In the world of senseless crimes, I never thought I’d see the day when someone would be murdered for dancing. But here we are, living in a world without O’Shae Sibley. As more details develop about how Sibley was killed and who his killer was, it becomes clear that Black, queer people are still enemy No. 1 even when we are minding our own business and simply existing in a bubble of joy and self-expression.
We are the boys who played with dolls that were taken from us and replaced with trucks and tools to project masculinity. It didn’t work. Our innate beings fought against the notion that we needed to present a certain way to be worthy of love. As children, we chipped away at the internalized homophobia that forced us into shadows and closets and boxes. We now live in the light despite the world’s attempts to extinguish us. And we will stay in the light.
We are the boys who wore our mothers’ heels until what was once seen as “cute” became a threat to the notion of how boys are supposed to act and be. But that desire to live vibrantly never left us. We have become the ultimate arbiters of fashion and style.
We are the boys who spoke like lightning and rainbows, exchanging words of energy and freedom. Our language has been stolen, sold and commodified for commercial use while we are still vilified despite being the originators of it. It has never stopped us from continuing to live in our truth.
“To be visibly queer is to choose your happiness over your safety,” author Da’Shaun Harrison has aptly noted in their work. We are the boys whose spirit and well-being have been dismissed. And yet we refuse to be defined by outdated societal norms that stubbornly persist. We are living our unapologetic truths despite the hatred and harm inflicted upon us. Our Black queer heroes were stolen from us, stories erased or never told, and yet we get to be the heroes to future generations of Black queer children.
While I never met Sibley, our stories are intertwined. I wrote “All Boys Aren’t Blue” for boys like him. My narrative is one about a Black family’s love, a queer child in a world full of oppression, danger and spaces that reject us at every turn. It was and is a love letter to Black folks in my life who loved, supported and protected my queerness, despite a society that finds you disposable. My story has affirmed people and changed minds. But it’s still not enough. Our visibility cannot save us. In many ways, it has only put an even larger target on our backs. But we can’t give up.
James Baldwin told us that to be Black in America is to be living in a constant state of rage. To be Black and queer in America — well, that’s rage, fear and hypervigilance. Yet we continue to dance and use our joy as resistance in a space that continues to tell us that our lives mean nothing. We are on the front lines of Black liberation, constantly on a quest to free ourselves from the constructs of the white hetero patriarchy.
As we as queer Black people collectively grieve, we must turn our grief into our power by persisting. We must continue to love on each other and love on ourselves. Moments of violence like these are meant to send us back into the silence and secrecy that our ancestors were confined to. But we have every right to be where we are.
We are O’Shae Sibley and we will carry him with us, as we carry every spirit stolen from us. We are the Civil Rights Movement, the Stonewall Riot and every other emblem of unapologetic Blackness and queerness. We will continue to grieve. But we must also continue to dance in the light, and we’ll grow stronger together.