by John Fleurimond
“I need to see it,” I grabbed my friend’s iPhone after she refused to hand it over. I opened the camera application and there it was: my face. Blood flowed from my brow. Speckles of it got stuck in my lashes, distorting my vision as it streaked down to my jawline and dripped onto my ripped shirt. I need to get to the hospital now!
My friend rushed me out of the cold train filled with spectators— leaving behind my shirt, blood and, for a time, my sense of well-being. As we fled the scene, I started to get numb. At the hospital, as I got stitched up, I sat quietly with what I thought was an uncomfortable truth: I had, once again, allowed my body to become that of a victim.
Initially I found myself in this dark space of self-blame that was constantly reified by the friends I shared with my ex-lover. “What did you do?” They asked. What did I do? It took weeks for me to extinguish this self-blame that was perpetuated by the same things that made room for intimate partner violence to wreak havoc on my ability to love.
By complying with the status quo that oppresses my queer black body, our black queer bodies — by not critically analyzing the ways in which internalized oppression can contort love, we as pilots of queer black bodies can misinterpret what it truly means to love. Queer black bodies can be disoriented within a system not designed for them. It’s hard to create safe and loving queer black relationships when everything you consume, all that you view, tells you to hate yourself and your lover.
There arose a commitment to exploring and creating authentic justice ideas after experiencing the physical harm to my body, wearing the scars proudly and addressing the mental health issues associated. In spite of this experience, I am committed to creating spaces and conversations that limit the risk of more victims of social injustice because, for me, as Audre Lorde puts it, “oppression is as American as apple pie.” This apple pie, if we are not wary, can clog our arteries and limit the amount of oxygen in our hearts.
The queer black body—my body—exists at an intersection. On one hand, I experience the powerful insights which come from existing on the margins, one being that the world supports the interests of white people, of white supremacy, and those palatable to them. At the same time, my mind and body are often treated violently. These encounters with violence, like being attacked by an abusive ex-boyfriend on the train, or my inability to hail a cab to the hospital while bloodied and bruised on Sunday morning, are perpetuated by white supremacist, heteronormative and patriarchal systems.
These interlocking systems read my queer black body as undesirable and criminal. Attacks on my body are normalized—warranted, even. I am deemed not worthy of safe ride to any location, my body is to be used, abused, and then ignored.
These systems are the forces that dominate the world, a world that has historically suited the interests of straight white males, not queer black bodies. In this system, my body—our bodies—are undervalued and are not allotted agency. Queer black Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is built by and upon these systems. We can perpetuate violence against our lovers, other queer black men, because we have internalized the oppression that has been perpetuated against us, normalizing violence against bodies similar to our own.
Understanding the world as these interlocking systems, it’s no surprise that, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs or NCAVP, people of color make up a disproportionate amount of total survivors of intimate partner violence, and a disproportionate amount of IPV survivors identify as either gay or lesbian.
Intimate Partner Violence is a term used to encapsulate the nuance in the experience in what is often referred to as “domestic violence”. It covers all the ways in which partners in a relationship — whatever that means to you — can exercise power and control by dominating, isolating and coercing. For me, this meant direct physical violence— “beatings”, if you will — from another queer man of color if I “got out of line”. I am always out of line, that is what it means to navigate the world through a queer black body.
This patriarchal mode of control exemplifies how violence is so deeply ingrained into the very fabric of our society. Queer black bodies are not valued even in interpersonal relationships with other queer people of color because of the way we are indoctrinated into anti-blackness. Take the way the media portrays black death and the conservative discourse around it. Instead of deconstructing the immediate issue of violence to reduce the chance of it reoccurring, you hear talking heads saying, “He should’ve never had a toy gun” or “she should’ve put her cigarette out.”
This discourse conserves rather than challenges a society where violence against black bodies is prevalent. Through conserving, one can also participate in victim-blaming—blaming one for the violence being perpetrated against their body from an external force when they were not acting violently towards the external force.
The discourse that validates the unjust death of black bodies throughout history facilitates the way the we see ourselves. The result being we internalize this oppression and exercise violence on our own lovers. It’s important to understand this issue as urgent or significant, as dismissing the issue falls in line with “the program” that allows—supports, even—interpersonal partner violence in queer black relationships.
Intimate Partner Violence is kept on the “down low” in queer black communities, this silence, our inability to rethink the ways in which we can love our partners, normalizes the act of violence that we, as queer black folk, critique white supremacist capitalist imperialist heteronormative patriarchy for perpetuating. If we don’t discuss this and actively work on eradicating this in our communities then our hands are also bloodied.
I urge you, my queer black family: speak on it, ask questions, check in with your friends, don’t wait to ask about it until it’s too late, and never, ever blame the victim of violence in an intimate relationship—For that too is an act of violence, sometimes, as in my case, one more traumatizing than the physical act itself.
John “Jo” Fleurimond is a queer Brooklynite by way of Hinche, Haiti. He is an English Major at John Jay College with focuses around Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory and he is currently exploring options for graduate school.