On Pride: Vimalasara (Valerie) Mason-John
“My Queerness is part of my identity / The love of my chosen families / My Queerness is Nature’s resplendence / The flowering of my ancestry“
As we at NAB celebrate 2021 Pride—as California begins to open up, and we start to find our footing in these long-anticipated after-times—we caught up with North Atlantic authors to ask how they’re marking the month this year. They passed along their queer reading, art, and audio recs, and explored what Pride means (or doesn’t mean) to them; how community evolved during lockdown; experiences and insights from 2020 that are worth bringing forward; and words of love and support for those who aren’t out—or don’t have the ability to be out—right now. Read on below for the unabridged Q&A with Vimalasara.
Vimalasara (Valerie) Mason-John was once named one of Britain’s Black Gay Icons. They co-wrote and edited the first two books to document the lives of African and Asian Lesbians in Britain. They ran the biggest women’s night club in Europe; co-hosted the National Lesbian Beauty Contest, televised on primetime TV; and co-hosted the Drag King contest in the UK. They were also the producer of London Mardi Gras Arts Festival. They retired from the queer scene, and have become a Buddhist and mindfulness teacher and the award-winning author of ten books, including the forthcoming Afrikan Wisdom: New Voices Talk Black Liberation, Buddhism, and Beyond.
Self Portrait 2: Call Me My Name
My Queerness is part of my identity
The love of my chosen families
My Queerness is Nature’s resplendence
The flowering of my ancestry
My Queerness is being out of the closet
The karma of my queer bashers
My Queerness is the emancipation of all beings
A fact of life
Queer, Zami, Adofuro, Yan Daudu, Ikihindu
Our Pride before Colonizers came
Gender Fluid, Non Binary, Gender Queer, Gender Variant,
Intersex, Agender, Bigender, Transgender, Pangender, Third Gender,
Gender Neutral, Two Spirit, Mx, Ze, Hir
Is what we reclaim
My Queerness is your fear
Now say my Name
—From I Am Still Your Negro An Homage to James Baldwin by V. Mason-John
Do you have any thoughts on ways queer people can support each other this Pride month, as we navigate the ways the pandemic is changing and the tolls it's taken?
Pride 2021 is the same as every other Pride we have lived through. We must still celebrate and those of us who have the privilege to do so, be Out and Proud about our genders and sexuality. In all our cultures there is a long theirstory of queerness in all its glory. We can learn from our queer siblings who live in countries where Pride is underground, how to celebrate and how to support each other during this pandemic. We forget that there are many who cannot live with their partners due to fear of their lives. These siblings have a lot to teach us! Those who are complaining it’s difficult to be with each other during the pandemic in countries where we have laws to keep us safe, remember those who live with the threat of their life every day.
What about queer people who aren’t out yet, or who aren’t able to be out this year because they’ve returned home for the pandemic—do you have any thoughts or wisdom you’d want to extend to them?
Everybody has the right to stay in the closet —as long as they are not shaming and exposing others due to their own internalized homophobia. Those people who are not out may be protecting themselves. It may not be safe for some people who had to return home to their families due to the pandemic. However, we exist in the virtual realm. Make the most of it, and connect online. Don’t let fear get in the way of your sanity.
What did community look like for you over the past year, as many of us sheltered in place? Are there elements, practices, or connections you want to bring forward?
Community is what we make it. Community for me was my Buddhist Sangha, my Recovery Sangha, my BIPOC sangha. And interestingly, being on zoom—one is able to come out again by naming our genders.
It’s important to bring all of us into community, while recognizing that we may have behaviors which are protecting us, working hard to keep us safe, through fear of being re-traumatized for being queer. And in my case it’s queer and Black. This intersectionality of these two fictional identities are sometimes at war, and sometimes battle to be seen, and sometimes want to hide. And now Say My Name.
Are there any queer authors, teachers, movies, or artists, that you think people could enjoy or support this Pride month (and every month)?
Lama Rod Owens, Ayo Yetunde, Angel kyodo Williams, Denise Brown, Adelene Da Soul Poet, Pratibha Parmar, Ajamu, Kevin Manders, Del la Grace Volcano, Ann Gleig, Jacky Kay, Dorothea Smart, Yvonne Taylor, Jane Campbell, Nina Rapi, Femi Otitoju , Nikki Lucas, Ky Hoyle, Linda Bellos, Linda Riley, Kona Katranya, Jillian Christmas, Cicely Belle Blain, Jean T, et al, are some of the people I remember during this month!