**Xolani Skye shares their unique experience and journey as a trans identifying bear of color.
Fat ass, Ni%**r, F*g, IT.
Four words that have been used to slander who I am: my size, my blackness, the people I love, and my gender. Let me tell you, there have been crazy, unsafe moments, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I am me, and proud of it! Out of adversity there is light, and baby, watch me shine! Be blinded by my gorgeous fat melenated skin, my expressions of love, how I strut in my heels, the batting of my lashes, and the cut of my contour! But first, let me tell you how I got there.
I am AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth), but even in my earliest memories I was aware of my true sexual and gender identity. My father was very open about my being gay. Being from a black family, it was a bit scary though. I saw in the media stories about families disowning or even hurting their family members for coming out to them. Fortunately, my father accepted and loved me for who I was up until his death which came a few months after I came out to him. I was thirteen at the time. He took my secret to the grave.
A couple of years later, at fifteen, I came out to everyone else in my family. At the time I didn’t get a lot of support, except for my grandmothers. As time passed, however, my family came around in terms of my sexuality, but my gender identity was a different story. I myself still hadn’t accepted my gender yet, I didn’t know what to call myself. I was so confused and trapped in my head.
After I came out as gay, a world of experiences opened to me that I couldn’t have imagined. The queer community here in Kansas City is pretty big and I soon learned a lot about the groups and the subcultures of the city. In time I found that I fit in more with the Bear Community. I loved the music of Tom Goss, the BearCity movies, and the web series Where The Bears Are. It was inspiring and fun to see people my size being celebrated and loved on. It made me take a harder look at other LGBT shows out there at the time like Queer As Folk (2000), for instance. I wanted to love it, but it lacked stories of what Queer POC went through on a day-to-day basis. It was queer representation, which was great, but I just didn’t see myself.
Noah’s Arc was the only other show to give me some type of the representation I was looking for. Black bears, masc guys, fem guys, twinks, muscle Bears, drag queens, and drag kings. It brought it all, until it got canceled. Thank goodness years later we got Pose. As I was coming out and finding my place in the community I often turned to TV for comfort and hope, especially when things did not go as intended.
When people come out they want to feel love, get attention, and feel wanted. Unfortunately, I got somewhat the opposite experience. I had men tell me they weren’t into jungle fever, they called me a ni%**r, said I was too fat (or not fat enough), and it went on and on. It’s horrible when you are a part of a marginalized group of people who then in turn marginalize you. Trust, I am a grown adult, but words can hurt and when it seems like everyone doesn’t like you for something you cannot control, you start to believe that you are the ugliest thing in the world.
But I found beauty in drag. Drag became a part of my life eleven years ago. I felt the fantasy and started with boy drag. I got attention, love and acceptance from the drag scene. I became Prince of Show-Me-Pride 2012. That year I then tried more masculine drag, but never felt the connection. At the time feminine boy drag was not a trait you wanted as a male entertainer. You didn’t go far. So, I did feminine drag for a bit only to back off of it until 2020.
In the meantime, I would turn my focus to dating. While growing up I always dreamt of meeting my man or my person to date, get married, have kids, the whole bit. The dating pool was not the best. Like I said before, I was called names, given the 411 on why I wasn’t desirable. I was rejected so many times that I found myself not knowing when someone was really attracted to me or not. I’d get the slightest complement and I’d say “Why do you say that?” or “You don’t mean that.” It became really hard to understand when someone was just being nice as opposed to being really into me.
Dating has ways of bringing lots of things up. Like I hate when my race is brought up while dating or trying to hookup. Is there anything else besides my race that tickles your pickle? I had one experience where the guy actually wanted me to beat him and call him some random name. What makes it worse was him saying he always wanted a Negro Master. Race play is not my gig. I am not one to yuck someone’s yum, but it was horrible for me. The history of Black America has been tainted and the pain is real. In my opinion, fetishizing one’s pain seems horrible and shows a racist undertone.
Dating issues aside, late in 2021 I finally felt it was time to come clean about something I was keeping secret. I knew I didn’t identify as a man, but I didn’t identify as a woman either. I knew there was something else about me that I wanted to let out. It started with nail polish, then playing with hair, then full on drag. But I still was not a woman or a man, so what was I?
The term nonbinary has been around for eons. Native Americans have the two spirited, Southeast Asians have the Waria, Southern Asia has the Hijra and ancient Egypt had the Sekhet. We have been around forever, yet no one talks about it. The realization was so clear. I was NONBINARY!
Soon after that realization, I entered a pageant for pride and two of the titles were for Nonbinary and Gender Non-Conforming individuals. I ended up winning Duchess of Kansas City Pride ’22 with my drag persona, Harley Q Lunár.
As I learned makeup and what I loved to dress in as Harley, I began figuring out who I was. Not just in drag, but ME. I found a name. A name that means peace in Zulu, Xolani. A second name would soon come: Skye (which means little clouds). Once the name was finalized, my world opened up. I soon found makeup and outfits I loved to wear out of drag – a soft face with a colorful eye, a skirt, t-shirt and a three-to-four-inch chunky heel. I was set. I had found myself. I felt in-tune with myself. The armor I had been looking for was – my heart. That became my shield and my sword; the love and acceptance I had been craving.
I officially came out on St. Patrick’s Day 2023 as NONBINARY TRANS, and I couldn’t be happier with myself. I have so much more to do though! Legalizing my name, changing my gender marker from M to X, and funding a bottom surgery called Penile Preservation Vaginoplasty. The future will have twists and turns for sure, but I am ready for it. I plan on running for other pageants with my drag persona, but also to continue to grow as a person. It took years to accept myself as a Bear, a Trans Individual and a Black person, but the struggle was worth it. No matter what people think of you, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. LOVE YOURSELF.
I AM A PROUD BLACK JEWISH NONBINARY TRANS QUEER BEAR. MY NAME IS XOLANI SKYE. NOW WATCH ME AS I FILL IN MY LIFE WITH COLOR!