Pride 2022: Non-Binary Martial Artist Practices Self-Expression Through Kung Fu, Gender Identity | Our America: Who I’m Meant to Be

CHICAGO – Everyone has layers that contribute to who they are. Whether you are a mother and a teacher or a doctor and an artist, who you are is partly shaped by your experiences.

This Pride Month, a young Chicagoan showed us how he became who he was meant to be.

“Kung Fu is an integral part of my self-expression,” Ashante Shomari said.

Martial arts are more than a hobby for Shomari; they are the embodiment of mixed worlds.

“I think that’s what’s really beautiful about martial arts is that you have the martial, the harder kind of aspect, and then the arts, the softer kind of aspect.” they stated.

Martial arts have been part of Shomari’s life since childhood. Just as the practices are demonstrations of skills, Shomari said the art is an extension of an intersectional space where they feel safe to simply exist.

Shomari said they started identifying as non-binary in their early twenties. Non-binary, as defined by Merriam-Webster, describes a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither fully male nor fully female.

“I don’t really know how to get any simpler than that,” Shomari said.

Shomari exists in multiple worlds as a black person, person on the autism spectrum, and person who identifies as queer.

“I come out as female or female, and now all of a sudden I’m the target of violence all the time. I’m already the target of violence just as a black person,” they said.

But Shomari finds beauty in accepting who they are meant to be.

“What’s my fondest memory? I don’t want to be cliché, but honestly, it’s almost like a rite of passage to be part of a float in the Pride Parade,” Shomari said. “There was a time when I felt like these were my people. This is my city. This is my community. And I’m not alone. Not that I feel that way today. But at the time, I felt so much like that. I think that’s why the parade is so important because we have so few opportunities like that, to be free and between us.”

This Pride month, Shomari said he wants people to think more deeply about the alliance.

They say one way for others to support LGBTQIA+ people is to foster meaningful relationships with community members.

The LGBTQIA+ community is not a monolith. It is multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional and multi-dimensional. This Pride Month, we’re celebrating members of this diverse community in a special series called Our America: Who I’m Meant to Be. Click here for more stories from your city and the country.

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