How you can authentically support LGBT+ communities and anti-racism

Author: Chimwemwe Chirwa

Terminology used: 

the term colourism is defined by oxford dictionary as; prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

The term intersectional/intersectionality is defined by the Oxford dictionary as; the network of connections between social categories such as race, class and gender, especially when this may result in additional disadvantage or discrimination.

 

In my previous blog posts, I’ve looked at how and why queer history is hidden, the impact of racism and homophobia as a person of the queer global majority and the overlooked historical stories of the queer global majority. 

If you’ve been following my blog posts and are a White cis ally you are already doing what is expected of ally’s by sharing and reading stories that affect the queer global majority.

But to authentically support the queer global majority we need to collectively take social action and recognise why we have certain ideas around race and queer related issues.

This blog post will emphasise just how the ally community can do this, but we equally expect some of this work to be done independently and practised within individuals own cultural circles to improve the experiences of the queer global majority. As with most allyship, the first step is education!


Recognising much of Africa’s homophobia is inherited from British colonial rule  

Ghana recently proposed a bill that threatens LGBT+ individuals with long prison terms

As I explained in my racism and homophobia piece in 70 countries that the queer global majority have their cultural roots, it is illegal to be gay with nearly half of these in Africa. It has painted the continent in an intolerable light but the anti LGBT+ laws that govern these countries weren’t originally in place before British colonial rule. 

You see, out of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth most of the 36 former British colonies have laws that criminalise homosexuality. In my post about queer global majority stories you need to know I touched on two African LGBT+ activists that fought to remove the United Kingdom’s Offence’s against the Person Act 1861 that were in place in both Sierra Leone and Uganda that remained in law when the British withdrew their colonial rule. 

Both activists, FannyAnn Eddy (Sierra Leone) and David Kato (Uganda) were murdered in anti-gay attacks although this isn’t publicly acknowledged by their respective countries. I touched on how FannyAnn could live openly as a lesbian woman as the original law didn’t apply to women but now according to the BBC countries that have this law in place today now have criminal penalties against women loving women, despite the original British law only applying to men. 

Before British colonial rule there was acceptance towards sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa. In ancient Egypt around 2400 BC a tomb was excavated with two men’s bodies Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum embracing each other as lovers. 

Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum lived in 2400 BC they are believed to be history’s oldest recorded gay couple 

The Igbo and Yoruba tribes, found mostly in present day Nigeria, do not have a binary of gender and typically don’t assign gender to babies at birth, and instead waited until later life. Similarly, the Dagaaba people (present day Ghana) assigned gender not based on one’s anatomy, but rather the energy one presents. 

In an article addressing how Western colonisation brought unwanted gender binaries to the Igbo culture Chidera Ihejirika asked her mum why she sometimes calls them ‘he’ to which Chidera’s mum responds: 

“You know back home – we don’t have ‘he’ or ‘she’. Igbo pronouns are gender neutral. This he/she thing, it holds no meaning where we come from,”

A lot of Western/Eastern/Southeastern African names are genderless or unisex, including my own.

From the day or time, a baby is born to the circumstances surrounding the birth, several factors influence the names parents choose for their children in parts of Africa. 

Stonewall reported back in 2020 that in no African country prior to colonisation there was persecution of LGBT individuals because of their sexuality, nor any anti-LGBT laws. 

So why does this all contribute to authentically supporting the queer global majority? Well, the cultural norms of British society would have you believe that Africa has and will continue to be an anti LGBT+ continent. It’s the British that shaped not only this continent but much of the anti-LGBT+ laws in South Asia

The BBC reported that Botswana overturned colonial-era laws in 2019, including the one which criminalised homosexuality with the judge, Michael Leburu, declaring that “the anti-sodomy laws are a British import” and were developed “without the consultation of local people”.  

Activist at Botswana’s high court after its ruling in June 2019

 

Being an intersectional thinking ally and recognising your privilege

In my racism and homophobia blog post I spoke about the intersectional inequalities faced for the queer global majority. But to truly be an intersectional thinking ally you need to consider how your privileges advantage you over the inequalities faced for intersectional identities. 

