Mi Familia, Siempre

My mother always explained to her children that our sisters are the only people that will be by our sides, forever. She instilled in us, that no matter how many times we fight and how many friends we have at school, the four of us (whether we liked it or not) are here until the end. On the same note, as a Chicana from a large, loud family, she always reminded us that our family will remain intact as long as we live.

What she never mentioned was that there would be years of questioning ahead in my journey that would keep me wondering, how many conditions were held under our unconditional love?

I am proud of the brown skin that I live within, a constant reminder that I come from an ancestry of resilience, power and Chingonas. I am proud of the life I lead as a queer person, connecting me with a community that has spent centuries fighting for the right to validate their love. I am proud of my hair, beard, body, and chosen names, because they are symbols of my pushback against gender, and pride within my transgender identity.

But what happens when these identities– brown, queer, and transgender– are wrapped around me while I navigate family, life, and success? Struggle.

I want to share with the world my truth, in hopes that this is being read by someone across the world, or down the street from me in Downtown Los Angeles, or by someone who simply needs to know. Our journeys are beautifully similar and powerfully different.

When I first came out to my family as anything but the straight, little boy I was expected to be, I was met with open arms and a family that promised to protect me at all costs. As a Catholic-baptized Mexican, queer/trans teenager, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised.

But as years passed, the effects of American capitalism and white supremacy found my parents unemployed and my family homeless. While I made the best of living motel-to-motel, imagining every new city we lived in as another country tourist stop, I couldn’t ignore the beginning and rise of my parents’ substance abuse that had only been encouraged by their inability to support four kids and a cat.

In school, I had just begun my freshman year and dedicated myself to continuing the basically perfect academic career I had led for the past eight years. If anything, knowing that I would be going home to a dirty motel and intimidating neighbors, made me stay on campus from sun-up to sun-down, nose in book and feet on the sports fields.

What I couldn’t avoid, however, was the growing tension about my gender identity and my parents’ failing mental health. I knew in their hearts and minds they supported me and loved me regardless of my lack of gender conformity. But drugs and sad minds don’t always speak kind words.

Laverne Cox has repeatedly been quoted saying that “misgendering a transgender person is an act of violence,” and I can’t help but struggle to emphasize this. I want to say “yes, this is violence”, every time my parents say I will always be their son. Yet I take a step closer to the mental/emotional place I fear because my Mexican-strength, machismo-bred, mental-health-isn’t-a-thing-just-drink-7Up upbringing  feels humiliated that I could be affected by a simple name, word, or pronoun.

So why don’t I leave? Why haven’t I packed up my mind and heart and walked away from the family that I know loves me, but has been unable to show it for the past six years? Why don’t I follow the Gay America path and move to a bigger city, a friendlier community, a whiter town?

…Because my mom said my family would be here until the end, and I won’t be the one to walk away first. I look at the strength of what brown families have endured, what our ancestors fought to uphold, and I know it is worth it to keep fighting. I know that I may never have a family that is able to communicate their allyship and support of me in ways that my white friends with rich, nine-to-five, Pride-marching, P-FLAG member, mentally-healthy parents have.

But at the end of day, I want to believe my mom. On one hand, if we’re taught anything as Mexican children, it is to never question what Mom says. But on the other hand, as a queer, transgender person of color, I do not have the emotional capital to walk away. If all I can get is 50% of love from my familia, then I will take and appreciate just that, with 100% of my heart.

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Juniper Xiomara is a young, brown queer transfemme from Azusa, Ca. As the child of an immigrant father and chingona mother, Juniper’s perspective and passion stems from the roots of her people and the goals of liberation. As a transfer student from Citrus College, Juniper will be studying political science and womxn/gender studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she will also hold the position of Student Homelessness Staff within the office of ASUC Senator Yamas. Juniper’s work for social justice is fueled by the next generation and her love for her niblings Adrian & Jackie. “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.” -Mexican Proverb


& there is so much I left unsaid

by Joanna Villegas

I remember his legs racing through the park.
Running up with his rage in hand
like something was being ripped out or away from him.

I remember when he reached us,
how he gripped the soft of her neck
demanding her eyes
controlling her breath,
the parts of her that he could.

