Kiyan Williams (KW) and Darnell Moore (DM)
KW: Me and my mother are at a friend’s house, and Mary J. Blige is playing, Mary was my girl at that moment, she knew all my life struggles…
KW: And, as I’m singing along with Mary, my hand is limp. And I remember my mother yelled at me. She was like, ”Boys don’t hold their hands like that, girls and sissies hold their hands like that.” She repeated, “Fix your hand, fix your hand!” But I didn’t know that my hand was broken. And I was like, “Ma, I don’t, I don’t know how to fix it.” [laughs] And so, that was one of the first moments I remember being judged for acting like a girl.
In high school when I first started wearing makeup, my family didn’t notice at first. But then my mother noticed that like, her eyeliner was missing, because it was in my book bag, and I was wearing it. I think she was lost for words. I just remember just these awkward silences, where like, we both acknowledged that …
DM: I just stole your MAC eyeliner. [laughs]
KW: I just stole your MAC eyeliner. So, where do we go from here?
And then, three years ago, my cousin married his college sweetheart. His wife’s family are all college educated, whereas most folks in my family are not college educated, are not high school educated, are black, poor…
KW: … right? And so, my cousin, very selectively invites people from my family to the wedding. And, although they had not seen me in a number of years, I happen to be included because I’m the cousin who is at Stanford.
So they thought they were gettin the suit and tie wearing cousin who goes to Stanford, and they got the pink-lipstick, fur coat wearing cousin who goes to Stanford.
DM: What was their response to you?
KW: A lot of folks avoided me…
DM: At the wedding?
KW: … yeah. But, it was a bonding moment for me and my immediate family. Where, like, we all were kind of, like, being judged. I was being judged for my queerness, and, like, other folks in my family were being judged for being single parents, single mothers. That moment, at that wedding, was sort of where I felt a sense of solidarity.
KW: You know?
DM: Like, and I’m just, I should say, you are giving me inspiration. Because you found some way to learn to live authentically.