Hello and happy Pride! Welcome to our Queer Voices series, a month-long virtual community gathering where we will be interviewing several of our LGBTQ+ members about what it's like to move through the world as a queer person. It's always important to lift up folks in the queer community, especially in a year like 2020 when traditional celebrations and gatherings in public spaces have been postponed due to the pandemic. You'll notice throughout the series that questions for interviewees are identical, but each member's responses, experiences, and perspectives are quite different. It's a big ol' patchwork blanket of a community, sewn together with folks from all walks of life, and that's what makes it so dang beautiful, not to mention, sometimes problematic - we'll take a look at that in this series as well.
First up, let's hear from writer, speaker, life coach, advocate, and activist KishaLynn Elliott, who proudly identifies as a Black lesbian.
LBP: Tell us a little bit about your coming out experience(s). How has life changed for you since being “out”?
KE: I came out in phases beginning in 2003. I was 23 years at the time. It was a massive transition considering that I had devoted most of my social time in college to being an evangelical Christian. So, Phase 1, for me, was admitting that I was gay, and coming out to Jesus through prayer. It was a beautiful, loving and personal experience that equipped me with the strength to proceed to the next phase.
Phase 2 was coming out to the “safest” folks in my inner circle—my mentor and my closest friends and most supportive relatives. I even came out to my partner at the time. It was important to me that she know our relationship wasn’t a one-off—that this is who I am now and who I would remain even if our relationship ended. It was all love from most of this group. Ironically it was my partner who rejected my outness, which was hard and unexpected.
Phase 3 was the most challenging—in this group were the people I wasn’t sure would be as tolerant. This phase included my father, my mother, members of my extended family, some of my Christian friends, and even my new employer. There was a range of reactions across this group, from total support to total rejection, and everything in between. Most of those relationships have survived, but I did lose relationships with my church family, my sorority sisters, and two of my formerly closest extended relatives. When I was done “coming out” and transitioned to “living out”, there was a sense of indescribable joy and freedom of finally being true to myself, of giving and receiving love in the way I had always craved. I dwell in this joy and freedom each day—I’m proud as f*** to be gay.
LBP: How do other aspects of your identity intersect (or perhaps clash) with your sexuality?
KE: The most impactful intersection for me was between being lesbian and being Christian. I wasn’t just your average bedside Baptist, church on Easter Sunday only Christian. No, I was a fasting, tongues-speaking, devout evangelical who never missed a church service or campus ministry meet up and who steeped myself and anyone who would listen and be saved in the fundamentalist beliefs embedded through my church (a Southern mega-church) and personal study of the Bible. I thought it would be impossible to reconcile the two—the church was the closet in which I hid my gayness from myself. When I lost the church, and all the other fundamentalist evangelicals that came with it, I turned to Jesus in spirit and in truth. I told Him that He was all I had left, and He answered “I AM enough and so are you.” From that point on I considered it spiritually reconciled.
There are times I feel my sexuality clashes with my Blackness, just because I rarely experience other lesbian people in primarily Black settings, and I rarely experience other Black people in primarily lesbian settings. But I have learned to work through both with confidence over fear. And more recently I have found spaces where I can be both Black and lesbian and with others like me. That has made a huge difference in my ability to build a community where I feel I fully belong.
I like using labels to express my identity. I recently shared that intersectionality is my daily reality. I am Black, and female, and lesbian. If you oppress one of these groups, you oppress all of me.
Image description: Square graphic with yellow background and large white quotation mark at the top. At bottom of square, large black text reads: "queer voices." In the middle, in black text, is a quote from KishaLynn's interview. (The last sentence of her response to question 1). Under the quote, in bold black text reads: "~KishaLynn Elliott. Pronouns: She/Her/Hers."
LBP: Pride is a celebration of liberation but also an acknowledgement of struggle, resistance, and revolution. Where do you see yourself in that celebration? Where do you see yourself in that struggle?
