Queer rapper Mykki Blanco, born Michael Quattlebaum, Jr., has established himself firmly in the music industry. His talents as a rapper, artist, and poet have garnered him respect in many social and professional circles which typically exclude LGBTQ folks. So, he is no stranger to breaking mainstream norms and overcoming social stigma. Blanco’s recent admission freed him from any remaining constraints he may have had when he revealed his positive HIV status.
“F–k stigma and hiding in the dark, this is my real life,” Blanco, 28, said via Facebook last week. “I’m healthy I’ve toured the world 3 times but I’ve been living in the dark. It’s time to actually be as punk as I say I am.” He has been living with this secret since 2011. Blanco has made it clear that this revelation is about him, not the judgemental gaze of American society. When fans seemed concerned about his well-being, he wrote that he feels fine and plans to have a personal life following this announcement.
In a sequence of tweets last Saturday, Blanco explained that he had spent too much of his career in “fear and hiding,” feelings he no longer wanted to carry with him.
Blanco also tweeted that he shared his status with each of his intimate partners even though he hadn’t shared it widely with fans. He tweeted that he was “Always disclosing my status to EVERY person I ever kissed or was intimate with but with a fear of ‘what if they tell people about me.’”
But, he expressed that some close friends and family may have felt “betrayed” by his need for privacy. He wrote, “It is easier for me now living HIV Positive for 5 years to make the statement to say it then (sic) it maybe for you to receive it.” He went on, “turning 29 this year basically means i’m about to start the next decade of my life as a full fleged (sic) adult completely independent.” Blanco is living his life honestly in public, unapologetically. He got free.
Perhaps the most important tweet he wrote was a day later. It was an image of Blanco walking toward a pool with his back to the camera. It read only three words: “no looking back:)” While his goal was to free himself, his courage is an empowering gesture for many people on the margins in this society. His decision not to look back, not to apologize for who he is today is an inspiring manifestation of self-love. Blanco’s assertion of self amidst the imposition of deafening silence on the issues of HIV/AIDS in Black communities is radical.
Mainstream culture probably isn’t ready to address the varying experiences of Black, queer, and trans people in America especially where it concerns HIV/AIDS. But, we are who we’ve been waiting for. As Blanco has shown, it’s time to get free.
Photo credit: Mykki Blanco/Facebook