When you hear LGBTQ and black, what do you think about? RuPaul? Drag queens? The new song by CupcakKe? Is it your favorite hairstylist or makeup artist, and the thousands of times you've asked them to spill the tea?
With the recent success of the film, Moonlight, so many people have mentioned the need for more conversations to be had around the experiences that queer black individuals have. In an article that further examined the necessity of film's like Blackbird and Moonlight, more and more queer black people are opening up about the experiences they are having, or have had in the black church, with family members, etc.
As an educator who centers most of my writing and speaking on issues that queer black individuals have, it is important to understand that now, more than ever, queer black voices not only need support, but validation. I find that often folks think that all LGBTQ experiences look the same, unknowing that while being both black and queer can be a struggle. The greatest struggle is getting others to comprehend what it means to be queer and black and to constantly live in a world where you are being silenced.
So for those of you who may have seen both of the films mentioned above, and left the theater thinking, "What else can I do to uplift the voices of my black queer brothers and sisters," let me give you a few pointers that might help you in your process to becoming a better ally.
Noun vs. Verb
Keep in mind the difference between a noun and a verb. You might love us, but not everyone else feels the same way. Are you standing in silence or are you standing in solidarity? Sometimes love requires action.
Something that makes the film Moonlight so amazing is how the two people who cared most for Chiron provided him the space to come into his own. So many black and queer individuals are struggling to negotiate the elements of their intersectional identity and sometimes we just need space to process all of the pain we endure.
"Momma said you got two ears and one mouth, listen more than you speak." If you know someone who identifies as both queer and black, and they are coming to you for advice, love, care or just to vent: listen. There is nothing worse than someone using their privilege to silence the oppressed.
Empathy & Care
One of the greatest things that anyone could ever do for queer black people is to lead conversations around allyship with empathy and care. As a queer black man, one of the greatest things anyone could ever do for me is to ask me how I am doing and what I am feeling. In sharing, I never assume that someone should have had to go through what I have been through to get an understanding of why I feel the way I do. But, what I appreciate more than anything is someone taking a moment to engage in my pain while assisting me to heal from said experience.
Yes, the topic of privilege and being black can often be an oxymoron, but for me, there are still things in this world that I will never comprehend or have access to. When you take a moment to not only check your privilege, but to challenge others to do the same thing, THEN you are effectively advocating for my marginalized experiences.
The greatest thing that anyone can do for to be a better ally to the queer black community is to provide acknowledgement. Acknowledging me and my pain is not only validating, but one of the most liberating things anyone can do. Bayard Rustin once reminded us that freedom can only be achieved when one joins a movement.
Let us all join in on the movement that allows for queer black people to not only just be seen, but to also be heard.
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