feature art: Autostraddle
“Being queer saved my life. Often we see queerness as deprivation. But when I look at my life, I saw that queerness demanded an alternative innovation from me. I had to make alternative routes; it made me curious; it made me ask, “Is this enough for me?”
As we know, survival packs are my SHIT. So I’m coming to you loud, proud, and in living blackness to bring you some in a Pride flavored survival pack. A note, I take Pride to mean thankful to be alive in this moment. That includes in grief, in terror, in the escape from danger. These suggestions are not absent of these feelings, just want you to know that.
Here are eight books to dive into, seven poems to read, six people to follow, five ways to support black trans people, four places to donate, three shows to binge, two albums to listen to and two games to play, and one tool to use! It’s a gay version of 12 days of Christmas — you’re welcome!
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus-Nasah (she/her) is one of the books that allowed me to remember that loving black women is holy, is so much of the reason I am here. Two young black girls fall in love as they navigate death, grief, and the universe. I cannot state how important this book is to me. I return to it when I’m scared of ending, I’m scared of endings, I know I cannot avoid endings. I hate change (who doesn’t) but sometimes I can get really destructive in the avoiding of it. This book reminds me to stay still and stay open and that feeling isn’t the worst thing I can do when I’m scared, but ignoring the root of feeling could be more detrimental to not just me but those I love too.
2. Skye Falling
Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (she/her) made me laugh so hard and then cry a bucket and you should read it immediately. It’s a little tough for me to read books that aren’t young adult because my life is depressing enough without me adding books that don’t have a lot of hope tied to the end of it’s pinky (I know I need to branch out because there are adult fiction books that don’t do this but it’s a pandemic, I’m scared of new things). Skye Falling caught my heart within the first chapter and I cannot spoil it for you but there is so much goodness, so much trying to handle the impossible griefs, and loving in black centered, brown centered, black and brown queer centered communities here and it definitely added sunlight to my heart’s house this past winter.
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Barron (she/her) is about a young black woman who is love with another black woman and set in a fairy tale land where everyone is pretty much the worst. Sophia is determined not to let her life be dictated by people who don’t even care about her or her people and it is dangerous and lovely and she is my hero. I was terrified for my girls throughout the entire book but in awe of their courage, their action in the face of damn near certain destruction. If you need to remember you are braver than you give yourself credit for, I really recommend this book.
Black.Queer.Southern.Women.: An Oral History edited by E. Patrick Johnson (he/him) is a gift. As someone who spent half their childhood in the South, there is a disconnect for me when people talk of needing to escape it. I think it’s pretty well-known that black queer people often cannot follow the often white centered belief to “leave home”. This book helps me reckon with the understanding that my leaving has to look different and that leaving home often means returning to it, not where the home has changed but where I do, over and over and over again.
The Black Trans Prayer Book edited by J Mase III (he/him) and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi (she/her) is a book I’m still working through because it can’t be done all at once. I’ve had a hard time reconciling both my sexuality and my gender with my spirituality and this book gives so many lights to follow, to read your heart by, to hold on to when you have to plummet into the cave of your fear’s greatest self.
Against Heaven by Kemi Alabi (they/them) is one of the most important books to me as a black nonbinary queer person. This is what I wrote after finishing it:
and the titles! the creating of new words! the musicality! the sudden knowledge and acceptance that words are still portals and they are giving us so many new places to visit and scream into and wonder at and through and just. this means so much to me and thank you so much for sharing. thank you for your careful eye, your careful and inexplicably and miracuously full and beating heart, thank you thank you thank you.
All the Gay Saints by Kayleb Rae Candrilli (they/them) has poems focused on being a trans person from Appalachia. I learned so much about myself through this book and even though it can be really heavy at times, it’s worth the read. Imagine the way you use the bottom of your shirt to clean your glasses while you’re walking in the quiet of nature, that’s what this book feels like.
There Should Be Flowers by J. Jennifer Espinosa (she/her) is one of my favorite books because even though there is a lot of grief, sadness, within the book and with out, there is a lot of hope for queer people at the heart of it.
1. In the Beginning by Donika Kelly
“In the beginning, there was your mouth:”
“you have all you need to be a hero
don’t save the world, save yourself”
3. Born.Living.Will.Die. by Camonghne Felix
“Sometimes I think
I’m never going to write a poem again
and then there’s a full moon.”
“I will not die, I promise you this.”
