On September 27, ETSU’s Dr. Patricia Robinson Pride Center hosted the first seminar in their new Facet series, a panel discussion led by professionals from the region and focused on intersectionality in the LGBTQIA + community. This week’s topic was race and queer sexuality, edited by Khia Hutchins-Smith and Bernard Flythe.
Khia Hudgens-Smith is a queer woman of color, wife, mother, lawyer, force of nature, and clinical therapist at the Journey Center for Healing Arts, among others. She began her part of the discussion with a rich, raw, and emotional account of the events of her race-centric childhood.
For example, she recounted a particular case where a young classmate left a piece of paper with racist slurs in his office. As a little girl, Hudgens-Smith remembered thinking “we were meant to love everyone” and couldn’t understand why her classmate had done this.
“From that point on, I tried to protect my darkness,” Hudgens-Smith said. After discussing the event with her mother, she came to a conclusion: “Being Black was not sure. ”
Throughout her teenage years, Hudgens-Smith endured ridicule for adjusting to the ways of where she was raised, mentioning that others made fun of her for “speaking in white” and ” stereotypical Tennessee culture “. As she grew older, she learned that some groups of people saw her as “too black” and others as “not black enough”.
She went on to explain how some groups held a paper bag against her skin, and if it was lighter than the shade of the paper bag, she would not be able to join the group. Hudgens-Smith also spoke about how she was judged by her peers for marrying white partners: first a man, then a woman. Now an adult, her goal is to inform and educate the public about the importance of racial and queer equality, begging those unfamiliar with the topics to be ready to sit down and learn.
“I am a triple threat,” said Hudgens-Smith. “Queer, Black and a woman.”
Bernard H. Flythe, the other half of the seminary, is a 51-year-old queer black man who is also deeply religious. Like many before him, Flythe struggled with his sexuality in the church growing up.
“I would pray to God and Martin Luther King Jr. that I would never be gay,” Flythe said.
Being one of the only blacks in his class, young Flythe felt uncomfortable with his body and quickly fell into severe depression. He was arrested for harassing one of his peers, lost a spot in the United States Air Force Band final round to a classmate, and was pressured into shock treatment for his homosexuality by his mother .
He, like Hudgens-Smith, struggled with ridicule to come out outside his race. However, as an adult, he grew in both his faith and his sexuality, and he now uses his platform to inspire other queer religious people.
“For me,” said Flythe, “I think everyone is good looking.”
To learn more about the ETSU Facet series, visit www.etsu.edu/students/mcc/programs/lgbtq or follow the Pride Center on Instagram at @etsupridecenter.