I remember not knowing what to do,
feeling nauseous, and scared, and small,

and she couldn’t look over to me,
she was unresponsive to me.
how could she be anything but…

I remember trying to make sense of the situation,
…I knew she was his girlfriend,
…I knew we had only been walking through the park with her friend,
…I knew what was happening was wrong

I remember running up porch steps and inside the house
to tell them how he yelled at her
as if his words could come any closer to her,
how he moved her around by the grip on her neck,
how she stood resisting in silence,
no tears, no apparent fear,
as if this was now familiar.

“People in love, fight,” they said
I was told I was young, that I would see it differently someday

I was told I was young and I would see it differently someday
We were taught it was a personal issue,
“una pareja es de dos, con tres ya es chisme.”


That night I remember promising myself to never let somebody love me
so aggressively
that they had to wrap their hand around my neck
so I could feel it.

& the fear still chokes me.

I think back to this moment every time I find myself in a new booship/lovership/relationship.

I think about the danger in opening up,
how toxic gender lessons, fear, and anger seep into actions,
what parts I experience and what parts I perpetuate.

I think about the danger in letting someone love me the only way they know how,
I remember the many ways I’ve been taught that I have influence and control over my partner’s actions,
even when I don’t.

The many times I’ve been told femmes, women, girls,
abuse their power –
their voice, their identities, their oppressions –
as if these oppressions are a privilege,
as if claiming my body as mine,
and attempting to exist with autonomy
Is somehow abuse of power.

Their life lessons. Their gender lessons.
Mixed with their fears, shame, types of communication
are truly beyond me.
Not my job to deconstruct.
But I do it sometimes.
Many times.
Show up only to be left exhausted,
often times resisting in silence is all I can do.

Their life lessons. Gender lessons.
Mixed with their fears, shame, types of communication
more often become my invisible labor.
My fault.
My hurt.
My baggage.
The “reasons” I don’t respect,
or love myself.
The reasons I “never learn” to choose better partners.


The first time I filed a sexual harassment complaint –
he said he’d never met me.
he saw me once in awhile,
but never talked to me.
he requested a department switch,
& that was the end.

My boyfriend at the time was upset.
“How could you do that to someone?”
he asked me.
“It can impact his future. It can go on his record.”
He hovered over me as I sat on the edge of the bed.
How could I do that to someone,
I began to ask myself.

Shades of Black & Brown masculinity
get stopped, questioned, locked up, shot up
just for existing.

I knew this. I’ve seen this.
I’ve been hurt by it,
heartbroken by it.

How could I do that to someone,
he asked me.
And all I had ever been taught,
was that this was a personal issue so it was hard to look beyond the shame.
All I had ever seen was things like this get swept up,
under stacks of paper,
under the rug,
as tears that only other femmes, women, girls – could hold,
because it is a part of our reality we have grown to accept,
we have found ways to resist,
we are working towards changing.

I was taught I was young and I would see it differently someday.
I am 25 & I keep wishing we could see it differently,
because all someday brought with it was heartache,
growing pains our norms built and cultivated –
for brown femmebois like me
to survive, to learn to come back from,
to wish I never embody.
Memories to live with that only confirm I am disposable,
to some.

Oppression is intricate, layered.
It is heavy & unforgiving.
Even those that strive to reenvision.redefine.reshape,
can fall into the illusive, yet at moments tangible safety
that our privileges provide.

“oppression is intricate, layered.
It is heavy & unforgiving” –
I tell myself, as I try to hold multiple truths,
and soothe my own wounds.

I remember his legs racing through the park.
Running up with his rage in hand,
like something was being ripped out or away from him.
toward himself.
I wonder if he ever made it.


Joanna Villegas is a poet, activist and educator born and raised in San Diego, California in Barrio Logan. They are a queer fat xicana femmeboi, first generation scholar, child of Mexican immigrant parents. Joanna writes to nourish their soul and heal in the name of self-love and liberation. They love & learn from visionaries – who unapologetically strut towards the depths of their own dreams, creating their utopia. Currently based in Berkeley, Joanna serves as an advocate for LGBTQIA Issues at UC Davis.




dreams of a crazy brown kid

by cbk 

I have been living with an immense ache in my chest for years now. An ache that is 3 parts dread, 2 parts fear, 4 parts exhaustion, and 1 part rage. I have been carrying this ache, managing this ache, soothing this ache, on the daily; and for the most part, those around me don’t know this ache exists.

