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Joy As A Political Flex

Diriye Osman

Beloved reader,

I knew I was different from the minute I could walk. I knew I was different at such an early age not because I was some kind of genius, but because everyone I encountered — at home, in school, on the playground — couldn't resist reminding me again and again, in mostly pejorative terms, of my difference. One time, my father actually said to me that I had a big head filled with broken bottles. I was ten years old.

So I disappeared into myself. Art and music became my refuge. I drew my anxieties away whilst listening to Missy Elliott and Mariah Carey and Aaliyah on the radio.

This was not only how I protected my inner sanctum, but it was art-making as release as prayer as meditation as therapy. This was how I survived my childhood, but it's also how I have survived mental illness and homophobia and effemiphobia and racism and hate/ hate/ hate.

Reader, do you know that I dress exactly the way I do in my photos in real life? This is simply who I am. I dress extravagantly, I eat extravagantly, I love extravagantly, I communicate extravagantly, and I create extravagantly.

You will meet many, many people in this lifetime who will be irked by your effervescence. You will meet many people who will find your joy, your quirks, your kindness — the fabulist, fabulous drama of you — offensive. You will meet many people who, under the guise of so-called kindness, will try to improve you, as if you're a project as opposed to a person. These folks will tell you that you're too fat, so you must lose weight. They'll tell you you're too skinny, so you must have an eating disorder. They'll tell you that you're too brash and gauche, and that the very sight of you offends them on a cellular level, so they'll try to 'teach' you how to be less of everything you are.

The design of me is as deliberate as a dart. Choosing joy/ joy/ joy is a profoundly political flex. Choosing anger and resentment and irritation is a depleting collapse of the imagination.

I hope you choose joy again and again and again, darling reader. Be loud, be brash, cackle with ecstasy at every opportunity you get. Have fun, fun, fun with your identity, which is to say, your life.

And if the brightness of you is too much for others to handle, lock them off and keep it moving in the opposite direction.

You'll be glad you did.

With love and solidarity,



Song of the moment: 'Everybody's Hustling' by KINDRED THE FAMILY SOUL.


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