6. Femme Futures by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
“When I hear us dream our futures,
believe we will make it to one,
We will make one.”
7. My Pronouns Are Black by Zenaida Peterson
“I know how to survive myself // My body loves myself”
Six People to Follow
1. Tee Franklin
Tee Franklin (she/her) is the author of Bingo Love and Harley Quinn: The Animated Series Vol. 1: The Eat. Bang! Kill Tour and honestly if that’s not enough to get you hyped, she is also behind Eliza Han in Archie Comics, a plus-sized, disabled and pansexual character appearing in Summer Lovin!
2. Jamal Jordan
In addition to being the editor of Queer Love in Color, Jamal Jordan (Lost Black Boy) is documenting older queer people and their stories in their series OLD & QUEER. You can check out the first video between two older black lesbians, Pat and Paulette, here.
ggggrimes (they/them) is one of my absolute favorite artists. They create art where queer and trans people of color are in love, in friendship, chillin, and just be extremely queer just by existing. You can grab some of their art on their website.
Nicole Shawan-Junior (they/them) is a “Black queer, poverty born, and femme-boiyant counter-storyteller, and femme-inist”. Quick story time: when I was still on Facebook, I came across a post that said Nicole Shawan-Junior was offering free creative nonfiction classes for BIPOC students and that seats were filling up fast. I signed up and I have got to say, the class changed the trajectory of my life. I don’t feel comfortable writing creative nonfiction (you may be asking what I’m doing here, then, and we’re supposed to do the things that scare us so we can grow right?) and this class full of black and brown people willing to witness my essay, Screaming with My Throat Scooped Out, and the exorcism(s) I pulled to get this story out and read at a showcase is nothing short of miraculous. They are the founder of Roots.Wounds.Words., featured in The Sentences That Made Us: Crafting A Writer’s Life in Prison by PEN America and edited by Caits Meissner, essayist of How to Apply Makeup and have taught me so much about demanding what I deserve, how accountability is a necessary foundation of love for both yourself and how you love others and if you can get into any of their classes, support the organization so others may do so, I highly encourage you do!
Heaux History Project focuses on Black, Brown, and Indigenous “erotic labor histories and sex workers’ rights.” As someone who has a complicated relationship with sex due to trauma, religion, sexuality, racism and the intersections of these violences, places like Heaux History Project give me a place to safely, and without worrying about outside finger pointing/laughing/belitting, learn more about my community’s history, learn more about other marginalized communities’ histories, and gives me actionable steps I can take to help others as well as myself. They host book and event giveaways, and you can also follow the creators of the project here.
Da’Shaun L. Harrison (they/them) is the Editor-at-Large of Scalawag,a journalistic publication that focuses on justice and liberation in the American South. You can grab their book, Belly of the Beast, that examines anti-fatness and anti-Blackness through a fat, Black, disabled, nonbinary lens. Check out their work in the anthology Black Love Matters edited Jessica P. Pryde.
It’s safe to say that at any given moment I am thinking about Batwoman. Nic gave us amazing recaps that you can read along with as you lean back and watch this show where BLACK LESBIANS SAVE GOTHAM AND LIVE, WE STAY ALIVE Y’ALL. Honestly that should be reason enough to watch all three seasons (and ask HBOMax to bring them back for some more).
Harley Quinn: The Animated Series is one of the reasons I have given up on Marvel and thank God for it. This is series that that the gays deserve because not only are the characters hilarious and fully fleshed, Sanaa Lathan (lesbian in my head) voices Catwoman, and (spoiler alert) HARLEY LEAVES JOKER. The bisexual agenda rises and is in full effect and I love this for the community. Like, I won’t even tell you what else happens, you can check out Heather’s article on the season two finale for that, but that alone is a win for the queer community, I don’t make the rules.
*Make sure to watch the series before you get Tee Franklin’s series mentioned above!
At the time of this writing I am several episodes behind due on The Owl House to going to college (homophobic), but I DO know that Luz Noceda goes to a demon realm and has adventures that start out slightly unhuman and spiral into life or death, as these shows are wont to do (ex. Gravity Falls, Amphibia, Adventure Time, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, should I go on?) AND there is a canon queer couple (as Heather already tells us). It has been one of my comfort shows because the characters are adorable and badass and you know I live for the found family AND your-blood-family-loves-you-too trope.
