Who Taught Beyoncé to Love Herself? ‘Renaissance’ Pays Tribute to Trans Sisters, Gay Uncles and Black Self-Love

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(Pose 2 from Beyonce’s Renaissance)

“Who taught you to hate your self?” Malcolm X famously asked a Black viewers in 1962. Beyoncé, who sampled that canonical speech in Lemonadereturns on Renaissance to problem listeners to ask a life-saving observe up query: Who taught you to love your self? And she or he tells us: If you wish to study Black self-love, hearken to Black queer and trans voices.  

Comfy in my pores and skin / Toes up above your sins / I like myself, goddamn / Cozy, cozy,” Beyoncé intones within the refrain of the album’s second observe, “Cozy.” The post-chorus amplifies her Black feminist love-the-skin-I’m-in lyrics with a pattern from Black trans discuss present host Ts Madison: “I’m darkish brown, darkish pores and skin, mild pores and skin, beige, fluorescent beige, bitch, I’m Black!”

A declaration of unapologetic Black self-love, Madison’s 2020 speech can be a name for Black trans love. “I’m bored with being Black and unimportant underneath my Blackness,” Madison instructed listeners within the wake of George Floyd’s dying and Black trans lady Iyanna Dior’s attack by a mob in Minneapolis. “I’m bored with being Black and standing up for my Black sisters and brothers and my Black folks and my Black lineage and my Black heritage and my Black soul and my Black comes again and smother me.” However Beyoncé is not that sort of Black sister, she sings to us in “Cozy”—and nobody else needs to be, both.  

You’re a god, you’re a hero / You survived all you been via / Assured, rattling, you deadly / May I recommend you don’t fuck with my sis?!” Beyoncé instructions within the pre-chorus. Whereas many listeners hear a tribute to Solange, the observe’s interaction between the voices of Beyoncé and Madison additionally sound like Queen Bey singing to Miss Maddie. “All colours of Black, all shades of Black: I’m you,” Madison concludes her speech.

And Beyoncé has clearly heard her: comfy in her pores and skin, loving on Blackity-Blackness, and preaching all-feminist-everything, “Cozy” reminds Black listeners that loving ourselves means loving all Black ladies fiercely. 

Renaissance’s sampling of Black trans and queer voices continues with Massive Freedia on “Power” and “Break My Soul,” then reaches a crescendo with the basic ballroom samples bookending “Pure/Honey.” “Pure” opens with call-and-response samples between the voices of two ballroom legends: Kevin Aviance on his 1996 “Cunty (The Feeling)” and Kevin Jz Prodigy on Mike Q’s 2011 “Feels Like.” Aviance’s basic observe, he explained, was written in homage to the unapologetic self-love of Black queer youth he met on the Christopher Road Piers, wanting in items of damaged mirrors and admiring their spectacular femininity—acknowledging and celebrating the coziness of Black femininity even in a world the place its reflections are damaged, as Black queer theorist Jafari Allen places it. 

And as Beyoncé provides her voice to theirs, she celebrates Black fem(me)ininity as an limitless useful resource of each/ands. Everybody has an area on the “Pure/Honey” dance flooring: “Unhealthy bitches to the left / Cash bitches to the correct / You will be each, meet within the center, dance all evening.”

And everybody has a declare to fem(me)ininity in the event that they select to embody it: She invitations “fairly ladies to the ground” and “fairly boys to the ground,” too. “She’s cunt, he’s cunt, they’re cunt, I’m cunt,” Aviance conjugated ballroom fem(me)ininity on his observe. Once more, Beyoncé listened to her Black queer household effectively: listened and understood that to be assured in your individual Black femme fabulousness is to seek out house to multiply it endlessly. 

Queer uncles and trans aunties have all the time sustained our communities; sissies, divas and queens had been essential to elevating up the era of Black excellence that Beyoncé represents. 

Black like love too deep,” Beyoncé describes herself on “Cozy,” and the queerness of her Renaissance Black household love comes at a second once we want it desperately. By now, listeners know Beyoncé devoted Renaissance to her late Uncle Jonny, her mom Tina’s nephew who helped elevate her and whom she describes as “the most fabulous gay man,” “my godmother and the first person to reveal me to plenty of the music and tradition that function inspiration for this album.”

Deeply private, her tribute to Jonny can be deeply political. It frames her album as a declaration that Black queer love and queer genders are price studying from, cherishing and rebirthing; that queer uncles and trans aunties have all the time sustained our communities; that sissies, divas and queens had been essential to elevating up the era of Black excellence that Beyoncé represents. 

In a time when legislators have criminalized children’s gender expressions in Beyoncé and Jonny’s dwelling state of Texas—with Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Ohio pushing their very own anti-LGBT laws—Beyoncé sings her reminder that all Black genders are “Pure/Honey.” Madison and Solange, Kevin Aviance and Uncle Jonny, Massive Freedia and Mama Tina: These Black femme angels have graced Beyoncé with classes in self-love that she’s paying ahead on Renaissance. Get comfy in your skins, Black femmes: Beyoncé is right here to adore you.

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