Queer. Black. Women. Three powerful words, yet, three words signaling discrimination, one individual in multitude. Black History Month is at its end, National Women’s History Month is knocking at the door, and LGBT Pride month is fast approaching. A month each to recognize such strong and oppressed groups. A month---- that’s right, approximately thirty days to celebrate a person’s identity, roots and soul…separately. Sure, we should celebrate ourselves every day, as everyone should, but is it really that easy? Short and simple, No. But don’t worry, the celebration will come around for us again next year. Next year as in, next February, next March and -- next June.
Myself, as a multi-racial lesbian--- I have power, but please don’t be confused, this is not to say that any other person has less power than me. We all have power within us, we all want to get ahead, but not all of us can utilize our power to get ahead.
I remember when I was sixteen, I had just graduated high school ahead of my class, I was attending a local community college in a suburb in Illinois, where I aspired to be a nurse. I was working two jobs, trying to pay for my living expenses as well as the tuition that was not covered for the studies that I wanted to pursue. I came across a job posting for a position cleaning houses that would amount to the same amount of income I had been making at my former two jobs, jointly, with less hours--- meaning more time to focus on my studies. I applied to the job posting and later that week I got a call for an interview. I scheduled an interview the same day I had gotten the call. I was in a scramble to get myself ready and in mere panic after I realized that my signature interview clothes had somehow gotten bleach stained. I rushed to my mother’s closest and borrowed her nicest and most professional women’s suit while thinking about how I could tame my long curly locks into a style that was semi-feminine (to match the women’s suit) and professional, with little notice. I had previous experience cleaning hotel rooms at my grandparent’s lodge when I was younger—I knew that I was going to own the interview. With no question, I was offered the job!
I put in my two weeks’ notice at both of my former jobs, thanking God that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity. I thought I was secure, in my heart, I was so sure that I had nothing to worry about. My first day, I wore my best pair of jeans and a professional collared shirt, ready to tackle the days’ training. For anyone who knows me personally, I don’t dress as any “gender-conformative” woman would. I walked into my new job collecting bold stares as I walked through the long and narrow office. At that moment, I was reminded that I was a, “Queer. Black. Woman”. I tried to poke out my chest as much as I could without it being obvious, I made my voice as light and feminine as possible while also preparing myself to talk in the most “Caucasian” way possible. I even tried to switch my hips as I walked, just like the run way models did on Tyra Banks’ hit reality show, “Next Top Model”. Now if you know me, just picture this in your head! You can laugh, don’t worry, I won’t be mad.
As I walked through the narrow office to the back where I met my trainer, who was a petite white woman, in her mid-thirties, I realized that I was the only racial minority at my new workplace. My trainer looked me up and down as the woman who had offered me the job rushed to greet me and introduce me to the team. As I was being introduced to everyone, I heard whispers from my new co-workers, “That is a girl?!”, “Wow, at least it’s pretty”, “I feel bad for *my trainer’s name*”. I wanted to run out of the office, but I heard my grandmothers voice in my head say, “You can accomplish anything you want, don’t ever let anyone tell you different”. I swallowed the lump that was in my throat and acted like I didn’t hear the silent whispers.
My trainer and I had left to our first house. Although I felt very uncomfortable, we finished three houses that day. On my way home I kept repeating the cruel whispers in my head, but my grandmother’s voice was much louder. I returned to work the next day. There were fewer people which meant fewer stares and no whispers. The second day was a lot like my first day, we completed four houses. The third day was my last scheduled day of training. On the third day I talked myself up on the drive to the office. I was starting to gain the confidence I had the day of my interview, because I knew that I was excelling at the job duties, and that after that day, I would be sent on my own to clean houses. As I walked into the office, I was greeted immediately by my supervisor. I was asked to go to her cubicle, I immediately knew something was wrong. She began to tell me that the person that had been training me had been an employee of theirs for over five years, making her the most senior “maid”. She also proceeded to tell me that my trainer said that I didn’t help her clean at all and that I was sitting in my vehicle while she was cleaning the homes on our schedule.
I sat in her cubicle in silence for a brief few seconds as I got my words together. As I began to speak, I was cut off and told that I was being terminated. All of the words that I had just put together to refute the claim, were gone. To avoid breaking down into tears, I simply got up and left the office with tears trying to escape my eyes. As I closed the office door, a woman whom I hadn’t ever seen approached me as discreetly as possible, telling me that I had been fired because I was a Lesbian. By this point I had started speed walking to my car, where I broke down in tears. Now jobless, hopeless, confused, and angry, I drove off without tussle.
Now, I could continue with the story, I could talk about how I felt hopeless, worthless, alienated, etc., but you get it. Being a “Queer. Black. Woman.” never felt so real. Things like this happen everyday to people in our country and around the world. Sometimes I merely dream of a world where being a Cisgender White Male, means that you were the minority, and being a “Queer. Black. Woman.”, was the norm but, I do not wish the actions and hate that we persevere through, upon anyone. There are not months devoted to Cisgender White Men, whereas people who fit this description only celebrate holidays that are devoted to being an American, because every day, Cisgender White Men can celebrate who they are based on their identities, roots and souls-- in comfort. They don’t have to wait for a certain month for it to be socially acceptable to be themselves and celebrate who they are. But we, “Queer. Black. Women” do. So, we’ll continue to pretend like it’s okay until next February, next March and ----- next June, until one day we can prevail. But for now, we are here, and we are here to stay---- EVERYDAY.
Victoria A. Doster, BSW Intern, Borderland Rainbow Center