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By Joshua Allen
We got to know each other over late night walks in Brooklyn and early morning breakfasts comprised exclusively of cocktails. Even in its earliest of phases, our friendship meant a lot. I was an insecure teenager often afraid to leave the house because of the big and frightening world in front of me. I had plenty of friends but I had very few friends like you. The kind of friendship that instantly translated to siblinghood. In our time together I felt seen, like I had met another needle while stumbling through the haystack. This was before it was en vogue to be black and queer/trans. Before the buzzwords and the pseudo-inclusivity, when we’d have to fight tooth and nail for respect, do you remember that? Well we’ve come a long way from then haven’t we?
Fast forward to today and we’re zipping across the country on the second year of our #BlackExcellenceTour. The project has taken off in ways we could have never imagined, and it took our hearts along with it. Forcing us to learn, grow, fail, succeed and then get up and keep doing it again and again each day. One of the things that I love most about you is that you use your heart to guide your journey through life. Along the way, a lot of that has rubbed off on me. Throughout our friendship you’ve gently, and not so gently at times, pushed me to be more honest with myself and others. As difficult as that is, you showed me by shining example that when you allow yourself to be seen that it becomes that much easier to receive [and give] love.
I spent the better part of my life running away from the things that hurt me. Trying to hide from my own lived experiences of homelessness, abuse, violence and fear. I thought that I would be best served to reject the things that caused me pain and then you came along and taught me the power of acceptance and honesty. Because you have shared so much of your journey with me, my world is a brighter, healthier and happier place.
One of the highlights of our friendship that sticks out to me was Trans Liberation Tuesday back in July. It was one of those full circle moments where it felt like we had gone from those oppressed by toxic systems, to those standing on the front-lines ready to beat those same systems to a pulp. Kei & Jewel led a chant that personifies our relationships, do you remember? Through the incredible highs to the crushing lows our siblinghood has always been personified by those 7 words. “I love you like you were me.” And isn’t that the beauty of being black queer and trans? That through all of the darkness that we have found each other, and each day that we have the audacity to live and empower each other our worlds become a brighter place. I look forward to growing in that beauty for a lifetime to come.
Joshua Allen is a non binary community organizer, activist and art maker committed to radical change making spaces for and by black queer and trans people. Support the #BlackExcellenceTour, a social justice project with CeCe McDonald & Joshua Allen!