The Limits of Liminality: Navigating Hipster "Blackness" in Queer Boston

I have a confession to make: I’m one of those pesky black folks who primarily socializes with white people, but I can’t help it – that’s the way it’s always been.

As a kid I was a tomboy who loved to skateboard, and ride BMX bikes. In high school, I preferred rock music over hip-hop and R&B, and I went through what can only be described as a tragic hippie phase in college (it was the 90’s, what can I say?). Nowadays, I collect tattoos and my “uniform” includes Vans, skinny jeans, a plaid shirt and a flipped up fitted. As a result, my blackness has been called into question on more than one occasion by other black people, and I’ve been a “safe black” for many a timid white person. I’m also a life long, card-carrying member of the gender nonconforming club, so I’ve learned to navigate fitting in everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.

I’ve been living in Boston for 10 years and one of the most striking features of this city is the self-segregation that permeates various sub-cultural communities. Save for the living rooms of a few close friends and a couple venues, I struggle to find a space where all of my complexities and interests are understood and celebrated, and I know I’m not the only queer person of color who feels this way. We all have to compartmentalize our lives in order to navigate certain spaces for comfort and survival but the type of isolation I feel here is bigger than simply having to wear different hats.

Since moving here, several QPOC community groups have started organizing events, discussions and blogs – this is a beautiful thing. Clearly there is a need to create these spaces, but as much as I’ve tried I haven’t found a home in any of them and I think the reason for this is two-fold: 1) These groups tend to host upscale and networking focused events 2) It took me years to figure this out, but Boston doesn’t have a solid Bohemian scene.

What I’m looking for is probably something I can’t have: a city where unconventional lifestyles aren’t tokenized or romanticized or fetishized. I want a place where the street-wise, the LGBTQQIAS (s is for straight by the way), the radical, the intellectual, and the bon vivant can co-exist in unforced harmony. Boston is not Brooklyn, I know, but still I remain frustrated by the fact that there aren’t more (for lack of a better term) Bohemian people of color around these parts.

I keep asking myself what I can do to change this dynamic, but the truth is that what I want can’t be forced. I work in the night life industry, and a friend of mine (a black trans man) told me that he wanted to support me, but didn’t want to come to my parties because the photos he saw were full of white people. My response was “Yes that is true, but there would be more people of color if you came with your friends”.

People naturally gather where they feel most comfortable and in order for folks from all walks of life to come together naturally, there needs to be a space where we can simply BE together, without categorization or politicization. A place where you don’t have to be an Other. At the end of the day, I just want to live where music, art and culture are ever present.

No tightly run meeting agendas. No name-tags. Just be.

About the Author

QWOC Media WireQueer Women of Color Media Wire is a media advocacy organization that amplifies media and thought leadership of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, including gender non-conforming racial and ethnic minorities all across the globe. Follow us on Twitter @qwocmediawire, Tumblr (http://qwocmediawire.tumblr.com/), or Like us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/qwocmediawire).View all posts by QWOC Media Wire →

  • Mary

    This post was excellent! It's a POV that just doesn't register on most people's radar so kudos for writing this & getting it out there! And I love LGBTQQIAS, btw.

  • MCD

    I'm in the same place, and trying to combine all these parts of my life is becoming increasingly difficult. Straight people don't like going to Queer events, white people don't like going to events for People of Color, and vice versa. I also notice that in many queer spaces, there are many female-bodied/female identified/feminine identified (for lack of a better term) people, but very very few gay cisgender men/male-identified/masculine-identified people.

    We really need to come together and not be so exclusionary. Safe spaces are great, but we need to branch out sometimes and make spaces that are inclusive of ALL individuals… unless you're creepin.