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?