm that has been done to you. Also alternative therapy helps as well! It’s 2019, you can text a therapist now. Again, please do so.
Do not make yourself smaller! It can be easy to hold on to hurtful comments made by the very individuals who are meant to protect you. We can use these feelings to make ourselves feel inadequate and shameful towards our own identity. Know that you are worthy of love just the way you are.
Document your journey! As cliche as it sounds, one day you’ll look back on when you came out and maybe not laugh, but at least appreciate your journey. Going through such a traumatic event should be tracked. You’ll see day by day you get a little stronger.
Lead with empathy! It should not be your job to coddle your family into accepting you. However, it’s a drastic change for them too. Come out with the intent that you are open to their questions and try to guide them to better thinking habits towards the community.
Which leads me to my last suggestion: Come out when you’re ready and don’t bend on your boundaries! Once you rip off that band-aid it cannot be undone. Keep your boundaries clear and present with all interactions with your family. You have to be mentally, emotionally and sometimes financially prepared for the reactions of your family. Use your better judgement so that things, out of your control, don’t happen to you prematurely.
Be safe out here! Find your community in your city and flourish. Whether it’s a bar, meetup, eventbrite, be vigilant in your search. Peace is coming soon.
Written by: Nhandi Jackson (@empressnhans)