Content warning: Sexual violence described in paragraph 15.
Do you know what stories my skin tells?
To you, I am a eulogy and an already forgotten tragedy. I have made myself small to fit in spaces, because you can never know that weight of all this emptiness inside. Where all this grief can’t ever fit in such a stream of unrelenting mourning.
Now, I write with a loss on my breath, as I make room to swallow my mother tongue for a language that hungers and twist with designs, descriptions and omissions of our own suffering.
I find myself a minority in every aspect of my identity here, whether I like it or not, cannibalizing words that describe myself with different groups on different days. It’s my life’s signature, a monument of memories I’m not allowed to forget, but am forbidden to claim.
I am pansexual. I am gender-queer, a black Muslim from Nigeria, who was raised as a woman. There are few like me. And it is difficult to find them. The nature of our identity makes coming out, just enough to know one another, nearly impossible.
I swear I tried to write something happier, but my skin grew hot and burned me. The heaviness of that grief gave base to my heart beat which taunted “traitor.” My lips asked me if I had learned to be this kind of liar, as if I had forgotten the noose around necks. That I owed just words to people like me, because we rarely ever are used to justice in relation to ourselves, as nothing in this world is just to us and we are never just anything to you.
I write this in part, for us, as a message for that person who lives in your mirror, to love us gently, because we are the only ones who know how. With that, there’s hope that one day it’ll be different where I can finally find a world where I belong and am understood, but now it is not.
Despite this and having been in Canada for more than 10 years, I still find myself on the margins of society, not quite able to fit into any one particular group. I write this knowing I live in a country where queerness is relatively accepted and talked about. For me, it’s refreshing, but there’s still much work that needs to be done regarding inclusivity and intersectionality.
That work must be done because the base of the matter is that I live in societies that don’t want people like me.
In queer groups, there’s an unacknowledged yet pervasive racism that only shows itself in ugly, muted ways. Nobody says they don’t care about people of colour, yet we never see ourselves represented. When we experience violence or discrimination, there is no outrage. We’re the sacrificial lambs so they can protect themselves. It’s our blood that's spilled to wash away the filth in their path.
At home, within immigrant families, there’s always a strong underlying threat of homophobia that I can’t escape. My family is from a place where people like me are considered either sick or worthy of death. There is no such thing as acceptance in a family where homophobia is a genetic trait, a part of the blood named sacred that gets passed down from generation to generation.
In my faith and spirituality, I find my only solace. My Islam is a kind, accepting and all-encompassing love that cannot be taken away from me. My God named me love and claimed me as His, regardless of what anybody else says.
On the snowy streets, I’ve had “Go Home” screamed as if we have no home on the rich Black Earth we came from, and as if we would leave that home for here had it not had been for what was stripped from our soil.
Back home, we split the seas in half, living corpses weigh the bet against death in the jaws Warsan Shire spoke of, against the barrels later pointed at black bodies within safer nations.
Even here, I stink of war, I know. There are entire cities burning in my throat. The space between my legs is a graveyard, where men bury themselves shallow before clawing their way to the surface again. If only home wasn’t one more man who looks like my uncle with his manhood in my mouth.
These facts of my existence make up the swaying silence you’re all too afraid to break.
I am the rope, tying man to woman, woman to woman, man to man, and here on this continent all blacks to back to the tree branch.
I can almost smell the names of the bodies in these words because we are not allowed to forget the way blackness tastes. I have words etched on my skin that others read and that remind myself of lives that weren’t my own, might have been mine and deaths that are and will be because of my identities tones.
I know, nobody wants to come home to the world burning in their living room.
I know, nobody wants to reach out for hands and find only broken promises.
I know, nobody wants to hug shattered glass.
I know, but please love me gentle.