I have been living multiple lives. I know what I look like on the surface. I come off as just another queer brown person, dealing with the usual struggles of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., but I’m thriving too, right? I’m going to school, holding down jobs, holding down relationships with friends and family. Things can’t be all that bad. But they are.

It feels really good to see folks becoming more and more open to talking about their anxiety and  depression. It feels really good to see folks becoming more and more open about the not-so-happy thoughts and feelings that live inside of us, and that we are learning to share with others what it feels like to not want to live.

It’s still hard to talk about delusions, hallucinations, and mood swings. I know what that behavior is read as: dangerous, violent, unpredictable. And so those of us who experience these symptoms feel an undue pressure to hide these symptoms, to manage them, to control them, to constantly police ourselves lest a sliver of our crazy shines through.

I am exhausted by the self-policing I engage in. There are so many ways in which my body is marked as dangerous: my brown skin, my masculinity, my visible queerness. And to top it off, I have had to learn how to ignore the voices in my head. I have had to learn how to make all those beings that exist inside of me as invisible as possible. I have learned how to hide the pain that exists inside of me, day in and day out. And I am tired.

I don’t have a solution to this. It’s not as simple as just letting go. It’s not as simple as just letting my crazy show and not caring about what people think. I am not a stranger to the state sanctioned violence against visibly unstable brown & black folks, I am not a stranger to the ways my life would be in (more) danger if I just let go.

I don’t have a solution to this, but I do have dreams.

I have dreams of living in a world in which I could sit outside and talk to the voices that live in my head and not have to worry about being shot or institutionalized.

I have dreams of living in a world where disclosing that I have been hearing voices since I was 16 was met with compassion, care, understanding, and not a blank face; or worse, violence and/or rejection.

I dream of a world where I don’t have to fight to be understood by those who claim to care for me.

I dream of a world where the language used to talk about these experiences isn’t so foreign to the majority of my community.

I dream of a world where everyone is invested in learning and understanding those of us who are experiencing multiple realities at the same time, those of us who carry a constant sense of uncertainty about our experiences.

I dream of a world where the labor people like me put into existing is recognized, celebrated, honored, and is met with patience and care.

I dream of a world where my mental health isn’t seen as a problem, where those around me think proactively about how to best show up in my life and the lives of those like me.

I dream of a world where I don’t feel like such a stranger, even when I’m surrounded by folks who look like me.

I dream of a world where my pain does not have to be invisible in order for me to be read as okay, and for those around me to feel at ease.

I dream of a world where I can be visibly crazy and be safe. Where I can be crazy, loved, and my full, intense self.

I dream of a world where I don’t have to silence major parts of my being in order to be in community. I dream of a world where I can bring my full self into any room and know that I will be okay.

I dream and I dream and I dream. In the meantime, I sit with this ache that grows with each passing day. In the meantime, I work on helping those around me build compassion and patience for struggles they do not understand. In the meantime, I do my best to get up every day and keep dreaming.

Bio: cbk is currently a student, trying to achieve the American Dream that doesn’t exist. I am doing my best to make it to 30, and change the world for the better. 

The Breath in a Boi

by Teré Fowler

Some folks see my jigsaw frame as a question mark. See me as a seamstress. See me in peace. See me in pieces. I am standing in the room and the Beatles are playing in the background. With little twist. Without shouting. When the woman insists that this song belongs to them. I think too loudly: “No, they stole this song.” She begins to look the music up to prove me wrong. I have never looked up the history of this song. I never had to. I see the truth staring her in the face. I get reparation in the way she chokes on the silence. I don’t feel guilty.

I am in a meeting. I am turned inside out. I am watching the words grow too big to rumble into this world. I know what it is before it is said. I know my manhood was bullied by a boy in a classroom. I know at least one student’s rage dragged him out the classroom door. I know it’s not my fault. I know this body still feels like the creator of chaos. I know it’s hard to be a hurricane. When I say gender fluid in a public place my lips tremble against the brick wall. The winds collect jaws, collect philosophy, collect reality, collect beautiful and turn it all upside down. I am a rush of explanation and definition at 119 kilometers per hour. I don’t know what’s worse. The denial slipping like silk. The emphasizing of Mrs. the next morning. Being called out of my skin. Being dragged out of my name. Being all of this body and being denied public access to it. I don’t know what’s worse. Watching a conversation turn in on you. Watching your identity turn in on you. Watch you turn in on you. Sometimes you choose silence. You choose vagueness. and sometimes it chooses you.

