Last week, Amandla Stenberg, creator of the video “Don’t Cash Crop on my Cornrows,” portrayer of Rue in the Hunger Games, caller-outer of all things cultural appropriation, and all-around badass, came out. She CAME OUT, everyone. LIKE. OUT. AS BISEXUAL. On Teen Vogue’s video line/Snapchat video/something for youths that I’m fuzzy on. And I know it’s probably old news, but I don’t care, because it will always be new news in my heart, so there you go.
Please don’t think I’m over-exaggerating when I said I almost cried when I saw the video. Granted, I almost cry over a lot of things (pictures of polar bears, wedding gowns, missing my mom, dropping my phone on my face, etc.). But for real, the video brought up some real emotions. Maybe I missed the announcement and there’s been five other Black actresses who have come out as bisexual in the past year. But since my Android has me on news alerts for “Black girls” and “bisexuality,” I don’t think so. I’ve often seen us exist within spaces meant for each other (Facebook groups, niche magazines, certain podcasts) and around trusted friends. But never so openly, especially in a mainstream publication. Until now.
There isn’t enough bi-visibility, not to even to talk about Black women bi-visibility. And if you’re tired of hearing that, I’m sorry, but it’s true. Yes, let’s not forget there are some awesome celebrities championing the bi and pan cause. And let’s not forget the media’s portrayal of bisexual women is still not great. For every Brittany and Bo and Brenna, we have the sneaky/crazy bisexual trope, or the wishy washy bisexual trope, or the “I’m not that into labels” trope. I am hard-pressed to come up with a character who has actually identified as “pansexual.” Hard-pressed. Not to even mention the complete lack of Black bi or pan girls on television. Of course Tiana, from Empire, comes to mind. But she’s been gone for OVER HALF THE RUN OF THE SHOW, and her bisexuality only was mentioned for a few episodes (and sometimes, not in a super-positive way). #WhereisTiana? Come on, Fox. Do better.
(Frederic: sick of your shit since 1972).
I’ve been lucky to have supportive friends who totally understand my bis/pansexuality. And it isn’t always positive. Besides my general “I do NOT want to come out to my family narrative” right now, I often don’t feel comfortable coming out to certain people, including surrounding lesbians and gay men as well as straight allies. I’ve heard that so-and-so’s bisexual identity is probably a stop before inevitable straightness/gayness, and that my sexuality is probably a phase. Not to even mention that people sometimes straight up forget. Like. Just straight up forget that I’m a queer woman.
And that’s why Amandla’s coming out video is so important. How cool was it that she felt comfortable enough to mention it on Teen freakin’ Vogue’s video Snapchat thing. This isn’t to downplay how tough it is to open to conversation and be vulnerable (she talks about how hard this video was at the end), but to praise her directness and willingness to state who she is so strongly. She was just like “I’m Black and bisexual, deal with it” (not a direct quote), and then talked more about how Black girls cannot be suppressed because “we are meant to express our joy and our love and our tears and be big and bold and DEFINITELY not easy to swallow.” YES, Amandla, yes. You better get on your Audre Lorde “if I didn’t define myself for myself” train.
May this start a movement: there should be no TIME to argue with fools about how your bisexuality is just a mere trend, or to convince potential suitors that your bisexuality does NOT equal a three-way. I’m going to start wearing a button that says “Please don’t ask me about my bisexuality after I tell you about it unless I feel safe enough to initiate conversation or you are also bisexual and we are going to take a moment to bond over it. Do not define me. Just let me live LET ME BE BOLD.” Maybe not, because that sentence was long as hell, and I’m not quite out to my parents, so a button probably would be unwise. But still. STILL.
To have a Black girl, a well-known, vocal Black girl, come out as bisexual is wonderful. I know that not all Black girls and women share the same story–maybe we’ve came out since we were 5 and Amandla’s video did not phase us; maybe we couldn’t dream of coming out and are nowhere near this stage of declaring our bisexuality; maybe we DID come out and are now facing emotional and economical hardships that this video will never be able to fix, that are bigger than this girl–and I want to acknowledge that. I do not claim to be the voice of the entire population of Black bisexual women, because our journeys are all different. But for me–a Black bisexual woman who, quite frankly, often allows herself to be crunched into other people’s fantasies and eaten alive–I needed so badly to see another Black bisexual woman tell everyone (on social media through a publication that reaches A MILLION PEOPLE) “there is nothing to change. We can not be suppressed.” And I feel like at least one other Black bisexual woman needed to hear it, too.
So thank you, Amandla. And lemme know if you want me to make you one of those sweet buttons.