Mark Your Checkbox: Which Minority Are You Today?

That’s a rather strange title for a rant.  Right, Bri, I can just check a box for what minority I am per day.  Though, honestly, some people seem to think that a person fits into only one minority group even if they fit into multiple ones.  It’s like they expect us to choose, and we better choose the right one.  I’m black.  I’m a woman.  I’m a lesbian.  That’s three groups right there, and there are more I could add if I want to go into my size or the things I enjoy doing (Geek.  I’m a geek).  But, for the sake of this rant, I’m going to focus on the three, because they are things that aren’t really in my control (and no, I’m not going to debate on “choice” or “born this way” for my lesbian status, I consider my status as lesbian out of my control because I love the woman I am with and I am not changing that for anybody).

So, let me give some real life examples as to what I mean by, “Which Minority Are You Today.”

Choose One: Black or Female

In college, I got a couple of odd looks for deciding to go into Women’s Studies.  This is because people felt like I should go into African American Studies.  You know, because I’m black.  But here’s the truth about why I made the decision I did.

1.  I will always believe that learning black history is important.  With that in mind, I will always believe that learning ALL history that means something to you is important.  I’m black, yes, but I’m also a woman.  I wanted to learn about women, their history, their struggles, and everything else.  Honestly, college was pretty much the only outlet that offered that.  While black history needs longer than a month to go into, I never had a moment in middle school, junior high, and high school where we set aside some time to discuss the important women in history.  If I’m expected to learn about who am I as a black person, why is that same importance not on my status as female?

2.  As a black person I already felt the importance of black is beautiful.  I can’t speak for every black family in the world, but with my family that importance was made loud and clear.  On top of that, I already was told about racism, about the “someone could follow you around in a store because of the color of your skin” scenario.  But as far as being female… well, I’m not saying that we didn’t talk about double standards, but when it came to whose rights were discussed more?  African American wins.  I feel like, as I look back, femaleness only really came into conversation when it happened directly, versus blackness which would be talked about at anytime.

Here’s an example.  I’ve mentioned in the beginning of this that I’m a geek.  I love video games.  When I was younger, I played them a bunch (more free time and all that).  I learned, through video games, the double standards of men and women.  The assumption was either a) I didn’t know how to play, or b) I was just at the arcade to watch and not play. I have a clear memory of playing Virtua Fighter against a boy and him stomping off angrily when I beat him.  I was actually hoping to hang out with him more because, you know, we had something in common and could have fun.  But no, that wasn’t the case, and at the time I didn’t really understand why.

Then my mom told me, “It’s because you’re a girl.”

Now, as far as racism and things like that go?  I knew about that before I ever set foot into any department store or, more importantly, went to Iowa State University, which is a predominantly white school.  And before anyone asks — because this comes up too — I didn’t have any soul shattering experiences in regards to racism.  Sure there were some fun moments of explaining the wonders of the braids in my hair, but as far as any scenarios that made me feel alone on that mostly white campus?  None.  And I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, I’m just saying that everyone seems to assume the worst.

As far as feminism goes?  I didn’t even know Women’s Studies was a thing until college so I decided to take advantage of it.  And, honestly, Women’s Studies goes beyond women’s issues.  It really is about equality for everyone, and we talked about absolutely everyone. Yet, for some reason, when I would say Women’s Studies the response would sometimes be ?

Why is there this response of betrayal?

Choose One:  Black or Lesbian

Once upon a time I jokingly said that there are no black, gay people in the world.  This is, of course, false.  However, what isn’t false is the low amount of representation of minorities who are gay.

But anyhow, I digress… sort of.

My final semester of college they introduced Queer Studies into the Iowa State curriculum.  I jumped on that pretty quickly because, again, if it’s important to learn about my black history, I should also learn about my other histories, too.  As I got closer to graduation I learned that there were mini ceremonies from different groups on campus.  This included an African American graduation and a GLBT graduation.  I intended to go to both, but the African American graduation changed their date and it ended up being the same day as the GLBT graduation.  So I literally had to choose.

Man, oh man.

So I went to both groups to ask how the graduation ceremonies would work.  The African American one was very serious: walking into the room, holding candles, things like that. The GLBT one?  Punch and cake.  If you know me, you know which one I went for.  But, again, when I made my choice there was this response like I was stabbing someone’s puppy.  How could I choose gay over black?  But it wasn’t like I was literally disowning my blackness, or saying that one was better than the other.  Yet that seemed to be the reaction.

Why don’t some people realize that there are multiple layers to a person?  Why do they have to make people feel like they have to make a choice on which one they are?  I’m all of these things and it isn’t going to change, I shouldn’t have to pick one over the other.  In the case of the graduation, not only was one more light-hearted than the other, but the dates were changed, it wasn’t my fault that both were suddenly on the same day.  And yet there was this expectation of choosing black.  Honestly, it’s not a choice, it’s what I am, but along with it I’m also a woman and a lesbian.

So stop trying to make me feel like I have to choose a box.  Can’t I just circle all three of them?

A Look Back: The Fried Chicken Incident

Once upon a time, back in October 2013, I wrote an article about plus sized cosplay for xoJane.  I also fried chicken and posted pictures online.

So let’s talk about that chicken!

Which came first: the chicken or the rant?  I’m no stranger to cosplay, nor am I a stranger to ranting about anything that gets under my skin.  But this one incident is the one that seemed to really make an impact.  So I’m going to revisit it in honor of this page.

