In a 2018 report, Stonewall highlighted that despite being twice as likely as white LGBT people to attend LGBT events, half of BAME LGBT people have experienced discrimination in their LGBT communities based on their ethnicity. In the report, Dalia, 32, tells us that the ‘largely white attended and white-led’ nature of these events, along with ‘casual racism… in ‘LGBT bars and clubs’, makes LGBT events ‘feel exclusive’: ‘feelings of being the visible other aren’t nice’.
In a YouTube video, Alex Leon explains the “double discrimination” faced by QTIPOC, as they overcome homophobia only to experience racism in the LGBT community. A Vogue article interviewed five queer black women about experiences of double discrimination and their sense of community in UK Black Pride. The women explained how people just aren’t used to seeing black lesbians, especially masculine presenting ones, due to a lack of representation. Furthermore, less progressive attitudes in the black African community obscure black queer senses of visibility even further. Black Pride is a real source of community and togetherness for these women. A tight knit queer black community in the UK enables a culture of common experience, sharing, and love for one another, free from stigma and discrimination.
Just as the LGBTQ rights movement has been historically whitewashed, so has Pride Month often felt white, gay-centred. However, events like UK Black Pride and Glitter Cymru offer spaces of QTIPOC visibility and celebration. Another criticism of Pride is the so-called ‘rainbow capitalism’, as corporations commodify Pride, which shallowly centres on the needs of black and brown LGBT people without really fulfilling them. According to Da’Shaun Harrison, non-binary abolitionist campaigner, and 100+ LGBT civil rights leaders, an end to white supremacy is ‘integral to the objective of full equality for LGBTQ people’. With people like Harrison voicing the needs of QTIPOC, there is hope.
The solidarity does not end there. LGBTQ+ Stem advocates for queer and trans inclusion in STEM fields, and reminds us of the radical activism at the hands of trans POC, without which Pride could not exist, noting that we have to dig to learn about these activists, like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Stonewall has been whitewashed, and so has our understanding of queer history, and this continues to whitewash our understanding of the queer experience. It is not discussed that the HIV epidemic still harms black LGBTQ people at much higher rates than other demographics. This is symptomatic of the QTIPOC struggle due to the double discrimination they face. In fact, we can see this again right now, through the disproportionate impact of COVID-10 on BAME communities. (Please sign this letter and donate here to support QTIPOC lives during the pandemic). When we celebrate Pride Month, we must do our part to celebrate all LGBTQ lives, and address the issues facing them.
Human rights activist Peter Tatchell explains the aims of the Gay Liberation Front when it was formed in 1970; they sought ‘an inclusive queer utopia’, and coordinated with female, POC, and workers liberation movements to effect ‘fundamental social change’ in unity with ‘all oppressed people’. Tatchell tells us that Pride has been ‘mainstreamed’. Similarly, Barbara Smith criticises the singular focus of queer activists on being queer, ignoring any intersectionality. In a New York Times piece, she explains how despite best efforts for diversity and inclusivity, the LGBTQ community continues to marginalise people of colour. She argues that ‘unless we eradicate the systemic oppressions that undermine the lives of the majority of LGBTQ people, we will never achieve queer liberation’. In short, no one is free until we are all free.
In 1992 it was proposed by the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance that Oregon voters should reverse the civil rights achieved by the LGBT community. Ballot Number 9 stated ‘all governments in Oregon may not use their monies or properties to promote, encourage, or facilitate homosexuality’, and that schools must teach that homosexuality is ‘abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse’. It has been argued that those opposing the political campaign that spanned a decade failed in part because it did not form coalitions with people of colour. Coalitions would have made a large enough majority to block these proposals and prevent the subsequent rise in homophobic hate crime. This is just one example the importance of inclusion of the voices of POC, and how their support is vital to creating positive change.
In 2002, a group of queer white students wrote about the importance of sexuality/race intersectionality, arguing that by failing to value certain marginalised identities, identity-based movements fail undermine their own ambition of social justice. A hopeful display of intersectionality came in 2017, as a new Pride flag was introduced that incorporated brown and black stripes, with the aim of representing BAME LGBT experiences. This was a reflection on the routine racism that QTIPOC faced in the Philadelphia LGBT community at the time, but the new flag itself provoked further division. White gay men argued that the original flag represented unity regardless of ethnicity, but these critics failed to realise the visibility and celebration that the new flag represented for QTIPOC. That summer, queer spaces in Philadelphia underwent mandatory anti-discrimination training, with the City Council introducing further legal measures against those who were found to be discriminating against POC. This flag has been adopted en masse worldwide, as it featured as the official flag of Manchester Pride 2019. This QTIPOC flag, along with Daniel Quasar’s trans inclusionary Pride flag from 2018, emphasises voices that have gone unheard for far too long.
QTIPOC face double discrimination in so many facets of their lives, and find themselves in what should be safe spaces, that are in fact exclusionary and discriminatory. By creating unique spaces for QTIPOC expression and celebration, and including language of race in our discourse of sexuality and gender identity, we can progress further against racism and homophobia. By identifying the double discrimination faced by QTIPOC, we move further in eradicating both types of discrimination that they face.