Black LGBTQ+ people continue to be deeply impacted by the trauma of systemic racism along with homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Therefore, how to be a better ally to the Black LGBTQ+ folks requires continual work. It takes a lot of self-reflection and putting these notions into practice to better support this community.
This article will explore how we as a society can support the community and the best ways to be an ally.
What Is the History of Black People in the LGBTQ+ Movement?
Transgender and queer women of color have always been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ liberation movement. Two of the most famous names that came out of the Stonewall were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. These two helped create the group STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), providing housing to homeless and transgender youth.
Finally, their contributions to the LGBTQ+ communities are becoming more well-known. In fact, the East River State Park in Brooklyn was renamed Marsha P. Johnson State Park. In 2019, New York City said they would build monuments to celebrate the lives of Johnson and Rivera. These monuments will be the first to feature transgender women in New York. In addition, these monuments aim to address the gender gap in public art.
However, the contributions of Johnson, Rivera, and other queer BIPOC people like Stormé DeLarverie have been historically overshadowed by white narratives. Still to this day, the representation of the LGBTQ+ community is often exclusively that of white, gay, cisgender men.
As a result, many queer or transgender black people do not feel safe or included within the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, people within communities across the BIPOC spectrum can face more oppression and unique barriers due to the intersection of their cultural and LGBTQ+ identities.
How to Better Support the Black LGBTQ+ Community
To better support the community, here are a few ways to start being more inclusive:
Listen to Black Perspectives
It is essential as an ally is to listen to and believe Black people when they share their experiences. Do not ‘explain away’ racism – otherwise, you’ll be complicit in upholding a racist system and create harm. Even if you hear something difficult, it is essential just to listen and let Black people speak. Otherwise, they may not feel safe or not want to open up about anything.
In addition, do not take one Black LGBTQ+ person’s experience as the only story there is. By doing so, your group Black people into one homogenous group, when everyone has their own unique identity and experience. The Black LGBTQ+ community has various identities and experiences, and it is essential to recognize them and hear these stories.
Do Not Ask Folks Something You Can Google or Learn Yourself
Even though listening to Black LGBTQ+ people is essential, constantly asking people from this community to educate you can be a daunting and exhausting process. In addition, repeating the traumas they endure like racism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia can create burnout. In essence, it’s not the responsibility of a Black LGBTQ+ person to continually relive their trauma or justify their own existence so that you can learn from it. So instead of placing emotional labor on your Black LGBTQ+ loved one, pursue the education yourself.
There are so many anti-racism resources out there that you can access. Be sure that your readings and information come from an intersectional approach. In other words, make sure they are written or come from Black people. In addition, you can speak with other allies so that you can continue to learn and grow.
Centre Black Voices and Speak Up for Them
When you have educated yourself, you can use your platform to speak up about challenges for Black LGBTQ+ people. It is important for allies to speak up and stand up for Black LGBTQ+ folks and not just for Black people always to be the ones to call these things out.
However, do not use your voice or platform to speak over Black LGBTQ+ people. In addition, you should never take credit for a Black creator’s work. Instead of taking up space, you must center the voices and experiences of Black LGBTQ+ people. In addition, it is essential to share information created by Black LGBTQ+ people and credit them.
One thing to keep in mind is to not be performative in your allyship. In essence, do not only speak up about these issues when they are trendy; it’s necessary to talk about the barriers that black LGBTQ+ people face regularly.
Create Safe Spaces
Even though some LGBTQ+ spaces may claim to be safe, they may encourage anti-blackness. If this occurs in one of your spaces, it is essential to challenge racism and vocalize it. Your LGBTQ+ space must be inclusive of black LGBTQ+ people, and if it creates barriers, you must make it a safer space. You can do so by thinking of the potential obstacles and if there is anything preventing people from accessing your space.
Donate to Black-led LGBTQ+ organizations
Many Black-led LGBTQ+ mutual aid organizations and funds work hard to support this community. If you have the means to do so, you can donate to one of these organizations regularly or as often as you can.
Here are a few fantastic organizations you can support:
- The Okra Project: This group provides home-cooked meals and resources to Black transgender and gender non-conforming people.
- For the Gworls: This organization offers regular parties in New York City to help Black trans people pay their rent or other expenses like gender-affirming surgeries.
- G.L.I.T.S.: G.L.I.T.S. helps support and uplift transgender sex workers. They provide immediate need/crisis support, health care and resilience, housing, and advocacy and education.
- Black and Pink: This national abolitionist organization addresses the criminal justice system’s incarceration and harm to the LGBTQ+ community. It also helps people living with HIV/AIDS by offering advocacy, education, organizing, and support.