Browse Tag: queerness

Happy Mother’s Day from a Queer African Daughter to Her Mama

I recently found a poemthing in my journal from about 2 or 3 years ago; I’d written just before mother’s day.

I hadn’t officially come out to my mother, then, but suspected that she’d known for a while that I was dating women; she’d been acting all weird and funny, speeding through our conversations with trivialities, idle gossip, and placing a suspicious emphasis on work/career updates (whereas she’d previously spent 80% of the call alluding to the lack of a boyfriend, and thus, the likelihood of her future grandchildren).

But as I was now spending so much time “saving the world” (too dangerously close to LGBT advocacy), she’d stopped asking about that, too. At one point we were literally only talking about the weather, what her and my father were eating for dinner, and Oprah. Our conversations had become filled with so much pain, so much we weren’t saying; I literally felt like I was choking each time I called home.

However, since deciding to be honest with my family about my life — my beautiful queer partnership, and my pursuit of a career around the arts and philanthropy (vs. the traditional route — doctor, lawyer, banker) — the relationship between my mother and I has slowly been improving.

She’s now at the point of constantly asking about my partner’s well-being, intentionally including her in conversations — even asking her to join in on Skype! My father has had his hiccups, but he too seems to be more at ease; he was going on and on the other day about how pretty my partner looked (since I’d sent them pictures from our France vacation). Okay, Dad. I get the point. We can now share a joke about both having good taste.

After coming out to my parents, I never would have imagined a good relationship with them would be possible. There’s always still so far to go — as I’m sure many of you know — but staying with hope has made the journey, so far, a rewarding one.

I’m sharing this poemthing I wrote, not because we haven’t moved beyond the place from which it was written (we have), but because I feel for everyone who’s ever had to feel estranged from their parents because of who they are, especially on a day like this. So much love going around about Mothers, while I know many Mothers and Daughters are sad they’re not more connected, closer to each other to enjoy the day.

If you are one of those people, know that you are not alone, love. I am thinking of you today. And praying for stregth and courage for the BOTH of you to reconnect soon… someday very soon. Happy Mothers (Who’ll Eventually Get It Together) Day :)

Oh, that’s right.. the poem thing. Here it is:

Happy Mother’s Day from a Queer African Daughter to Her Mama

On this day
when children, grown
call their homes
to  remind the women who raised them
they still remember:

the birthday parties,
school recitals,
and warm bosoms that welcomed the aftermath of puppy love,
mean English teachers,
playground fights,
hot baths after ballet,
proud smiles at As, Bs, and sometimes Cs,
words of wisdom by burning stoves,
the weight of the words “I love you”

on this day,
I am afraid
to be reminded of
the pain,
the regret,
the shame,
in your voice
that’s prevalent these days
— the hello that reminds me,
“I have failed you.”

On this day,
when children, grown
are calling their homes
with good intentions,
I’m making preparations for my defense:
the silent backlash of my “choices”
and your alleged “mistakes.”

Exhibit A)
I was gay before I went away,
America isn’t to blame for my choosing,
every single day,
to love the woman I now call home

Exhibit B)
I still believe in God,
the voice that stayed my toes
on a night I chose to believe
my life wasn’t worth living,
the voice that whispered gently,
you could still love me.

Exhibit C)
I do want children, eventually
Though I may not carry the three I promised you
I’d never shun motherhood,
or the chance to love unconditionally,
and outshine you.

Exhibit D)
I never dreamed you would question this love
Mother, after all that you’ve done,
the rings and pretty chainlinks you’ve sold,
the pride you’ve put aside to claim me,
in the face of ridiculue,
I, your daughter,
“the rogue lesbian”
never believed I would be the reason you bowed your head to mongrels

Exhibit E)…?

On this day,
as I prepare my defense,
against the silent conversation
we have over our phony mother-daughter role play,
I’m desperately hoping,
that in the event
either of us is caught off guard
by the white elephant,
I won’t have to use it.

On this day,
as I tell myself
over and over again
“I don’t care”
I’m desperately longing to hear
“I love you”
yet anxiously fearing the bareness
of “It’s you…”
followed by the nothingness I’ve grown used to
ever since you learned the meaning of “queer”

On this day,
I remember your lessons:
to stand strong,
always say the truth,
and remember,
even those who love you,
will do you wrong.

And when they do:

Remember love.
Remember love.
Remember love.

I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.


Spectra is an award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, and the voice behind the African feminist media blog, Spectra Speaks, which publishes global news and opinions about all things gender, media, diversity, and the Diaspora.

