Activists call for more awareness on intersectional barriers of Black queer community

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Activists and academics had called out for more awareness and education on intersectionality within the Black community.

They also point out the need for more recognition towards the Black queer community from the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK.

The statements come after the Black Lives Matter movement in the US was accused of neglecting the needs of the queer community last June. Campaigners, actors, and celebrities called out for more inclusivity which led to its UK counterpart to release a statement on social media.

“BLMUK is a very diverse team and we would like to make it clear that we are here for the liberation of all Black people,” the statement said.

‘Black queer people are ignored’

Aisha Shaibu, a queer activist in London said there is no inclusivity in the Black Lives Movement in the UK.

“Black queer people are ignored within the Black Lives Matter movement and there is a lot of homophobia in the Black community.

Aisha Shaibu (Photo credits – Instagram @aisha_shaibu_)

“There is a far standing stigma associated within the Black community about homosexuality. This is why they don’t want to include queer people in the protests because for them, it’s not something they want to subscribe to.

“It’s a big problem. I’m far more worried about walking together with my partner in Brixton or a high Black populated area than anyplace else. Just because I don’t feel safe,” Aisha said.

However, some academics point out that inclusivity is not seen in the movement because the Black queer community is a minority within a minority.

Dr Tony Talburt, senior lecturer in Black studies at Birmingham City University described the Black Lives Matter movement as a political movement demanding equal rights.

“Some of the founding members of the Black Lives Matter movement were from the LGBT community. So the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement is linked with the LGBT community, but the movement is particularly not about this community. But there are people who focus on Black sexuality and oppression within the movement.

“One reason for the Black queer community to not get recognised is because the Black community in Britain is a minority and the Black queer community is a minority within a minority,” Tony said.

The 2011 census carried out by the ONS recorded the Black population in England and Wales as 3.3% of the total population.

‘We are underrepresented in pride marches and media’

Aisha also said the Black queer community is underrepresented in the London pride festival. The allegations were made after five directors including co-chairs resigned in March following hostilities for people of colour within ‘Pride in London’.

The organisation later apologised to the community and individuals who “experienced racism, bullying or any other form of discrimination” while volunteering with Pride in London.

It also apologised for “shortfalls in acting swiftly to recognise and resolve these issues”.

“When someone says the ‘Pride in London’ parade is diverse, they only see it in the posters and fliers which is far from the real case. They don’t support or listen to the Black community. All they care about is getting the money for the festival and getting endorsements.

Kadian Pow (Credits – kadianpow.com)

“Mainstream media predominantly portrays white people in LGBT coverage which gives the idea that there are only white LGBT people. So a Black person thinks it is not good to be gay because there is no representation in the media,” Aisha said.

Kadian Pow, lecturer in sociology at Birmingham City University also criticised the underrepresentation of the Black queer community in the media.

“The mainstream media representation of whiteness associated with homosexuality or queerness gives an idea that allows white people to feel empathy to marginalised white people as victims. This is an empathy they don’t give to people of colour. 

“This also creates a notion that white people brought homosexuality to the Black community. This is completely ahistorical. The queer community has been existed before the colonial powers,” Kadian said.

‘Being both Black and queer creates double or triple marginalisation

Activists and academics also calls out for more awareness on the intersections of the Black community.

“I come from a Muslim background,” Aisha says.

“So what are my intersexual barriers as a Black Muslim queer woman? There are so many barriers that people don’t see because they only see the colour of our skin.

“But actually there’s more to that and we are at the very bottom.”

The ‘Human Rights Campaign’ recorded 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people being fatally shot or killed in the US in 2020. The majority of them were Black and Latinx transgender women. “2021 has already seen at least 25 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means,” the report said.

In 2018, a British trans woman of colour, Naomi Hersi, was drugged and stabbed to death in a hotel near Heathrow Airport.

The Guardian, in a report, said that data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows more than one in four trans people experienced crime in the year ending March 2020, compared with 14% of people whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were registered at birth.

“Individuals whose gender identity is different from their sex registered at birth (trans or transgender), were significantly more likely to have been a victim of crime (excluding fraud) in the year ending March 2020. More than 1 in 4 people who were trans (28%) had experienced crime compared with 14% of those whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were registered at birth (cisgender),” the ONS report said.

The Stonewall health report of ‘LGBT in Britain’ reported two in five trans people and three in ten non-binary people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.

“People are marginalised for being a Black and a queer person. This identity of being both Black and queer creates double or triple marginalisation that you are already experiencing as a Black person.

“The queer community has a lot of white representation holding the reigns and it erases the work people of colour do. They must recognise that there is an issue within the community of racial marginalisation.

“As the Black poet Audrey Lorde said, we don’t live single issue lives,” Kadian mentioned.

‘Education, community integration and cohesion’

Moving forward, Aisha wants to see more education towards the queer community among Black and Asian cultures.

“There are people who hate queer people, which means education into queer communities is a necessity. It (education) needs to happen especially among Black and Asian cultures as well.

“A lot of issues for education comes with religion. If you are coming from a very religious Catholic or Muslim background, you are brought up to reject homosexuality. This needs to be changed,” Aisha said.

2019 saw protests by conservative Muslims against teaching primary children about LGBT relationships. The protests, which originally started at the Parkfield community School in Alum Rock, Birmingham, led to nationwide protests on LGBT education for primary students.

“More attention must be given to intersectionality and to the idea that Blackness is not a monolithic idea,” says Kadian. “We lead different lives and the lives of everyone in the Black community is not carried out in the same way. So there needs to be education on intersectionality within religion, gender, sexuality, class.

“I would like to see Black organisations who are fighting for Black lives to be more inclusive and specific in their language. There needs to be transparency inside the leadership about the different Black issues they are fighting for.”

Hate crime towards the LGBT community can be reported anonymously through ‘Truevision‘. Alternatively, emotional support to anyone in distress or at risk of suicide is offered by ‘Samaritans‘ by dialling 116 123.

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