When a woman says, “that all I do is write about myself,” I spit a bullet from beneath my tongue. As if to say this language tried to murder me. Every time I speak blood builds or it boils or it sheds. This war in my mouth is not meant for her entertainment. This war is not a poem that belongs to her.

My favorite thing to do is to get dressed. Is to flatten my mountains. Is to pack the rest of me in boxer briefs. Is to stretch back in yoga strapped up. Is to pee leaning over. Is to listen to Tina Turner. Is to call myself she when I tell a story. Is to call myself he when I share a story. Is to answer to they. Is to walk my dogs around the block. Is to walk myself around the block. Is to fold her legs over these thighs and say good night. Is to make pancakes with dark chocolate in the morning. Is to sip on things until I am silly. Is to light flower leaves in hemp paper and inhale. Is to light a sheet of paper with a pen and watch the flame. Is to choose friends who have lightning in their bellies. Is to make that lightning laugh. Is to fly away from this old city in the name of poems. Is to fly back to her in the name of love. Is to call my little sister and say hello. Is to believe when she says she chooses me. Is to meet myself where I am. Is to sew myself together. Is to love stronger. Is to clap back at this world harder. Is to pour this power into poetry. Is to curl around a book on a city bus. Is to say yes baby or sure baby or hey baby or come here baby. Is to plant poems inside her mouth. Is to watch her speak of our future as ritual. Is to button my shirt up. Is to tighten my tie up. Is to walk down a street and sing. Is to introduce these students to themselves. Is to walk down a street and sing. Is to let my dreadlocks roam. Is to walk down a street and sing. Is to let myself roam. Is to walk down a street and s i n g. I s t o w a l k d o w n a s t r e e t a n d s i n g. I s t o w a l k d o w n a s t r e e t a n d s i n g.

Walking through the checkpoint of an airport, it’s my first time travelling to the big city. My mind is afloat somewhere in Brooklyn already. My body is an unfathomable prayer to the faint hearted flesh. My mind is eating a hot dog with brown mustard and learning how to rush. My body is as striking and vast and continued as a sky of constellations. My mind is bright-eyed. My body is light’s lighthouse. My body is a concrete darkness. Is solid in the silence. As they probe. As they unbind. As I feel myself unwind. Unkempt. Exposed.

It’s just a bra.

It’s just your safety you understand?

The safety and security of others.

You understand?

It’s just my temple. My sacred ground. My eyes find the ceiling of an airport for the first time. Find the ceiling bashfully looking back at me. I wish the ceiling would shut its eyes — it can’t stop staring. I begin counting backwards from the time my plane takes off. With each number I am drifting from the bone.

I can’t feel them search this body for an answer. I can’t feel them wondering if my pants will assault passengers. I don’t feel like a passenger or a human. I feel manufactured, carefully constructed, about to explode. I don’t know their God. I start picturing my seat floating in thin air. Start seeing pieces of myself floating in the river of luggage. Start picturing myself falling, half carried on and…

& I speak of my existence

& I feel like a silent film.


Words on the Avenue’s founder & Tucson Poetry’s Festival executive director Teré Fowler-Chapman is a gender fluid writer– by way of this sonoran desert | by way of the boot’s bayou. This poet is a winner of National Arts Strategies’ Creative Community Fellowship, an educator, and family man. You can find Teré’s story tellings forthcoming or published in/on: VOCA, TEDxTucson, Feminist Wire, Arizona Public Media, & Literary Orphans. Find more info at terefowlerchapman.com.       Photo Credit : Chelsea Gleisner




Farewell, Fam: With Love and Gratitude

by Erica Woodland

I “officially” joined the BBP fam in August 2010, when I came on as a volunteer inspired by the transformative vision of building a world where masculinity can not only be beautiful but liberatory. It was inspiring to engage in critical dialogue and practice around the intersections of my masculinity, feminism, blackness, and queerness with others, instead of alone in my head. Before BBP, I often felt there was no place for me – my complexity, my desire to no longer be complicit in patriarchy while at the same time embracing my masculinity.

