OMISADE BURNEY-SCOTT WELCOMES YOU TO THE MENOPAUSAL MULTIVERSE
Get to know the creator and activist behind Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Omisade Burney-Scott — or Omi as her beloved community calls her — has become the muse of menopause. With her multimedia project Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause, Omi is destigmatizing the relationship between aging and the body by curating an intentional, intergenerational platform centering Black women, femmes, and gender-expansive individuals over 50. Through vulnerable conversations around shame, pleasure, and transitions, the lightworker merges her leadership, humor, and style to inspire others to rise above every limitation set on them by society. Here’s our gem-filled chat with Omi.
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF BLACK GIRL’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING MENOPAUSE?
At Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause, we are clear that the narrative and culture work we are doing has to center people at the margins. We are unapologetically centering Black voices, all Black voices: Cis-hetero, transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, older, midlife, and younger. There are so many assumptions about who and when people will experience [menopause], but this is a life transformation that everybody who has a uterus and ovaries will go through.
How diverse that experience is [depends on] who that person is and their intersectional identity. It’s not just about their age; it’s where they live and their racial identity, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, and class. [It’s also] what do they do for a living? Who do they live with? Are they salaried or making an hourly wage? Are they unemployed? Are they formerly incarcerated? Are they differently able? Are they neurodivergent? All these things impact their menopausal experiences.
HOW DO DISCUSSIONS ON MENOPAUSE SUPPORT BLACK LIBERATION?
The menopause landscape and ecosystem has been emerging over the last five to seven years – and we are dismantling and disaggregating all of these messages about our bodies, period. I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care if you’re 10 or 90 years old. What is the message that you are receiving about your body, your understanding of your body, and how do you feel at home inside of your body?
And that body sovereignty is always in question for Black bodies. Are you the expert of your body? No, absolutely not. Do you experience pain? Of course you don’t. Should you be afforded a humanizing experience whether you are giving birth, having an operation, or walking down the street to get a snack? Absolutely not. [As a Black person], your body sovereignty is always in question and it gets exacerbated as you get older. We’ve learned a lot over these past four years of doing the podcast and interviewing people – and the really persistent narrative has been, “I don’t always feel seen” or “I don’t always feel supported by my healthcare provider.” People struggle and fight to be seen and to receive emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental support as they are going through a life transformation.
HOW DO YOU HOLD CONVERSATIONS ABOUT AGEISM IN YOUR COMMUNITY?
There are a lot of narratives out there about what you are able to do, how you’re supposed to show up, what you offer to the world, and what the world offers you as you get older. That’s ageism, and it is very much gendered and racialized. Who continues to hold value as they get older is dictated by these systems. Still, it’s not useful for me to start with some meta-analysis about systemic oppression [in conversations.]
I ask the question, “What do you want?” What do you wanna do? What are the things that can protect you from what you’re experiencing? Who are your allies? What are the policies? If I’m talking to a friend who doesn’t do any work around social justice, [we talk about] feeling like they’re not being invested in, or are being pushed out [at work] or inside personal relationships. As a Black southern woman, we get relegated to loving Jesus and our grandbabies and can’t experience pleasure or sexual intimacy. So [we talk about] reclaiming our bodies.
YOU BUILT THIS ORGANIZATION ON YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH MENOPAUSE. HOW DID YOU LEARN TO FEEL EMPOWERED IN YOUR VULNERABILITY?
I unconsciously started creating masks to keep myself safe from racism, patriarchy, and misogynoir. I got good at orchestrating and creating what my public persona [would] be to protect my tender parts. I [was] picking and choosing who gets access to my authentic self. I still think boundaries are important, but I was doing that in a much more heightened [way.] Throughout my teens, twenties, thirties, and the first part of my forties, my masks were pretty solidly intact. A couple of things started to shift and allow me to see it wasn’t healthy. There are some masks I’m never going to give up because they [are] tools for survival in this place.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT MADE YOU SHIFT TO VULNERABILITY?
I definitely feel like my parents’ transition was a part of it. I don’t have parents physically, and I still want nurturing and parenting. I love deep intergenerational relationships and I was like, If I’m going to be loved up on and supported by people, I need to make a decision around how I’m going to allow myself to be more vulnerable.
Also, going through a transition of being married, then not being married, and having a child go off to college was a really intense transition. [And all of this was] happening inside of the context of me being a perimenopausal person and then a menopausal person.
WHAT SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT YOUR MENOPAUSAL JOURNEY?
This feels like the reset button. If there are things I don’t wanna do, I can just stop doing that. A lot of what I’m saying to my friends and what my friends are saying to me is like, You know what? I’m just not gonna do that anymore. I’m not gonna work here anymore. I’m not gonna be in this relationship anymore. I’m gonna sell my house. You just wake up, and there’s no big speech or fanfare. It’s just like, I’m gonna do that.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE ABOUT LEADING THEIR LIFE WITH CONVICTION, NO MATTER WHAT AGE OR TRANSITION?
Please be gentle and kind to yourself. We are very hard on ourselves. I think a lot of people move into the world with a silent narrative about what they deserve and who they get to be. And if those narratives are not positive. Figure out where this narrative comes from or invite the narrative to cease.
WHAT’S YOUR HIGHEST VISION FOR YOURSELF?
My highest self feels completely and utterly in love with being at home in her body. And that extends to me being happy, content, and feeling safe. When I have those things, the sky’s the limit around what I’m able to do, who I’m able to be in a relationship with, and how I’m able to express myself. My highest self is like, I’m taking care of that. This is your body, beloved. Be at home inside your body. Take care of it.
WHAT IS YOUR HIGHEST VISION FOR YOUR WORK?
We tend to say menopause is like the dark side of the moon, and I want anyone who finds themselves on the dark side of the moon to see our base camp. We’ve got this bright, beautiful, glamping base camp with a tricked-out Winnebago. We got snacks, good food, good music, and soft things. You can wrap yourself up and know that you’re not by yourself.
WHAT’S YOUR PATH AS A LIGHTWORKER?
My path as a lightworker is to illuminate, to warm, and to ask the questions that you already know the answers to.
How can you love your body through every phase? Share your body ritual or affirmations in the comments!