My Interview on Black Sexuality
Recently, I was interviewed by Dr. Tamara Griffin with Our Sexuality! Magazine. Here is an excerpt from the article speaking on my view points on our current sexuality field. You can read the article in its entirety here.
1. Who is Ruby Bouie Johnson?
This is such an existential question. As a mental health practitioner, I find myself non-judgmental, open, and nurturing. This is intentional and purposeful. My belief is that if your client has a feeling and expectancy of safety, bravery follows. My professional identity is rooted in social work core values of service, social justice, the dignity and worth of the individuals, integrity, the value of interpersonal relationships, and competence. Integrity and competence are, at times, inconvenient values for me. These values don’t allow for me to be silent and standing in the history of status quo when unequal and inequitable standards are upheld and honored – “just because.” I ask myself, “Where is the creativity, risky, and industrious new solutions in that distorted sense of comfort?”
As person, I am excited about life, pleasantly surprised by the possibilities, zealous, curious, and inquisitive. Similar to one of my favorite pioneers, bell hooks, “I have an oppositional gaze.” I look at the world through a gaze that questions and asks about intention. I am an advocate. I love to learn. I am a critical thinker. I learned of this concept through the work of Paulo Freire. I am an educator and I believe in the dissemination of information. For me, provocative information disrupts oppression and facilitates progress. I am honest, willing, adventurous, risky, vulnerable, sensitive, sometimes paralyzed by fear, sometimes obsessive about the dissenters that are not involved the movement, and a joy and pleasure seeker. I savor all my actions – enjoy are millisecond.
My educational history is that I obtained my Bachelors in Social Work and minor in Sociology from Texas Woman’s University and Masters of Social Work from University of Texas at Arlington. I have several certifications in other specialties in behavioral health. My most beautiful professional experience was in the classroom when I was an adjunct and visiting professor. I hope to get back to the classroom one day. I have worked in several settings in outpatient and inpatient facilities. I work with those who have broken hearts, unmet expectations, and distorted comfort in familiar pain.
2. What inspired you to start Inamorata, LLC?
Remember, one of my struggles is status quo. I needed out of system that stifled me. I want to work with people who struggle with addictions and compulsive behaviors. I desire to help to them find freedom. I have a great passion for working with women. The name, Inamorata, is a woman’s love for another. My mother believes in me when others do not. My mother supports me when others wanted and did give up. My mother strives and thrives for her children and, in her career, for her patients. My mother taught me to be a steward and not expect praise. My mother teaches and shows me how not to be afraid and to be challenge status quo. I laugh when I think about the dynamic of our relationship today. I hired my mother, a few months ago, as a contract employee. She is my Executive Assistant. I have tried to hire two previous assistants in the past. I do not like to be micromanaged and I do not like micromanaging. Sometimes, my standard of competence is a barrier. Unnecessarily, I judge a person’s lack of knowledge as unwillingness.
My mother is a previous nurse manager. She retired at 65. She volunteered some. She visited my brother and helped with my new born niece. She told me she needed something to do on a daily base. At age 68, she took on a new career. I showed her one thing I needed and she fulfilled 20 things that I did not know that I needed. She creates and takes responsibility for her experiences, included work. So, she is the perfect assistant for me. I asked her this morning to increase her hours in the office.
My vision for Inamorata is to be a mental health, sexual education, and assault prevention service resource for the most vulnerable, oppressed, and marginalized groups in the community.
The mission statement of Inamorata, LLC: To enhance. To empower. To improve. Your quality of your life.
I hope Inamorata, LLC is a place to receive help, quality treatment.
3. What do you feel is the biggest barriers facing people color when it comes to sexuality?
Stigma is a fundamental cause of population health inequalities. Stigma is defined as the co-occurrence of labeling, stereotyping, separation, status loss, and discrimination in a context in which power is exercised. Separation is dismantling and liberating the black woman and black man. We over-identify with the self-hatred and devaluing of our worth which creates internal barriers to our risk for loving others and self-love. We need to “free our minds and the rest will follow (quoting EnVogue in my head as I type this).” When Black males and females are exploiting one another, intimacy is not possible. We have been suppressed and repressed by a history of exploitation of others. The legacy must end. We are more than chattel. Stigmatization, or the internalization of negative societal perceptions of one’s stigmatized status or group; where patriarchy exists, there is the added challenge of recognizing one another’s full humanity.” (hooks, 204a, p. 129)
How discrimination is exercised through power is in not knowing the history of the cultivation of the non-consensual transactional relationship, not talking about sexuality because we weren’t taught or allowed to talk about sex. For example, I treated a couple who had been married over 35 years. They were virgins when they married at age 20. So, they scheduled their appointment to discuss the difficulties with daily communication and unfilled sexual desires, wants, and needs. So, I ask questions, such as “how was sexuality discussed in your household growing up?” Both of them stated that it was not. I ask, “how do you both talk about your likes and dislikes? etc.” Their response – “We don’t” I asked, “How did you learn?” The wife shrugged her shoulders and he stated from romance novels and viewing porn.
