Sinclair: Your name on Twitter reads: “thicc,” meaning fat. Tell us more about what this means to you.
Da’Shaun: I wrote a piece titled The Conflict Between Thick and Fat where I discuss at great length how anti-fatness shows up in language like “thicc/k” and what it really means when people refer to fatness as “thicc/k.” Said differently, “thicc/k” being used as an avenue, of sorts, to arrive at desire for what really is just fatness is anti-fat, and this only adds to the systemic oppression which fat people experience. My Twitter name comes from this idea.
Sinclair: In your article, “Homeleness and the Death I Fear as as Queer Black Person”, you said: As a child, my family seldom spoke to me about sex or sexuality. Not in a healthy way, at least. How can we have these conversations in a healthy way?
Da’Shaun: First, parents should really educate themselves on all that sex is. I think many adults think they have sex all figured out because they are adults and/or because they have children, but the reality is that sex-ed is ever-evolving. We can never learn too much about what it is we can do to pleasure ourselves and our partner(s). Beyond that, parents should also educate themselves on sexuality. More and more knowledge is acquired and shared on sexuality each year. We know more about how attraction and identity and desire all work than we ever have; this knowledge is imperative to a child’s development.
With this knowledge, I believe that parents should always be open and honest with their kids about sex and sexuality. When they get to an age where they are able to comprehend what they’re being told, parents should talk frequently with their child(ren) about what sex is, what sexuality is, and affirm for their child(ren) that they are loved and cared for even and especially if they are queer and/or trans. And, not all people experience sexual attraction; this is valid, too. Opening children up to the fact that conversations around sex do not have to be taboo and are not always hypersexual will assure them that their parents can be trusted and, hopefully, will lead to them engaging in healthy sex—with whomever they want to—if they choose to.
Sinclair: What’s something we often get wrong when talking about sexuality?
Da’Shaun: Many people base their perception of queer people off of what they believe to be moral. However, morality is a matter of opinion, queerness is not. Science, both physical and social, provide more than enough “evidence” that sexuality is not rigid as many would have us to believe.
“We can never learn too much about what it is we can do to pleasure ourselves and our partner(s).” – Da’Shaun Harrison
Sinclair: What advice do you have for someone who feels like their sexual identity is often under attack?
Da’Shaun: If at all possible, surround yourself with people who love you. Other queer people who, for many, have similar experiences and pain. For queer and/or trans people—especially of color, and especially Black—chosen families, “houses,” etc. are all vital for our survival. This is true historically and still presently.
I’d also tell them that strength is not a requirement for their humanity to be valid, but that they are strong . . . even if that is not always their truth. Loneliness, sadness, frustration, and anger are all valid emotions for us to experience. Some of us never come back from those feelings, and their lives are valid, too. However, being queer/trans is not all about our suffering and our oppression. We deserve to enjoy life just as much as anyone else.
Sinclair: You’re a prolific writer, Morehouse grad, and all around badass. How did you get to where you are now?
Da’Shaun: Thank you! I study, I read, I keep my ears and my mind open, and I feel deeply. These have all gotten me to where I am. This said, I am only as strong as my village. This journey has not been an easy one, by any means, and it seems to only get harder. Still, I am alive and where I’m at today because I have a host of people—my communities—who hold onto me, who allow me to be human, who pray for me, who burn sage for me, who talk to the ancestors on my behalf, who love me without wavering. I have honestly learned so much from all of the people I am around and I owe each of them all of the love and thanks I can muster up because I’m only here because of them and I’ll only continue to go up from here because of them. From my family back in my hometown, Wilmington, NC, to the many siblings I bonded with at Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta, to the large family I gained across the world (& the interwebs) through community organizing, I have a very strong support system.
“…Being queer/trans is not all about our suffering and our oppression. We deserve to enjoy life just as much as anyone else. – Da’Shaun Harrison
Sinclair: What advice do you have for HBCU students graduating in May 2019?
Da’Shaun: This advice is for the rebels, the ones with low GPAs, the ones who dropout, the fifth and sixth year students: keep being you. We are not all fit to walk the path that the world says we must, and some of us simply don’t want to, and these are all okay. Always strive to do your very best and be proud of whatever that best is. Don’t stunt your growth, but also know that growth is not always linear and it is not always exponential.
What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?
As a multiply-marginalized person with major chronic depression and anxiety, there is not much that brings me joy. Nevertheless, being around friends who are passionate about writing, and creating content that changes lives, and enjoying it all in the process has brought me a lot of happiness recently. I am grateful for that.
Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off?
Da’Shaun: Solange said it best: “I gotta lot to be mad about.” This world is horrific. One thing that’s been pissing me off more now than ever is being poor. There is no reason that poor and working class people, especially those of us who are Black, should have to struggle to *only* be able to pay bills while others sit on piles of money. It’s an abomination. Capitalism has been pissing me off.
When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?
I doubt myself a lot. I always have. I’m a perfectionist, so it is oftentimes very difficult for me to not worry or doubt. I am currently in a place, a moment, where I’m unsure of where I’m going next. I’m not sure where my writing is going, though I know what I want to do; I’m not sure what my next education move will be, though I’m certain of what I want it to be. I feel that I am in limbo trying to find my way back to the surface. It’s a constant journey, but it is one I’m willing to continue on.
What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?
I am a communist. This, to me, means that I am staunchly against this capitalist, imperialist, white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchy. This cannot be compromised and it cannot be changed. I became very clear on this when I began organizing back in January 2015, and I grow clearer on this as time progresses.
Sinclair: Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you believe to be true. What would you say?
Da’Shaun: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” —Assata Shakur
Eat the rich. The People will rise.
Da’Shaun Harrison is a nonbinary abolitionist and organizer in Atlanta, GA. He writes and speaks publicly on race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, disabilities, fatness, and the intersection at which they meet. His portfolio and other work can be found on his website, dashaunharrison.com.