Bakry Diarra

MYSTORY with …

42 Years, Berlin

“any discrimination experienced in a
particular cultural context enabled my
mind to arm itself against oppressions and
microaggressions of other social groups. …”

Published: June 2022

Intertwined Identities.

I am mixed race, cis male, middle aged, homosexual, with no previously identified disability, French, not a native German speaker (who speaks accent and error free German), coming from the proletariate, who has experienced educational advancement. I am all this and so much more.

Coming out is almost foreign to me, I´d say. When I was about 18, I worked for the Hotel Central, one of the first gay establishments starting from the 80s in Paris. After my first shift, I told my mother my first impressions about this LGBT*IQ place. She asked me if all my colleagues were gay. My answer was yes. She then asked me if I was gay myself. My answer was yes. That was it, my meaningless powerful statement about my sexual identity. All in all, it was a paradoxically insignificant experience for a gay PoC from a proletarian immigrant neighborhood, in the late 90s. I never felt the need or compulsion to explain myself. I was “openly gay” the way a cis-heterosexual man might be “openly straight”: uneventful. A few months later, when I moved in with my first boyfriend, my youngest brother came to visit regularly to play videogames with my boyfriend. Life, as usual.

In contrast, I experienced intersectional queer awakenings several times, which I came to understand in retrospect. After reading “The Return to Rheims” by Didier Eribon, I realized that my ego-gayness played a role in my aspiration to become something other than what the determinism of social reproduction drove me to be. In fact, I felt drawn to enter other spheres to encounter my own kind.

I felt the need to understand the contradictory multiplicity of my interwoven identities and to reconcile them. This was pointless.

At that time, neither in the gay scene nor in other subcultural spaces, I could feel a sense of complete belonging. No matter what social groups I was in, mechanisms of oppression emerged without exception. There was no one like me, but the eternal ballet of attributions and self-determinations. Again and again I observed how social interactions could be redefined in binary social oppositions. However, any discrimination experienced in a particular cultural context enabled my mind to arm itself against oppressions and microaggressions of other social groups.

Let us take the example of language, which, beyond its communicative function, is also a structuring element of culture. Indeed, it can be an instrument of stigmatization or an assignation for social prestige. Thus, the verve of the youthfully caustic gutter language of the multicultural urban world of my neighborhood, Barbès, helped me fend off both the (un)consciously racist slogans and the ironically exclusionary repartee of the dominant white men of the queer community. Thus, the shameless black humor of the queer scene helped me to free myself from the shame of my proletarian speech. Thus, the shameless boldness of the language of my class helped me to speak foreign languages shamelessly with accent and mistakes. All of these facets of my identity help me navigate a society whose norms and deviations are constantly negotiated. One might perceive this adaptability as pretense, but I would call it the social performativity of an individual’s multiplicity.

Meanwhile, my PoC queer identity was an asset in my D&I consulting work with the Ozecla agency in France to deconstruct mechanisms of oppression and people’s distorting filters.

It often happened that in white feminist milieus it was necessary to elucidate the vicissitudes of social asymmetric dynamics in relation to the distribution of power relations. To the extent that white women needed to be made aware that they might be exercising forms of oppression vis-à-vis a queer black man because of their dominant white heteronormative-cisgender identities.

It takes a great deal of resilience on my part to endure the defenses of an oppressed group as I educate them about their own mechanisms of oppression. I have encountered this phenomenon again and again in recent years in Germany as well – both in my D&I work in the queer community and during my engagement in my main job. It is a burdensome challenge to expose and denounce the social mechanisms of racism, queer hostility and sexism. But as a black queer man with intersectional views, I can’t help it.