It’s not the couple’s family’s fault. There is this interesting belief with many of my clients that intimate matters stay in private. Not privacy between the couple only, the privacy within one’s self. This can easily turn into secrecy and shame. Or, what we are witnessing now, an epidemic rise with persons testing positive for HIV, Hepatitis C, and other communicable diseases and infections. The lack of sexuality education and the demystification of talking about sexuality is critical. We need to focus on reaching the black community through language, values, and voices that they can hear for our community. We need sexuality educators and counselors that look like me and those vulnerable and high risk communities. We need more black faces in the sexuality field that relatable and linguistically competent. We speak a certain experience. Our vantage point cannot into fit the white men or women’s experience. Sexologist must be assertive and not afraid to talk about the archetypes of the black man and black woman. Let’s debunk the muck.
“Disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional, (Coates, 2015).”
We counter this terrorism through knowledge. As I stated early, provocative knowledge disrupts oppression, including the insidiousness of stigma. We are fed our worth through media. We have become body parts – ass, tits, and thighs. We tell our women if you have the big booty and thick thighs you have all that you need. Women, we are not frozen parts chicken in the meat section at Kroger’s.
Like Celie, in the Color Purple, no one told her that she was beautiful. Mista broke her down. She would hang her head and look not make eye contact. She was invisible. If he did not see her, he wouldn’t beat her. Celie’s sexual experience was rape, In the movie, she described it as “him doing his business.” She was conditioned to be a servant of Mista’s needs, wants, and desires. Until she met someone that simply showed her care, love, and importance. Shug showed her love, gentleness, pleasure. Celie said, “She like a bee to honey for me.” She was thirsty and she did not even know it. Until Shug quenched that thirst.
4. Please highlight some of the work, efforts, etc. that you have contributed to the field of sexuality?
In 2010, I co-authored an article on intra-racial and inter-racial crime Robert Bing, PhD. It’s in African Americans and the Criminal Justice System. I feel the contributions to the sexuality field began in 2014. I offer professional development workshops for professionals about polyamory, gender expression, and gender identity, KINK, and BDSM. We had low attendance for polyamory, kink, and bdsm workshops which was facilitated by a guest lecturer, Elizabeth Newsom LCSW. The most impact is with my workshops and trainings on gender expression and gender identity. I speak at treatment facilities, professional networking groups, employee assistance program network, Texas State Texas Association of Addiction Professionals, DFW Behavioral Health Symposium. I provide free therapy to clients referred by community agencies.
My biggest endeavor is this July 22-23, 2016. I started an organization called PolyDallas Millennium LLC. The vision of the organization is bring education, disseminate knowledge, and expose the community to other relationship structures.
The Mission of our organization is to disseminate knowledge of consensual non-monogamous relationships; demonstrate best clinical practices for consensual non-monogamous relationships; and to introduce and to demystify non-mononormative to relationship structures. The foundation our organizational structure and cultural values supports: The Solidarity Statement on Racial Justice in Sexuality Education.
Since July 2015, I believe our mission statement is expanded. However, we will work on changing the mission statement to more align our actions.
I believe the low attendance of our first symposium is because there are very few therapists in our community that are willing to provide therapy to individuals, couples, and families that are in to consensual nonmonogamous, KINK, or BDSM relationships. The moralism is thick. Many don’t work with clients who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender community. Sometimes, the question is asked, “what treatment approach to you have for individuals who are gay?” As soon as they say, we treat a gay couple like any other couple. I cringe.
5. What advice or recommendations would you give to other therapists, organizations or programs that are working with people of color and sexuality?
Increase the visibility and representation of people of color in your organization and programs. Make organizational change that provides attractiveness to all communities. Please, continue with self-learning and knowledge building. I commit to learning, learning, and more learning. What I learned in 2002, is not sufficient to the evolution and rapid growth of our society. Reading a book or taking Diversity 101 does not give your competence or enough to work with these communities. You learn from being entrenched within the communities and open to hearing the stories, needs, and wants of your client. Black sexuality is a social justice and human rights issue that needs a social justice and human rights approach.
Cultural humility is the ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the person.
1, Lifelong commitment self-evaluation and critique
2. Readdressing and ameliorate the power imbalances between therapist and client dynamic
3. Developing a mutually beneficial and non – paternalistic partnership within the communities on behalf of the individual and defined population.