I’m Black in America. I’m a Black woman in America. I’m a Queer, Black woman in America. I’m a fat, Black, Queer woman in America.
I’m Dondrie. Not to be confused with Diondrie or Dondre or Dondria. I’d love a license plate keychain or bamboo earrings, at least two pair, but, I’m Dondrie and I’d love it even more if you’d make the effort to SAY MY NAME.
I posted a video earlier today of a woman in a checkout line, having two full palms of grown White lady hands invade her space and stroke her hair. Some folks seemed to be shocked that someone would touch a person they don’t know. It’s happened to me so often and I’ve had so many discussions about it throughout my life that it’s more surprising to me that anyone would find it shocking. When you think about it, if people who see me everyday feel more comfortable calling me ‘um’ than putting in the seven extra seconds of headspace to sound out Don - drie, is it surprising that they wouldn’t invest those same seven seconds in respecting my personhood?
You may be thinking that I cover this topic often. You may not want to think about this everyday. I feel you. Truly. I don’t want to think about this everyday. I wanna be Dondrie. I wanna listen to podcasts and get squeaky and annoyingly passionate about Frasier reruns and Serial Killers. I wanna wear tight dresses and low cut shirts and flirt with boys and flirt with girls. I wanna walk around the city listening to music and flirt with myself. I wanna hold doors open and carry things for people and smile at strangers and share knowing glances. But I can’t do any of those things without being redirected to this place. The woman in the video just wanted to have some lunch. America has us ear tagged. But, it’s ok I’m still Dondrie.
I mentioned yesterday that I’m entering my fourteenth bed in a little over a year. I lied. It’s the fifteenth. Did I mention what a blessing that is? Did I mention that in the space I choose to create for myself, I’ve managed to live purely on the kindness of former strangers turned friends and family? Some of those former strangers touched my hair without my consent at some point. Some of them threw a little extra neck roll into their stories. Some of them, upon meeting me, cocked their heads to one side and observed me like you would a statue or the quadratic formula.
Did I mention I used to let people call me by the wrong name? If it started with a ‘D’ I’d answer to it. I thought it was easier. I thought it was easier to shrink into the box people laid out for me than to invest the seven extra seconds in the discomfort of correction. Because I was afraid that demanding more space would make me less palatable. It was important for me to be easy to digest because I didn’t want folks to have any reason to put me on the bad Black checklist. I was a fat, Black woman and I didn’t want folks to have any reason to put me on the bad Fat checklist. Did I tell you I used to have an unhealthy fixation with Eminem?
We must all course correct.
We must all make space for course correction.
We must all invest in knowing, because assuming is bullshit and ‘um’ is for assholes.
We must all invest in making ourselves known.
We must take the time to say people’s names.
We must make the time to look folks in the eye and tell them who we are.
Because, yeah, I’m Queer. I’m Black. I’m fat. I’m a woman. But really, I’m Dondrie. And, if you get stuck on any of those qualifiers, you’re gonna miss me. You might even call me Deirdre.