Everyone’s “Inviting In” story should be uniquely crafted to fit when, where, and how they wish to invite the people who matter most into that essential aspect of their life. As we continue to live in a country where LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately harassed and bullied, it’s important for those in the queer community to feel supported within that experience and just as important for those outside the community to become more open and compassionate to the invitation of having a deeper understanding of this identity.
In celebration of Spirit Day, BET.com shares Monet's touching story. At 22-years old, Monet is a member of the National Black Justice Coalition’s Youth and Young Adult Advisory Council and like many others, Monet is still toiling to find the right path between being a proud, Black queer person while maintaining a highly important relationship with her traditional Nigerian father. Monet has chosen this platform to “invite in” her parents with the goal of hopefully deepening their bond.
Doesn’t matter if it’s a big party or an intimate affair, coming out for queer people of all kinds is a major public announcement to all of those closest to us about exactly who we are. While the day has certainly helped encourage visibility of the TQNB+* community at large, our stories aren’t always that simple or straightforward.
For people like me, who are close to our families and who feel like our parents know us in so many facets of our lives but have never directly addressed our queerness with them or all of the elements that come with being queer, the notion of “coming out” can seem insurmountable, scary, or just unnecessary. That’s why I’m shifting my own thinking, and approaching my identity with the idea of “inviting in.”
I live unapologetically in so many ways. I’m a proud child of a Nigerian father and a Black American mother. I wear my locs, piercings, and tattoos with pride. I face racism and misogyny on the daily, due to the patriarchal, white supremacist society we all live in, and yet, I still choose to show up as my whole self with gratitude and strength.
Despite my choice to show up as myself, the truth is I’m still coming to grips with the fact that there’s a part of me that’s insecure about how my family will respond to my queerness. While neither of my parents have heard from my mouth about my queer identity, it looms over us all. The conversation has to happen sometime and it scares me, honestly. The reality is, I’m a full adult, yet I still pine for the approval of my family. To me, no matter how old I am, there’s still a part of me that will always want my parents’ approval. I want for the people I love the most to genuinely love me fully and completely.
For me, “inviting in” gives me the freedom, autonomy, and grace needed to navigate my relationships on my own terms, in ways that keep me safe and whole. Safety is top of mind as we come into Spirit Day and are thinking about the lives of those struggling with being targeted for their queer identities. TQNB+ youth disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their actual or perceived sexual orientations and/or gender identities. 70.1% of TQNB+ students report being verbally harassed and 53.3% say they do not report experiences of being bullied because they doubt someone will intervene.
The thing is, I am who I am, and there doesn’t have to be much conversation about it. In my mind, everyone who loves me is welcome to the full table of all that makes me whole. I know that my father would still love me no matter what because I trust him, but at a certain point it’s less about my comfort level and more about his own curiosity.
There’s something to be said about the power of intimate moments, which is why my door is always open to those who may have questions about how I show up in the world, but we need to shift the burden of “coming out” off of queer people, and ask how the world at large is making space for us in the first place. Luckily, there are many resources out there for people who want to work towards a better world for TQNB+ people.
It’s important to note that the idea of inviting in is not, by any means, limited just to queer people. We each have something that society tells us we shouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing. It could be a disability that isn’t visible, being divorced, having had an abortion, or having been evicted. At the end of the day, we always have so much more to learn about each other, if given the chance.
One of my main drivers to get out of bed every day and do the work that I do is the desire to be the person I needed when I was a preteen. I was so desperate to know someone like me as a young person but had a hard time accessing queer spaces. Being Black and queer can be a harrowing experience, we already have low positive representation being Black and the options are even more slim when looking for the representation of queerness. So, I created them for myself in both high school and college by forming affinity groups for queer people of color. I can honestly say now that I’m not just existing — I’m thriving — and deeply believe that being queer has enhanced everything I’ve accomplished so far.
I don’t feel the need to make one grand declaration about being queer — especially because I know that our identities shift and change over our lives anyway. But I do want the people closest to me to know me on a deeper level. I want them to celebrate everything about me that I hold so dear about myself.
I hope that everyone takes a moment to go beyond wearing purple in support of Spirit Day and go even further to reconsider the deeply ingrained expectation for queer people to explain to the world exactly who we are — which is not something heterosexual, cisgender people ever have to do in a comparable way. Instead, I’d prefer those who support us to look at how we’re making space for the potential of being invited into someone’s whole life. To build the world we all want and deserve, there must be space, trust, and love for all of us to be unapologetically ourselves.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC’s mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ/SGL bias and stigma. For more information, visit nbjc.org.
*TQNB+ stands for trans*, queer*, gender nonbinary, and same gender loving people, with the plus signaling a broader gender and sexuality expansive community. The asterisks signal that these are umbrella terms under which other identities live. Intersex people, because they are treated as biologically nonnormative with sometimes dire consequences, are also included in what the acronym represents: communities who face oppression due to identities that defy the gender/sexuality stat quo.