Thoughts, Musings and Reflections

Being LGBTQ is NOT a Get Out of Racism Free Card

As we enter June, it is the celebration of Pride Month. Before Pride became a celebration, it started as a protest. June 28, 1969 (MY BIRTHDAY!) marks the start of the Stonewall riots in which the queer community responded to a police raid that began at the Stonewall Inn, a bar located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, that served as a safe haven for the city’s gay, lesbian and transgender community. At the time, homosexual acts were deemed illegal in almost every state, and bars and restaurants faced getting shut down for having gay employees or serving gay patrons. While police had raided gay establishments before, on that particular night, members of the LGBTQ community decided to fight back, sparking an uprising that would launch a new era of resistance that would later turn to celebration. (Pride Month: How It Started and How to Celebrate)

A Black transgender woman, “Marsha P Johnson, was part of the “vanguard” that resisted police during the Stonewall riots — demonstrations that followed a raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Village, on June 28, 1969, according to the 2010 book “Stonewall,” written by LGBT historian David Carter.  (Marsha P. Johnson: Transgender hero of Stonewall riots finally gets her due)

Black people are constantly fighting for justice. When you think of PRIDE, remember Marsha, remember Black people. 

Pride is a time when many closeted LGBTQ members come out, where many LGBTQ people wave their rainbow flags, adorn rainbow attire, attend parades, and parties, celebrating the fact that they are a part of the LGBTQ community. And I love it! As someone that just came out in 2020 and identifies as LGBTQ, I am here for it! Celebrate, wave flags, attend parades, and do everything that says I am here. I am not going anywhere. And I proudly love who I desire. 

I welcome this month and the festivities; however, as a person that is Black and LGBTQ, I must remind White people that being a member of the LGBTQ community is not a “get out of racism free card.” Just because you identify as LGBTQ does not mean that you cannot be racist. Just because you identify as LGBTQ does not mean that you don’t support people that harm Black people. (Do you think everyone that voted for Trump was straight?!) Just because you identify as LGBTQ, it does not mean that your PRIDE committee doesn’t reflect many of the anti-Black aspects of this nation. In fact, many of the spaces curated for PRIDE celebrations are not spaces where Black people that identify as LGBTQ feel welcomed. Many of the spaces have been curated without one Black person at the table. While our slang, dances, style, and culture will be overly amplified (by amplified, I mean stolen) during PRIDE, you have just taken pieces of us that suit your needs and refuse to accept the whole of us. 

And the whole of us is that we are Black. And many Black LGBTQ people have an extra layer of critique. I am Black and trans. I am Black and a masculine-presenting woman. I am Black and bisexual. (etc.) Still, I…AM…BLACK!

For the majority of us, Black people cannot enter any space without people seeing our Blackness first. Our Blackness cannot hide in a closet. Our Blackness cannot change our style of dress. Our Blackness is oblivious to pronouns. Every single moment of the day, our Blackness is on display. It enters a room before being LGBTQ. It enters a room before our pronouns. It enters a room before rainbow-colored attire is even given a thought. Our Blackness is always on display. Our Blackness is constantly projecting something to those looking at us. It is a double reminder for us of the spaces that we enter and knowing if the areas we enter are inclusive or exclusive. 

Ask yourself, have your PRIDE events been curated in such a way that Black people will feel welcomed? 

Before starting your co-opting of voguing, ball dancing, finger snaps, “yasss girl,” and “what’s tea?”, have you considered Black LGBTQ people? Have you really thought about Black LGBTQ people? Have you considered that Black people, ALL BLACK PEOPLE, have been through hell and back in the last two years and are hurting? Black people watched George Floyd be murdered on social media regardless of their identity. Irrespective of how they identify, Black people watched Ahmaud Arbery shot in the street in cold blood. In Louisville, Black people demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman murdered in her home by the Louisville Metro Police Department, and we are still hurting. Regardless of how they identify, Black people have watched White people be propped up and receive lucrative brand deals for STEALING the work of Black LGBTQ people. Consider that when you “borrow” the esthetic of Black people for PRIDE. How is your event speaking to Black people? 

For too long, many White people have used being LGBTQ as a shield to hide their racism. But we see you. Black people see you. It would be my dream for White LGBTQ people to stand with Black people because you understand what it means to be discriminated against, left out, and overlooked. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Black people fought and died for protected LGBTQ workers from employment discrimination in 2020. The rights Black people were fighting for in 1964 made it possible for you today. Our fight will always benefit the marginalized. That is what happens when you support Black people- everyone rises. Yet too often, White LGBTQ people choose Whiteness over standing with Black people even while reaping the benefits of Black sacrifice. While Black people have been demanding justice, the silence of White LGBTQ people has been deafeningly loud. When we need you to stand with us, STAND. When we need you to use your voice, SHOUT! When we need you to use your influence, DO IT! 

Stand with Black LGBTQ people BEYOND finger snaps and “yaasssss, Queen.” As a Black LGBTQ woman, co-opting our slang does not impress me. What impresses me is that you STAND with Black people, speak up for Black people, and use your influence on behalf of Black people. What moves me is that you have Black people at the table helping to curate Pride events. What would mean something is that Black LGBTQ people are not an afterthought added on to your Pride events as entertainment. Black LGBTQ people aren’t your caricatures to garner style from. We are people, we are LGBTQ, and we are BLACK! And as much as I love Pride in June, we are BLACK every other month. So STAND WITH US! Pride is about JUSTICE so stand with US in the fight FOR LIBERATION! 

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