What More Can We Do to Support Queer People of Color?Creatives speak on the intersection of Black and POC history, culture and Pride.
In June, many parts of the world supported Black Lives Matter and Pride month — two movements that are intrinsically connected. Queer history owes itself to Black culture and pioneers, and Black people have historically fought for queer rights. There are various defining moments in queer Black and POC (People of Color) history; a Black trans woman — Marsha P. Johnson — threw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots. The act led to a series of demonstrations that paved the way for the gay liberation movement of the ‘70s and ‘80s. James Baldwin, the pioneering American writer, spent much of his literary and activist career educating readers about Black and queer identity; his 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room details an American man’s feelings and frustrations with his relationships with other men, while Another Country addresses bisexuality, interracial relationships and extramarital affairs.
A seismic shift is happening in our culture. Black people and POC have fought for justice for hundreds of years — from the abolitionist movements that led to the end of slavery, to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013. However, only recently did a greater part of the world shake up following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Belly Mujinga, Ahmaud Aubrey and more. People around the world have come together in the fight for racial justice, marching in the thousands at protests and donating to funds for those murdered as well as organizations such as the Black Lives Matter organization. There’s also been a rising level of support for Black-owned businesses, and for reading literature to educate ourselves.
Despite this recent upheaval, there’s still much to do. There is marginalization within marginalized communities, as queer POC in both the LGBTQ+ community and the Black community continue to face discrimination. “Hetero Black folk need to prioritize deconstructing their internalized misogyny which will assist with dismantling transphobic and homophobic attitudes,” writer and editor Chidozie Obasi told HYPEBEAST.
Homophobic and racists attituded towards Black trans women too often lead to conflict, or murder. In recent weeks, Black trans women have faced increased violence; Iyanna Dior was violently beaten in Minneapolis, while two other trans women, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton, were murdered. Fifteen-thousand people marched through Brooklyn in solidarity with Black trans people on June 14 and trans rights activists continue to demand justice for these women, and yet only an arrest warrant has been issued for Fells’ murderer.
Supporting Pride needs to mean supporting the Black community, and vice versa. Queer, Trans, Intersex, Black People & People of Color (QTIBPOC) are as much a part of the LGBTQ+ community as their white counterparts.
The question then is, how should those who celebrate and support Pride do the same for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of their race — and not just for the month of June? To highlight how to better support queer people of color, now and always, HYPEBEAST spoke to a diverse range of creatives on the intersection of racial justice, equality for all, and LGBTQ+ rights.
KC Ortiz, rapper: We, as Black queer artists, just want to have the same opportunities to tell our stories and share our art. Especially in hip-hop, queer artists rarely ever get a voice or platform. You have 1,000 rappers out there talking about the exact same thing on every song, yet our unique stories of overcoming, triumph, navigating through life’s obstacles are often overlooked and left in the shadows.
We want the same opportunities to be heard, to be seen, to be recognized. We want our talents to be showcased. When in most cases through our life experiences we have more to bring to the table. We shouldn’t have to wait for Pride month, or some special holiday to be celebrated. We should receive the same coverage and promotion as our straight counterparts year-round. Our talents and gifts should be on display, our sexual orientation or gender identity shouldn’t stuff us into a box that only gets taken out once or twice a year.
Jonny Woo, writer, actor, drag queen and co-owner of The Glory, London: I can really only share what I am doing and how I am changing my practice as an artist, curator, and venue owner to honor my pledge to do better and actively work to build a fully integrated society and community. It’s up to me now to pull my finger out and show an interest and show up and support work being made by BAME queer artists and introduce myself and say, “I’m interested in your work and I have a space you can use and a business which can support what you do.” As artists, we are largely obsessed with telling our own stories, and it’s not my role to tell someone else’s but where I can invite queer POCs and let them share my platform and the opportunities that I am given.
Essie Buckman, fashion designer, FORTIE LABEL: I completely understand and champion the importance of intersectionality as Black Trans Lives Matter and Black Women Matter which, in my opinion, is even more prevalent as these communities are considered the lowest on the totem pole in our society globally and have been for centuries. The absolute lowest. I feel the goal here is actually for caucasian cis men and women, and other races that hold certain privileges that the Black and LGBTQIA community don’t, is to in fact show up and show out as 100 percent allies. It is in fact their duty to uphold and uplift the Black and LGBTQIA community because these groups have done enough to uplift themselves and educate and protect what’s been built so far.
I strongly feel that the Black and LGBTQIA community should rather gear their attention towards focusing on fixing the trauma within their own communities. There is a lot that needs to be worked out, whether it be Black men having absolutely no respect for Black women, light skin versus dark skin privilege, gays who are anti-trans. The list goes on. I think Pride month and Black History month are fine but the time is for action, the time is to vote and encourage the youth to vote. The time is to protect our own communities and champion smart, powerful, and coherent allyship.
Charles Jeffrey, fashion designer, Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY: The biggest thing for myself and my own journey of education through this movement is reigning through. This is the idea of using my white privilege to speak out, and educate those that need educating. It’s so easy to post a status to show your allyship online however confronting people in your friendship group or your family or your workplace who may think differently to the movement is important. Having awkward conversations and taking care to make them effective, not an excuse for an argument.
I also think it’s important to understand how you learn in the best way. I find it difficult to read because of my dyslexia, however, there are plenty of audiobooks and movies and videos out there that you can sink into to educate yourself and share with others. All in all, it’s about creating energy around the actions that you do moving forward that allows for effectiveness, keeping love at the forefront.
