What’s Community Got to do With It?
My name is Elisio Acosta. I was born and raised in a large town in CT to two immigrant parents whose first language was not English. The town I grew up in is composed of about 80% white people, 9.8% Hispanic, and 6.3% Black. Of hundreds of students, I had no more than three people of color (POC) in my elementary classes at any given time. I had no idea what that meant for me. I had no idea how whitewashed I was in my childhood, and how much internalized racism I had. Everyone around me was white. The popular kids were white. The guys who got the girls were white. I wanted to be white. Every time I talk about this, it’s another lick of pain. I feel for myself at that age. I wish I had community. I wish I knew how beautiful I was. How my curls were beautiful, not unkempt and disorderly. How I didn’t need to be white to be well liked.
I had to do a lot of internal work. I had to learn to love myself, and not only in the typical way, but as a Black man in a world that doesn’t act like it wants me and my people around. It can be so difficult to do this, especially with the other woes and worries of life. What helped me was immersing myself in my culture and people. I now live in a predominately POC area. I walk outside and I see people who look like me. I hear their struggles and I can relate. When statistics show that you’re twice as likely to have suicidal ideation or attempts because of discrimination and a lack of support, how much more is that true of POC? And this is not the only area where black trans people are more affected. Black trans folx are twice as likely to face unemployment and twice as likely to be in extreme poverty. As a Black, Hispanic, trans man, I don’t know where I would be without community.
I believe we diminish the significance of having people in our lives that understand our experiences on a personal level. The fact of the matter is, no white person will ever understand what it’s like to live as POC. Not that you cannot confide or trust white people, however, there is a unique and important level of understanding that POC have for one another. I don’t want anyone to feel a lack of community, which is why I am excited to be facilitating the POC trans masc group through PeerPride. This will be a safe place to discuss anything you want, whether it’s your struggles in transitioning, being POC, or anything else. We want to support you through this, and with the help of a community, I believe we can lift each other up.