whm: kat blaque is our radical digital queen
By Erin White
March 20, 2019
For the past decade, Kat Blaque has been one of the strongest activists voices on social media. A vlogger, personality, and advocate, Kat has used her platform to discuss her identity as a trans woman as well as the intersection of race, class, pop culture and political commentary to educate others. Over the years, Kat has been a mainstay in digital activism, which has, in turn, made her the target of harassment, stalking, and violent threats. She sat down with AFROPUNK to talk all about the injustice she has fought against, growing up on the internet, and finding healthier outlets to get her message across that doesn’t include digital shaming or cancel culture. She’s not perfect and admits to making mistakes, but Kat is all grown up now and she has something to say.
What is it like being a black girl on the Internet who is carving out a voice for herself? Especially one that is breaking new ground?
Perfect. So, it’s funny that you’re asking this about me because recently I’ve had a bit of frustration with the community at large a bit. Mostly because when I first started doing what I was doing on YouTube, I was one of maybe three other people doing similar work. Doing very feminist-centric, you know let’s talk about the issues, let’s try to really discuss what white supremacy is and all these things. I was one of the very few people doing that work.
Now, I’ve been a YouTuber since I was 15 years old, I’m 28 now. So, I’ve been doing this for a very long time. So, my reaction to the harassment isn’t like a lot of people’s reaction. Nothing’s really ever gonna stop me. But one of the big things that I recognized pretty early on was I could come with facts, I could come with citations, and I could come with research and do all of my due diligence when it comes to knowing what I’m talking about. And, none of that really matters because people are gonna click on the video and see that there’s a black girl talking.
And one of the things that I constantly sort of dealing with is how frequently my work is both invalidated and validated by whether or not a white man says my work is good enough. And I’ve dealt with a shit load of people who make their career based on misrepresenting what I’m saying and describing and framing me in a way that is not true.
So one of the things I deal with is I have people who will make these response videos about me. And, I’m definitely the sort of person who … I don’t believe that the things I say, the things that I do shouldn’t be criticized, shouldn’t be held up to some degree of. You know, they shouldn’t be held under a light or you know what I mean? It’s fine for people to criticize my ideas, but what happens with these response videos that are mostly made almost exclusively by white men and then unfortunately black women who are pandering to white men. But, that’s a whole other conversation.
They’ll make these videos where they will completely misrepresent everything I said. I’ve only watched so many of them, but one of the big ones that I think about a lot is I made a video forever ago answering the question about whether or not it’s trans-phobic to not be attracted to a trans-person. I have maybe a perhaps unpopular position on that whereas a trans-woman I don’t feel as though it is. I understand white people get that conclusion, but I don’t think that it’s comparable to transphobia as a bias.
So, I made a video that discussed that really clearly, really succinctly, did it in you know … Course I kind of went over how I used to feel and how I feel now and different things like that. And so the conclusion was that I did not believe that it’s trans-phobic to not be attracted to a trans-person. So this person did this response video, and the response video basically went on to describe that I … It’s called something like “Kat Blaque Doesn’t Understand Attraction” and it’s all about how I believe that it’s trans-phobic for people not to sleep with trans-people and that I want to force and pressure people in to sleeping with me.
And it’s the complete opposite of what I said. It’s a video that had way more views than the original video that I made. And because this white man made it, because he said it confidently enough, that gets to be what’s true. That is to be what defines what I said. And the frustrating thing about this is I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I’ve been documenting my positions on things, I’ve been expressing who I am, where I’m coming from, what my perspectives are, for a very long time. But, I constantly sort of having to go through this loop of if a white man comes through and says that this is the truth, that gets to be the truth and it’s instantly trusted way more than my own narrative will ever be. You know, being a black woman online frequently, especially if you’re doing some of things that I’m doing, you’re frequently being treated as though you are an untrustworthy narrator. The things you’re saying aren’t really what you’re saying.
You’re one of the first people of color on Facebook with a major page that was unpacking social justice issues on the platform. How do you feel like Facebook and that kind of presentation has evolved over the past nearly decade?
It’s weird because I have a very complicated relationship now with Facebook these days. A lot of my Facebook, back when it was popping, I was in a different time in life. I really enjoyed pointing out the racists who would send me messages, I really enjoyed pointing the people who would call me the N-word. I would screenshot it and I would post it. And others would, you know jump on those people. And that was fun for me because being a YouTube and being a blogger for as long as I have, I’ve dealt with of these racist messages, these trans-phobic messages and all these sexist messages. I had a pretty large situation where this guy really publicly sent me rape and death threats and I wrote an article about it for having them post. And that ended up getting him fired from his job. I enjoyed doing that because I liked seeing people get justice for this sort of abuse that no one was paying attention to when I was smaller…You know I had no one really watching me.
But, for me, I did sort of move to this point where I kind of recognized that as much as I feel like those people deserve shitty things coming to them, I don’t really want to be a person who’s so invested in that sort of negativity all the time.
Also, being on the Internet, as long as I’ve been on the Internet, I remember my parents always telling me what you put on there will last forever. So, I totally understood that these people were seeing this in a way that I had always been warned to … because I have a job on the Internet, I can say almost anything I want. Who’s gonna fire me? Me? I’m fine. I’m my own boss. And so I did sort of … You know this is maybe me being too … generous and this is part of my frustration is who I am, unfortunately pretty generous person.
