The Thing On The Doorstep

The Indignation, Shuriya Davis 2020

“I’m not allowed to appreciate them because they’re mean to me? That’s silly”

Queerness is a fairly new identity for myself, I would not have defined myself as queer, gay or trans in my past, partially because queerness felt so distant from me, there was an image of two white fit men that engrained into my subconsciousness, that queerness was a white thing or a construct of white people. But leaving my hometown of Fresno, from where I spent most of my life, I experienced on RISD’s campus a more nuanced exchange between the queer students who pretty much dominated the demographic of the school. I found cultures and approaches towards queerness and it became apparent to me that queerness wasn’t a trait but a meditation on that what makes us different. Queerness had always been with me, queerness was an aversion, an oddity, a specificity. Queerness for me became a mode of thinking, addressing myself as such shifted the way I thought about my blackness in a way where I could own my own blackness. Simply being black did not demand much of importance because being black did not necessarily call attention to how I felt about myself, but being queer and understanding myself as queer did, it resolved my intentions and what I chose to do with my blackness.
In this same breath, I believe that this is what spawns a hatred in black men who idealize themselves as black cis hetero men, it is that they invest into creating themselves with the normative, hiding away what is so blatantly not the normative (black peoples legacy of enslavement). This is what rots within them is this disbelief in anyone being queer, and possibly the disbelief that they are queerized or an oddity towards white America.
The oddity in ourselves is what makes us human, non-normative is queer and it is apart of us all if we choose to find ourselves as indifferent from the normative of society.

I enjoy watching brilliant characters, especially black brilliance because of the way the big screen can create an oddity of the avant garde. Mont from The Last Black Man In San Fransisco stood out to me recently after seeing the film because there was something entirely non sexual and yet queer about his character. Mont invisions, constructs, and ponders at the world and the roles that people play. He embodies the performance of the cis-hetero black man, literally creating a play where he performs the toxicity exchanged between two black cis heterosexual men. I love this character through and through for his ability to not only recognize the characters of San Fransisco but to sculpt and create an image of the society he lives within. To further Mont’s queerness, he isn’t even the lead character, he is a supporting actor in this narrative about familial trauma. His role is the back bone to the narrative, and his optimism is essential to telling the narrative. His brilliance is literally queerized by the other actors as he faces homophobic criticism from the men who congregate on the corner of his house, and even in the face of this adversity he has the dignity of greeting them, interacting with them, and creating a full on researched based documentary play about them. Mont is dedicated to the world he chooses to view, and this choice puts him directly into the inconsideration of others, but yet he writes, draws, performs diligently as if not to care about the evil found in others. Mont is the queer person that I knew myself to be but had not the language or gusto to confidently relish. Mont is a beautiful artist and his character will always signify what I can hope for my own artist practice and queerness. To remain positive, optimistic, and resilient in the face of harsh criticism, often homophobic, transphobic.

Many students from RISD were interested in my outward transition and why I chose to transition outside of school. It was mainly because I wanted to find something that was true to me, I wanted to find a queerness that best suited me rather than coopting whatever media and images that they were influenced by. It is simple. I went back to my origin and found all of myself and equally lost all of my belief in the systems that raised me. With my fathers cancer I began pulling the seems and searching for what was meaningful from my past. It was the beginning of a larger process to regain what I lost in the trauma that ensued getting to where I am currently. Looking back at my past now I can see all of the signifiers, all of the evidence that there was something special about me. I had always wanted to wear dresses and makeup. I had always been creative. I had always been goofy and sexually diverse, but it was the pressure of my surroundings that forced me to hate that what made me so iconic.

Like Mont I find myself appreciating and some what obsessing over images of darkskinned people. I believe in concentrating on dark skinned people because that is where my queerness resonates most. The trauma of being hated for my black skin, most of the time from my own kind, has stayed with me and it has been my queer choice to focus in on this oddity, to embrace and enjoy myself. I feel at my most queerness surrounded by dark skinned people and I wish it were represented more. I would like to see dark-skinned characters realized as queer beings more than they already are, because this has been the lexicon in which I’ve understood my own existence. Dark-skinned individuals who practically built this society and who are continually left out of what is normal.

shuriya davis is a multi-disciplinary artist and writer exploring the politics of body, race, and gender. she is based in Oakland, California