KE: I had two first Prides. My “first” Pride was in New York City in 1999. I had gone to visit my mentor for the weekend. It was my first trip to New York and as she was touring me around the city, we inadvertently happened upon a Pride celebration. I had no idea what Gay Pride was—I asked my mentor to explain all the rainbow flags to me. When she explained that we were in the middle of a Pride celebration in the city. She had brought me because Pride is a big deal in NYC and she thought I would want to experience it. But as a Christian, I was absolutely furious. I remember feeling great shame and embarrassment. I thought she had set me up to be exposed to the sinful abomination of homosexuality. She was (rightfully) appalled by my interpretation of the events. I demanded that we leave immediately and remember the rest of the visit being particularly tense. She and recovered and are still in that mentor-mentee relationship to this day.
Five years later, in 2004, I would find myself at my first Pride as a willing participant, marching through Piedmont Park in Atlanta in October, holding my girlfriend’s hand and waving one of those rainbow flags in my other hand, wearing a t-shirt that read in big, bold letters: NOBODY KNOWS I’M A LESBIAN. I remember smiling so hard that my face hurt. Strangers were showing me love and welcoming me out of the closet. A thunderstorm broke out during the parade and my girlfriend and I got absolutely drenched. I remember putting my face directly up into the rain and letting myself get a new baptism—I am a lesbian now and I will ALWAYS celebrate Pride. And I do.
Before COVID-19, I made it a point to go to AT LEAST three Pride celebrations a year, including Long Beach Pride and San Diego Pride. I’ve even been a Pride volunteer several years. Even though Pride celebration was different this year due to the pandemic, I decided that Pride wasn’t an event that can be cancelled. I could BE Pride. We ARE Pride. I donned a rainbow dress and blasted this truth across all my social media sites. Such a redemption from that experience in NYC. I owe NY Pride, and my mentor, a huge apology.
LBP: As an artist, how does your “queerness" or sexual orientation show up in your creative work?
KE: In 2018, I published my second book, CHILDish: Stories From The Life of a Young Black Girl. In this book, I lead readers through pivotal moments in my childhood, some of which were very...adult. One of the more popular stories, GINA, explicit describes my first experience with a woman. Even though I blush every time I read or tell it, the audience response to it affirms my ability to use my storytelling to help other young girls who may be curious about their sexuality feel normal. It also foreshadows some of the struggles between sexuality and spirituality that I will cover in much more depth in the next book--Black Woman Grown: A CHILDish Continuation. I’d love your readers to become CHILDish fans. I haven’t yet met anyone who didn’t love and see themselves in the book—even White men! I’ll be finishing Black Woman Grown this year to complete the journey and satisfy the burning question most of my CHILDish readers ask: “So, how did you go from a childhood like that to the adult we see today?”
Image description: Book cover artwork that includes abstract designs in shades of pinks, purples, grays, as well as a drawing of a young black girl with bountiful curls. Top white text overlay reads: "KishaLynn Moore Elliott." Middle white text overlay reads: "Stories from the Life of a Young Black Girl." Large white text/title reads: "CHILDish"
LBP: What queer-centered artists, shows, films, podcasts, authors, etc. are you into right now?
KE: I am not big on TV but I do enjoy POSE, Queer Eye, and reruns of Queer as Folk (US). I’ve seen every episode of L-Word, but only because my wife is a super fan (I tolerate it. LOL!) As a new baby lesbian I educated myself my watching every lesbian film I could rent though Netflix. My favorites are If These Walls Could Talk 2 and The Color Purple (yes, I am counting that as a lesbian movie!). I am obsessed with the musical, RENT. Queen Latifah is phenomenal in Bessie.
Musically, I am a huge fan of all things Miki Vale (@mikivalethemc on Instagram). “Dirty Computer” by Janelle Monáe IS life. I also enjoy Young M.A. as a rapper.
In the book realm, my #1 inspiration as an author is ZAMI: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lourde. I also love Coffee Will Make You Black and Ain’t Gonna Be The Same Fool Twice by April Sinclair. Oh and of course my book, CHILDish. #haveyoureadthis
LBP: What are some of your favorite LGBTQ+ organizations or businesses you'd recommend our readers look into, buy from, donate to, volunteer for, etc?
KE: The #1 organization that I owe my finding home to as a black lesbian is BLU-Black Lesbians United. BLU is a long running community and retreat where Black lesbians from around the world convene to live, laugh, learn and love together. I went to my first BLU retreat in October 2019 after hearing about it and ignoring the invite for almost a decade before. I tell you, I never left that retreat. I’m still at BLU, body, mind and soul. Now a lot of the activities have moved online. Check out BLU at http://blacklesbiansunited.org.
