“Heterosexual privilege is usually the only privilege that Black women have. None of us have racial or sexual privilege, almost none of us have class privilege, maintaining ‘straightness’ is our last resort. Being out is the final renunciation of any claim to the crumbs of 'tolerance’ that nonthreatening 'ladylike’ Black women are sometimes fed” - Barbara Smith
“Black Women resisted by making homes where all black people could strive to be subjects, not objects where we could be affirmed in our minds and hearts despite poverty hardship, and deprivation, where we could restore to ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world” (hooks, 1990, pg 42). For bell hooks, she puts forth the notion that homeplaces in an environment created by Black Women. The home may not be the property of the woman, but the essence of the home was created by Black Women. It is the place where Black Women nurture and nourish themselves and their family with love, humanity, and acceptance. It honors the space within; it is an education of sustaining the spirit in a world that actively works towards your denigration. The song by Sweet Honey in the Rock, “No Mirrors in my NaNa’s house” articulates the experience of a little Black Girl who finds the beauty in herself outside of her reflection in the mirror, rather in the eyes of her Nana. (Barnwell and Saint James, 1998)
Expanding the conceptualization of homeplace, I challenge the notion of home place being a physical location unique to the home. My ontology likens the concepts of home place and Patricia Hill Collins’ safe space; these terms describing a critical geography are synonymous. Home place is a not only a place of emotional well being for Black People, it is a site of political of resistance. Home place transcends the location of home; it is more than a physical space. For Black people home place could be the Black Church, the barbershop or hair salon, or historically black schools and universities. Black Women create home place in organizations like Black Greek Lettered Organizations (BGLOs) and other social clubs. These organizations centralize the needs of Black Women, attempt to normalize phenomenon and strengthen bonds, and make strides to progress and uplift Black Women. Hair salons offer a place not only to enhance women in terms of aesthetic beauty but also provide a collective space that teaches generations of Black Women a diverse and comprehensive curriculum of life.
Since slavery, Black families have drank the kool-aid of a heteronormative, God fearing family every night at dinner. During slavery, Black Families were dismantled, denigrated, invalidated some times for whimsy and other times for profit. The marriage of a Black Man and a Black Woman was illegal, but slaves persisted by officiating and creating their own wedding ceremonies and traditions. They risked life to escape bondage to find their lost family members, if granted the opportunity, they spent their days off traveling to visit family members on near by plantations, and as depicted in the gruesome image depicted in Toni Morrison’s beloved, mothers would kill their children rather than have them endure of live on bondage and pain (Morrison, 1987). This insistence for a family was a striving for equality to White families, reclamation of their rights to love and family, and a securing familial bonds that would endure for generations. Understanding the importance of finding man and building a family (home) in the heteronormative sense, where does the Black Queer Woman find home? How does a woman not interested in perpetuating love in the heteronormative sense, find home? Where does Black teenage girl with Queer thoughts find home?
In a family there is steeped in heteronormativity, doused in patriarchy, seasoned with religousity, does the ideal of home place still apply? How does a young Black girl who has been fed dreams of meeting her husband and sees only heterosexual relationships perpetuated in media and popular culture, but secretly yearns for a woman’s touch, find home? Essex Hemphill wrote a personal essay on the forced silence of gay Black men, he says “This rendering of home as a site of contestation-as opposed to the “welcome table” or “comforting” characterization of home associated with most dominant, public, and politically salient renderings of African American community” (Hemphill, 1992). For Black Queer Women, growing up the home place hooks’ discussed was a far cry from reality; it was not until adulthood that we could create our own place of acceptance, tranquility, and love. The lack of a spiritual home place is evidenced in the statistics for the lack of literal home place for LBGTQ youth: homelessness. The most frequently cited factor contributing to LGBT homelessness was family rejection based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with the second most common reason of being forced out by their parents after coming out, according to the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, et al. (Durso and Gates, 2012). How does a young adult denied acceptance and humanity in a household because they do not subscribe to ideals that their family hold true? If religion and patriarchy are guiding forces in Black families as an act of true assimilation and equal standing to White people, how do Black Queer Women situate ourselves?