Ask Codi: Death by alienation (Column)

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Note: Ask Codi is a regular opinion feature that Codi Keith Charles writes for The Lawrence Times. Community Voices pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

Read previous editions of Ask Codi here.

“How are you going to make any change if you continue to alienate your audience?” 

– a Black cisgender heterosexual man who believes that their perspective on life is the most true and is committed to using their power to make it so.

An older Black cisgender heterosexual man told me that leading with my Black fat trans rage and the radical honesty that comes with it alienates my audience (or the people who tolerate me), so I wrote about what it means to alienate and be alienated as a Black fat trans human.

(to) alienate (v): 

when someone or a group of people feel threatened by the Black fat trans experience. 

simply us living in our fullness makes them feel their living is not enough. And indeed, their living is not enough. 

living in our Black fat trans fullness can look like:

asserting our pronouns in all spheres of our living – with friends, loved ones and strangers. And we do this in spite of the potential attacks on our lives because at the end of the day our humanity matters more than our survival.

holding on to our dignity by all means necessary as we navigate (white and cis) policies, procedures, protocols and spaces.

wearing clothing and accessories that affirms our being and expression. An expression that is often copied, appropriated and made the norm for non-deviant bodies and livings.

being radically honest about our Black trans experiences even if it implicates some of our closest relationships.

not allowing the white cisgender heterosexual patriarchy to define Black fat trans living.

discontinuing the wise and magical friend dynamic with Black cisgender heterosexual folks, emphasis on the folks who are unwilling, or incapable (at the moment) of reciprocating this unique labor of love. Or even recognizing this gift as a labor of love.

holding our loved ones accountable to more than correct pronoun usage or sitting on committees for all-gender restrooms (with zero results). Let’s push them past performative acts even if that means letting them go.

fiercely protecting our beauty in a world that experiences us as ugly and undesirable and intends to disappear us.

refuse debating our existence because it’s *stupid – we’re living bodly in front of you. We’ve always been here;

to have folks fear Black fat trans living so much that they want to erase our existence. 

They lead with fear. The fear is irrational, illogical and rooted in the delusion of self preservation, instead of the real beauty of the pageant, liberation. Instead of working through those fears to something more true and freeing, they side with cowardice and kill us deliberately through alienation and other heinous tactics powered by whiteness; 

to risk moving in our Black fat trans fullness and speaking our truth to power while holding our bright, vibrant and divine light at the center – typically, the impact is losing all social capital with the people who sometimes tolerate us. 

capital (reniged on) such as:

the discontinuance of any propping up of Black fat trans living as we’re not doing transness to their comfort.

they creatively allow relationships with other transphobic and anti-Black people to dictate the amount of humanity shown to the Black fat trans humans they say they care about.

we’re no longer invited to events and communal spaces that used to tolerate us at best. However, even if we have to give in on our dignity, it was something. It was better than isolation and loneliness. And we must hold that isolation and loneliness can be worked out through an honest healing process.

they are no longer willing to risk their bag even as they watch (and participate) in all of the anti-Black and anti-trans violence;

THEY feel intimately implicated, so they lean on their creative minds and empty hearts. They will ignore us and wish bad upon us simply because our living somehow dims their living. Their fragility is not only exposed but backed up by all systems

We will continue to reference your fragility with authority, and in public

alienation used in a sentence

Cody posts on social media in a way that humanizes people like us and places our energy, dignity, survival and living in the center. Because people are not used to Black fat trans humans acting and moving in their power, most people who lack the ability to be honest with themselves (and experience actual empathy) feel something close to alienation when Cody asserts herself on the apps. But it’s not alienation, it’s something much more wicked, unexplored, routinely unsaid and pervasive. 

similar sentiments to research further: 

Transphobia within the Black community
anti-Blackness and internalized phobias within the Black community
desirability and fatphobia within the Black community
Black trans kids and the Black community

voices to google who can grow you in the above concepts:

Bulaong Ramiz,
Da’Shaun Harrison,
Bryan Guffey,
Hunter Shackelford,
Jameelah Tamira Jones,
Melody Toomer
and Dr. Jon Paul.

critical questions to consider:

is it possible for a Black trans human to alienate their audience when their very existence is alienated? Othered? Thrown to the side?

how can a Black fat trans person further alienate themselves beyond the alienation Black cisgender heterosexual people help to keep alive?

who has access to alienate? Does alienating require power?

is alienating a tactic used by folks in power to deflect the attention off of their unrighteous living?

* I am very aware that stupid is an ableist term.

– Codi Keith Charles (all pronouns) is the founder and executive director of Haus of McCoy, a queer and trans community center in Lawrence, Kansas. Moreover, Codi is a writer, facilitator, cultural critic and dreamer who critiques pop culture at the intersection of liberation. Codi enjoys trash TV, spending time with beautiful queer people and loving on their dog, Monét.

Find Codi on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Read more of Codi’s writing on Medium. Read more of Codi’s writing for the Times here.

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