Ain't I A Woman Collective

Centring the Voices of Women with African Ancestry

Interview with Jacq Applebee

Our editor Ella Achola speaks with writer Jacq Applebee about erotic fiction, (bi)sexuality and womanism.


Ella: Who is Jacq Applebee?

Jacq: I’m a black, bisexual and polyamorous person. I describe myself as mostly female now but I’ve questioned gender even though I’m fine with pronouns such as she and her, and I’m okay with being described as a woman most of the time. I’m a writer of erotic fiction but stopped in 2014 and started doing zines. I’m also doing a lot of poetry and incorporating that into the activism that I do, which is pretty much exclusively about QTIPOC (Queer, Trans, Intersex, People of Colour) and bisexual people of colour.

Ella: What does your activism look like?

Jacq: I co-founded a website with my friend Camel, Bisexuals of Colour, and we have meet-ups on the second Saturday of every month. Bis of Colour has been going since 2010 but we only started doing meet-ups recently. We also go around the country and get invited to give talks. The other day I had a talk with an East London health authority on bisexuality. They had a LGBTQ History Month event and when I went in there were lots of posters from Stonewall saying “Some people are gay. Get over it” and other posters saying “Gay, gay, gay, gay, gay” but nothing about bisexual people at all. I looked at what little resources they had and they were all white so I had a variety of different bisexual leaflets and flyers that I put out and I spoke about being bisexual, being a person of colour and having physical and mental health issues. I got a lot of great feedback after that and I was invited back. I think it was the head of the health authority who said she thought she was pretty progressive but realised she didn’t know anything about bisexuality.

Ella: Could you tell us a little more about why you set up Bis of Colour?

Jacq: LGBT communities are very white and bisexual communities are incredibly white, middle-class and academic as well. Every year there’s an event called BiCon, which is a weekender and like the bisexual Christmas (laughs). It’s a convention/festival and they move around the country every year. There are workshops and sessions during the day and parties and cheesy discos at night. I’ve been going since 2007 and it can be a fantastic meet-up but it can also be quite isolating. The people who run it change every year and in 2009 one of the organisers started making racist and Islamophobic jokes and comments on the official BiCon website. So when I and Camel raised this, he said “Oh, I’m not racist. I teach English as a foreign language.” I’ve seen similar things like this happen a lot and we just felt sick of it. So we said we wanted to create a safe space for people of colour and that includes people of mixed heritage as well. Since 2010 we’ve had sessions at every BiCon, this year we started having meet-ups in Stratford Circus in East London, and we’ve also been up and down the country talking about our experiences. We’ve been at Black Pride as well for most years and often when we go to big LGBT events we are the only people there who mention bisexuality, not just black bisexuality, but bisexuality full stop.

Ella: What’s your vision for Bis of Colour?

Jacq: Well, I’m hoping that we can have a conference or a festival not just for bis of colour but for all queer, trans, intersex people of colour because there’s nothing like that in the UK. Sometimes it just feels so isolating knowing there all these things happening in America but none of them come over here since it’s quite expensive and likewise it’s difficult to go over there.

Ella: And moving on to your writing, what is unique about your erotic fiction that you didn’t feel was out there before?

Jacq: I never saw anyone remotely like myself in the erotic fiction that I read. It was a hundred percent American so the few stories with black people in them would be black Americans. There was just nobody like myself. I saw a call for submissions once from a UK publisher, I think it was Black Lace, and it said “We’re looking for fiction that does not include:” and it was a whole list that was pretty much describing me. It was just so negative and I thought “That’s just ridiculous. Aren’t I allowed to have fun? Aren’t I allowed to have something positive?” So I wrote a lot of fiction that had disabled people and people of colour in it, and I made sure that even if they were white they would be eastern European, and people who were working class or poor. One of my most successful ones got into the Best Women’s Erotica anthology twice. It was about a black woman who’s always had an appreciation for skinheads and even though they embodied fascism, skinheads also came out in the music scene in the UK. It was about how she could maintain strength and put that strength over somebody who she’s supposed to be scared of, so to dominate the white skinhead guy. That was one of my really popular stories. I’ve also gotten into DIVA Magazine in the UK and Hustler Magazine in the States, which was a big surprise for me.

Ella: And lastly, do you consider yourself a feminist?

Jacq: I consider myself a womanist right now and that’s changed recently. It took me a very long time to call myself a feminist because all the things I saw about feminists were just so depressing. They were transphobic, anti-sex work, always white. I like calling myself a womanist now because it’s a very black thing and there may be no difference between me and a feminist, wanting justice for women, but womanist is a word I feel I can identify with a lot more. It is American but there are a lot of things that are American and I prefer it to no label. Labels can be oppressive but they can also be empowering, and I really like the word womanist.


Jacq’s sexuality blog:

Jacq’s writing site:

Bi’s of colour tumblr:

Twitter: @bisofcolour



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