On Prince, Being Queer and Unapologetically Unbothered

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 since Prince has passed and I feel as if time has slowed down all around me. It feels as if 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 able to identify with the ultra-masculine Black men in my life, famous figures or otherwise.

During my teenage years as I was planting the seeds for my identity, there he was — an incredibly effeminate Black man who was enough and then some. A black man that affirmed that there’s more options in the world for someone like me.

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 help the seeds to grow.

I owe this introduction to my mother’s exceedingly good taste in music. His songs were the background of my childhood as I watched how her dance to her favorite disco and funk albums that included Prince in a heavy rotation. Seeing and hearing his music makes my heart feel like it’s home wherever I am. Interacting with music from someone so flamboyant, so “other” was and still is healing.

When I dance and sing to Prince’s 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 existence on this planet gives me the strength to dance despite the world telling queer people of color like me to cease existing.

Joseph Coco embodying the essence of Prince


When I look and think of Prince, I see a vision of myself like no other. I envision someone who was so unapologetically unbothered by gender norms as 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 envision the person I try to embody everyday of my life, someone who moves through spaces altering people’s ideas and perceptions about gender. I envision someone who had no time to be in anyone’s box. Because of this, Prince Roger Nelson 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.


Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared on our sister site, Equality for Her.

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