“Attempting to claim that it was solely his Blackness, but not his gayness that led to the attack disregards the very real threat that Black LGBTQ+ people face every, single day.”
To be Black Queer and visible is to always be in a state of defense.— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) January 30, 2019
Johnson has been really impactful in inserting the Black queer experience into traditionally Black institutions (Fraternities / Colleges) recently.
In 2006, Johnson decided he wanted to become a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity incorporated. “As the oldest Black Greek Letter Organization established for collegiate life, we have long stood on the forefront of civil change, social activism, and upholding an image of the respectable negro. From the beginning, there were questions about my sexuality, which I lied about every single time it came up in conversation.”
Last January there was a spike in reader comments in an Alpha Group on Facebook that has about 12 thousand members “discussing” an article he wrote about “my experience as a Black queer man in the organization.”
And by spike in comments he meant a full on comment war.
Part of what Johnson wrote it in Black Youth Project said: “There is no such thing as Blackness that doesn’t encompass Queerness, despite the attempts from toxic masculinity and those willing to protect its image at all costs to have you believe otherwise. This cost is paid in the form of transgender people murdered, young boys killed by their fathers over their gay identity, and the violent suppression of an LGBTQ community that has stood in the shadows waiting for safety in the sunlight.”
“My experience within a Black Greek Letter Fraternity has been no different, unfortunately, ” Johnson told Towelroad, “As my growing public Queer identity becomes a threat to the foundations of masculinity within my org, it has simultaneously become a bigger threat to my own safety.”
George pauses thoughtfully before continuing, “So there is still much work to do in that space, but I do feel like the needle is moving. The biggest thing for me has never been acceptance nor will I just stand for just tolerance. I want acknowledgement that Black queer issues are Black issues. That Blackness cannot exist without acknowledgement. Acknowledgement and protection of our queerness.”
Johnson says this notion of “liking” someone as a gate keeper to acceptance and recognition of his rights is straight BS “You don’t have to like me to know that I deserve the same things you have.”
This gatekeeping is omnipresent in all the institutions Johnson has faith in including the church where he thinks there’s still a lot of work to do.
“The Black church as well as Black staples like the barbershop. I also want to make sure that people understand, I don’t feel our community is more homophobic than others although we are often painted in that light. All communities experience homophobia and transphobia. I just want to make sure I do the work that stops it from being a problem in mine.”
Geore M Johnson Reveals The Secrets to his Super powers “Sugar, spice with a touch of Jack Daniels lol. In all seriousness, That’s something I think about all the time to be honest. It was like one day my friends starting saying “hey celebrity” and I was like “how did I get here”, although I don’t feel like a celebrity and my bank account is a reminder of that lol. But in all honesty, Today’s George Johnson is the boy that was forever silenced for being too vocal or too effeminate. The boy that was told he could make up his own lingo. The boy that never got the chance to live in his gay identity in middle school and high school and even college. My origins were of the boy who never truly fit in, but was always present. I struggled with my Black community because of my effeminate nature, and with white community because of my proud Blackness. So the freeing of George Johnson ultimately became the freeing of a lot of others through my work.”
ON HIS HIV ACTIVISM Johnson came out as HIV-positive in 2014 in what he calls “best, worst day of my life.”
Johnson’s come a long way since then telling HIV Plus magazine this past World AIDS Day: “World AIDS Day is an important reminder that the epidemic never left certain communities, one of them being my own. As a Black Queer man, I recognize the importance of the shoulders I stand on that allowed me to be alive today, living and thriving with the virus. Even more, it serves as a day of unity, sharing, and learning, because if HIV harms one of us, it harms all of us. HIV is truly a civil rights issue, a social justice issue, and will remain one until the day we can stop new transmissions.”
You’ve written eloquently on diverse subject matter ranging from tattoos to afro punk to high literature. I believe you’ve referred to your existential quandries as “living on the edge of Black queerness—what do you mean by that?These facets reveal the totality of what it is to be fully human and fully invested in that. I’m not just a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. I’m not just a journalist, or an HIV and Black LGBTQ activist. I’m not just a person with over 20 tattoos and two degrees. I am all of those things and I don’t allow myself to be solely defined by just one of them. When I write, I want to ensure that people see the full picture of who I am. The good and the bad. The pretty, the ugly, and the ugly pretty. I strive daily to not allow myself to be confounded by stereotypes and boxes that society attempts to dictate my existence. I’m always in a state of becoming, so I live my life with that. The certainty of the things I know and uncertainty when I push through boundaries of places I was always fearful of going. I truly know that I am the sum of all parts.
George M Johnson is a Black Queer journalist & activist located in the NY area. He has written for Essence, Teen Vogue, VICE, and over 30 National publications. His debut YA novel ALL BOYS ARENT BLUE will be released Winter 2020 through FSG.