Why Funding the Future of Black Queer Digital Spaces Matters

Anonymous Instagram account @godimsuchadyke speaks with GARAGE about a new fund to support Black lesbian, queer, and trans content creators.

by Olivia Lindsay Aylmer
Aug 3 2020, 5:48pm

Anyone actively seeking out Black lesbian, queer, and trans culture, art, and history these days need not look far: Instagram boasts an abundance of thoughtfully curated accounts: from @blacklesbianarchives to the feeds of Peyton Dix (content creator and writer) and Ericka Hart (sexuality educator, activist, and writer), among many others. How might a tangible financial investment allow these digital spaces—and those immersed in the daily, behind-the-screen work of running them—to innovate, grow, and thrive far into the future? That’s the question the Black Lesbian and Queer Digital Residency Fund, started by queer meme account @godimsuchadyke, aims to address.

The fund, which exceeded its original $15,000 goal in June, will provide micro grants to Black lesbian, queer, and trans women scholars, archivists, artists, and content creators working in the digital space, to use in whatever way they need to keep going: from purchasing a new camera, laptop, or art supplies to supporting living expenses. The application process, officially slated to launch in early August, will remain open for one month, with funds being disbursed directly to selected recipients, who will be featured on the account’s page and IG stories.

Of her impetus to launch this initiative, @godimsuchadyke, who is white and runs her account anonymously, explains that she felt called to mobilize her platform’s 74,000 followers in tangible support of her Black peers who are (re)writing, authoring, and archiving LGBTQIA history, art, and culture via their accounts—on their own terms. “Lesbian and queer culture is there for all of us,” she says. “We can all share in it. But it is also very important for people to be speaking directly from their lived experience in order to reflect the incredible diversity of our community and the many intersections of our identities as lesbian, queer, and trans women. It’s not enough to just share this work. We have to actively support one another.”

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For anyone who may be unfamiliar with your IG account, @godimsuchadyke, could you give a brief introduction?
I started the page in 2017 when I was in my mid-20s. Like many of us, it took me a while to figure out I was gay, but once I did I realized there was this whole wealth of cultural knowledge and information that was newly open to me and I was so excited to delve in. My background is in art history and visual culture, so I've always loved the intersection of film and art, critical theory, pop culture, and high culture and low culture. It was a natural way for me to get involved with the community in a digital space, to share all of these new things that I was discovering for the first time, especially because I was living somewhere where that community wasn’t readily accessible to me IRL.

What led you to create the fund?
When I started my page, the big accounts were h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y  and Butch Camp. Over time, those accounts have received a lot of press coverage, as has mine, and they’ve been signaled as important digital spaces (specifically on Instagram) for the community. They absolutely are just that, and work to reflect the diversity of our community. But what has been missing from that conversation is the fact that those accounts, including mine, are all run by white queer and lesbian women.

There are so many accounts run by Black lesbian, queer, and trans women artists, content creators, scholars, and archivists that occupy that same digital space, but as I mentioned earlier, even in our community it is often white voices that are privileged and centered. There are also many Black queer women who are the voices behind many major digital and print publications, who are creating and shaping culture every single day and whose work is invaluable to us all. I created this fund as a way to use my platform to support the Black lesbian, queer, and trans women who are so central to the digital spaces our community creates and occupies.

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Why was it important to focus on digital space, specifically? 
On the one hand it was a no brainer, because that’s the space that I occupy. From the beginning, it’s been about being able to use digital spaces to share our culture. So you may be an artist who’s working in 3D materials, but you’re using a platform like Instagram to promote or share your work. If you’re a scholar, you may be using instagram to share work with people outside of an educational institution.

I had a conversation with Krü Zireael Maekdo, who is the founder of the Black Lesbian Archives, [where] we spoke about the importance of non-digital spaces where you can come into direct contact with archival works….The digital space Krü has created acts as a place to share the archives and to directly connect with followers and build a community, who will hopefully be able to experience the archives in person.

When you’re creating content and sharing work [online], it’s work. And a lot of times, you aren’t compensated for it. This is just a way to support those creators and scholars and artists to keep creating and sharing their work.

It’s been interesting to witness a real-time shift in the way people are engaging on social platforms, moving away (at least temporarily) from more purely superficial content. Do you predict Instagram’s primary raison-d’etre will continue to move in this more substantive direction? 
I think it’s been amazing to see how Instagram has been mobilized to generate so much attention, funds, and a transfer of energy among people, into these very actionable shows of solidarity. But I also think we’ve been underutilizing that space. What will be powerful moving forward is using social platforms and the communication tools on those platforms to create and share content that is educational, substantive, and action-oriented.

What is your vision for how this project will fully manifest? What does success look like?
I was speaking to someone who had questions about applying for a grant, who said she would like for it to not just be given to people who are spotlighting racial justice work. As a Black lesbian woman, she wanted to be able to share the story of breaking up with a girlfriend for the first time and how that experience shaped her. She felt that too often when grants like this are created, they only support work that deals directly with race. While it is important work, she also wants the opportunity to share her story without having to engage in the work of racial justice.

Black queer stories matter, and the work of social justice should not land squarely on the shoulders of Black lesbian, queer, and trans women—some of that weight needs to be carried so that the full nuance of Black queer voices can be heard. The ultimate goal of this fund is to share some of that burden and provide support so those stories can be centered and more easily heard.