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As fat, Black femmes: how can we navigate and decolonize the politics of desirability?

By Tina Colleen Black queer women and femmes and female identify people (FIP), we are celebrating our natural melanin and manes more today than ever before. We demand equality, but have we truly broken free from European influences when we choose a partner? Dating in the queer world feels pretty hopeless on a lot of levels.  Especially for me as a black, queer, plus-size femme.  In the last year, I have been going to 'Meetups'. I first went to speed dating events that were queer-inclusive, yet they were not racially diverse. It wasn’t a fit, and I didn’t feel comfortable. I began attending meetups and events for Black and non-white Latina women and femmes. At these events, there were always three extremes: queer women who were cliquey and had no desire to include you; women who had a partner and just wanted to be your friend; and/or couples. Again, I felt like I didn’t fit in, so I stopped going to these events. I started dating online in July. I connected with this lovely androgynous black woman quite quickly. Despite my fear she would not accept my size, our dates went well and things seemed to be looking up. After our second date, she called it off. She was stuck between liking me and another woman at the same time. I came in second place. Following this blow, I was lucky to have received tickets to the Afropolitan Insights: Self-Care Festival. At the festival, I attended a panel discussion. The topic of decolonization came up. One of the panelists mentioned that she was unsure if she was genuinely attracted to a specific type of man, or if she was experiencing undue European influence from decolonization.

Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.

Dear Cam, I'm not quite sure how to navigate this. I have a white partner (we're polyam) and I feel like he gives his white partners more space, patience, and consideration to feel insecure or needing validation to feel safe in a polyamorous relationship than he gives me. Am I imagining how big of a problem this is? Why is empathy something that's used so often against Black folks in relationships? How do I talk about this?   -Deserving of Empathy
Deserving, Whew, this question has been on my mind for a while and I'm glad that you brought it up. By no means is this a unique problem to your relationship. In fact, I've heard this question raised over and over by the BIPOC in my life, no matter what kind of romantic relationship they have. I believe that in every relationship — romantic or not — everyone involved has to commit to performing labor for the betterment of the relationship. But when it's done evenly (i.e., both parties commit to doing labor for each other and themselves), the relationship itself is healthy and balanced. It's when this labor falls unfairly on one party that this balance is thrown out of whack. And because nothing exists in a vacuum, we can't separate the fact that this imbalance of labor almost always falls on the shoulders of marginalized people. There's a rising interest in non-monogamy, which is great, but I think a lot of people who are first learning about or are new to non-monogamy often forget that there's work that goes into these relationship structures as well. We're still interacting with other people, and that means that we still have to take care in treating them with respect, love, and understanding and not just project our own assertions and demand they fulfill our needs without considering what effect that will have on them. So much of this creates violence and unnecessary hardship — especially when we take identities like race into account. There's also an assumption here, it seems, that your partner thinks that there is an equal dividing of care he gives to you and his other partners. Care and work that goes into a relationship doesn't come with an on/off switch; it isn't neatly divided between "yes" or "no", "all" or "nothing". It's highly unfair of him to assume — not even ask — that you would need "less" support in the relationship with no evidence other than the assumptions he's making on your identity as a POC.
RELATED: #ASKCAM: CELIBACY IS A VALID CHOICE

For BIPOC, the 4th of July is a grim reminder of the ways in which America has lied to us again and again.

The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, may be a time of celebration, fireworks, and picnics for white Americans, but for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), this day often evokes more complicated feelings. There is a certain irony to the fact of a global empire – built from the ground up on slave labor and Indigenous genocide – celebrating “freedom” from its former colonial status, without acknowledging the profound unfreedoms it has inflicted on the rest of the world’s people in order to achieve it. Most BIPOC know that the Declaration of Independence, supposedly signed on July 4th, 1776 (though historians agree that this was not the actual day of the signing), is a sham. The famous words of the Declaration, which most of us are taught in school – “all men are created equal” – echoes back in the contemporary conservative slogan “all lives matter.”
Related: WHY DECOLONIZING SELF-CARE FUELS OUR RESISTANCE

Reclaiming and retelling our stories is the first step toward decolonization--this shouldn’t be forgotten even and especially when we are speaking about fiction.

By Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda
  Recent discussions around cultural appropriation have, for the most part, centered on tangible cultural products: clothing, food, hair, dance, music, language, and visual art are among the most commonly discussed items on the agenda when it comes to cultural appropriation and the way in which it actively harms marginalized communities. However, many people seem to have a harder time drawing the line when it comes to a less tangible form of cultural production: fiction writing. Recently the Guardian ran an article called "Whose Life is it Anyway," which featured a variety of perspectives from creative writers on the topic of cultural appropriation in the realm of fiction. The overwhelming consensus in this article is that there should be no limitations on the imagination when it comes to writing fiction. Fiction writers, the article argues, should be able to write novels and stories from anyone's perspective, regardless of whether the identity of the character whose perspective they are writing from matches their own racial or gender identity, let alone class or ability. This is because, according to the article, one of the main purposes of fiction is to cultivate a sense of empathy for others by imaginatively inhabiting their perspectives--especially those of others whose experiences and identities differ from our own. To insist that we only write fiction from our own perspectives would be to hinder the freedom of expression. And yet, just as in life, not all voices and perspectives are interchangeable, even in the “imaginary” realm of fiction. The imagination is not a disembodied entity separate from the realm of experience–it is continuous with and grows out of it. That is, our imaginations are always conditioned by the kinds of identities and experiences we ourselves have lived. It matters who tells whose story. Good fiction doesn’t depend on distancing ourselves from our our own perspectives and experiences, but on examining them more closely (the dictum “write what you know” applies here). The cultivation of empathy doesn’t depend on imaginatively inhabiting other people’s perspectives, but on listening to their perspectives and stories in the first place.  
Related: THE UNBEARABLE WHITENESS OF TELENOVELAS

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