What Is It Like?
by Mona Williams
What is it like to live in a world where you cannot hide? Where every time you decide to take a step out outside, your identity is immediately assumed, questioned, and ridiculed?
What is it like to be fearful of walking down a dark, lonely street?
What is it like to make a fake phone call just so that you do not get harassed or stopped in the middle of said lonely street?
What is it like to feel uncomfortable walking into a bar and realizing you are the only person of color?
What is it like not to be able to live your best life, with your best hairstyle, without having it tugged and pulled at like you are an animal in a petting zoo?
What is it like to have to censor yourself, to change your speech, to change your demeanor depending on what demographic you are speaking to just so that you don't stand out? (Even though you know damn well you still will either way.)
What is it like to live with debilitating depression and anxiety that hovers like a dark cloud over even the happiest moments of your life? That each year you begin to remember some of the trauma that you have blocked out of your mind just so you can be a functional adult - but now you remember...you remember why you react to certain things certain ways now. And you cannot even afford the help that you need because prices for therapy are astronomical for the unwealthy?
What is it like to realize that whether you are honest and tell them you are queer or lie and tell them you are married, they will still ignore it all and try to aggressively pursue you anyway?
What is it like to be silenced as you try to explain the very things that they claim not to understand?
What is it like when people think that pronouns are the ONLY thing that the trans community struggles with even though it is literally not even scratching the surface of the countless economic disparities, egregious violence, bigotry and anti-trans laws that are being brought against people simply trying to exist?
What is it like?
What isn't it like?
The only word I ever come back to is exhaustion.
We are tired here and we want more than the blatant exploitation that so many corporations are flashing in our faces during our special month. Yes, this is a month of PRIDE and like so many others I will be partaking in celebrations, but it is more importantly a RIOT. It always has been a riot and always will be. Flashing rainbows in our faces and exclaiming “YAS QUEEN” at every inappropriate interval will not bring true restorative justice. It is time to stop coddling and allowing “allies” to virtue-signal their way out of actively doing the work and helping to bring about solutions.
Put your money and your time and your energy where your mouth is.
Back up the support you vocalize on your cute Instagram stories and your Facebook shares and your trendy TikToks with actual, tangible action.
I want to believe deep in my heart, no matter how naive it may seem, that we will redefine what it's like. We will deconstruct this system and build it back up. We have come so far and are forever thankful and indebted to those who have come before us and paved the way. They sacrificed so much, which is why we must step up and continue the work they began.
The work is not complete.
Maybe, just maybe one day our future babies (especially our black and brown queer and trans babies) can ask, "What was it like?"
And the elders will tearfully and joyfully say, "Here is what is no more..."
Mona Williams (they/them) started out life as a very sheltered little Afro-Latinx in The Bronx. Through lots of time, research, and exposure to the real world they discovered how to live life comfortably in their own skin. Now based in Brooklyn, Mona works in the non-profit world to help ensure that other queer folx can feel just as affirmed and safe throughout their journey in life. Feel free to follow them on Instagram @CaptainxMona and Twitter @TheCaptainMona.