This all changed when I met the brown bois. Six years later, I am blessed with more chosen fam than I can imagine. As we all know, with family comes lots of love, connection, but also challenges. The healing I have received from this love will never be describable in words. It has literally changed the course of my life. But it has been the struggles that have helped me show up with integrity when it was easier not to, to transform in ways I did not know were possible, to hold myself and our community with tenderness in response to our pain.

When I came on as the Field Building Director in January 2012, I made a commitment to BBP to do what I came here to do – to fulfill my purpose within the organization. I have worked to support the growth and healing necessary for people of color (specifically young, queer and trans people of color) to transform ourselves, the way we treat each other and how we build community. It has been an honor to serve in this role and I am grateful to all of the movement leaders, brown bois, and in particular the BBP staff (Cole, Carla, Genesis and Zami) for having the audacity to believe that being accountable for our privilege as people of color is one of the most radical acts of love we can demonstrate.

Our organizations and our movement don’t do endings well. I believe this is because we have lost many of our traditions and rituals that mark transitions. When I came on staff in 2012, I was challenged to think about what I wanted my role in the organization to look like after this position: to consider how far I could take this work before creating space for a young person of color to take it to the next level. Initially it felt terrifying to think about this change, but since I have faced it, it has challenged me to consider what my rites of passage will be as I transition out of my role as Field Building Director. Our team has spent the past 18 months considering this, and I am excited to say that although I will no longer be on staff, I will always be a part of this family and hold each of you in my heart.

I look forward to all the new and transformative leadership that will emerge in the future of this work. The transition of a long time staff member, especially in a young organization, can be an exciting opportunity to do things differently: take this work to the next level and build upon the foundation of BBP.

My deepest gratitude to each of you who have touched me on this journey. I’d love to stay connected as I embark on my new adventures.

Much love,



Erica Woodland is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and facilitator who is committed to broadening the impact and engagement of social justice movements. She works directly with social justice leaders to move through barriers and gain clarity in their work to increase awareness and alignment. Erica is also a healing practitioner who supports organizations and individuals in developing deep-rooted relationships and enriching the critical intersections of their work. Coupling her commitment to progress with her commitment to authentic self-care in movement spaces, she provides support to organizations with a desire to promote sustainability. With more than 13 years of experience, Erica has worked as case manager, therapist, life coach, facilitator, trainer, social worker, program director, researcher and clinical supervisor with youth, people of color and LGBTQ people from Baltimore, MD (her hometown) to Oakland, CA where she currently resides. She has done extensive work in prisons, jails, group homes, psychiatric facilities, schools, non-profit organizations, community-based clinics and with grassroots groups giving her a wide range of experience to draw from in her consulting practice. She is passionate about building and refining systems to support workers in the social justice movement by offering guidance through transitions and creating new projects & programs. Erica is the founder of the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, a space for queer, gender non-conforming and trans therapists of color to build, resource and support one another as clinicians and healers.                                                                                                                                 http://www.nqttcn.com


Leveraging Access

by Zami Tinashe Hyemingway

Recently, I had an experience at school where I was listening to a cisgender, straight, white male, explain why he feels that he only has limited access to white privilege. His reasoning for this belief is that he is not apart of the 1% and his great grandmother was a German peasant, who had a child out of wedlock. In listening to him, I felt myself analyzing his degrees of privilege. He was able to live a more than comfortable life solely off of his public speaking engagements and multiple publications, in a field that is dominated by white, cis, straight men. The fact that he was speaking the majority of the time during our small group, his comfort in challenging and wanting to convince people that he was right, and insinuating that we had not evolved for not thinking like him, made it clear that he had been comfortable in his privilege most of his life. It was in this experience that I began to further and deepen my understanding of why it is difficult for my femme/feminine/female/non-transmasculine peers, to understand me when I say that I have conditional/minimal access to male privilege, as a transmasculine person who “passes” as cisgender.  