Chidozie Obasi, writer and editor: Black LGBTQ+ folk have a legacy of and continue to uplift wider Black communities and non-Black LGBTQ+ communities — unfortunately without recognition most of the time. Firstly, I think it’s really on POC and white LGBTQ+ people to come through with the same level of consistent support and action they have been shown throughout the ages by queer Black people; redistribution of wealth, calling out anti-Black racism and not gentrifying Black culture among other things, are important starting points. Secondly, hetero Black folk need to prioritize deconstructing their internalized misogyny which will assist with dismantling transphobic and homophobic attitudes; I think this is the best way for them to support queer Black folk.
Emeric Tchatchoua, founder and creative director, 3.PARADIS: The key to liberation is empathy, knowledge, and wisdom. Black people, POC and LGBTQIA+ communities need to keep educating themselves and others around them about the social oppression and injustice not only in America but all over the world. Knowing the past opens the door to a better future. We should all consistently stand united against social and systemic inequity, but we have to keep in mind that this is a long fight that has started decades ago (if not centuries ago).
We are currently fighting against a system, against beliefs that are so deeply embedded in the collective psyche and social institutions. These issues won’t be solved overnight, we have to keep on fighting against injustice at all times, keep on knocking on the doors of love and empathy, and never give up. Always fight and keep a leap of faith. A gorgeous wine takes time to mature. A flower takes time to bloom. A mountain needed time to form. It’s more about evolution than revolution.
Miss Jason, creator and face of Jason’s Closet: It starts with listening to us. Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia weren’t invented by the Black community but it’s something that over time has been ingrained into our culture. But Black lives can only matter when all Black Lives Matter. Until every Black person is willing to be accountable for each other there won’t be progress. Progress comes when as a people we can understand that there is nothing wrong with embracing your masculinity and your femininity. I personally have no problem with expressing either and the hope would be that in this quarantine period people are reading and exposing themselves to the information that’s already out there. Empathy, acceptance, and compassion are ways in which we can make a start in uplifting each other. Also, a message to cis straight men… not everyone’s checking for you boo!
Kai-Isaiah Jamal, poet, activist: It is vital for the Black community right now to understand the importance of intersectionality, how someone can exist in many segments of society which should never mean they have to opt-out of their blackness in order to celebrate their queerness. In an epidemic of violence towards marginalized groups it is key to recognize our privileges, may that be in gender, sexuality, access, platforms, etc., and use them to help those who have not been afforded those same privileges.
Pride in so many ways has been co-opted and monetized by brands and major companies so it is extremely important to keep that energy of uplifting, supporting, and protecting even after the rainbows have been stripped from window displays and the streets are no longer dusted with glitter. Include Black trans models to your casting, hire LGBTQIA+ individuals into top tier roles, donate to queer funds and charities, pass the mic to someone to tell their authentic truth. There are so many other days in the year that we are in danger, left out of conversations, not given a seat at the table. Our blackness or our queerness or our transness doesn’t stop, disappear or finish, so our support also cannot.
Rasharn Agyemang, creative director, stylist, photographer: I think we really need to focus more on black queer POCs in the media, showing more affection, love and compassion – something I’m not used to seeing much when it comes to black people in the media, and especially gay POC. I understand it’s important to talk truthfully and openly about things that are affecting the community but at the same time, there are many wonderful things about being an openly gay man – not always the story of abuse, or fear, and loneliness. I would love for the next generation to not be scared of coming out to their families and friends. I think we have seen the gay experience from the white person’s perspective for so long it’s time to tell other stories. It’s time to use our voices and include each other as it’s the only way we will be able to learn more about one another.
Nathaniel Cole, co-founder, Swim Dem Crew: We must create with those people in our minds and give them space. Before we think about how something we say or do affects us, we must ask ourselves how others will feel from those actions. Accessibility and openness shouldn’t be an afterthought to make sure all people are satisfied or unoffended, and the funny thing is, you don’t have to have those questions when you create openly in the first place. At Swim Dem Crew, we recently asked for more space to do what we want to do, which is to swim and expand our community. If you’re someone that fits into what is considered “normal” in a cis-gendered, heteronormative, capitalist, white supremacist society, you must give space to those people that don’t have that privilege. They are the people that society and the system aren’t built for.
Give Queer People of Color time and space to grow, explore and most importantly exist because it is our actions as privileged people, that directly affect their existence and that won’t change until we change. What does that support look like? It works in a variety of ways. It can be donating to initiatives that are already doing work to help Queer People of Color like the Exist Loudly Fund or the Black LGBTQIA+ Therapy Fund for instance. It can be specifically employing QPOC to address a disparity in the workforce, work with QPOC regularly, let them tell their stories, and don’t pigeonhole them into solely talking about their oppression as well. Support is also about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, being uncomfortable occupying all the space, all the time and all the resources, and redistributing that to truly level the playing field.
Sippin’ T, co-founder BBZ, a Black queer art and DJ collective: Black LGBTQ+ folk have a legacy of and continue to, uplift wider black communities and non-Black LGBTQ+ communities, unfortunately without recognition most of the time. Firstly, I think it’s really on POC and white LGBTQ+ people to come through with the same level of consistent support and action they have been shown throughout the ages by queer Black people; redistribution of wealth, calling out anti-Black racism and not gentrifying Black culture among other things, are important starting points. Secondly, hetero Black folk need to prioritize deconstructing their internalized misogyny which will assist with dismantling transphobic and homophobic attitudes; I think this is the best way for them to support queer Black folk.