Life Stories: Christania, Editor-in-Chief AZ Magazine and Co-host Qmmunity podcast
I first heard Christania’s voice on Qmmunity podcast (which brings together diverse topics and voices and is both brilliant and educational on all things LGBTQ) and I remember thinking she was poised, informed and sounded so soothing. The kind of voice that makes you sink into the sofa a little more and really pay attention to her wisdom. Add to that, she is Editor-in-Chief of AZ Magazine (an online magazine dedicated to LGBTQ people of colour) which has grown in success since its launch in 2015 and has added to this with AZ Hub, a monthly event at The Albany in Deptford that is alcohol free to build connection and community. It was a no-brainer to profile her, given her dedication to improving visibility and creating spaces for this section of the community to thrive and putting herself in the public eye in doing so.
29, female, black , lesbian
Life Right Now
2018 was a long, difficult year for me and I’ve not set too many expectations for myself. So now, my focus is on taking everything as it comes and to continue to be a decent human being. I’m lucky to have my partner and people around me who support me. Of course I have goals for AZ Mag, but these are as a team – we know our roles and help each other be accountable. Self care is a priority, and I do this through reading – I love it! I just finished reading The Power by Naomi Alderman which started off really well but the ending felt flat, which is such a shame because it’s a book everyone has been buzzing about. I’ve just started reading Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo and I can’t put it down!. Writers transport you to another world where you become invested in the characters and stories. Cooking is also a big part of self-care. The experience of making food and sharing that experience with someone is very loving. Plus I’ve been binge watching Nailed It on Netflix and recently become obsessed with Nicole Byer. . Growing up and watching women in my family cook and learning recipes from them has been a big part of my life.
I was really young, probably 7 when I became aware I was different. As a child, I didn’t have the words or vocabulary, but I knew it in myself. It’s funny, as even then I knew it was seen as wrong and as I got older, I could see that others around me saw it as a bad thing, almost criminal. As you get older, your body changes and you begin to learn more about yourself – that phase of self-discovery. It was only then that life became easier; I understood myself better and met others like me in the community. Looking back on it, it probably saved my life as I’m now 29 (nearly 30) and know who I am. There’s not a specific, definitive moment I knew I was lesbian - I just knew all along, 100%.
Being both black and lesbian means I’m extra special! And that I see and move through the world in a different way, with my own unique experience. It’s a strength and offers a different perspective on what’s happening today.
My Family & Culture
My family are Jamaican, and our culture is notorious for its reputation as homophobic. Looking back, I had to go through some difficult conversations based on the culture I am from. I mean everything: from not wanting to accept it to stating they would never attend my wedding. What they don’t realise is that those negative reactions and bashing hurt a lot. And it’s draining being on the receiving end of such negative energy, as those words can be very harmful. Religion of course plays a part too, as my family are Christian. It was seen as a choice (which we know clearly it isn’t). However, I also acknowledge I didn’t feel the same level of risk as others in the community may face – like I knew I wasn’t going to be thrown out of home. Even now, my family aren’t totally on board, but my approach is to continue living my life and focus on the positives.
I’m Jamaican through and through. We are fiercely proud, can be annoying and in your face! I love my culture fiercely and defend it all the time. Jamaican food, music, food and fashion is very important to me, and definitely has an influence on my life. I’ve used my passion for reading to learn more e.g. life after slavery was abolished in Jamaica. It informs everything I do - my girlfriend even says I walk like a Jamaican!
I came out officially at 18 (although I told my friends when I was 15). But to be honest, we have to constantly come out – for example when starting a new job. It can be difficult and it has to be done, just by referencing my girlfriend quickly to let people know. Before coming out, it felt like I was keeping a secret - which is harmful for both our physical and mental health - so I knew I had to do it. However, this was my experience knowing that I would still have a roof over my head and still continue life as normal (whatever normal was at that time).
However, for others, I do question how useful it is to come out before they have the right resources to support them. And by that, I mean are they in a good place but also are we doing enough to ensure their safety, mental health and to protect people from any risk? As a community, we don’t really talk about the aftermath of coming out, the negative impact and repercussions. While the world in general is more accepting, we can’t be complacent. Look at Brazil; now it’s just about survival.
AZ and Qmmunity form a big part of my career. However my experience is broad and varied from working at the NHS through to TV. My focus is to get back into TV and use my creative side. Working on AZ has meant that my career has helped me understand our community better, from simple things such as the terms to use through to understanding the issues being faced in a deeper way. The people I’ve met along the way have opened up my thinking and helped me get to where I am today. I understand the importance of having a voice, and so I use my platforms to find those who may be less visible, have less followers and ensure they have an opportunity to speak, be heard and be elevated. That’s reflected through both AZ as well as the podcast.
Love, Dating & Relationships
I’ve been in a relationship with my girlfriend for 8 years, we met at the now closed Candy Bar and she is someone who sees me for who I am and is just loving and supportive. She’s everything to me and I can’t imagine my life without her in it. We live together and are just like any other couple. I spoke about my experience being part of a black lesbian couple, and specifically showing affection in public here. I believe we have a right to show affection in public, we are not harming anyone and it’s now become more automatic for me to hold her hand, as an example.
My experiences within the community have been quite positive overall. Since the age of 18, I’ve mainly interacted with queer black people – although this is by accident. There is a real sense of community and chosen family within the spaces I am in, which I absolutely love. I think that we can be stronger by supporting each other selflessly and by listening and learning from our different experiences. You often have to create your own family, and so I’ve built my own LGBTQ family as we understand one another.
To support LGBTQ people of colour, a good starting point would be more resources to support organisations (led by people like us) that are trying to create safe spaces and provide help to vulnerable members of our community. In addition, we need to be better allies to our trans siblings.
Queer Talent I'm constantly inspired by LGBTQ people of colour that continue to exist loudly in this mad, sad world. In particular, I admire Marc Thompson (Co-Editor of BlackOut UK), Akeilah Bennett, CEO & Co-Founder of AZ Mag and Olaoncé Carey (YouTuber).
Words of Wisdom
Don't let anyone rush you out of the closet; you're still a valid member of our community whether or not you're out
Love yourself unconditionally and remember that you are important
Do what makes you happy; life is too short to live with regrets
And we were done! Christania’s openness and calming approach to life stayed with me long after we had finished talking. And I’m a big fan of her matter of fact, minimal fuss approach to life. I have no doubt that her profile and visibility will continue to rise, given the wonderful work AZ is doing and the success of Qmmunity. I’ll definitely be watching and supporting, but I certainly won’t be surprised.