Gen Z Shares their Experiences Growing Up Black and Gay On Long Island

By: Alisa Walsh
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Gen Z Shares their Experiences Growing Up Black and Gay On Long Island

One notable aspect of Pride Month is its celebration of diversity amongst the diverse. Queer people of all different ethnic backgrounds, abilities and denominations come together during this time. But once the celebration is over, many LGBTQ individuals find themselves having to hide a piece of their identity due to cultural opposition. 

As of January of 2021, there are 1.2 million Black LGBTQ citizens living in the United States. This makes up 2% of the overall national LGBTQ population. Being an ethinic minority within a larger minority group proves to have its flaws and benefits— for some, more of one than the other. 

Especially on Long Island where the diversity rate is already relatively low, Queer Black individuals often feel the need to hide aspects of their identity in order to be accepted or feel safe in their environment. But with the number of Queer POC growing more and more each year, inclusivity for all feels within reach, giving Black LGBTQ members confidence in their identity being whole.

Lucid Clairvoyant is a 20-year-old Non-Binary individual from South Setauket. Growing up as a first generation Haitian American, they’ve felt the pressure of having to conceal a part of themselves to keep peace in their traditional household.

“Most of the negative parts of my Haitian culture was present growing up,” recalled Clairvoyant. “My mom came from Haiti when she was seven. My dad came when he was 30, so he has a lot more traditional Haitian values. There’s a lot of sexism. The dynamic is that he’s the man in the house, you do everything he says. There’s a lot of strict rules that would probably work a lot better in Haiti than they do here. It caused a lot of personal anguish growing up.”

Being guided with these morals caused internal conflict as Clairvoyant began to question their sexuality and gender identity.

“I was very much in denial,” Clairvoyant explained. “I first started to question my gender identity in the tenth grade, but didn’t really come to terms with my sexuality until the end of my senior year of high school. It was a really intense, radical phase of ‘Oh I’m not anything that I believed I was.'”

Trying to understand the new feelings they had, Clairvoyant found it difficult to find time for self discovery. It wasn’t something welcomed in their home. Having to utilize the minimal resources and guidance they had, Clairvoyant’s age of self discovery became a very confusing and depressing time in their life. 

“I like to say that I am very much living a double life,” expressed Clairvoyant. “Outside of my home or even behind closed doors, I would be surrounded by Queer people, doing Queer things. Each time I come home from college, the worse I’d feel under my parent’s roof. They hadn’t necessarily hadn’t gotten worse. The more safety and community I felt in the outside world, the harder it became come home, and hide myself.”

Long Island resident Lucid Clairvoyant and member of LGBTQ community posing for photo
Lucid Clairvoyant

But once they were able to find security within their self identity and find a supporting community, Clairvoyant was able to be 100% of who they are— a proud Queer Black individual.

“I don’t really have many thoughts on being Black in the LGBTQ community. Honestly I’ve never had a situation where my race was an issue,” said Clairvoyant. “At school I’m basically only surrounded by LGBT people. I don’t really have to think about who I am race wise in that environment because everyone is pretty accepting. I don’t need to separate who I am.”

Clairvoyant said that nothing was a more powerful healer than time. They also credit finding a community that embraces them and can relate to their struggles with helping them feel more comfortable with their identity.

“The most important thing to consider is time,” explained Clairvoyant. “A lot of things get better with time. With time you will be able to grow into yourself and find those around you that do love you unconditionally. With time you can surround yourself with a community that loves you. Nothing is permanent.”

Commack resident and 19-year-old Alissa Braxton comes from an Afro-Caribbean family. As a gay woman who grew up in a very cultured household, Braxton was a bit fearful about the consequences her sexuality would have on her relationship with her family.

“At first I didn’t know how to feel about it,” Braxton explained. “Especially in the Black community, it’s not something you hear people say loud and proud— it’s usually on the low. I was scared because evey Black gay person I knew was very secretive about it. So it had me thinking there was something to hide from even though I didn’t really know what it was.”

But after coming out as gay her freshman year of high school, Braxton was relieved by the responses she received from those who surrounded her.

Gen Z Shares their Experiences Growing Up Black and Gay On Long Island
Alissa Braxton

“After I came out everyone eventually supported me,” explained Braxton. “My mom was a little rough at first, but as time went on she grew to support me. The Black community is a bit judgemental so there’s a lack of understanding about what being LGBTQ means. I think it’s easier for me because I’m a girl. Black gay men are given a really hard time because in the Black community there are a lot of expectations of how a Black man should look and act.”

When it comes to her experiences within the LGBTQ community, Braxton has always felt welcomed.

“In my experience the gay community has always been accepting towards me.” Braxton expressed. “I’ve never had to factor in my race or try to hide that part of me. If anything there’s a lot of beef within the Black LGBTQ community itself. There’s labels and a bit of discrimination and I think it goes back to those expectations of gender roles. Where if you’re going to be more masculine or feminine you have to pick, you can’t be in between— there’s a lot of pressure to conform to one or the other.”

Being a D1 jumper for Florida University’s track and field team, Braxton expressed how welcomed she felt to be an athlete for the school. 

“Everyone on the team is super chill and super supportive,” Braxton stated. ‘They all know I’m gay and none of them care. If anything, a lot of my teammates ask me questions about the LGBTQ community because they want to be better informed. We are all athletes, we are all on that team for one reason and one reason only— to do what we do best and to give it our all every single day. All because there are individual events, it doesn’t remove the team aspect from it.”

Being a queer individual of color comes with its hardships, but as time progresses, most eventually come to a point where they can find a balance between their ethnic background and their LGBTQ status. 

With the help of the Black Queer adults who are educating their fellow LGBTQ members and those within the Black community, a foundation of acceptance is being built for the younger generation of Black LGBTQ individuals. A foundation where they can celebrate being Black and being gay at the same time, all year round.

Alisa Walsh

Alisa Walsh

Stony Brook, NY Creative Writer/Poet Intern at Shades of Long Island

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