Nia Johnson

I hope that people can be as authentic as they can be and hold on to that.

Can you tell us something about your own cultural background?
I was born and raised in Baltimore Maryland, where I lived in black communities all of my life. I was schooled in wealthy white communities. Afro-American or black in the USA their history is different from the bi-cultural people in The Netherlands. Here it is clearer to people where they come from.

I always felt alone and like an outsider. LGBT and bi-sexual not being on a side. Like there is a side you have to choose. Being black at white schools made me feel different. I felt always on the side of and never inside of the group. When I was 22 my son made me realize I had to be my true self. Raising him was no choice. Lying to my son and myself would be a way of slowly killing my true self and teaching him the wrong example.

With which views on LGBT’s were you raised?
It wasn’t a no go area and there were no taboos but it just never came up. I grew up in a small family where no one older then me that is LGBT. Black families are bigger usually. I was nervous when I told my mom I liked girls. I didn’t fear her reaction but you just know that you are different in some way.
The community around me reacted with gay slurs to me being bi-sexual and I knew that that was a wrong way to address people.

What do you know about the challenges LGBT’s have to face?
It is a range of challenges like extreme physical violence and being kicked out of families, communities and religions. On the other hand the internal challenges and struggles. When teenagers have LGBT feelings and are already in a state of transition they have to discover what those feelings mean. And being a person of color maybe placing that in a different context.

For me and who I am I can see that there is a hierarchy of discrimination. I am black, a woman and bisexual. There are more aspects to who I am that can be discriminated upon for different reasons.

Bi-sexual and black don’t go together in mainstream views. Because of the struggle to be equal and then doing something else that makes you different is a no go. LGBT relationships tend to be like hetero relationships. The role of male and female, dominant and submissive and sometimes fitting the heterosexual mold.

Youth that are of color feel they have to be something to attract the person they want to. They limit their roles and get stuck in that. Authenticity is so important. I always try to stay as close to my true self as I can and hold on to that. Gender stereotyping, gender expression, gender and sexuality are different things. They are not as fluid as they should be, but youth today are a little freer.

There are many role models emerging from the black community that want to show their communities that it’s okay to be LGBT. What do you think about the importance of these role models?
It is hard in general being a role model. There is always added pressure in doing things right. Everything you do can affect everything and somebody else. Role models to me are people who just live as their authentical selves. You have to be courageous to be a role model. The Smith family (Jada and Will) gets so much criticism about how their children are raised. To say: “I am going to do what is best for my family and I tend to do what is best for us” is also looking at fear and expectations and that is courageous. To say: “I am here. I am visible and you are not alone. Not hiding who I am and look what I am doing”.

Being visible gives other people the power to be visible as well. Lavern Cox her nieces and nephews may think differently about transgenders then someone who didn’t grow up with someone LGBT around them.

Your ability to be authentic allows other people to be authentic as well. Everyone is a role model in his or her own way. You can be the Lavern Cox of your own neighborhood. It doesn’t call for everyone to be a celebrity. You don’t even have to be out. Not laughing with others that make the gay jokes sets an example as well. Be your true selves.

What would you like to say to LGBT’s personally?
You are beautiful. You are not alone and it gets better. Continue to be you and do you and hold on to that.

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