7 essential self-care tips for queer Black people feeling the weight of Black suffering
The deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed and countless other innocent Black people at the hands of police have left many Black queers weary.
The past few days have seen the Black Lives Matter movement rise up on an unprecedented scale, with protests in the US, the UK, even in countries as far-flung as Australia and New Zealand. It feels as though a change might finally be coming, but it’s also hard not to feel burned out by the wall-to-wall coverage of Black suffering that this brings.
Audre Lorde, the Black lesbian mother warrior poet, acknowledged this sense of exhaustion back in 1988 when she wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” These words are worth not just remembering but also acting upon, by taking time out to find joy, community and relaxation. If you’re struggling with this, here are a few ideas.
1. Set boundaries with news and social media.
The internet is a fantastic resource for sharing information and resources relating to the cause. But keeping abreast of the uprising taking place globally can mean consuming a constant barrage of images depicting Black suffering, reports of further violence against Black bodies, and constant reminders that the road ahead is long and steep.
While it is important to bear witness, the sheer volume of content being shared online can be overwhelming. Rather than endlessly scrolling social media and news apps throughout the day, consider restricting your intake to a couple of times a day. You’ll likely find that you take in the same amount of information, just with less repetition.
2. Curate your feeds.
Now more than ever it’s important to keep your social media feeds well-pruned. Are you seeing small-minded, racist post from people you went to school with and haven’t spoken to for years, and don’t have the energy to challenge them? Delete. Do you have white friends who are doing their best to share as much information with their fellow whites as they can, but aren’t adding anything to your own understanding? If you’re finding it a little much, the mute button is your friend.
If you’re looking for interesting, meaningful or uplifting accounts to follow, check out UK Black Pride, Gal-dem, AZ Mag, Black Out UK, TENz and people such as Tanya Compas, Travis Alabanza, Dr Ronx, Danez Smith, Ericka Hart and Munroe Bergdorf.
3. Find moments of queer Black joy.
When you find yourself with some downtime, indulge in films that brings joy, such as Rafiki, The Queen, or Moonlight. Rewatch Jaida Essence Hall’s stunning Drag Race win or start watching Legendary. Listen to podcasts such as The Read, Food 4 Thot or the Two Twos Podcast. Cook. Dance around your bedroom to Lil Nas X. Treat yourself to something from a queer Black-owned business. Whatever makes you feel connected and uplifted, do it.
4. Stay connected with your community.
Spending time with loved ones is an essential tool for self-care. Lockdown makes it more difficult to do this, and many of us are quarantining with housemates who — though we may love and cherish — can’t understand the struggle, or with family members who aren’t accepting or fully understanding of our queer identities.
Keep using group chats and organising Zoom calls with friends and chosen family. If you don’t have a queer Black community to turn to, and feel as though it would help, consider joining online groups such as Rainbow Noir, or – if you feel comfortable doing so – use apps like Jack’d and Bumble to strike up conversations.
5. Take time to focus on your emotional wellbeing.
We all do this in different ways. Some exercise, others journal, many meditate or practice mindfulness, If you have a self-care routine, now is the time to be sure you’re keep up with it; if you don’t, then think about creating one. It can be something as simple as taking the time to read a book or to go for a walk in nature.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, the NHS recommend trying to focus on things that you can control rather than things that you cannot. Try to set yourself small, achievable targets, and be mindful of your relationship with alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, as these can all have an impact on your mental wellbeing. Make sure to maintain even the most basic of routines – showering, eating, staying hydrated – all of which are easy to forget about, especially under lockdown.
6. If it’s right for you, use therapy.
If you think that talking to a therapist might be helpful, BAATN (the Black, African and Asian Therapy Network) has an easy-to-use tool that can help you find a Black therapist (many find this particularly useful). There are filters for sexuality and gender identity which might help you find therapists who are queer or LGBT+ allies – but be sure to do your research. Another option is to use Pink Therapy, a directory of queer and LGBT-inclusive therapists.
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Therapy can be expensive and isn’t always immediate. If you need to talk to somebody urgently and/or for free, Switchboard has an LGBT+ mental health helpline on 0300 330 0630, which is open from 10am until 10pm ever day. In the US, Black women and non-binary people might find Therapy For Black Girls a useful tool.
If you are in a position to do so, consider donating to the Black LGBTQIA+ Therapy Fund to help Black queers who otherwise might not be able to access therapy.
7. Stay safe.
This week, and in the weeks to come, many of us will be heading out to protests and marches. Some won’t, and that’s fine – we can’t and don’t all need to occupy every lane of resistance. If you are demonstrating, make sure you’re looking after yourself. Go with a buddy, maintain social distancing, and if anything feels unsafe, make an exit.
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BE SAFE. Here’s our guide on being prepared for safe protests. PLEASE READ ⬇️ . 1. LOOK OUT FOR THINGS THAT DON’T SEEM RIGHT. There are increasing reports and investigations that white supremacists may be infiltrating these protests, breaking windows and destroying property. If anything seems off to you, DOCUMENT IT. Always check who is organizing. . 2. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS OF GRASSROOTS BLACK ORGANIZERS. They have been at this a long time and are disciplined in the ropes of community organizing and demonstration. It IS a discipline. Follow trusted leaders whose goal has been the focused pursuit of justice. If they just showed up, that’s a red flag. . 3. HAVE A BUDDY. Make sure someone is keeping an eye on you and check in on them. . 4. STAY SAFE and take care of each other. ?