She is also the founding director of Queer Women of Color Media Wire (, a publishing and media advocacy organization that amplifies the voices of lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or transgender women of color, diaspora, and ethnic and racial minorities across the globe.

Follow her tweets on diversity, movement-building, and love as a revolution on Twitter @spectraspeaks.

Harvard LGBT Students of Color and Allies Talk Race and Queerness, Gender Takes a Back Seat

Harvard's Team logo

Last night, I had the pleasure of facilitating a student discussion about the experience of being an LGBT person of color and/or ally on the Harvard campus. I was invited to speak about my work as the QWOC+ Boston founding organizer, and about the complexities of having multiple identities as a queer person of color. Read the article in the Crimson (Harvard’s student newspaper).

The event was hosted by the staff and interns of the Harvard Women’s Center, [correction: including Queer Students and Allies, and BlackOut. I originally thought there were no queer or of color student groups listed as co-sponsors or organizers of this discussion — a common tactic to draw out queer or questioning of color youth ].  A good number of students of color and allies showed up — this speaks to the power of collaboration and partnership-building as a method of creating diversity — and even if some of them were on what I heard referenced as “Harvard Time”, the event commenced promptly at 7:30PM and didn’t end till around 9:15PM, when we were all still chirping away about what we could do as individuals to improve the (social) support systems available across college campuses.

Facilitating discussions like these is never easy; for one, it takes a while for students (or anyone really) to warm up to the occasion, but then on top of that, with sensitive topics like race, culture, sexuality, and gender, you’re also asking that near complete strangers open up to sharing some very personal experiences — and strong opinions. Needless to say, it can get racey really quickly. So as the facilitator, I made sure to set some ground rules (e.g. no talking over each other, use the “I” form when sharing an opinion so as not to universalize it for everyone else etc.), and smile BIG as often as possible, to keep the atmosphere light, warm, and open. [Side Note: This picture caught me during an off, intensely cerebral moment!]

I must say that the 15-20 or so Harvard students that attended the event were so respectful of each other that I didn’t really need to enforce any rules. They were also really insightful students. Once or twice, I forgot that I was the facilitator — with the role of guiding the conversation and keeping it going — and would get lost in a student’s well-articulated description of their discontentment with the LGBTQ social landscape. I’d be nodding my head vigorously, then be jolted back into action by my sudden awareness of the  eager, questioning eyes that bore into my befuddled expression, expecting some kind of “answer”… from me. But the truth is, as many of us disillusioned adults know, there is no answer to the problem of diversity. No ‘one’ answer, at least. So that was my message: Diversity is constant, and shape-shifting, but more importantly, it is a collective of perspectives, which we much strive to hear as often as possible.

Take for instance, the great turnout of LGBT students of color and allies at the discussion last night. There were so many different cultural/identity groups represented in the room that it would be easy for the organizers (and facilitators) to boast success in achieving diversity as far as the turnout and quality of conversation. However, as someone who’s been self-trained to notice missing voices, I noted that most of the conversation was driven by the male-identified attendees, which, quite frankly, came as no real surprise; QWOC+ Boston exists as a space primarily for women-identified queer people of color in part because of the sexism and male privilege that women experience within the larger gay community.

As much as queer people of color can discuss feeling “left out” by a predominantly white, male driven gay rights movement, the same can be said of gay men of color leading a male-driven multicultural-within-LGBTQ sub-movement, and it was quite interesting to see this already budding at the collegiate level. To think that we were in the Women’s Center, yet a large number of women sat through the majority of the conversation without uttering but a few words. To be fair, there were a few white allies in the room (predominantly women-identified), who did disclose that they felt more comfortable listening than talking, but even their silence is food for thought.

I dream of a world in which white allies engage in conversation with people of color — not just with other white allies. (Another day, another post.) Moreover, I dream of a world in which queer people of color don’t simply acknowledge that race isn’t the only attribute by which people can be (and are) marginalized, but proactively incorporate this awareness into their LGBTQ organizing efforts. Forming new coalitions around race, compartmentalized, cannot be the answer to marginalization; the perspectives of women, trans and gender non-conforming must be integrated into any action plan if we are all to move towards unity and raise our voices, together.

Many, many thanks to the organizing interns — special thanks to Eva Rosenberg for her fierce, down-to-earth allyness — and the supportive staff of the Harvard’s Women’s Center for creating such an important space for their students (and providing the most delicious fruit dip! Finally, a very humble Thank You to the students for opening up to me and letting me be a part of their conversation. Much love to you all, see you on twitter! :)

[MIT Rules! ;)]

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