Many Black people say that Black love is hard to find, hard to maintain and hard to keep. These perceptions are created out of many realities and intersections.
For example, the fact that antiblack misogyny is the crux of white supremacy means that Black femmes, women and gender-nonconforming folks are denied love under the basis that we are scripted to be undesirable, lazy, unworthy, ugly, conniving and crazy.
Another reality is that antiblackness permeates our Black families, social spaces and communities in a very specific and intentional way that makes it difficult to live our full selves — especially through vulnerability that is coded as weakness when we’re expected to be strong and stoic through everything, through queerness when our bodies are deviant from the box whiteness has forced us into, through transness when our bodies are forced to embody and perform a gender binary not meant for us.
The Black relationships I’ve navigated were difficult to say the least. I say this not to disparage Black love, but to challenge the constructs that make our love so heartbreakingly complicated while we are trying to survive a world designed to kill us. Living through antiblack capitalism has been the killer to my most significant Black queer relationships, because the friction between survival as poor Black queer folks and the lack of time/access/support for everyday conflict as humans does not balance well.
In my last relationship, both my partner and I are trans and gender-nonconforming. Our navigation of our gender did not match, though, and the gender violence we suffered did not cancel each other out just because we were together. We were constantly moving through evolutions of identity, needing access to gender-affirming surgeries, needing access to healthcare, and needing resources for survival — together. Both of us being Black queer trans folks dating each other while also having fucked-up credit, no savings, no familial financial support, nor consistent pay made it that much more difficult to spend time affirming each other in realtime. We were consumed by poorness, inaccessibility, and lack of time that it was almost impossible to center each other’s emotional wellbeing.
Our trauma easily mirrored each other’s, in which our depression and suicidal thoughts often battled each other. That drained both of us mentally but also drained us in trying to work together to find more survival means to make it to the next day. If we had other interpersonal problems, it wasn’t like we had the time to take a break from surviving to deal with it, nor did we have the money or energy to only focus on the problem and just the problem. The interpersonal would link back to the resentment and exhaustion we felt from the efforts in our everyday survival.
Most of our problems could’ve easily been fixed with financial sustainability, even some of the interpersonal issues. Counseling, individual and couples therapy, ability to afford gender-affirming resources, being able to pay our bills and rent, having access to food that we want to eat, having access to things that make us feel good but also cost money, protection from the gender and racial violence we suffered, etc. Capitalism is a crux to many poor Black queer and trans relationships if you can’t access the things that can make you feel whole as an individual and as a partnership.
There are niggas out there who won’t date a broke nigga, regardless if they’re broke or not, because it’s too much of a risk to deal with that “nonsense.” But imagine when you’re Black and have no other options but other broke niggas because dating someone outside of your race or outside of your shared identity is mentally draining.
But in retrospect of everything I’ve dealt with, I do believe that antiblack capitalism is a killer to poor Black queer and trans relationships when the world is already constantly denying your humanity. And if I had more of a choice, I would love to choose access and safety without the cost of not having access to the partners I would rather love and spend time with. It’s a complicated reality in which there are no definite answers, but just more so political gray questions of how we can support our communities and our sustainability so it doesn’t affect our interpersonal relationships so deeply and violently.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a Black queer, nonbinary fat femme writer, artist, and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice Magazine and For Harriet. Read more at BlackFatFemme.com. Support my emotional and intellectual labor by donating to: PayPal.me/AshleightheLion.