I am proud to see how far the LGBTQ+ community has come. From the first pride march into the legalization of same sex marriages across the U.S. and beyond. The queer community continues to expand in areas of entertainment, health initiatives and even matters of faith. While I applaud you all for the gains, I can't help but notice that something, or rather, someone is missing.
When I look at areas that have an increasing interest in LGBTQ+ matters such as entertainment, health initiatives and even faith I notice that the representation of queer black women is lacking. Women like Marsha P. Johnson founded this community. Yet if we let the media tell it, the gay community is run by well dressed, thin, white men. That has not been my experience. The LGBTQ+ community I know, is adorned with every color skin from caramel goodness to deep black realness. The community I know has long flowing locks and Angela Davis afros. The LGBTQ+ community I know is filled with all body types from muscular to curvy. However the community I know doesn't seem to translate well across all borders. The strong, brave women I know about are missing in the narratives of the queer community. It simply makes me wonder “what happened to our girls?"
Even without statistics and surveys it is painfully evident. If your turn your TV to mainstream media catered to the community of gay identifying and gender non-conforming people it is usually a gay male. When we look at health centers aimed at the queer population at large, they were mainly started to cater to the needs of gay men and later included queer and transgender women and people of color. As far as faith based centers go, many communities of color have a long way to go to recognizing queer lives.
When we take statistics into account we can see it neatly summarized by a Huffington Post article. The article references a 2016 Gallup poll: “Relative to the general population, the LGBT population has a larger proportion of non-white people and clearly is not overly wealthy,” said study author and demographer Gary Gates, of the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute. It then goes on to say this about the UCLA demographers attitude regarding the show of queer people of color: “If you spend a lot of time watching network television, you would think most LGBT people are rich white men who live in big cities. This data suggests the LGBT community reflects more of the diversity in the U.S. population.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has this to say: "it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities; barriers that make them vulnerable." That being said, it made me wonder how we as a community can show our support for other lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of color. Let’s make it our mission to challenge ourselves with these things:
1. Be inclusive of all women while understanding that not every woman is the same
When I choose to start up a conversation about women, I am mindful of including women from all walks of life, especially triple marginalized women (queer, of color and low income). When we discuss issues surrounding women, we have to start from the bottom up. Look at the most marginalized women, see what they need to get them on equal footing in terms of housing, food, and safety then move on to other issues of representation. Nobody cares if you put more queer women of color on TV if they are houseless or underserved.
2. Do not question a woman's personal narrative
Pain is a universal situation. However it seems that women (especially women of color) have to earn the rights to pain and grief. How many times have women of color been forced to retell their narratives of pain, repeatedly asked for proof or simply told to get over it? We don't need proof or to keep replaying images in order to justify and decide if a queer woman of color deserves the right to be angry, offended or believed. In the countless cases I have seen of women being believed without question, these women were not queer identifying or people of color.
3. Find further ways to educate yourself on issues that affect women
Yes, even as a trans masculine person, I find that sometimes I am not abreast on the issues that are currently facing my queer cisters and sisters. I have made it a mission to read articles that speak to these extra marginalized voices. A simple google search of "black trans women need" or "black lesbian/ bi current news" gives me perspective. Huffington Post has a great section for black voices that regularly include women. Once we are educated we can move on to educate others. If you don't know where to start a company called Equality for HER founded by social justice activist Blair Imani gives out free educational materials to get the conversation going.
Make yourself an ally by being available to listen to these women without judgement. Speak up for them when they are being silenced. Our queer community is built on the backs of strong women of color and we are all the better for it if we remember that.