By Joseph Coco
Wow 2016, you’re really trying to show us just how fleeting life can be aren’t you, I’m going to need you to calm that down for a second please. It’s been a few hours and I still feel as if time has slowed down all around me, like I’ve lost a piece of myself to the void. In just a few hours the world has once again been reminded of the fact that even our idols can’t escape the claws of death, no one is safe and nothing is sacred. But as Prince himself once said, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” I am compelled to offer up condolences to his family, fans, and to let the world know what Prince did for a little genderfluid Black kid like myself.
Growing up in the Deep South, I’m talking the Deep South in the country ya’ll, I never had many people in my life who were like me. I was never really able to identify with the ultra-masculine Black men in my life, be it those I knew personally or those who were famous. I never saw myself represented in their version of masculinity, let alone represented anywhere to begin with. It honestly still is a massive struggle to this day for me to find representation and see people who look and act like me, and that’s where Prince comes in with all of this. Though I didn’t discover and truly appreciate Prince until my teenage years, as a child seeing glances of this incredibly effeminate Black man was enough to plant the idea in my head that there’s more options in the world for someone like me.
If there’s one thing about my childhood that I cherish, it’s that my mother had exceedingly good taste in music. Be it the memories of dancing to all of her favorite disco and funk albums, or singing along on the car ride to school, her music created a backdrop of nostalgia for me that still stands to this day. Seeing and hearing the music of Prince, Michael Jackson, Funkadelic and so many others still makes my heart feel like it's back at home and in a peaceful place. Seeing and hearing the music of people who were all so flamboyant, people who loved to dance, people who could very easily be maligned and shamed today for being themselves, it was and still is healing. When I dance and sing to their music, I’m singing and dancing with a child who had no idea what kind of world their sexuality and gender would lead them to. His music and his having existed on this planet gives me the strength to dance despite the world telling people like me to cease existing.
When I look and think of Prince, I see a vision of myself like no other (and no this is not only because I happen to look a lot like him). I see someone who was so unapologetically unbothered by gender norms that he commandeered the respect and adoration of many.
To be incredibly blunt, I see a skinny Black man in a blouse stuntin’ on the lives of all of those who were unworthy to bask in his eternal light. I see the person I try to be everyday of my life, someone who moves through spaces messing with people’s ideas and perceptions about gender. I see someone who had no time to be in anyone’s box, someone who was considered sexy as hell regardless of how he presented, he was and still is my ideal final form.
So to quote the Purple One, “I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I am something that you’ll never understand.” For all the genderfluid folks out there, Black and otherwise, let Prince and his legacy be something that emboldens you to be your greatest self. For Black men everywhere who may be scared to embrace their feminine side and deviate from the norm, think of Prince, think of what he was and what he did. For anyone and everyone, Prince was a person who took what you knew about gender and dunked it in a trash can where it belongs.
Prince didn’t have time for gender norms and neither should you. May he rest in power.
Joseph Coco (all pronouns) Hailing from the deep south with the scars to prove it, Joseph is a queer, trans, Black person dedicated to social justice and community organizing. Coco firmly believes in the power of communication and community in healing the trauma of bigotry, injustice, and discrimination. Coco is an advocate of bridging the gap between different marginalized groups. Willing to be on the front lines of creating change, Coco believes that intersectional activism and grassroots organizing is key for a greater and healthier community.