As Pride Month begins, my fiancé and I can’t even begin to think about celebrating it right now.
We are both black gay millennials watching our country burn before our very eyes. Another black man, black woman, and black transgender person was killed by the police. Our rage and heart breaks as we see protesters be further terrorized and tear-gassed by cops.
Last week, George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, was killed on the ground on tape in broad daylight. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old unarmed black woman, was shot to death after police allegedly executed a search warrant of the wrong house. Tony McDade, a 37-year old black trans-masculine person, was killed during a suspicious police encounter.
For all of this to happen in the middle of a global pandemic that is disproportionately afflicting black people is beyond triggering, but another reminder of how our lives continue to be devalued, underrepresented, and further marginalized.
As I begin to see people post rainbows on social media and remind others that it’s Pride Month, I begin to reflect on my own relationship within this very community.
The mainstream LGBTQ community and movement as we know it has been dominated by white cisgender men and women who have socially, institutionally, and culturally excluded black people. Although more than 50 years ago, black transgender women such as Marsha P. Johnson and other queer activists of color risked their lives during the historic Stonewall Riots—we are still witnessing racial discrimination and antagonism in the fight for queer liberation.
I write this while living in Philadelphia, a city with an infamous racist history etched into its diversity. Thirty-five years ago, the MOVE Bombing, a tragedy that involved the “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” authorizing a bomb to drop in a black neighborhood as a response to a black protesting group, killed eleven black people, including five children.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has yet to formally apologize on behalf of the city for a racial nightmare that continues to haunt the poorest major municipality in America.
I watched this weekend as protesters defaced and set fire to the Frank Rizzo statue, created in honor of the former Philly mayor who had a racist and homophobic history of enforcing police brutality. Racism in this town is as Philadelphian as its celebrated cheesesteak.
It was only a few years ago that I was extensively covering racial discrimination in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood, an LGBTQ section of the city. White gay bars racially profiled black patrons, with one owner even going as far as calling one the n-word on tape.
Local black and brown queer activists led the charge in getting the City of Philadelphia, who had dragged its feet on addressing the problem, to respond with a new law and a progressive addition of black and brown stripes on the Pride flag.
But that didn’t immediately fix the ongoing devastation that continued to set black LGBTQ people apart from their white counterparts. Locally and nationally, black members of the LGBTQ community are often hit the hardest in terms of disparity. And although there has been more awareness campaigns and reports on this, black queer and transgender people continue to be underrepresented in LGBTQ leadership, media, and visibility.
Currently, there’s been public gestures from some LGBTQ companies trying to appeal to their black audience. Grindr, which has had a history of racism taking place on their dating app, informed users that they were donating to black LGBTQ nonprofits and eliminating their ethnicity filter option for good.
But it’s still very hard right now to see these predominately white-led LGBTQ companies, nonprofits, and groups try to sell me their version of “pride” in the middle of racial unrest in America. It’s hard to take any of these groups seriously after seeing how silent they are when racial oppression takes place daily in their own backyards.
The hypocrisy of only speaking up when racism is affiliated with white cisgender straight people—and being silent when it’s happening within the LGBTQ community—is glaring.
Truth be told: My blackness never felt included in what mainstream society's view of the LGBTQ “community”. In fact, the more I stay quarantined, the more I begin to question exactly what such a “community” ever looked like.
For what it’s worth, there needs to be a true racial reckoning within the LGBTQ movement that calls for real accountability and change from white gay people. Black queer and trans bodies have been exploited, underpaid, and overworked. We have been fetishized and targeted, while being gaslighted simultaneously. I can no longer discuss LGBTQ issues monolithically knowing how segregated we are as a community.
When I say that #BlackTransLivesMatter, it’s because even within the transgender community at large—it’s black transgender people who are disproportionately being killed and left impoverished. When I call for more support for black gay men living with HIV, that is because the larger LGBTQ community, along with society overall, has allowed for the virus to disrupt this particular demographic without much disruption.
So if there will be anything I’m going to “celebrate” during Pride Month is another awakening that my black queer identity, along with my other melanated LGBTQ siblings, is sacred. I will no longer allow it to be compromised alongside the margins of a white supremacist LGBTQ structure that treats me as less than.
We are all we got. “We” being black LGBTQ people.