When I was about four or five years old, I was obsessed with my mom’s makeup. I was enamored with her nail polish in particular. I used to sneak up to her bedroom when she was downstairs and paint my nails like I saw on TV. I was enamored by the color, the texture, even the strong odd smell. However, being a self-aware child, I would wash it off before it could dry. Subconsciously, this sparked my cycle of reclaiming and disowning my femininity.
This past summer red nail polish came back with a vengeance for me. My family gave me all kinds of hell for painting my toes and fingernails. My mom told me it made her just as uncomfortable as walking outside without a bra or wig. I couldn’t believe we were comparing nail polish with nudity, neither of which we should be ashamed of as femmes.
However, it made me realize how deeply ingrained gender roles are in our society. We have one of two check marks given to us as birth. Our reproductive organs dictate how we should present, how we should express, and what pronouns we should take.
Growing up in the black community, I learned there’s a thin line between pride and shame. The heavy burden of male gender was enough to make me buckle. “The man talks” my father gave me were filled with ancillary stereotypes that failed to resonate with who I was. My mother encouraged my sensitivity as she said it would make me a better husband, but tried to steer me away from feminine colors, toys, and ideals. I grew up thinking half of me was defective.
My gender identity and expression was policed by my parents, teachers, kids at school, pastors—you name it. It seemed it was worse to be black and queer than black and just a downright shitty person.
Obviously, this narrative is problematic and it wasn’t until recently that I began to confront how toxic it was. For once in my life, I developed enough self-love to realize that it is my right to be myself. Since then, I’ve been holding up my compact middle finger and letting people know that my genitalia has no bearing on my connection to my feminine spirit. I’ve always had a sense of who I was. And this goes beyond dresses, accessories, and makeup.
There’s an energy about the divine feminine I thought was inspiring. The ability to love and to forgive that I see demonstrated by women and other feminine energies always moves me to tears. Seeing that our femininity is a source of power keeps me going in a world that says “sit the fuck down, no one cares.”
However, we don’t hide our wounds. We won’t carry ourselves in your artificial shame. No longer will we cave to your demands of how we should look, feel and act. We’ve faced ourselves. Seen the parts that are ugly, beautiful and worse. Now we’re on the other side of our pain and stepping into our power.
That mastery of self and empathy makes me proud to be a non-binary femme. And when you add being black on top of that, I have even more reason to be proud.
Femininity is not owned or controlled by women. Hell, we can argue that women haven’t even owned their own femininity until recently. No, I am not trying to be one of those special snowflakes you see on Tumblr. I am simply trying to exist in a world that has given me limited options to express myself being designated male at birth. But I am thankful for this feminine creativity that has allowed me to reinvent myself as I see fit.
I got into an argument with my brother. He said what I was doing wasn’t necessary. As a creative being, it’s an absolute necessity to be me. As a human being, it’s a necessity to be me. Even if you don’t like it, why does it matter? Why should I just be unhappy in my own skin? If it’s a crime to be black and femme, then let the trials begin. Because I will not hide in a closet that was never intended for me. As the immortal words of Maya Angelou echoes “I rise. I rise. I rise.”
I’d rather be happy with myself than to please this society and scream on the inside. I have love for everyone, but healthy love requires boundaries.
You do not get a say in what my gender should or shouldn’t be. You have no say in regards to what I wear and how I express myself. I don’t and will never have to look to you for permission. I’ve already given myself permission to be brave, to be kind, to be loving, and to be a proud black femme.
Unapologetically and sincerely – Roze.