Thanks to all our readers for helping us celebrate KishaLynn this Pride season. To find out more, please visit http://childishthebook.com/. Don't forget to check back throughout the month for additional interviews in our Queer Voices series!
6/16/2020 0 Comments
Lady Brain Community, please join us in lifting up Lady Brain Collective member KishaLynn Elliott's #SAYTHEIRNAMESLIVE call to action, which will kickoff on Juneteenth, this Friday, June 19.
Elliott is an author, speaker, coach, and educator who, until creating this action, identified as an advocate rather than an activist. After attending a Black virtual sit-in called The Sit In: A Black Healing Space, which included as part of its program the chanting of names of ancestors and victims of police, civilian, and societal brutality, Elliott was immediately inspired to create what she describes as a “healing ritual and mindful protest" where folks can use their social media platforms to show their support and solidarity for Black lives.
How it Works: Starting this Friday, June 19, Elliott is inviting folks to go live on their social media page(s) to read aloud the names of victims of racial injustice and police brutality for ten (or more) minutes. Participants can download lists of names from the #SAYTHEIRNAMESLIVE website, or they are welcome to develop a list independently. Creativity is welcome and respect is mandatory!
The Goal: Please join us in helping Elliott reach her goal of 300 pledges and 1,000 posts by pledging and sharing this action!
Astra Kelly, Lady Brain Collective member, musician/songwriter, and founder of soulsong.life, is embarking on a new virtual adventure called Monday Meditations. The monthlong series will take place on Zoom and feature special guests Tori Roze (also a Lady Brain Collective member), Kelly Samuels, and Katy Bray. Participants can enjoy this guided meditation series from the comfort of their own homes every Monday in June at 6pm PDT. Whether you're new to meditation or an experienced practitioner, this is a powerful time to nurture the self and connect with others in a supported space of healing to find grounding, clarity, and inspiration for the coming season.
The meditations will be cumulative (though single/drop-in registrations are welcome) and meant to provide a multifaceted healing experience for body, mind, and spirit. Each day will begin with an opening check in, body scan, group energy exchange and will feature a different guided meditation experience each week.
Monday, June 1 - Breath Work and Chakra Centered Body Scan with Astra Kelly
Beginning with the breath, we'll get into the space, and settle in. It's a new month, a new day, a new dawn. We'll bring our focus to each body center for head to toe clearing and healing.
Monday, June 8 - Throat Chakra Freedom with Tori Roze
A focused throat chakra meditation and sound healing to help you find/speak/live in your own PERSONAL truth and self expression.
Monday, June 15 - Sound Vibration Meditation with Kelly Samuels
Change your vibration-change your manifestation. “A person hears sound through every pour of the body. The energy of sound charges the physical body with new life." - Hazrat Khan
Monday, June 22 - Expanded You with Katy Bray
Take a journey to your expanded self. Have you been experiencing the call of new energy? New aspects of yourself that are looking for expression? Or maybe you are feeling confused about what your next steps are. Either way, your expanded self, the next version of yourself is an energy that is available to you. Let's tap into it together so you can receive direct guidance and wisdom for the questions you have right now.
Monday, June 29 - Meet Your Spirit Guide Meditation and Reiki Attunement with Astra Kelly
A higher power can show up in many shapes and forms, this meditation will open the way to receive this type of insight or message. Reiki is taught by a series of “attunements" passed from master to student. It can be a powerful spiritual experience, as your energetic pathways are opened to allow chi/energy to flow more freely throughout the body.
Once you click on “tickets" for any of the events, you can register for one or multiple meditations. Suggested donation is $10-$20 per meditation (or whatever you can afford.) You will receive an email notification prior to each meditation you have registered for with a link to the Zoom meeting. Make sure to download the Zoom app in advance. For optimal audio and energetic experience, we recommend using head phones (if possible) and setting yourself up in a quiet space where you will be uninterrupted. Meditations will last 30-45mins.
After each meditation, you will receive both video and audio of the meditation as well as contact information for all practitioners in case you'd like to reach out for one on one sessions and/or other events.
