I failed the brown bag test.

Meghann Carey,
San Francisco, CA

Which is great because why would I ever want to pass? My brown skin is soft and clear and beautiful.
Growing up an adopted mixed race child in a white family in Irish catholic suburbs and a mostly WASP and Jewish school made for the usual social confusions attached to the archetypal tragic mulatto… not black enough for the black folks and no where near white enough for the white folks. Smilin’ and shuckin’ and jivin’ got by 3rd grade. But so did tryin to sound “street” when I was really just a spoiled, educated, middle class daughter of teachers.
The social homelessness didn’t get any better when I came out at age 23. The local LGBTQ+ scene had cliques and mores that mimic the world of breeders. As a masculine of center presenting lesbian who (at the time) still liked to wear a little make-up and tiny tees, I wasn’t butch enough for black femmes and too butch for for black butches. White girls seemed less rigid about the femme-butch dichotomy, and culturally we had more in common. But I still didn’t really fit in with either group.
Finally, in my late 30’s, I went to a conference in Chicago that split apart the racial plate shifting beneath my mixed American existence. I went to caucuses and meetings led and full of participants who were black and brown and high yellow and queer. They dressed however the hell they wanted and played around with gender roles. Light-skinned, female presenting, women with moustaches opening the floor for comments about the privilege they carry for having lighter skin is balanced by the privilege they lack for being gender non-conforming. I finally felt at home.

The black and brown folks at this conference showed me that I can be whatever kind of black person I wanted to be. There’s no one prescribed version, contrary to what the white narratives of blackness that bombard our daily lives tell us.
I am black. And I’m whatever the hell kind of black I want to be. No one can ever take that away from me, not even good old fashioned American white supremacy and it’s failing institutions of power.


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