Since transitioning, I have struggled with people telling transmasculine folks (including me) what levels of male privilege they feel that we access. Part of my frustration is how white and male privilege are inherently linked and how that influences socialization. In my experience, those who are assigned male at birth (especially those who are white), have been socialized to believe that they worked hard for the resources in which they have access to. They were taught, that if their female peers, peers of color, transgender peers, and other marginalized peers worked just as hard as them, then they would be just as successful. This line of thinking ignores the continual effects of the systemic racism, sexism, transphobia, as well as homophobia that people of color, women, trans, queer and undocumented people have faced everyday since colonization. Those assigned male at birth have been taught that misogyny and violence against femme and feminine identified folks is acceptable, and that anything  threatening their masculinity deserves to be stopped, harmed, and even killed.

So when people tell me that I have access to male privilege as someone who “passes” as cisgender, I often struggle because of the violence and oppression that I/we often associate with male privilege, and what feels like the ignoring or erasing of my history, identity, and socialization. I was socialized as a woman. I have understood power and privilege and the effects of white supremacy through a Black, womanist lens. I have lived the majority of my life as a Black, queer woman. I have consciously fought against white supremacy and patriarchy as a Black, queer woman, and now as a Black, queer, trans person.

I do recognize that I am often acknowledged first by cisgender men when I am standing next to a woman of color in a room. My opinion is more likely to be heard, acknowledged, considered and respected by cisgender men, than my femme and gender nonconforming counterparts. I am someone whose body is considered to be “hyper masculine,” meaning I am of a muscular/athletic built. My physical performance of masculinity gives me access to a certain amount of privilege, due to society situating masculinity over femininity. I have witnessed public discrimination against my femme and female peers, as well as against my more effeminate, cisgender, male counterparts and my gender nonconforming peers. Due to my degrees of pass-ability, I also have access to conversations that cisgender men have where they actively engage in misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and other expressions of violent masculinity, and I don’t know if I would call that a privilege. I recognize that I experience all of this daily, until my trans identity becomes known, and then that access, that “privilege,” is stripped away.

Although my access to these spaces and conversations are conditional and often temporary, I do feel that it is my responsibility to use the time I have to speak out, challenge the toxic gender norms present in these spaces. I feel that it is my responsibility to decenter masculinity, bring femininity to the focal point, and model a different way of engaging in masculinity. My transition has given me access to places that women and femmes are denied, and that when they speak of me having male privilege, they are speaking of me having access to spaces where I can leverage pieces of my identity, and the way society views my identity, to help create a world that is safer for everyone.

I realize that because of my own association with what I feel male privilege is, it has been difficult to hear the requests from my peers asking me to recognize that I have acquired a new form of responsibility to my community. Prior to, in the midst of my transition, I have always tried to be intentional about not engaging in misogyny and harmful forms of male privilege, and to not remain silent in the face of it. I have assumed that my peers would have known this about me. But I am now reminded that just like I have to heal from misogyny and male privilege, so do my femme peers.

As hard and painful as it is to be associated with something that has brought me great pain and suffering, I recognize that it is my duty and responsibility, to use whatever access to spaces that I have, to aid in creating a gender-just and free world.


Zami Tinashe Hyemingway is a Transmasculine healer, poet and teacher. Zami has a Masters in Social Work, and has worked in the field for over six years. He has multiple years in facilitation, and has worked with several communities including youth, the LGBTQ community, People Living with HIV/AIDS, people who inject drugs (PWID), People living with Hepatitis C, survivors of violence and re-entry populations. Zami is dedicated to gender justice work that reflects the fluidity of gender and encouraging people to create spaces that honor all forms of gender expression. Zami is also a spoken word artist, and uses writing as a modality of healing for himself as well as others. He has a spoken word album called Self Made Man/A Lovers Journey, and is currently working on two writing projects one being released this summer. Zami’s writing has lead him to feature at several events as well as be one of the keynote speakers at 2015 The Body Love Conference, held in Tucson, Arizona. Zami believes in using love as an ethic for liberation and in practicing radical self care and honesty. Zami is a fitness enthusiast, and is always down for a good workout session He currently resides in Berkeley, California with his supportive and amazing partner, their dog, and attends the Pacific School of Religion as part of the Changemakers Fellowship, and pursuing a Masters in Arts and Social Transformation.


