“Straighten out your wrist, Brotha!” When my boxing coach yelled these words, I knew his call was about more than perfecting my jab.
I have experienced the demands of Black masculinity and the responses to my failure to perform properly are not alI that different from the experiences of failed masculinity that I felt within Black lesbian communities.
But it is true, I am now a young Black American Male. People usually assume that I am somewhere between the age of 15 and 20. I’m 28.
The world is unkind to Black bois. The world is unkind to Black girls. But the way our gendered bodies are policed is different. Black bois are assumed thugs, thieves, rapists, and overly aggressive.
I knew this already, but I feel it more now like when I got kicked out of a Hollywood store because the owner assumed I was there to steal something.
He didn’t just make that assumption. This white man came over and hovered over me yelling for me to get out and to never return because “he knew my kind.”
I spoke calmly, but he kept yelling. I couldn’t help but think this man can’t see or hear me.
He could only see what he believed to be true about young black bois, and it didn’t matter who I was, who I had been, or who I might become. My future and past were predetermined in his mind.
I was the dangerous body that needed to be policed.
And Black women have it too. Bearing the brunt of pathology, the Black woman has been told that she is the reason why Black people suffer. Because she has been too strong and emasculating. Because she is crazy and angry.
She needs to be put in her place by Black men and those outside her racialized community.
When my boxing coach told me to straighten out my wrist, it came after lots of criticism around my push-up form, my strength (or weakness). The way my body moved was sub-par especially in comparison to this ripped Black man.
I have gone from being a big, strong looking Black woman to occupying the body of a young, lanky Black man. The more my body masculinizes, the more I feel my femininity stands out as contradictory to those who invest in normative types of masculinity.