am a Black, Queer, masculine-of-center woman. Sometimes I still even question that. There may never be a place for all of me to exist. I feel that my Blackness and Queerness will always conflict in the same way they both demand a more expansive love. I often interrogate my perceived deviations from normalcy and the existing notions of how I am expected to show up in this world. I wear my jeans slightly baggy, and occasionally, some grills in my mouth. I wear my cap turned back, and my shoelaces are never too tight. My take on Queer style affirms that justice looks nothing like respectability. For me, joy means birthing a healthier masculinity that can coexist with all my other identities.

There is this continuous unoccupied space in which I exist, and there is no word I know to describe it. Sometimes the way I show up in myself goes unnamed, and this is where it is most safe. Those are the moments I have learned how to love myself most.

How do I center both justice and joy simultaneously?
I say yes to my existence even when the world tells me no.

I go to the barber to get my haircut. I tell my barber to only fade the sides and back. I may or may not trim the top. The time spent addressing my unique needs creates a space that often fades away when I leave that chair. It is magical how a particular time or space can remind me that I am no mistake. I can be seen in ways that some of us have only imagined.

For a moment at least, that feels like the only thing that matters. I take in those minutes slowly as I feel the clippers move from one side to the next. Lining up the front is my favorite part. It always feels like the final touch of something that will never be finished. I look up at myself in the mirror a few times as my barber continues to spin me around in the chair. Recently, I learned that my hair grows differently on one side than the other. Maybe this is just a coincidence, or maybe it’s symbolic of everything Queer about me. I’ve often felt that nothing about me has ever made sense to the world, and yet it makes complete sense to me.

In every breath I take, I manifest a future tomorrow. In every way that I resist, I open doors for someone else who may not align with the dominant convictions of our current world. Then, in their own ways, they also create new pathways for others. This is the thing about Queerness. In our own resistance and rejection of the dominant systems we function within, we continuously build toward a world that centers the most marginalized. Queerness is and should always be a framework for liberation.

Every time the world has not loved me in my Black Queerness, I imagine its permanence. Even when it goes unrecognized, it still appears. When it goes unspoken, it is written into codes for our own understanding. Regardless of the attempts to erase us, our ways of being stand out as a reminder that WE are still here. Black Queerness, in all its adaptations, will remain at the forefront of every push to obtain liberation.

The fact of the matter is that we will inevitably construct a way to resist and seek justice in ways yet to be imagined. We have always made our demands heard by being present, existing as our authentic selves, and showing up unapologetically. To be in constant flux with the complexity of Black Queerness opens up new avenues of accountability to ourselves and to our community at large.

As we return to the question, how do we center both justice and joy — I have an answer: We exist in our brilliance, as we always have. And quite frankly, that is enough.

Kenna Williams is a Black queer woman and a graduate of Saint Marys College of California. Kenna Is originally from Long Beach, California also known as the LBC. If you know, YOU KNOW! Kenna has high hopes to go back to grad school in the near future to pursue a masters in public health or public policy. She hopes to continue to find avenues that can help her channel her love of writing and provide a platform to talk about being Black, opposing respectability and the complex and necessary nuances of being. In Kenna’s spare time, catch her roller skating and artfully being indecisive. Follow her on Instagram @KoolKente