I re-watch this show several times a year because this shit slaps, you know? I remember starting this show after the first season came out, I had gotten something from Noodles and Company and sat on our couch to see if I could find something not gross to watch while I ate. I was not prepared to fall headfirst into a magical land where I am rooting for magical young adults to defeat one evil only to find out that evil is nothing compared to what’s to come. It’s gay, it’s angsty, it’s funny, it’s an all-around good time in which I guarantee you I will cry the entire season finale.
Note: I am obsessed with this interview between Rebecca Sugar (they/them) and N Stevenson (they/them) where they talk about the barriers to creating queer characters and storylines in cartoons because networks are against allowing us to see our full selves/etc.
Trust me, as a future WNBA trophy partner (speak it into the universe), you’re gonna wanna get in on this. A lot of the games are covered by women, there are teammates who have dated and are dating playing on the same team, and everyone is so much fun to look at (I mean this both as a basketball fan and as a lesbian)!
*Black Gay and Stuck at Home started as a way to keep black queer people in community by watching movies on a biweekly basis. It’s brought me a lot of joy and family in the past year and I suggest getting on their email list to learn more!
Four Ways to Donate to Black Trans People
1. Pay Black Trans Women is a Twitter that shares posts to directly support Black Trans Women.2. Black Trans Funds is a Twitter that shares posts to directly support Black Trans people.
3. Black Trans Travel Fund is an organization that shares resources with Black Trans people who need help with travelling within the United States.
4. Qoho House is founded by a Black trans woman, Juju Blacqueman (she/her), and is a shelter and trans-friendly bed and breakfast in Chicago, IL.
Three More Places to Support
1. G.L.I.T.S. is a black trans founded and led foundation that focuses on holistic solutions to health and housing crises faced by the TLGBIA+ community. They’ve aid in relocation, asylum assistance, physical/mental health referrals, housing, and education.
2. Black and Pink is a national organization whose focus is abolition of prisons. They pair pen pals with the LGBTQIA+ community so those behind bars know that they are not forgotten and alone. They aid in helping formerly incarcerated people re-entering society and educating the public in abolition.
3. For the GWORLS is a black, trans-led organization that raises funds for black trans women to avoid homelessness. You can buy some of their merch too!
Montero by Lil Nas X (he/him) has been my go to album since it dropped. Call Me By Your Name (Montero) music video had me going down emotional and spiritual rabbit holes for weeks. Sun Comes Up made me feel like every verse was my mirror. Dead Right Now vindicated the HELL out of me. I love all these songs but this album makes me feel 16, 18, 21, 25, and all the ages I am and ever will be in less than forty five minutes.
*You can also read I Grew Up Afraid. Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ Is The Lesson I Needed by Ashton Crawley, How Lil Nas X Is Reclaiming Queerness to Proclaim His Own Blessedness by Rev. Jacqui Lewis and listen to Lil Nas X’s version of Jolene.
2. Dirty Computer by Janelle Monaé
Dirty Computer by Janelle Monaé (she/her) brought us, of course, the legendary music video in which Tessa Thompson (she/her) was Janelle’s clitoris. That alone brings me a sense of pride, but I’m also recommending it because Make You Feel came on a couple of weeks ago and I was surrounded by queer people and it’s the first time in years that I felt comfortable dancing in public.
One and a Half Games
Butterfly Soup by Brianna Lei (she/her) is one of my favorite visual novels ever, I re-play it several times a year and I think you should too! It’s about four queer Asian girls who love baseball and even though I know nothing about the sport except that there are bases and a ball, it’s a good time! Come for the memes, stay for the everlasting power of queer friendship.
Pre-order Validate a black and brown majority dating sim coming out in August! Aside from having some of the best marketing I’ve ever seen just through their Twitter alone, I’m just excited as shit that there’s going to be the option to date black queer people in a video game, like, not to be overdramatic, but I and every black and brown queer person deserve this game and I’m thankful Veritable Joy Studios is gifting the universe with this hilarious goodness. If that isn’t enough to convince you, go through their meme tag on Twitter to start to fall in love with these characters.
1. Mind OS
Mind OS by Kira Farron (she/her) is a prototype practical tool that uses a vintage computer-like atmosphere to guide the player through calming techniques. Kira writes:
“Aimed at our BIPOC & LGBTQ+ communities who may not have anyone to talk to, or help regarding mental health for various reasons such. We take our health and tech into our own hands, creating virtual places for ourselves online where we can flourish.”