Feeling *Seen* at DC Black Pride
Ishmael Bishop on encountering an otherwise visibility at DC Black Pride.
Walking into the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC, as a first-time attendee of Black Pride, I wondered anxiously about the weekend ahead of me. My expectations were low –about on par with what I’d become accustomed to bar-hopping in the city. I figured that I would walk into a room of boys judging other boys, their bodies, and their looks. That I would feel as unwelcome as I’ve felt before among the often exclusive, white gay community. I assumed that going would mean putting my body on display for men to project onto their judgements and insecurities. But not going, thereby isolating myself from the black queer community, was out of the question. Instead of shutting myself in, as I did the year before, eight weeks prior I signed up to volunteer – the partial insurance I needed to guarantee that I would attend. I felt determined to go this time because I was near done with the queer community and hoped DCPB would be my salvation. Or, at the very least, an act of resistance.
The possibility that I could walk into a room and really be seen was, to me, completely unimaginable. So often have I felt disregarded and overlooked in spaces that almost exclusively cater to white, upwardly mobile, cisgender, gay men. Men of color, black men in particular, and women are often cast to the periphery despite lip service that boasts an inclusive environment. In these contexts, having black skin often renders me invisible in plain sight.
On the night of the opening reception of DCBP, instead of walking into a room of indifference and rejection, I walked into a community. Into a space where everyone could see me for all that I was, all that I could be, and all that I was on my way to becoming. In an instant, my perspective of Pride had met a flashpoint.