I am on a six-hour flight from Philly to Seattle and anxiety is further squeezing me out of my already too damn tiny seat on American Airlines (a carrier as inconsistent as its nation namesake). I am prone to flight anxiety. Spent the last 5 years in therapy letting a sweet white woman tap on my knees trying to reroute whatever subconscious terror was directing my thoughts to “oh god we are going to fall out of the sky” every time I got on a plane. I have made great progress over the years. Most days what used to be a foreboding sense of calamity is now nothing more than a mild nervousness. Unfortunately, our current cultural climate has laid a fresh blanket of fear across my already apocalypse-prone mind. The anxiety is back and along with it, a host of old coping mechanisms. The most common being sexual fantasy. On the plane, I find myself summoning visions of old lovers. People who knew my body like a well-worn jacket; the ones who could tell you what they’d left in each pocket. In my fantasy, anxiety is swapped with ecstasy. Old lover’s mouths become an opiate for fear and the high subsumes the distress of being 30,000 feet above the ground.
There are few things more physically, spiritually, and emotionally anxiety provoking in this country than being Black.
The fantasies don’t actually work anymore though. They leave a residue that I used to be able to ignore. Today when I close my eyes and summon the sex and sweat of people in my past, they bring me their mouths but also their lies and abuses. They arrive not as who I want them to be but as who they were. More importantly, they transport me to who I was. To live in a Black body is to always be 30,000 feet in unpredictable air. It is to live daily with the possibility of plummet. There are few things more physically, spiritually, and emotionally anxiety provoking in this country than being Black. I learned early on to augment that uncertainty with the material reality of another person’s body. I wish I could call it solace but it was not. It was only a harm whose taste was more familiar on my tongue. We hurt each other even as we summoned the sweet quake of orgasm from one another’s bodies. The same lover’s I imagined in my moments of fear caused me fear. They stalked me. Raped me. Stripped me of dignity. But I excused this danger because I knew and understood it. It was my danger, our danger. We walked the tightrope of Black survival together in our trans, queer, cis, straight bodies every day. We understood these harms we caused each other and so we stayed, accepted the violences and cruelties because at least, they were packaged in names we could pronounce. I chose to escape not to safety but to a more congenial vehemence, teeth whose bite marks were predictable. When the plane is going down, everyone looks like a parachute.
In my Black future, my body is not a site of escape.
In my Black future, my body is not a site of escape. Other Black bodies are not the lesser of two evils. My work of healing the trauma of a society that sees my body as grounds for exploitation has required the undoing of this fear-based and opaque transactional sexuality. It has required my examination of how I have offered and accepted the bodies of others as some sort of devalued currency. Sex in my liberatory vision, in this Black freedom future, is a conjuring rather than an escape hatch. It is a site of creation. We make laughter and moans and babies or no babies, just joy which is its own sort of infant. We are sex workers if we chose to be, where the transaction is clear and without residue. We can have “no strings attached” delicious sex because tethering ourselves to others like life rafts is no longer a necessity for survival. We can cause each other pain because we like it and asked for the sensation in clearly negotiated ways. In this beautiful Black future, we cease to see each other as vessels to buoy the ravages of a cruel and indifferent world. Our bodies and our sex is not a substitute for our fear of heights. Black sex is a new sort of alchemy made from the recipes of our divine flesh. A site where we make radical Black freedom with our radically Black bodies. In this world, I fly without fear. In this world, we all float.
This post is part of the Black Futures Month blog series brought to you by The Huffington Post and the Black Lives Matter Network. Each day in February, look for a new post exploring cultural and political issues affecting the Black community and examining the impact it will have going forward. For more Black History Month content, check out Black Voices’ ‘We, Too, Are America’ coverage.