Accountability, Community, and Restorative Justice

Over the past year, The Brown Boi Project has been approached by several people who have shared that members of our community have engaged in harmful behaviors.  We have supported multiple accountability processes to address these harmful behaviors that community members have engaged in.

This process has been difficult, challenging and one we do not claim to do perfectly. We recognize that while we have been working through creating and engaging in processes, people have still experienced a great deal of pain, resulting in the distrust of our organization and community.  However, it is a process that we are committed to continuing to develop in alignment with our core values. Knowing how to support each other in the context of harm is hard, and BBP and our movement more broadly is still learning how to best do this.

How We Have Addressed Harm:

We have been intentional about how we try to address these concerns and struggled with when and how to share these things publicly. We recognize it is important to share with our community how we address harm in BBP and how our core values shape this process. When we are made aware of harm that was created, our policy is to believe the survivor and offer support. This is then followed by BBP engaging in a restorative justice process either through an active facilitation or in other supportive roles, based on the needs of both parties.

We work to invite all parties, the harmed as well as the one who did harm, to the table. In order for the process to be truly restorative and not punitive, all folks must willingly choose to be a part of this process. Our intentions and hopes are for the person who engaged in harmful behavior to work towards a resolution that will aid in everyone’s healing and ability to be in community with each other. We recognize that this process may or may not actually lead to that.   

We strive to recognize the context in which harm occurs: the political, systemic, and structural issues rooted in racism, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia that give rise to a culture that often makes harm and violence a common way to relate to each other at home, in our families and in our organizations. We also know that survivors are seeking the support of BBP because the criminal justice system has failed our communities and contributes to significant harm in communities of color specifically. We recognize both that individuals need to acknowledge and make amends (if possible) for  the harm that they perpetuate, and know this harm does not exist in a vacuum. We strive to grapple with the complexities of each incident.

In addition, we recognize that these incidents impact the community as a whole, and that we are all affected by the harm. This work, and conversation surrounding it, is critical to our movement. As a movement there are many ways that people create harm within our organizations and our relationships–from physical violence to embezzlement and systemic violence around race, gender, ableism and much more. We need to engage as leaders to push our organizations to develop internal conversations and processes to address harm and find a way towards healing.  

Our Values:

Our accountability process is one that attempts to utilize the values of restorative justice to restore and repair relationships that have been impacted by harm as much as possible. We are not restorative justice practitioners and rely on the expertise of circle keepers in our community. We do not ‘out’ or publicly shame survivors or people who have committed harm in our community. Our process is one that aims to support the survivor and provide the space to heal and grow for those who have caused harm, without being invalidated and villainized.

Our commitment to maintaining the privacy of all involved can often be misinterpreted as a lack of concern or care for the survivor. However, we are deeply committed to building and practicing a restorative process that does not engage in forms of punishment, retribution, retaliation or isolation. This is why we believe that all parties need support and care when harm is perpetuated in our community. This care can only happen in the context of relationships. This is why we do not ‘out’ or dispose of any of our community members, so long as they show a commitment to grow, learn, and change their behavior. In the few instances where this was not possible, we have no longer allowed individuals to participate in community events, gatherings and discontinued all communication via social media and email. Even in these instances, we are open to folks returning to the community, but only if they demonstrate a willingness to change.

Our Next Steps:

Our ability to address harm in the BBP community is a work in progress. Our community includes a broad spectrum of LGBTQ people of color, not just masculine of center folks. We are actively engaged in an internal conversation as an organization to strengthen our processes around this work.

In moving forward, we have dedicated additional resources to support restorative justice circles that can address harm when it occurs. We are working on further developing and documenting the process we have in place, and seeking support from people who are trained to hold restorative justice circles. We are in active partnership with other organizations that are navigating similar challenges within their memberships to leverage our collective wisdom around this work.

We are also working on being more explicit about the kinds of values and behaviors we expect from the members of the BBP community. While we are clear that work with our members during our 3-5 day retreats does not erase a lifetime of learned trauma and harm, being in community with us comes with a deep responsibility to do the work of growth. Our expectation is that those who would like to call themselves Brown Bois share our organization’s commitment to leveraging power in a way that creates a world where we are all free and safe, especially for the women and femmes who make our work possible.