Welcome to Insta Crush, a new column on Autostraddle dot com where every other week we feature a queer Instagram account we love. I strongly believe that the way we all connect on Instagram is forging and fostering community in new and interesting ways, and I want to highlight the people contributing to that endeavor. Much like Instagram itself, these interviews are a little slice of queer life.
Today’s Insta Crush is Kenny, age 20, aka @fuck.allat, founder of D.Y.K.E. project. Self-described in their Instagram bio as “young, black & jaded” and right in this very interview as a poor black non-binary lesbian who likes to talk hella hot shit on the internet, Kenny’s account is a mix of entertaining stories, educational perspectives, hot photos, and “things [they] can be proud of in person.”
For the people about to meet you for the first time – how would you describe yourself in a few sentences?
“Angry gay and renowned pasta slut” was my bio on Instagram for a very long time but I’m also a proud wine auntie and like to think of myself as a problematic fav amongst the gays – but I’m probably not and that’s just my being a Leo talking. I think I’m a knockoff astrology gay and have a weird allergy to mangos? I’m secretly from Ohio but don’t tell people that often, and most importantly I’m a poor black non-binary lesbian who likes to talk hella hot shit on the internet.
I first found your account because a friend told me you’d posted some really valuable thoughts about the tender discourse that specifically addressed race and racism in a way that I hadn’t yet seen anyone talking about. What are your feelings on, ahem, TENDER?
When the topic of “tender” came up on Instagram, I had a flashback of my white ex being described as such when she was anything but to me. It threw me for a loop, and once I realized that this was the new hot thing to be, it enraged me. If you are black and queer, the last thing you can be —whether it’s how the world perceives you, how you are socialized, or the way you have to even communicate — is tender. We (black people) are often treated as void of softness both historically in a medical and social sense. We have never been in a position of power so overt that we are comfortable with being “soft.” There is nothing radical about softness in white people, as they exist very comfortably in and continue to perpetuate violence within the acceptance of their fragility.
I remember you posting once that you take a photo of yourself everyday. “If not to remind myself that I am pretty, then I am at least alive.” Can you talk a little bit more to the idea behind those daily photos?
Due to some significant trauma, both from childhood and into my adulthood sometimes it gets very hard to look at myself. I don’t even get dressed in front of mirrors, so taking photos feel like reclamation of the body. Being trans and dysmorphic doesn’t make looking at myself any easier, but I feel like taking pictures of myself is so permanent. I don’t always look the same in the mirror but my face never changes in a camera. Not a lot of them get posted, because some of them are my most intense, manic moments. Some of them are great, which are the ones the internet sees. Sometimes they aren’t but they’ll still go up because I feel remembering myself in photos is obscenely important as well. I see ex-lovers, friends, and moments in those pictures. Nostalgia is all I have on my worst days, and pride in my growth on my best.
What’s your favorite part about “being in community” on Instagram?
Everyone is connected! I love that more than anything else in the world. Community is one of the most important things to me, so knowing who knows who feels like a good, better remake of Alice’s chart. When I first came out I didn’t feel like I knew a single gay person, now I’m at a point where if I’m not dating outside of New York I’m not dating outside of my friend group? It’s complicated, but so so spectacular to watch and be a part of.
What’s the worst part about “being in community” on Instagram?
Okay so here’s tea. My biggest beef with instagram “community” starts with the hierarchy and ends in call out culture. One of the biggest things that bother me is who has managed to maintain a platform and what they do with it. Our connections and sense of community feels heavily inauthentic sometimes. It’s all based on “clout” and who knows who. What we share, what we say, and who were friends with sometimes feels like it’s boiled down to a follower count. A lot of the connections we have to people are just knowing them through these hyper sensationalized accounts and parasocial relationships. A lot of people feel entitled to my intellectual labor and experiences, while others solely engage with me because I’m “clouty.” This isn’t my complaining about having a platform, but moreso how having a platform has made me and others much more susceptible to being “called out” by the same people I’m categorized within the social media hierarchy and how much goes on behind the scenes of “community” on instagram and what people genuinely don’t know. A lot of it is kinda fake, and a lot of it is so so real. I have friends I can depend on in San Francisco more than family. I have people next to me in pictures I have blocked in my phone. It’s all about perception, and what people expect of community versus what really goes on.
I love so much how vocal you are about identifying as a non-binary lesbian. What does that identity mean to you and why does being intentional with that language matter?
When I first realized I was probably non-binary it scared the shit out of me. I was terrified of myself because I felt like the first thing I’d have to rid myself of is my lesbianism which up until that point I had worked so hard to be open with myself about. I was never just “gay” or “queer,” I was very distinctly a lesbian. I had no other language for the way I felt even with learning and understanding my transness. Now, almost four years after my initial coming out, and almost two years after my second, I’ve found myself lost without both identities. I had to make being a non-binary lesbian work for myself, because no one was teaching me how to be comfortable in that. I can’t have one without the other now, so to be vocal about it means you can’t take me as one without the other. Could either of these identities evolve? Absolutely. Is anyone able to define that evolution for me but me? Absolutely not. I can’t be upset that someone doesn’t know I exist if I don’t tell them, right? And if I don’t make them see me and learn and understand. That’s what being a lesbian always looked like to me. That’s what being trans always looked like to me. I know it’d make me deeply unhappy to deny such intrinsic history.
How do you decide what you want to share on Insta and what is too private, or just none of anyone’s business?
Honestly if it isn’t gonna get me in any legal trouble it’s so okay. I stay away from family stuff unless it has to do with a particular issue and speaks to a bigger issue. I share what feels like 5% of my life but looks like 100% which I think is the strangest part of social media. What I post on the internet has to be what I can be proud of in person. That just happens to include my titties.
