"I've never denied any aspect of myself, why should you?” -My late mentor Dr. Cheryl Hardison- Dayton
This quote came back to me a little after my mentor passed away and I’m reminded in past positions that I've held, and in any organization that I've been a part of not to deny any aspect of myself. Given the landmark decisions (Repeal of DOMA and Proposition 8) and the landmark setbacks (The Voting Rights Act) that occurred this week, along with a little fatigue given that I've been running myself ragged with numerous tasks and trying to get the Black Women’s Education Initiative Program that I started off the ground completely, there are sometimes I forget just how much of an impact we as individual’s can have on one another, or sometimes the inspiration we can provide to another human being without trying.
In the midst of everything that went on this week I had a young lady at my place of employment approach me during a portion of my day (I’m a program specialist working predominately with six to eight year old children). Recently, I've been working with numerous age groups and have had the opportunity to work with older children. The older children at my place of employment at one point did journalist type interviews for staff members to go in their newspaper. I remember being asked a question of “Do you have a boyfriend” by a 10-year old little girl. I was forced with taking the easy way out and stating no, or telling her no I don’t have a boyfriend but I do have a ladyfriend. I chose the hard way. I remember the little girl saying “Really Ms. Danni, nothing’s wrong with that.” And I remember her running merrily to go and write up the interview she’d done with me.
Perhaps this is what made another young lady approach me when I came to work a few days ago. I'd come to a work a little late that day and as I walked through the gym area that we have she ran up to me. She said she was having a bad day and that she had some “issues” that she was dealing with. I made myself available to her for numerous reasons. One, she was a child who obviously needed someone to talk; two, she was an African-American child; and three, she was a young lady. As we walked and talked a bit she opened up to me about her home life. It was hectic to say the least and what this young lady had to deal with in her eleven years of life most 11-year old children couldn't fathom. She’d lost her mother to murder, she was in a devoutly Christian home, her 15-year old sister had ran away from that devoutly Christian home the night prior, etc.
I was in a little shock and awe as to what was going on. The young lady then paused and asked me a question before she divulged any more information to me. “Ms. Allen, I heard you have a girlfriend? Is that true?” I attempted to gauge exactly what was going to come out of her mouth next. I’d grew up in a devoutly Christian home and when I came out to my family it wasn't exactly the most picturesque of moments but I answered her honestly: "Yes…I do." And her eyes misted a little bit and she said “I’m bisexual.” And I told her…: "That’s perfectly okay." We talked a while and she let me know how she was feeling and what she was feeling and I admired her for the courage she had at such a young age. And I realize now that it was one of those moments that will stick with me through my lifetime. It was defining point for me and was a reminder that sometimes we don’t know the impact we can have on other individuals. This young lady trusted me enough to tell me her secrets because in some manner I’d had an unknown impact on her, and after our talk I realized she'd had an unknown impact on me. So I decided to write this, though I’d had another topic planned for the week (African American LGBTQ attitudes towards marriage via region.) I wanted to write something for this young lady, to honor her and her courage.
Young beautiful Black girl,
I know how difficult it is sometimes to come to grips with certain aspects of yourself that you've been made to feel are wrong and that you've been made to feel you should hide. I know that when you go to church on Sundays sometimes that that feeling you wrestle with is one you are made to feel horrible about every now and then in a sermon. I know how it feels to live your life in some closet that you would've never made for yourself, but that society and family have thrust you into. And I know the liberation that occurs when you step out of it and shut that closet never to go back in again and I want to say I’m proud of you.
If no one else tells you that you’re beautiful just the way you are young Black girl, I do. If no one else tells you that it’s okay to have feelings deep and complicated for any gender you have these feelings for, I do. If no one tells you it’s okay to wear your clothes just so, to defy any labels or categories someone may want to thrust you into, I’m telling you now. If no one told you there are going to be some nights and some days where it’s hard, and some people are going to be ignorant and make those nights and days long, I’m telling you. But I’m telling you in spite of that, everything about you is radiant, and beautiful, amazing and unique. I’m telling you that while Florida in your area is not some mecca for those like you and I, that you are not alone. I’m telling you that when you get older and if you so happen to like the way a woman walks, smells, smiles that those feelings and sentiments are okay. And I’m writing to tell you and reiterate to you that you aren't alone and that your struggle is not a rarity, that there are those who will stand with you, for you, with no qualms or second thoughts.
I’m writing to let you know that I’m one of those people. I’m writing this in honor of you and your courage at 11-years old that reminded me why I work at my place of employment and I’m writing you to say thank you for openly being you. May your struggle not be a great one. Perhaps by the time you grow older the world will be more accepting and our people will embrace us as we are, and as they should. But, in case they don't and just in case you didn't know.. You are not alone beautiful Black young lady, you are far from alone.