 

It all started with Princess Peach

Princess-Peach-super-smash-bros--brawl-164655_400_329

Back in August my partner and a good friend of ours went to an anime convention.  I decided that I wanted to get some good pictures of my Princess Peach cosplay since I was going to retire it.  If you keep up with my cosplay page you know that the cosplay is no longer in retirement.  This is because of this incident.  But honestly, the costume was originally worn at the Super Smash Brothers BRAWL launch at the GameStop I use to work at, so it’s been in my lineup for years.  The fact that it’s so popular still kind of amazes me, it wasn’t nearly as popular before this happened..

Princess Peach and Yoshi

The day I wore it, my hair was curled up from a previous cosplay.  My partner and our friend told me to keep the curls with Peach instead of wearing the wig I normally wear.  I decided to give it a shot.  Now I wasn’t really the type to share cosplay pictures in online groups too much.  My partner shared the pictures because she makes my costumes, and I’d at least post them on my Facebook, or Tumblr, or whatever personal page I had.  I never really made an effort to submit them to a group, but there’s a lot of great groups where I’d see a lot of cool cosplay and generally awesome, supportive, creative people. So I had started to share my pictures more often.  After the convention, I shared my Princess Peach pictures on a group called “Cosplaying While Black” on Tumblr and got a surprising amount of hits on it.  I wasn’t expecting so many people to like the cosplay, especially to the point of it hitting the thousands.  It was pretty neat.

But then… it happened.

As a plus sized, black cosplayer, part of me always has this “on guard” mentality when it comes to cosplay.  You hear so many horror stories of people being made fun of, so I kind of have this portion of my brain that’s just waiting for the day when someone says something.  Honestly, this isn’t just because of the horror stories of cosplay.  This is just from living life.  Being plus sized, being black, being female, being in a relationship with a woman, those are all things that people can — and do — poke at.  I don’t have a tragic background of always being bullied growing up, but things have been said that still brings out that paranoid voice when I’m about to share my cosplay.  “Someone is going to have something to say that’s going to hurt your feelings.”

And that’s what happened with my Princess Peach cosplay.

 

Words can, and do, hurt

So there’s a couple of things that happened in that moment.  It hurt, first and foremost.  I know there are people out there who will tell you to brush off insults and just be you, but here’s the honest truth: it still hurts to hear.  No one likes being called names and the first reaction may not be a resounding “fuck you,” but an, “ow… wow.”  So, that’s the first thing that happened.

The second thing that happened was me trying to figure out how to respond, or if I should respond at all.  This always gets mixed responses, I think.  Half of the world will tell you to respond, to strike back, and to not take any crap from someone. The other half will tell you to ignore it, to laugh it off and go about your day.  Responding only escalates the situation, so you might as well leave it alone.  While I see both sides to that argument, I feel like being quiet for too long just excuses bad behavior, especially on the internet or any source where others are watching.  People could see that comment that was made about my costume.  People could see me being called “Princess Whale” and “Precious” (yes, this Precious) and “Princess Wonderball.”  If nothing was said in response, people would think that that was o.k.  Or, people would see yet another plus sized cosplayer being picked on and decide that going out into the cosplay community wasn’t worth it, because if this one cosplayer is being picked on, surely they themselves would be picked on, too.

I didn’t respond directly to the person.  I didn’t message them in a, “Hey, cut it out,” sort of manner.  I just posted on my Tumblr.  “Wow this is actually happening.”  I also posted that whales are cute so, yay, at least I was being compared to a cute animal.  As for “Precious,” well, Gabourey Sidibe is a successful actress, so I took that as a win.

I learned, quickly, that as much crap that happens with bullying in the cosplay community, overall the community is supportive.  They’re supportive without you even asking them to be supportive.  Suddenly, there were people responding to this comment, people I didn’t even know, and I sat back, shocked, to see so much support.  Of course, this didn’t stop my bully from saying anything else.  Every supportive comment led to another attack, not just of me, but of the people supporting me.  Then a comment was made about me looking like I was in a hurry to go and fry chicken, since my Princess Peach cosplay comes with her weapon in Smash Brothers — a frying pan.

IMG_20130831_182720_177

 

Fried Chicken for the Cosplay Soul

I’m not sure how this epiphany happened.  I wish I had an answer, but I really don’t. Maybe I was just growing tired of the comments.  Maybe I was getting frustrated because people were saying things like, “This is why I don’t cosplay,” and no one should ever be afraid of cosplay.  Bullies like this just can’t be talked to.  There is, literally, no point in trying to change their mind.  So I was done trying to do something against that bully.  Instead, I would do something to show others that, you know what?  If someone gives you a hard time, don’t let it stop you.  Don’t let it stop you from being who you are.

When life gives you bullies, fry chicken.

And that’s exactly what I did.

chicken senpai

I remember my mother calling me when I posted the pictures of my fried chicken along with the reasons behind it.  I got a heartfelt laugh and a, “That’s my girl!”  Ironically, it was the best batch of fried chicken I had ever made.

 

Baby’s First Big Rant

While this incident certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve ranted about something, it was the first time that I responded to someone saying something against me in such a way.  This gave birth to the article I wrote, and, in the long run, this page I have now.  For some reason my mother likes my rants.  Apparently, so do other people, too.  So I’m going to cosplay my heart out and, occasionally, rant.  As for frying chicken… honestly, I actually don’t do it that often, but in that moment, it was the most symbolic dinner I had ever made.

 

Let the ranting begin!

I’ve been saying that I want to have a page where I can just talk about things that I want to talk about.  I do it a lot on my Cosplay page and Tumblr, but now I can do it here too.  This way, it’ll be a bit more organized, I think (I hope?) and maybe have fun pictures and things like that.

So, expect a rant soon!  And maybe some general geekery, too.