Black Joy

Here. Queer. And ain’t going anywhere | Black Joy – December 16 2022

With every day I spend on this earth, the more I realize just how much some people need help.

By “some people,” I’m talking about those who target the LGBTQ+ community. This year alone “those people” included on their agenda: the hundreds of anti-trans laws this legislative season, the threats and violence at LGBTQ+ Pride events (including the North Carolina power grid attacks that left more than 45,000 people without electricity) and the five beautiful lives claimed during the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo.

I can’t make the hate go away, but collectively we can commit to standing against anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and actions. As a journalist, that includes a commitment to filtering LGBTQ+ stories through more than a traumatic lens. Let’s also talk about Club Q’s plans to reopen and how the North Carolina drag show carried on as planned despite the power outages.

The rainbow of visibility we see today is a result of a legacy of queer liberation stretching back generations. To those in the LGBTQ+ community, I say this: your inheritance is joy. Your destiny isn’t a death sentence of loneliness, poverty and violence. You are entitled to the same bounties of blessings as the rest of us. In honor of that, this newsletter centers Black queer people thriving in love, career advancements and homeownership.

Spread Black queer joy – share this newsletter with your friends and fam. Also, be on a lookout for a survey from Reckon about how you’re enjoying our newsletters. You help us become better. We are excited to hear from you!

– Starr

Black, queer, non-monogamous love

I’m bringing back another Black Joy favorite with a story illustrating the vastness of Black, queer love.

Trans activist Cazembe Murphy Jackson and his girlfriend Ría Thompson-Washington, a queer Afrolatina organizer in Washington, D.C., are blissfully enjoying their ethically non-monogamous relationship, which involves multiple partners who all agree on the relationship’s structure. Ría is also married to her wife of eight years, Lindsay, who was proud of Ría for shooting her shot with Cazembe.

Cazembe and Ría had been supporting each other in the Black liberation space for three years before their relationship began five months ago. Ría believes their alignment in values and their natural flow of encouragement makes their relationship special. I got a glimpse of this energy after Cazembe dropped an Instagram video showing off his dope neck tattoo.

Ría comments, You’re so gawd damn fine.

Jackson replies, I’m merely a reflection of you.

That exchange may sound mushy-gushy to some of y’all, but speaking affirmations over each other is an everyday thing for Ría, Cazembe and Lindsay. Ría said ethical non-monogamy is just another avenue for queer people to find family.

“We’re only really taught one family model structure through society – mom, dad, kids, dog, fish, whatever – heteronormativity is the default,” Ría said. “Not every queer person has a story where their family rejects them, but a lot of queer people do. Because of that, we’re forced to build our own family dynamics, and sometimes it’s through the homogeneous model, but maybe there are other ways of putting those configurations together and still experiencing the familial love and community you’re looking for.”

Read more about Cazembe and Ría’s love story.

Becoming Tucker Bleu

If I was looking for ambassadors of Black, queer joy, Fitzgerald “Fitz” Webb would definitely be one of them.

The 27-year-old Georgia native really grew into their authentic self since moving to Auburn, Ala., in 2014. They’ve become a pillar in the community as two-time vice president of the LGBTQ+ organization Pride on the Plains. Fitz was introduced to drag while participating in a drag camp with a friend in 2016. After finishing their undergrad at Auburn University, Fitz started performing in drag shows almost every weekend across Alabama and parts of Georgia. They won four pageant titles between 2019 and 2020 under their drag king persona Tucker Bleu, and found community in their drag house family, House of Bleu. While Fitz is close with their blood family, their drag family strengthens their support system as a trans southerner.

“I think at Auburn, I really grew an understanding of Alabama and the South,” Fitz said. “The South is not ‘Larry the Cable Guy.’ It is soul. It is Black. It is beautiful. It is bold history.”

After finishing their Masters in Communications at Auburn University, Fitz is enjoying new milestones in their life. They moved back to their home state earlier this month after landing a job in Atlanta and bought a new home with their partner Emmy Patterson. Now those are some boss moves, y’all! I chatted with Fitz about how they grew into their authentic self in Alabama, advice about homeownership and the importance of creating community.

Starr: How has your drag king persona Tucker Bleu helped you along your trans journey?

Fitz: Picking out all the fun suits and stuff was really a great experience. But also meeting people who looked like me [while performing] really opened the world for me and made me realize like, ‘Oh, all these other societal norms are just what I’ve been told to believe and I never really questioned it.’

I was super sad for such a long time trying to be society’s standard of a great, perfect person, that I never took time to unpack gender norms…When I saw people living their authentic selves and living their lives – knowing that’s even a possibility relieved a lot of pain for me and created this space of like, “Oh, I can just be myself.” Knowing that path even existed was crucial.

