Black Lives Matter Series: Day 2 – Previous Posts: I Was Made To Believe There Was Something Wrong With Me – Introduction to Black Lives Matter Series
As a black girl, when I was younger I rarely saw myself. Whether it was in books, on TV, or in movies, I noticed that girls like me were always the sidekick, the supporting character, or the antagonist. I felt like they were all the same character just in a different story line, that they were two-dimensional characters that were loud but never really had much to say. Whenever I did stumble upon a book or show that had a black main character that I could relate to, I clung to it with all my life. I loved the idea of being a part of something.
As a queer girl, when I was younger I never saw queer characters in the media so I didn’t know they could exist. For a long time, I had never heard of the LGBT+ community except for vague rumors that would be whispered around school and the negative connotation my parents had given it. It wasn’t until one day when I was twelve that I became really interested in learning more about it after reading Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, a coming to age story about a girl in a small town who was trying to figure out who she was and happened to have a secret girlfriend. I have always enjoyed reading a book about teenage romance but it wasn’t until I read Ask the Passengers that I had read a book about a romance that was anything other than heterosexual. Reading about a relationship between two girls pulled my heart strings in a different way than any of the other books I had ever read before and made me want to read more. Queer YA books have helped me find out more about myself and, honestly, still are now.
As a queer black girl, I am very happy to see that the amount of black and queer characters that have shown up in YA books over the past years but I have noticed that it is still very rare to find a character that is both queer and black. I have always wondered why there are so few black queer characters in YA LGBT+ books because black queer people do exist in real life but somehow we are invisible. I want to be able to read the stories of characters that are queer and that have also experienced life in a way I can relate to, with a background similar to mine. I want to read about a character who is queer and also has to deal with the things that many other people of color face. I think it’s important to put queer black characters in YA books because in some ways a queer black person’s experience can be totally different from a white queer person’s and our stories deserved to be told too.
We are constantly being told to choose between our Black identity and our queer identity because people never see us as both. It seems as if we can’t be one without having the other invalidated. Creating more characters in YA books that proudly identify as both black and queer would make reading a more diverse representation of how the world really is and show others that we are not invisible, show us that we are not invisible. Black lives matter and it’s important that we see ourselves and that others see us too. The lack of Black representation in YA is a problem that needs to be addressed and needs to change. Black Lives Matter needs to be more than just a trending hashtag for a week, more than just a weak string of words that will break apart when it’s cut with a pair of safety scissors. If Black lives matter, then where are we and where are our stories?
I’m Aliya, a queer identifying black girl living in south Texas. I can usually be found at the nearest bookstore, listening to music or on my blog where I usually am posting about social justice or just anything I like. My plan is to become an illustrator and possibly a writer for YA and children’s books in the future.