O’Shae Sibley and the joy of boys like him


In The World Given the senseless crimes, I never thought I would see the day someone was murdered for dancing. But here we live in a world without O’Shae Sibley. As more details emerge about how Sibley was killed and who his killer wasit becomes clear that black queer people are still enemy #1, even when we mind our own business and simply exist 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 teach masculinity. It did not work. Our innate beings fought the idea that we had to present ourselves a certain way in order to be worthy of love. As children we shed the internalized homophobia that kept us in shadows, closets and boxes. We live in the light now, despite the world’s attempts to erase us. And we will stay in the light.

We’re the boys who wore our mothers’ heels until what was once considered “cute” became a threat for the presentation of how boys should behave and be. But that desire to live alive never left us. We have become the ultimate arbiters of fashion and style.

We are the guys 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 for being its creators. It has never stopped us from continuing to live in our truth.

“To be visibly queer is to put your happiness above your safety,” author Da’Shaun Harrison aptly stated in his work. We are the boys whose spirit and welfare have been rejected. And yet we refuse to be defined outdated societal norms that stubbornly persist. We live our uncompromising truths despite the hate and harm done to us. Our black queer heroes were stolen from usStories erased or never told, and yet we become the heroes for future generations of black queer children.

Although I’ve never met Sibley, our stories are linked. I have written “Not all boys are blue” for guys like him. My story is about the love of a black family, a queer child in a world of oppression, danger and spaces that reject us at every turn. It was and is a love letter to the black people in my life who loved, supported and protected my weirdness despite a society that thinks you are available. My story has empowered people and changed their minds. But it’s still not enough. Our visibility cannot save us. In many ways, it just put an even bigger target on our backs. But we must not give up.

James Baldwin told us that being black in America means living in a constant state of anger. To be black and strange in America – well, that’s anger, fear, and hypervigilance. Yet we keep dancing, using our joy as resistance in a space that keeps telling us that our lives mean nothing. We are at the forefront of black liberation, constantly seeking to free ourselves from the constructs of white hetero-patriarchy.

As queer blacks grieve together, we must transform our grief into our strength through perseverance. We must continue to love one another and ourselves. Moments of violence like this are meant to bring us back to the stillness and secrecy in which our ancestors were imprisoned. 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 that has been stolen from us. We are the civil rights movement, the Stonewall Riot and every other emblem of uncompromising blackness and queerness. We will continue to mourn. But we must continue to dance in the light, then we will be stronger together.

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