Astra Kelly: www.astrakelly.com
Performing musician, vocal and songwriting coach, Usui Reiki Master/Teacher and founder of the Usui Reiki School of Light and Touch (Chicago, 1994), rehabilitative songwriting workshop facilitator for Jail Guitar Doors/Donovan State Prison, creator of soulsong.life: transformational songwriting workshops, spiritual practitioner and light worker. “The gift of healing reveals itself in many forms and is available to everyone, unconditionally. I am passionate about being in service through music, helping others tap in to their creative source, and witnessing it as a catalyst for profound human transformation and healing for people from all walks of life. In all of my endeavors, I advocate for wellbeing, personal transformation, and mental/emotional freedom. When the energy of the body is free-flowing, there is less likeliness for dis-ease and healing occurs on all levels - spiritual, mental, emotional and physical."
Tori Roze: www.rozewellness.com
Certified Reiki Energy Healing Practitioner, Body Work & Intuitive Medicine Practitioner, Crystal & Aromatherapy Healer, Body Positive Facilitator, Voice & Performance Instructor + Healer, Humanitarian, and Lover of Life. True healing is a comprehensive 360-degree matter = Mind + Body + Soul. Nothing is completely healed without addressing all of its components because we, as human beings, store our experiences in our whole bodies - meaning mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Having spent many years doing intuitive empathic energy work, I strive to clear and heal any energy flow blockages in my clients. The point is to align each client - correctly allowing their own version of “perfect harmony” within their mental/physical/emotional/spiritual self - to come forth in an effort of overall healing and well-being.
Kelly Samuels: www.joyrisingyogaandwellness.com
Owner of Joy Rising Yoga and Wellness RYT 200 Ingraham Method Reflexologist Tibetan Usui Reiki Ryoho Master Soul of Yoga 100 Hour Sound Healer. All matter in the known universe is made up of moving, vibrating particles. Everything you see or experience is the manifestation of this vibration. In sound assisted meditation we delve deep into the inner landscape, aligning our personal vibration with the instruments and intentions. The mind is easily soothed, the body relaxed, the soul elevated. Create greater harmony in your body, mind, spirit and life by connecting to the source of all things: SOUND! Experience a tapestry of sound with crystal bowls, harp, flute, chimes and voice as Kelly sets you free within yourself to discover what needs to be healed, released, relaxed or let go or brought in. All you have to do is breathe and be! “Life flows effortlessly with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance." -John St. Claire
Katy Bray: www.katybray.com
Katy Bray is a life-long clairvoyant, energy worker, and gifted empath whose direct and loving approach has been transformational for her clients — by guiding them to achieve the next level of success with greater confidence and authenticity. Katy is a Vedic Master, herbalist, student of Tantra, and dancer. Her body of work is called, “Energy Architecture” which is based on her work with thousands of people who started to reveal to her common energy patterns that people confront on their spiritual journey. She’s led more than 100 groups, teaching participants how to become more energy literate. Katy is an author, speaker, faculty at The Shift Network, a masterclass teacher at Wisdom From North, and a catalyst for all who seek her counsel.
Carissa Schroeder (Lady Brain Collective member and founder of The Bold Vocal, has just launched her new online coaching course called Living Room Rockstar. The four week bootcamp is designed for singers who want an easy system for confidently performing live online, and a way to create cash flow from the comfort of home. According to the course description, Living Room Rockstar is an easy, repeatable, system that anyone can do, from anywhere in the world, to get cash in the bank and ears on their music.
Schroeder explains that many factors may hinder a vocalist from attempting to live stream at all, let alone develop an entire business strategy around it. Whether you are intimidated by technology or trolls, feeling insecure about your talent or capabilities, or just plain stuck on how to monetize your streams, Schroeder's course will help you simplify tech and provide a safe space to practice and develop confidence. In addition to coaching and community, the bootcamp will also offer accountability to keep you on track, as well as “non-skeezy" self promotion tips as you prepare to rock the socks off your money-making live stream.
The first ever Living Room Rockstar starts on Monday, May 18. In addition to course materials, the program includes a 12:00pm coaching call every Saturday for four weeks and will culminate in a live steam showcase at 12:00pm on Saturday, June 13. Sign up now to snag one of the last remaining discounted seats be a part of the inaugural class.
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