Starr: It sounds like becoming Tucker Bleu was healing for you as you shedded those gender norms you learned as a child.

Fitz: Oh, for sure. It felt healing to the point where it healed some of my childhood trauma. I got really confident in trying to be a ‘successful Black woman’ and whatever that looked like to me at the time. It may be a business owner or like Viola Davis’ acting career. Whatever that looked like to me, I was just emulating that.

I think being Tucker gave me a chance to be super confident in being myself. Coming out of that shell helped me realize I can just be whoever. Period. Full stop. I don’t have to be so confident in this one mindset. On TikTok, I’ve seen a lot of people say, ‘Why can’t I just be a mediocre Black person?’ And I was like, ‘I felt that so hard.’ Like, I just want to be me and being Tucker let me do that.

So TikTok and being Tucker is how I learned about nonbinary and who I am because I was terrified to come out. And when I finally did come out, I knew I wanted to start hormones. Like, I love my body, but I don’t like how my body is perceived. I have my own gender dysphoria. So knowing there’s a term that didn’t mean I had to be a man made me realize it’s not that there’s a middle, but it just meant I can be ambiguous. I can be whoever I want to be.

Starr: So if you could put your finger on it, who is it that you’re trying to be?

Fitz: There’s three things I want to do in my lifetime: One is to have my own business in communications where I work with brands, other small businesses and individuals to amplify their stories, especially within the LGBTQ, BIPOC community and the intersections of our communities.

Also getting paid, because I work in the nonprofit space. So, learning my worth has been really interesting, but also being creative with my drag is really important to me. So I’ve been working on trying to get a podcast together and getting different content pieces together as Tucker. And then it’s just to make sure I make time for me, my partner and my family because that’s just something really important to me. So if I choose to be anything in life, it’s going to be happy and to be good at being happy.

Starr: I was wondering if you could tell me what were some of the barriers you’ve encountered on your journey to joy, and how have you overcome them?

Fitz: One of the issues for me is a lot of ignorance. It’s been really harmful not only to me as a Black person, but also me as a queer person and every intersect that I am. So, I’ve had to find joy in standing up for myself. Like, I can choose to cut people off. I still have choices I can make. Also leaning on a support system like my friends, my partner and their family. They’ve just been super cool and supportive and just great people.

A really good way to encapsulate this was when we came to Atlanta because I had a show. We’re looking at wedding venues. We’re touring houses. It was such a great experience, but the thing that broke the camel’s back to the point where I was tearing up was when I walked into the Kroger here in Atlanta, and it was the first time I’ve been in a grocery store where no one looked at me weird. Like, I wasn’t the only Black person or too queer for this space. I was just in a Kroger.

Even as a kid, I can remember my mom would take us to Walmart and people would be looking at us weird because my mom is very Asian and she had these Black kids. So we looked adopted, fostered or whatever. People would ask us, ‘Is that your mom?’ or ‘Are you OK?’

So, that had to be the first time I felt at peace. I found joy in this newfound sense of, ‘I’m gonna be alright.’ In that moment, I recognized that, as much as I have loved Auburn and been a part of the community, I’ve really outgrown my time there.

Read the rest of the Q&A and hear about Fitz’s journey to homeownership in Atlanta on our site.

‘Blewish’ and proud

Another community that has been a target of increased hateful rhetoric this year is our Jewish family. To show some love, our social reporter Daric Cottingham spotlighted eight Black and Jewish folks you can celebrate and follow today.

Since we’re celebrating queer people, I can give y’all a peek at our list 👀 Rebecca Walker is a writer and activist who co-founded the Third Wave Fund, which makes grants to womxn and trans youth working for social justice. She served as editor for Women Talk Money: Breaking the Taboo, an anthology featuring essays by prominent women writers.

Read more about the seven other Black and Jewish icons on our site. And if you want more queer stories of liberation, here are a few from previous Black Joy interviews:

✨ Anti-trans bills don’t stop Black trans joy from thriving in Alabama thanks to the Knights and Orchids Society, a Black-trans led organization in Selma.

✨ Country living and a seven-year-old daughter’s unconditional love helps a trans dad embrace his authentic self in Virginia.

✨ A Black gay couple entered the adoption process expecting to welcome one kid into their family. They received two bundles of joy instead.

✨ A queer Black and Mexican family celebrates their roots during Dia de Los Muertos.

Embrace the Black joy this weekend! See ya’ next time!

Jonece Starr Dunigan

Jonece Starr Dunigan |

Jonece Starr Dunigan (She/her/hers) is a journalist who gives the microphone to communities that are often ignored by mainstream media. Guided by empathy, her reporting centers the stories, movement work and voices of Black, brown and queer people. Her writing strives to amplify and empower readers instead of exploiting them of their traumas.

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