Tivana Stepney, an McNair Scholar who just graduated from the University of Maryland, majoring in Sociology and LGBT studies, identifies as a Black Queer Lesbian. She has engaged in research on the black middle class queer experience, sex work, black lesbian masculinity, and hyper-masculinity. Tivana is also an Arcus fellow and will undertake a project aimed at challenging the seeming erasure of queer students of color among her campus organizations.
Describe yourself in a six-word sentence.
“Leading towards positive vibes.” It is not six words, but this phrase represents what gives me happiness: positive vibes.
What was the last thing you shared on social media?
My last post was a video that I made about mental health in black LGBTQ communities. The title of my video is “Our Little Black Book: Mental Health in the Black LGBTQ Community.” It is 4-minute film that discusses the stigmas about mental health in black communities and how it negatively effects its LGBTQ members. It starts off with beautiful people sharing their personal experiences and concludes with positive encouraging words for struggling Black LGBTQ folks.
What do you think is the main challenge facing LGBTQ people in your community?
I think the main challenges facing LGBTQ people in the community is racism, classism, and the use of aggressive language towards one another. We as marginalized folks still need to acknowledge our privileges either as a white LGBTQ person or a middle class LGBTQ person. Also, just recently was I attached by another LGBTQ person who used abusive and aggressive language that traumatized me. Our communities are very sensitive because of the systematic oppression we have gone through.
What is your favorite LGBTQ business where you live?
Comfort Zone is a sex store that is not predominantly LGBTQ, but it is LGBTQ-friendly.
What advice do you have for people looking to be just like you?
As a sociology student, I have faced many challenges as a multiple minority. It has taken a lot of emotional toll and hard work to get where I am today. I think it is important for students who are like me to network and ask for help.
In the beginning of my college experience, I felt lost and my grades were very low. When I finally reached out to professors and developed meaningful relationships, they helped me mature as well as get into graduate school. Because of my mentors, I was accepted into Columbia’s Masters program for Sociology.
Lastly, it is important to self-care, as well as -love. I have felt mentally exhausted when I felt that I have failed at success. Take time for yourself and realize that sometimes success takes longer than what you expected.