I had always thought of water as a way to cleanse, whether that was a physical cleaning (such as a bath or mopping the floors) or a metaphorical one (walking through the rain in a novel or film, symbolizing a change). However, reading Tinsley’s article “Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic” gave me a very new and different perspective on water. Tinsley quotes M. Jacqie Alexander, saying, “Water overflows with memory . . . Emotional memory. Bodily memory. Sacred memory” (194). This made me consider water not as a way to wash “stuff” (dirt, memories, or emotions) away, but as a substance that is imbued with the very things left behind by a cleansing.
Water is no longer just the positive element it had been to me; this article showed me the deep, dark aspects to it that were encountered with crossing the Atlantic. There are, to this day, a lot of secrets held in that water, like the bodies of the people that died during crossing and the confidences that they held. The water saw the queering of peoples, times, and feelings, and in a sense, exemplifies the very fluidity embodied in the slaves going from their world to a new one.
In a way, all of the soon-to-be slaves on board the ships crossing the Atlantic were queer, just as Tinsley said. Whether their actions, feelings, or entire beings were queer, nothing about them was as it had been before. They were all together in “a common sea of queerness” (204) during (and, in some cases, after as well) their journeys out of Africa. This united them forever, despite what else might happen—they would always have the shared experience of crossing.
The concept of queer that Tinsley writes about in this piece is one that does not get mentioned as often as other types of queer. Why is that? If being queer is about being “the other” (which it seems to be from our readings and discussions), then aren’t we all queer somehow? If this is the case, we should study all types of queer more thoroughly.