A queer, working class, neurodiverse, state school educated mixed race woman like myself are more likely to face inequalities in wider society than that of a privately education, White, middle class neurotypical/able bodied man. 

Acknowledging your privilege doesn’t invalidate your experiences of difficulties in life it’s about giving a platform to unrepresented identities. This could look like sharing the experiences of intersectional identities to your social media platform. I often find myself sharing stories of trans, particularly Blacktrans people on my Instagram from great LGBT+ news outlets so I can amplify trans voices.  

The more we start to authentically call out and challenge inequalities (not just tokenistic gestures, I’m talking to you Blacksquare Instagram) and have intersectional perspectives on society the more we can all collectively become better allies to those identities. 

Recognising white fragility and becoming actively anti-racist.

If you say things like I don’t see race or I have a Black friend/family member you may be guilty of white fragility a term coined by Robin Diangelo to address White people’s dismissiveness, anger, resentment, or defensiveness when talking about race related issues. 

Robin Diangelo book, White Fragility

When I’ve brought up race related issues in the past to colleagues, friends and even strangers in gay bars I’ve had similar responses to this. The main issue with White fragility is acknowledging, affirming and validating global majority voices when it comes to topics in history and experiences in the present day that are the result of White people.

To be actively anti-racist individuals must take it upon themselves to actively listen and speak up when seeing or hearing about racial injustice. Imagine if we treat other marginalised groups in society the same way when talking about injustices for example if someone said ‘I have a disabled friend so I can say ableist things’ and ‘I don’t see disability’. It’s vital for society to have an intersectional approach to all marginalised identities. 

Allies must start to call out racism in all it forms whether it be microaggressions or blatant, especially in spaces that are supposed to be inclusive like the LGBT+ community and call out White fragility. This includes speaking out against colourism within global majority groups. 

We all need to speak out against racism in all its forms for the global majority

Education and Literature

It’s not the queer global majority’s job to educate you on queer and race related issues. This might sound like a contradiction coming from myself writing these blog posts over the past month, but it’s my duty as a journalist to advocate and call into account socio-political issues, especially ones affecting my own communities. Allies need to be mindful that for the queer global majority most have racial, sexuality and gender-based trauma, they shouldn’t have to relive these experiences to justify or to educate individuals that racism, transphobia, genderphobia and homophobia still exists.

Reni Eddo Lodge chronicles in her book why I’m no longer talking to white people about race on being no longer able to engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience.

We all need to individually take it upon ourselves within society to educate ourselves on issues for marginalised groups in society. This may look like sharing the articles I’ve put out on an Anti Racist Cumbria’s platform. Or reading up on the tens of thousands of articles, books, essays, zines, documentaries and journals on queer and race related issues that are easily accessible in the digital world. 

The more allies start to educate others or call out misinformation or inflammatory commentary on queer and race related issues online or in person, the more it will start to have an impact and benefit these marginalised communities overall. 

Support queer and global majority organisations and businesses

As I discussed in racism and homophobia post the global majority are affected by inequalities in areas of society such as; education, employment, healthcare and even within the queer community.

Supporting LGBT+ and global majority charities and businesses can be vital to their survival as they are likely to be smaller with less access to funding. This wouldn’t just financially support the charities and businesses, but it would grow their platforms more and provide access to specific services that the global majority community need. At Anti Racist Cumbria this looks like providing social support through a youth group for young people, having an education working group, a community group and much more. 

LGBT+ news sites such as, Them, Pink News, gal-dem and the Gay Times provide extensive reporting on queer issues and stories, following these sites on social media platforms and supporting these stories and issues on your own platform can be a great way to support not just the queer community but also the LGBT+ staff working for these news sites. The same goes for supporting Black and Brown news sites such as BlackBallad, gal-dem, blavity and Al Jazeera. 

It’s the end of LGBT+ history month and Black History month in the US. I want to say thank you to all my readers for sticking with me through this series of blogs I have tirelessly researched over the past month. Happy LGBT+ and Black history month!

Keep sharing, keep advocating keep on moving!