Your love for your friends and community comes through so brightly via your Insta. What’s your favorite thing to do with your pals?
My buds and I cook together! By cook together I mean I’m on aux while they do all the work. We love getting together and blasting music and eating. Even if there are three of us and especially if there are more. We try to have (chosen) family dinner as often as possible together even if we can’t necessarily cook.
Where is the best place to get a late night snack in NYC?
I stand by 2am deli sandwiches with my life and if there isn’t a deli cat it doesn’t count. If your local deli is closed but you’re sad and hungry, Ben’s Pizzeria on MacDougal is always my backup. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them closed and the pizza is some of my favorite in NYC, plus they’ve seen me cry so it feels like family.
Let’s talk about your D.Y.K.E. project! Why did you start it? Tell me all about it.
So D.Y.K.E. has been in the works for months actually! I knew I wanted to do something community based and writing based. I hadn’t seen much content for lesbianism on the internet besides meme accounts and very specific well known lesbians sharing their experiences. The internet isn’t always a fair place, especially in terms of platform so I sat with that for a while.
With this in mind, I read Jeanne Cordóva’s memoir a few months back and was completely taken with it. Everything spoke to me. It was truly beautiful. Jeanne herself ran an entire publication almost single-handedly, and my one semester in journalism (before dropping out) gave me a bit of hope in doing something similar.
Later on an archivist I’ve become great buds with over the internet (and who actually recommended the book to me) sent a picture of Jeanne’s Do You Know Enough board game and I kinda ran with it. I said it out loud over and over again, and even started using the picture on my personal account when I wanted to have conversations with my peers. Lesbianism is so powerful but feels so disregarded to me by the community, and even cis lesbians sometimes.
When I came out as non-binary my biggest fear was not being able to call myself a lesbian. What I realized upon being desperate for language and needing to find answers that I wasn’t getting on the surface of identity politics is that non binary identity and lesbianism have always intersected even without language for it. Why wasn’t that more recognizable in our community and when did cisness or the binary begin dictating what it meant to be a dyke? And if no one was going to tell me my experience was real, why couldn’t I just share it and make it real for myself and other people?
I felt like I was lacking something in community. No one around me was a non-binary lesbian but I knew this wasn’t an experience unique to me. How much about lesbianism do we discuss and dissect? How much of our history and experiences are we sharing with each other? My biggest goal with D.Y.K.E. is to begin the redefinition of lesbianism through shared experiences. I’ve learned most of what I knew through listening to people, so why doesn’t that same method apply in other peoples’ lives? It feels like a monster to take on, but if no one was going to speak for me I figured I’d start speaking for myself.
Who is D.Y.K.E. for?
It’s for me, and you, and whoever has access too it and has/does/or will identify as a lesbian at some point in their lives. The experience of lesbianism is something other than sexuality. It’s cultural, social, and ever growing. We are the community and the roots of so many others and I feel like being able to share everyone’s experience with it is the biggest reason for its existence. I don’t think about much else besides the intersection of my lesbianism with other parts of myself, so I want that same platform for everyone else.
How can people submit to D.Y.K.E.?
There’s a Google form link in our bio! I’ve also been taking email submissions and DMs if the Google doc is being weird. I’m still working out the kinks, but the Google doc is our primary place of submission.
D.Y.K.E. stands for Do You Know Enough. What do you wish present day queers and dykes knew that it feels like we don’t know (or do know but are ignoring)?
How absolutely layered being a lesbian is. How much of everything we have been, are, and continue to be is extremely multi faceted for many reasons. There will always be an intersection of identity in individuals. Mine is that I’m black, non-binary, and femme presenting, an SA survior, and poor as hell. It isn’t the same for everyone, and projecting the experience of lesbianism onto people or your particular perception of “what a lesbian really is” isn’t real because it isn’t the only way to be.
Do you have any favorite Instagram accounts to recommend?
Absolutely! @phaggotdaddy is a non-binary queer black activist always participating in action and doing regular food drives here in New York. @trapchata is a non-binary afro-latinx poet and writer based in New York who is always sharing their experience with transness and latinx identity. @zaneehunter is a super talented queer black femme makeup artist! I have never seen more looks HIT like hers!
Is there anything else you wanna tell the Autostraddle audience that I didn’t make space for with these questions?
Ya’ll are gonna leave black femmes and femme presenting people outta your shit! Ask us our damn pronouns! Be nice to us! Let us have sex and be sexual and enjoy our autonomy! Stop perpetuating misogyny because you’ve internalized yours! Also stop being mad at me for being allergic to mangos! I’m also allergic to nice tops! Oh well!
If you have a suggestion about which Instagram account we should feature next on Insta Crush, leave a comment here or DM me at vanessatakesphotos.
i know it’s dorky to comment on my own article but i love this so so much!!! thank you so much kenny for chatting and sharing so many of your thoughts, and thank you for being one of my favorite instagram accounts!!! <3
Thank you for this. Also, my best friend is allergic to mangos too, I don’t see that as a reason to get mad at someone if anything that just means your mango loving friends get more!
YES!!! I love Kenny’s account, this interview is both a delight and really important at the same time! Loving this series xx
This is wonderful, thank you both.
“There is nothing radical about softness in white people, as they exist very comfortably in and continue to perpetuate violence within the acceptance of their fragility.”
This puts wonderfully into concise words a feeling of unease I’ve had with softness/tenderness culture among white queer folks (such as myself). I’ll be thinking about this, and I’m grateful to Kenny for their words.
YEEEES to all of this. This was amazing. Thanks for letting AS interview you, Kenny and for sharing so much of your wisdom!