It’s going to take more than a month to make the young queer black kid see themselves reflected within the LGBTQ community.
More than 31 days to end racism on the scene. 745 hours won’t do it if we want to unpick the negative impact of hyper-masculinity, damaging colonial hangover legislation in some of our countries of origin and dated drag queens who don’t make us feel safe in our ‘safe spaces’.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love Black History Month, and this isn’t a hot take suggesting it should be abolished and that every month should be Black History Month.
I think it’s important that we do have a time just for us. A time dedicated to celebrate, remember and explore identity. As I get older I understand its importance more, how what I’d been taught in school skipped a few chapters, the pages had been stuck together and I’d missed parts about the people who looked like me. I look back on that boy growing up.
Brown face, white area and sexually confused to top it off. I was a minority within a minority. I didn’t see those visible role models and it made me feel alone.
That’s why now I’m happy with who I am. I try to be as visible as possible. It filled me with pride to be featured in Black History Month Magazine last year. I cried the morning of Pride in London bcause I was so overwhelmed to be front and centre of the march with my fellow Stonewall staff and supporters. It meant the world to me to come together and be part of a family at Black Pride the following day.
This month I got my life at Mykki Blanco’s gig, a masterclass in showmanship, lyrical dexterity and being authentically yourself. Earlier this year the rapper challenged the LGBT press on its cis white focus and dearth of black queer faces. This month Mykki is on the cover of Gay Times, defiant, beautiful and being recognised for their significance.
In the same breath, on the cover of the fellow LGBT title Attitude, sits the amazing homegrown talent that is MNEK, who just a few weeks ago at the Attitude Awards spoke so articulately about being visible in his perfect powder pink suit and baby blue nails. Iconic.
The hope is that by being visible, someone feeling as lonely as I sometimes did in my own identity, may relate and get strength from that. It might empower them to feel confident, maybe even visible too, if they are safe to and feel ready and able.
I think what will be interesting though, is whether a brown face will grace the cover again in between now and next October. We exist all year round and should be celebrated all year round.
Being visible is only part of the solution though, being out to everyone isn’t always everyone’s path. For some that is not their biggest or only concern. Discrimination is.
It’s been well reported that LGBT hate crime has surged since Brexit. BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) LGBT people often suffer dual or multi-layered discrimination. We are more likely to be in the firing line, verbally and physically.
Abuse doesn’t have to come in shouts and slaps though.
Racist and exclusionary lines like ‘No chocolate, no curry, no rice, no spice’, and racial fetishizing on dating apps can leave a lasting impression on your self-esteem.
Being rejected or pushed into a type of fantasy that isn’t yours because of the colour of your skin has an impact on your self-worth, how you see yourself and how others may see you.
This summer I went to a conference discussing some of these themes held by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organisation (IGLYO). I gained strength from connecting with activists from across the world, I was humbled by their stories and I realised that we face many of the same challenges.
Discrimination is unrelenting and far reaching, it makes life that much worse and we are all responsible for challenging it head on. Sexism isn’t a women’s problem, racism isn’t the problem of ethnic minorities, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia isn’t the LGBT community’s problem.
These things are all our problems and it will take efforts from all of us to end discrimination. And we can’t just do that in 31 days.