"When [T]olerance Breeds Murder" - On Gender & Sakia Gunn

AOL Black Voices Published My Piece on Sakia Gunn!!
You can read it in it's entirety here: When Intolerance Breeds Murder

May 11, 2008 marked the 5 year anniversary of the death of slain teen Sakia Gunn, whose story bore a very special relevance to my own life. Like Sakia, I am black, a woman and a lesbian in a world that has often been unkind to all of the above. What's more, like Sakia I am assumed to be "identifiably lesbian," as I am often more boyish in dress.

My Tomboi Swagg
I remember the first time I was referred to, by my then babysitter, as a "tomboy." I'm almost certain that my mother took offense at the moniker(just as a parent might be aghast to have their son called a sissy), no matter how true my gender performance was to the definition. I on the other hand, wore the label with a badge of pride. Not because I wanted to be a boy, but because I never felt restricted by any pre-concieved ideas about what being a girl or boy had to mean. Thanks to my mother, I have always been about being my best self; as good as the next person, boy, girl, woman, man or anyone else, if not better.

Sakia's young life was taken in 2003, only a month before I would graduate from high school. That year was especially poignant because I secretly went to prom with my then partner, in a tux. I was fortunate to go to a somewhat affirming high school. It also happened to be very elite and largely white. Unfortunately, my sexual orientation has long been a troublesome subject for my family; as has been the case for many of my peers.

The Gender Paradigm
Gender identity is too often misunderstood, misread and under analyzed within heterosexual constructs. It is assumed that "men" will be "masculine" and "women" will be "feminine" no matter how arbitrary it is to categorize people in such a way. However, as it pertains to those of us in the pan-queer (trans, bi, lesbian, gay) communities, it is almost absolutely the opposite.

I've often heard the un-assuming straight person ask their gay friend -- begrudgingly burdened with undue responsibility to educate her about same-sex relationships -- "So who's the man and who's the woman in the relationship?" As if, by default, such pairings NEED exist. Gender is a great deal more complex than most are able to comprehend. It doesn't fall into the somewhat neater lines of sex (male, female, intersex) - classified somewhat more objectively by the sexual organ a person possesses. It is instead judged on how well do (or do not) fit into roles assumed appropriate for the respective sex. It is for these reasons that it was newsworthy that Senator Clinton cried during the New Hampshire primary, or that night time talk show hosts get a rise out of their audiences by mentioning her "pant suits." None of her opponents were as closely watched for gender-specific and inconsequential happenings.

Remembering Sakia and Others
Last Monday (May 26), Sakia would have turned 21.

I am grateful to AOL Black Voices for running the piece and I am glad people have stumbled upon it and found a part of themselves in it. I am grateful that people who until now have been unaware will know her story. I hope they also know about some of the more recent victims of hate. Simmie Williams was murdered just a week after a teen from California was killed (Lawrence King) but did not get nearly the same amount of media attention because the murder hadn't been ruled a hate crime.

I hope this will plan a seed in the hearts of parents who are still struggling to accept, and/or affirm their gay children. I am especially hopeful to those parents who stumble on this issue because of perceived theological difference. Because no matter what you believe, there is never an excuse to act in violence against another person because of that difference in belief or worship.

Krys (urB'n skoLa)

A couple of folks reposted it!
BlackHairMedia.com (Loving the dialgue going on here)
Living Out Loud with Darian
Professor Kim's News Notes
Cranky Lesbian

For More Info On Sakia:
without grace: sakia and the Newark Lesbians case
Youth for Socialist Action
Keith Boykin.com
Democracy Now!
Professor Kim re: McCullough's Plea Bargain
Professor Kim on the 3 year Anniversary


  1. I wanted you to know that I revisited your wonderful article "Sakia Gunn: When Intolerance Breeds Murder" on Black Voices Blogs tonight to check if any comments were added (after mine). I was very pleased to see there have been many additional comments. I was particularly glad to see your own comment and the link you included to your blog. I've bookmarked this site for future reference. Happy Lesbian and Gay Pride! Go in a good way, sister.

  2. Just to say it again - great article, Krys. Congratulations :)


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