By Holly Downes
This powerful memoir about the intersection between being a Black and a queer boy is everything I hoped it would be. Laid out as a set of anecdotes of Johnson’s life – from memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to his first sexual relationships at university – he explores the difficult journey of finding his identity. Not only does Johnson write beautifully, articulating his personal struggles with such strong emotion that it can be felt in his words, but he also educates the LGBT+ community and allies seeking to learn more about gender identity.
Exploring topics such as toxic masculinity, brotherhood, structural marginalisation, and homophobia, the book made me realise how normalised heteronormativity is in society. It also depicts how these heteronormative standards that automatically determine one’s sex based on their genitalia only facilitate the homophobia many queer individuals sadly experience. Further, Johnson’s comment that “gender is the biggest projection placed onto children at birth”, actively interrogates this socially conditioned practice.
Dismembering the layers of masculinity and racialised existence, he recounts the struggles of coming out, despite being surrounded by a loving family and friends. Acknowledging that “no amount of love or support can protect you from a society intent on killing you for your blackness and queerness”, he stresses how difficult it is to find a place in a world that doesn’t want to give you room. Yet, Johnson creates this room. He inspires queer individuals to persevere in a world that seeks to eradicate nonconformists, providing a platform to those struggling with their sexuality and offering them reassurance that they will be accepted for who they are.
Johnson’s words fluidly explore integral topics everyone should learn about, irrespective of their gender identity. The pages are sprinkled with hope, love, and celebration, and he never fails to enlighten, teach, and trigger a few tears with his words. Ending on the inspiring and rather emotional statement, “if one person is helped by my story, then it was all worth it”, this book is more than just for entertainment purposes. It has the power to change perspectives and create a more accepting world. Because in the end, not all boys want to wear the colour blue, and we should never force people to wear colours they feel they don’t belong in.
Image: Dietmar Rabich via Wikimedia Commons