Kim K. Milan
There are a few things that stand out to me about your work, one of which is the space that you have co-created with your husband, trans activist, Tiq Milan, to uplift the power of love in queer communities as a tool for empowerment. Can you speak more on the power of love as a tool for healing and creation? Personally, how do you create through love and connection?
All too often ‘feminized skills and jobs’ are stigmatized and exploited, and I think that love remains one of those things. Love has always been a site of my activism because I am genuinely invested in how what are doing and experiencing makes us feel. Black women and femmes have been subjected to so much contemporary and historical violence that it’s important for me to share that we deserve love, tenderness and celebration from our partners and our communities. I also think as a Queer Woman of Color, my relationships have always been deemed ‘deviant’ in some capacity, love has always required an enormous amount of courage and a deep resiliency through violence. I think about Brandon Wint’s words “Not queer like gay. Queer like escaping definition. Queer like some sort of fluidity and limitlessness at once. Queer like a freedom too strong to be conquered. Queer like the fearlessness to imagine what love can look like… and pursue it.” I am definitely about celebrating all those things we have been taught to be ashamed of by people who don’t respect or value us. I’m proud of the many intersections I sit at, my femininity, my queerness, my Blackness and although systemically they are targeted, inherently all of these attributes are powerful.
I have been on this ongoing journey of exploring and reclaiming my femininity as a source of power. It inspires and encourages me to see black femmes, like yourself, who are boldly embracing femininity. What does "femme" mean to you? In your opinion, what makes black femme existence/identity so powerful?
I spent a lot of my early teens after living through so much abuse already trying to prove I wasn’t like the other girls. I wasn’t into pink, I didn’t like anything that was considered ‘girly’. What I realized I was doing was just wishing my femininity away because I had experienced so much violence being sexualized as a little girl. I felt if I distanced my self from my femme - ness, it would keep me safe. I was buying into the multiple stereotypes that says that women cannot be intelligent or taken seriously while being feminine. Not to mention the racialized sexism that denies Black girls of our girlhood. Even coming into queer community, masculine folks wouldn’t believe I was queer because of how ‘femme’ I was. The visibility of other Black femmes made me more possible, it affirmed to me we have a legacy and a right to be here and to show up as we are. Femme for me looks like so many complicated, beautiful things and is self defined and community grown. There is a difference between someone who I might define as being descriptively femme (based on my own subjectivity) and someone who is politically femme and identifies as such. It’s not limited by gender, ability or background. My femme is very much short skirts, pushup bras and acrylics and I am also an avid climber and a long time camper. Femme for me isn’t about the boundaries, but about the possibilities. Black femmes are amazing. I have been raised up by kind Black femmes of all ages in community. It is radical for us to love each other, affirm each other and be present in so many invaluable community organizations.
A lot of your work centers around creating space for black femmes to celebrate ourselves and one another and to just be excellent and visible, which is a part of of my personal vision of liberation for black femmes/feminine of center beings. What does liberation for black femmes look like to you?
It looks like spaces that are collectively defined and responding to the needs of the femmes present. I recently led a retreat for women of color who work in Sexual Assault Centers and I led a body affirming yoga class, led them in meditation, talked about barrier and challenges in their work and we ended the day by playing in the sea. It centered around consent, reflection, communication and care. These are the spaces that feel liberating for me and where I have felt that reflection from others. These are the retreat spaces I have been hosting and co hosting for years. Catherine Hernandez is a phenomenal femme of color who has hosted retreats like these at her home and healed us with her cooking.
Liberation looks like childcare, and affordable housing. It looks like compassionate health care for trans & cis femmes, it looks like safety in the clubs and in our homes. It feels like space, accountability and an end to toxic masculinity.
Do you identify as a witch? if so, what is your interpretation of what it means to be a witch?
Bad Dominicana on Twitter posted this tweet the other day "latinamericanas are all brujas curanderas. every time someones ill, our friends and fam from DR, PR, peru, etc. send herbs, leaves, concoctions.”
I identify with this so much. Mi abeula was a bruja, she had the ability to mix anything we needed for our healing. Her intuition and her senses were deeply heightened and I have learned so much from her. For me identifying as a bruja is about connecting to my birthright and that practice of creating healing for myself and others in f. I have femme bruja tattooed on my chest as a reminder to trust both my femininity and my magic. As an Arawak woman, the genocide was brutal which reminds me of that insta quote “We are the granddaughters of the witches you did not burn.'
What is one of your favorite rituals?
Putting my makeup on and taking it off. It’s a time I can enter into a creative meditative space where I take the time to be artful and expressive.
Who are some black femme witches/artists/visionaries that inspire you?
Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Zahira (Bad Dominicana) Mary, D’bi Young,
Mary Senyonga who is in LA with the Femmes Of Color Collective
What current projects from yourself or other black femmes are you excited about lately?
I would say all the femmes I just mentioned are up to such brilliance, from genius Twitter’s,
to life changing books and award winning plays. Check them all out.
You can find out what I am up to next on my website KimKatrinMilan.com and
find out where I am and what I am working towards on instagram ‘theladymilan’.
Warm, entertaining and inclusive, Kim Katrin Milan is a powerful speaker igniting conferences, universities & corporate training sessions on
human rights considerations and communications.
Kim is the co-founder and Executive Director of The People Project; an initiative to bring forth local and international community development for queer and trans folks of color and their allies, through alternative education, art-activism, and collaboration. She is also one of the owners of the Glad Day Book Shop, the oldest LGBT bookstore in the world.
As an educator, Kim travels around the world talking to people about justice, equity, and human rights. One of the most fundamental things she shares is a reframing of the golden rule. The golden rule suggests that we should treat other people the way that we want to be treated. That might seem simple enough, but it assumes that there is a standard for other people’s experiences. Instead, she encourages audiences to treat people the way they want to be treated, which means we have to ask.
A passionate speaker, Kim is dedicated to inclusivity and invested in arousing a sense of curiosity and empathy in her audience. She uniquely weaves together the historical context, statistical analysis, as well as current events. She is a dynamic speaker, invested in the issues and inspiring in her approach to solutions. By focusing on small meaningful actions and choices, she makes creating large scale change accessible.
A public researcher, consultant and human rights educator, she has shared hundreds of unique resources and presentations around intersectional issues including race, ability & gender. As a social entrepreneur, she speaks to the opportunities and challenges for women in business and leadership roles. With great openness, she welcomes difficult conversations hosting community dialogues and sharing practical strategies around ‘Sexuality & Consent’, ‘Queer & Trans Allyship’ and ‘AntiRacism & Equity’.
Working as a media based consultant, she was part of the creative team for the #asktransfolks project – developed in New York City, as part of a global collaboration between non-profit creative collective Papel & Caneta; innovation catalyst Mesa.do; FLAGCX—a network of creative companies part of IPG.Previous Mesas have included individuals like Kobe Bryant. The team included some of the most outstanding creatives in the industry including the Chief Creative Officer at GOOD as well as key individuals fighting for positive change for the trans community of color.
A queer womyn married to a transgender man, she has hosted events for the United Nations, acted as the Grand Marshall for Hudson, NY Pride, and hosted the opening night Black Lives Matter panel at the Art Gallery of Toronto. She’s hosted Laverne Cox at Supporting Our Youth for an LGBTQ youth-centered dialogue. And, Kim has contributed to Cosmopolitan, MTV, NBC, Larry King Now, Buzzfeed and the CBC both independently and alongside her husband Tiq Milan.