Let’s start out with a quick story (most interesting articles begin that way). Being a member of the LGBTQQIP2SAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two spirited, asexual, allies) I never really had a coming out story. For me, when it came to expressing who I truly was, I would only really do in it spaces where I felt safe. I found the most comfort in spaces with my friends, which makes sense because your friends are your chosen family.
As I slowly opened up about my sexuality to some of my friends, I soon realized that a portion of my friends–many of whom were Black–would act completely different around me. There were no more friendly hugs, awkward silences became the norm when I was around, and I began to no longer feel safe around them. It was as if I was no longer human. I was no longer the friend they called in times of need. It’s situations like this that made me realize that homophobia can exist even within a marginalized community like the Black community.
In order for me to fully love myself, including my queer identity, I began seeking safety in LGBTQQIP2SAA-friendly places; however, when I look at the LGBTQQIP2SAA community, many of the individuals within it are racist, and express their racist thoughts in so many different ways.
Recently, racism, particularly anti-Blackness, has presented itself within the LGBTQQIP2SAA community in the way people responded to the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade.
Last year’s parade was my first ever Pride. Words cannot even begin to describe the level of excitement I had that day. All of that changed as soon as I saw the reactions of many LGBTQQIP2SAA individuals and their “allies” to the sit-in hosted by the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter (BLMTO). Their negative attitudes and remarks reminded me how racist the LGBTQQIP2SAA community can be. Shaming BLMTO for wanting to address the anti-Blackness that presents itself within the LGBTQQIP2SAA community, as well as discrediting the work of this group, is anti-Black and racist.
Even when I reflect on the way some of the members of my own community, the Afro-Caribbean community, interact with the LGBTQQIP2SAA community, it upsets me. It upsets me to see them treated lesser than and interacted with as if they are diseased, strictly because they are being their true self. These are the same people who get upset when discriminatory remarks and acts are done to diminish their racial identity.
As a community who experiences discrimination on a daily basis, we should be more understanding of the LGBTQQIP2SAA community and the forms of discrimination they face. If you look at racism as a mathematical equation (x+x= y), homophobia and transphobia are structured similarly, but with different variables involved (z+z=y). However, as I continue to reflect on how the LGBTQQIP2SAA community perpetuates anti-Blackness and how homophobia and transphobia presents itself within the Black community, I often have to remind myself that everyone is at different stages of decolonizing their minds. Many of these racist homophobic, and transphobic thoughts are so deeply engraved into our society that we are unable to identify them as wrong and now perceive it as normal. But what is to blame for this? I say, colonization.
In 1655, British rule took over Jamaica. Upon stealing this land, colonizers enforced their rules and religion onto the people of this land. With British rule, came an enforcement of laws such as the Act of 1533 (25 Hen. 8 c. 6), that outlined sex with a man and a man, as well as a woman with a woman, as a criminal offence and punishable by death. Law and religion were used as tools to “civilize” the people of this land for over 300 years, while homophobic and transphobic ideologies became rooted in our minds, then reproduced into our beliefs, way of life, and even in our music. Though Jamaica gained independence in 1962, we still claim British norms and ideals as our own. Even in a post-colonial Jamaica, the remnants of a colonial past is replicated through a mixture of middle-class and respectability politics.
Our true way of life and understanding of ones’ sexual orientation and gender identity has been erased from our history and replaced with ones that endorse the colonizers’ agenda. Though LGBTQQIP2SAA rights are slowly becoming an accepted norm around the world, British colonizers have failed to address the homophobic and transphobic acts that occurred in nations that they have once deemed as “their” land and have institutionalized this attitude through law. It is important to recognize that Black bodies were stolen from a land that we once called home. Our language and way of life was erased from our core and replaced with one that promotes hatred towards the Black and LGBTQQIP2SAA communities.
As we move forward in addressing the racism, homophobia, and transphobia within our society, it is important for us to recognize that identities DO intersect. Though I am Black, I am also a woman and I am a member of the LGBTQQIP2SAA community. In order to actively create welcoming spaces for people in the Black and LGBTQQIP2SAA communities, we must educate ourselves about the history of this hatred and take active steps to address the injustices that have been done to members of these communities. In order for us to make our society more accepting, we need to acknowledge the acts that colonization has had on our bodies and take proactive measures to combat these injustices.
It is imperative that the Black community challenge their homophobic and transphobic thoughts, and develop an understanding of the realities of the Black LGBTQQIP2SAA folks within their community. The LGBTQQIP2SAA community must challenge their racist thoughts and acts, they must recognize that the infiltration of whiteness within the LGBTQQIP2SAA community has silenced the Black and Racialized LGBTQQIP2SAA experience. Space for our narrative is crucial to our survival and ability to thrive within this colonial world. The process of decolonization must start from within.
*communities: communities I am part of and that exist
Back to The Black Experiences.