But, you know, I don’t think that everyone needs to lose their job because they said something online. I don’t know if that’s really fair or reasonable. Yes, it’s racist and sure I don’t like it, but it was just something that someone said online. I don’t know if the proper response is always to lose your line of income and thus now you can’t feed your kids and then other people have to suffer because of it. And I’m not trying to defend these people, I’m just saying that I don’t know if that’s the right reaction all the time.
And I feel more and more like Facebook is not always the most productive platform when you want to do stuff like that. When you want to post-segregation signage and say, “Hey, this is the history.” Right now, I’ve been using Twitter way more for those sort of things when I wanna really dissect something or I really wanna write something that sort of helps people understand stuff a little bit better. I mean I probably do just fine on Facebook but I feel like Twitter is a more open platform that has less restrictions where I’m less likely to get banned for what I’m posting so I’ve just kind of done it there. You know?
So, switching gears just a little bit, how has your advocacy and activism informed your sense of womanhood, if at all? What impact has that had over the years on your identity, the way you see yourself and the way you see other women?
That’s an interesting question. A lot of my activism is about sexual violence. And, if anything I’ve been sort of wading through having those conversations and how to have those conversations. For me, it’s taken me a very long time to even outwardly acknowledge that sexual violence is a thing that happened to me. And then, even more, to understand that it’s something that happened to me because of my gender. And then to understand that it’s something that was invalidated because of my gender. And sometimes it’s been hard for me to have conversations about it because I’m still working through discussions with myself about how I sort of downplayed my own trauma and I sort of ignored it and not really acknowledged it.
It’s OK to acknowledge that yes there were situations, yes you are still strong, you’re still this badass woman that can take over the world or whatever. But, there are still situations where you’ve been victimized and it’s OK to acknowledge that and it’s also OK to affirm other women who have been through similar things and using that term is not a bad term.
And it’s funny because when you open about that stuff, when you actually have conversations about that stuff, you have so many people, so many women who say, “This happened to me, too. This is the same exact thing that I went through myself.” And it’s funny because when you’re experiencing something like that, you really do feel like you’re alone. You feel like no one else’s experiences, no one else feels what this is like. But, it’s really been healing for me to actually have a community around me that is open to discussing openly their own experiences so that people know that they’re not alone. So, that’s kind of the big portion of my following are people who are survivors or victims of sexual violence who feel a sense of community amongst each other.
Great, that’s beautiful. And again thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I know that’s something that’s really hard to do, so appreciate that. You answered a lot of my questions, so a couple more things. What is your advice for other black women who been to use their online presence to express their voices and advocate for others?
The thing I always try to tell women who wanna create online is that you have to just accept that there’s gonna be people who aren’t gonna like what you’re saying. I’ve dealt with so much bullshit, just saying what I think are rather … You know, things that aren’t that radical. Like, “Hey racism sucks and sexism is shitty.” But you get so much crap for it and thing is that you’re always going to get that. There’s never gonna be a time where you’re gonna upload something online where you’re saying literally anything. But I went to this … We had this round table years ago and it was all of these female creators and they all made so much different type of work. It was like women who did crafting, women who did story time videos, women who did these horror themed videos, cosplayers, women from literally all different types of creative paths. And every single one of them experienced harassment. Every single one of them.
It’s going to happen. Unfortunately, I don’t wanna say just kind of get over it, get used to it … Get over it and get used to it. You’re gonna have to make not be the thing that lets you stop. Because at the end of the day you really have to sit down and think you know, “Is my message more important than how these trolls feel? Is my message more important than what these people who are determined to misunderstand what you have to say?”
And usually, I mean hopefully, if you’re putting it out there I’m gonna assume the answer to that is yes. I’m gonna assume you feel as though what you’re saying is more important than what those people are saying. So you can’t let it stop you.
Because that’s what they want, they want for you to feel as though … Like I had a really bad experience where someone made this fake website of me that posted, you know doxxed me, posted nude photos of me, my address, all this information about where I used to work and who I’ve been and all this different stuff. It was really, really scary and it was someone who had kind of stalked me for a while.
But, I knew what they wanted from that was for me to look at that and be like, “Oh, you know, I’m gonna leave. I’m not gonna make videos anymore. This scares me to the point of like I’m not gonna do this anymore.” ‘Cause they knew that that’s how I had felt. And when I recognize that if I had bent to that, I would’ve…they would’ve won.
So I would say to every woman that wants to advocate for something they believe in online, expect and prepare for yourself for detractors, but don’t let it stop you.
Great. And last question, who are your favorite YouTubers?
OK, favorite YouTubers. So I love Jouelzy, good friend of mine, love her. I watch a lot of Lovelyti, shout outs to Lovelyti. I watch Miles J almost every day. I’m a huge fan of AdrianXpressions, he just keeps me so centered and is so fun. And right now those are my favorite … I can’t think of any … Oh, Jackie Aina, let me not forget Jackie Aina. Jackie Aina is one of the only consistent makeup YouTubers that I will always watch and trust. So, she’s definitely a big one of mine. You know YouTube is a part of my life. It’s been part of my life for over a decade and I still watch the YouTubers and fortunately I call most these people, well all of them, my friends. So, yeah.
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