Why I Keep Crying About Moonlight Winning Best Picture at the Oscars

Film poster for the move "Moonlight" (2016), features slivers of the face of two Black boys and one black man aligned to form one face with an overlay of blue and purple.

Moonlight Film Poster

I used to think I wasn’t Black enough.

Because of my taste in music and shows, because of my experiences in predominantly white towns and schools, because of my habits and hobbies, and more strongly than anything else, because of my attractions to other girls. Enduring white peers and teachers directly and indirectly invalidating my Black identity and watching the media routinely fall back on the same limited versions of Blackness made me think, even before I considered I might be bisexual, that maybe Black girls like me shouldn’t exist. Once I did consider I might be bi, I knew Black girls like me should not exist.

Being Black and being queer were incompatible as far as I could tell. Occasionally, I encountered minor characters who were Black and queer on TV, but their stories were always used for either humor or heartbreak. Looking back, I remember encountering exactly one movie with a serious and positive representation of Black queerness by the time I graduated from high school, and I’m sure I considered that a fluke. Everything else I saw in fiction and reality suggested that if I wanted to be taken seriously as a member of the Black community and if I didn’t want to destroy my life or my family, I had to be straight. As a Black girl, it was my only option.

When I watched Moonlight, I thought about teenage me feeling torn between her sexuality and her racial identity. I thought about the first time I came out and how I craved the assurance of another Black person that my queerness didn’t lessen my Blackness in any way. I thought about the fact that even two years later when I was working on my creative writing thesis about queer Black Christian teenagers I still wasn’t sure there was really space in the world for me and the few other Black queer people I knew.

I thought about graduating from college and reading Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde and Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing and being moved to tears because all of the writers in those works were saying, “Yes!” Yes, it was okay to be Black and queer. Yes, my experience of  Blackness was good enough.

I thought about the kids who are where I was or where Chiron was–who don’t yet know they’re allowed to be fully themselves, and I got teary eyed because Moonlight says “Yes!” to them. Every time that movie gets the recognition and praise it deserves that is another “yes” to those kids asking if they can be queer and Black. It is another validation of the claim of Moonlight that those of us living at the intersection of Blackness and queerness deserve love and joy and peace and wholeness. It reaffirms that our lives, our love, and our stories are worthy of being celebrated.

If that’s not something to shed tears of joy over, I don’t know what is.



Holiness, Bisexuality, and (Un)Belief

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, two-spirit people are good and holy, and made in the image of God. Our lives and our loves are good and holy. - Rev. Lura Groen

For as long as I have acknowledged any aspect of my bisexuality, I have doubted. I have doubted the rightness of claiming a non-heterosexual label as a Christian. I have doubted the ability of my friends and family to love me if I fully embraced a bi identity. I have doubted the validity of a sexuality which fluctuates at will like mine. And most consistently, most heartbreakingly, I have doubted the goodness and holiness of bisexuality and consequently of myself.

While I never accepted the ignorance-fueled arguments from my fundamentalist Christian high schools that my queerness made me worthy of damnation, I also did not accept that there wasn’t something imperfect about that queerness. Something brought about by sin entering the world. Something which needed to be sanctified before I could truly be considered holy in the sight of the Lord. I sought out that sanctification through suppression. By pretending I wasn’t attracted to all the pretty girls I saw, and when that failed, vowing to never act on that attraction, I thought I could make myself into the good Christian girl I needed to be.

But suppression didn’t make me feel holy and neither did holding onto the notion that God viewed people with same-gender attractions as inferior to those with different-gender attractions, so I prayed for a new way. I prayed that God would show me the fullness of Their love and how it applied to same-gender loving people, and God answered my prayer by putting me on a journey that led to my coming out a year and a half later which led to my connecting with the bisexual community online and eventually joining the LGBTQ+ group on my Christian college campus and writing about queer Christian  experiences and embracing a fully affirming theology by the time I graduated college.

But still, doubt lingers.

No matter how many blog posts and essays I write about bisexuality. No matter how often I educate friends and acquaintances about what it means to be bisexual. No matter how many times I tell young people that I prefer to say I was called into my bisexuality rather than born into it. I still struggle with the idea that it is inherently a good, holy space to live my life.

Acquiring an affirming theology didn’t remove the doubt from my life. It just shifted it. Now instead of doubting that same-gender attractions are holy, I worry that multi-gender attractions (MGA) are not. I worry that identifying specifically as bisexual is less holy than identifying as any of the other MGA labels. I worry that God could not bless something as inconsistent as my bisexuality.

In the midst of these doubts, I still share quotes like Lura Groen’s. I still write about the beauty of bisexuality in Christian and otherwise spiritual contexts. Because I am still praying for expansive understandings of God and love and holiness. Because I want to believe that part of the holiness of being bi lies in learning to live with doubt. Learning to carry doubt and belief simultaneously like the father who cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24, NRSV)

I believe that my life and love can be holy.

Lord, help my unbelief.