Young Black LGBTQ+ people say their crossover of communities is ‘far too often forgotten about’ this Black History Month (Picture: Metro Graphics / Just Like Us)
‘No fats, no Blacks, no Asians.’
That’s a phrase that countless people in gay dating circles are still hearing in this country in 2023.
As part of Metro’s coverage of Black History Month, we’ve spoken to some young Black queer people who are ambassadors for the LGBTQ+ charity Just Like Us. They say their crossover of communities is ‘far too often forgotten about’.
‘The LGBTQ+ community has a racism problem, plain and simple,’ Elliot Kwabena Akosa, a gay transgender man, tells us.
‘I can cite countless anecdotes and personal experiences of Black people being removed from gay clubs or denied entry altogether.
‘There is this myth perpetuated particularly by white queer people that because they are oppressed on the basis of sexuality, they are unable to be oppressive themselves. This is completely untrue.
‘You cannot legislate us out of existence. If you kick us out of one place, we will pop up in another. Black queer people have existed, do exist, and will always exist.’
Elliot Kwabena Akosa, 20, says the LGBTQ+ community has a racism problem (Picture: Just Like Us)
The 20-year-old, who is based in York, says Black History Month should highlight an ‘overwhelming gap in public knowledge’.
‘[This gap] only pertains to the horrors of institutions such as chattel slavery, colonialism, and mission work; but also to the significant impact and influence that Black people and those of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora have had, and continue to have, on Western society,’ adds Elliot, who is Ghanaian-British.
‘Our culture is consumed and appropriated yet simultaneously undervalued, mocked, and dismissed.’
He says there is ‘so much’ people need to learn about ‘how Blackness is treated’, from medicine, to law and education.
For example, Black women are more likely to face discrimination in medicine and are four times more likely to die during childbirth.
Elliot, who is a community representative for the Trans Learning Partnership, warns there is an ‘incredible amount of generational trauma’ brought about by Western colonialism.
People at UK Black Pride pose at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London (Picture: Getty Images)
Allies are advised to be ‘conscious of your perception’ when considering the crossover of Blackness and queerness (Picture: PA)
‘Sub-Saharan African cultures were rife with queerness and celebration of gender diversity and inclusion, before it was deemed ungodly by European settlers and systemically erased from our histories,’ he explains.
‘This is the reality in which most Black people were raised, and this needs to be considered when fighting for LGBTQ+ inclusion within our communities. By taking a historical approach and educating based on our past, we can hope to secure a brighter future for ourselves.’
Koi Buckley, 21, agrees that although Black History Month encourages ‘individuals to be celebrated’, it should also reflect on progress and ‘remind us of the work that still needs to be done in order to achieve true equality in our current society’.
The Londoner, who is a trans man, adds: ‘Culture and religion are factors that impact acceptance and openness around identity, so it’s vital to remind people that being both Black and queer is possible, and there’s no problem with being so.’
Koi Buckley, 21, says Black History Month should reflect on progress and ‘remind us of the work that still needs to be done’ (Picture: Just Like Us)
The icons more people should know about
Metro.co.uk asked the people we spoke to in this story for the Black queer icons they think everyone needs to know about. Here’s what they said.
Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey
Ma Rainey was known as the ‘Mother of the Blues’ (Picture: Donaldson Collection / Getty Images)
The National Women’s History Museum says Ma Rainey was often called the ‘Mother of the Blues’ and known for her deep-throated voice and huge stage presence.
She sold hit records in the early 20th Century and her songs reflected on her experiences as an independent, openly bisexual African-American woman.
‘Not only did she pioneer an entire music genre and manage to make a living off her craft at a time where Black people were second class citizens, she did so while loving women,’ Elliot says.
American novelist and activist James Baldwin (Picture: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
The Poetry Foundation calls James Baldwin a ‘novelist and essayist of considerable renown’ who was born in New York in 1924.
His writing career started in the last years of legislated segregation in the US and he used it as a method of social observation. He mirrored Black people’s aspirations, disappointments and coping strategies in a hostile society to bolster the civil rights movement.
Koi says: ‘His poetry and plays spoke passionately about racial and social issues African-Americans faced. I believe his work to be very influential coming from an openly gay black man in the 1950s.’
Rotimi Fani Kayode
Rotimi Fani Kayode explored sexuality, race and culture through his photography (Picture: Wiki Commons)
The Tate says Oluwarotimi Adebiyi Wahab Fani-Kayode was a photographer who moved to England at the age of 12 to escape the Nigerian Civil War in the 1960s.
He was mostly active between 1982 and 1989 and explored the tensions created by sexuality, race and culture through stylised portraits and compositions.
‘As a queer Nigerian, I find myself particularly touched by his take on the friction that can be felt when you find yourself in the middle of all these different identities, and don’t know which one to embrace,’ Lara adds.
Koi advises allies to be ‘conscious of your perception’.
‘If you’re used to looking at life through a a specific lens – being white or straight, for example – take the time to research and consider the ways people differently to you navigate the world,’ he adds.
Lara Jones, 21, tells Metro.co.uk ‘there is always the danger of a single story; of one homogenous tale that strips Black people of our humanity’.
‘We must remember the important tragedies of slavery and subjugation, but also remember the wealth of positive contributions that Black people have made to society,’ they say.
Lara, who is Nigerian and queer, explains homophobia and racism can leave Black people feeling ‘ostracised’ from either space.
They say society needs to ‘confront this complex reality’ of being Black and queer to help ‘make spaces more inclusive for those with both identities’.
‘I have always found it affirming being surrounded by people who take the time to understand this,’ the Londoner adds.
‘There are Black people who are queer, and queer people who are Black, as is part of the beautiful complexity of human life. We need not shy away from the multi-faceted identities of many historical figures, but actively acknowledge them.’
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‘Black queer people have existed, do exist, and will always exist.’