Author: Chimwemwe Chirwa
For this LBGT+ history month I’m looking at racism and homophobia. As a mixed-heritage working-class lesbian, I’ve taken a deep dive into what it’s like being a queer member of the Global Majority in society offering personal reflections and looking at how cultural norms impact the lives of queer non-White people.
Terminology used: the term Global Majority ( or global majority) is a collective term that first and foremost speaks to and encourages those so-called to think of themselves as belonging to the global majority. It refers to people who are Black, Asian, Brown, dual-heritage, indigenous to the global south, and or have been racialised as ‘ethnic minorities’. Globally, these groups currently represent approximately eighty per cent (80%) of the world’s population. LGBT+ and LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning). The “plus” represents other sexual and gender identities and sexual orientations that are not specifically covered by the other initials. An example is Two-Spirit, a pan-Indigenous American identity. The term ‘queer’ is used throughout as this relates to all sexual and gender identities referred to in LGBTQ+.
Members of the global majority and the LGBT+ community have historically faced many socio and economic inequalities. For queer global majority people this means facing a double jeopardy of inequalities. Queer non-White people have significantly different experience to their white queer counterparts and face discrimination from both the LGBT+ community and the cultural/religious communities they belong too.
The number of injustices and inequalities faced by the queer global majority is unfortunately vast so for this blog post I’ve decided to focus on 5 key areas where experiences of queer non-White people greatly differ from the white queer communities and that’s education, workplace, health, experience of LGBT spaces and cultural identity.
Education is a place where homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and intersexphobic (HBTI) bullying remains rife and measure against HBTI bullying often fail to be implemented. Heterosexism and heteronormativity is as widespread in schools as institutional racism. YMCA’s Young and Black report found that 95% of young black people in the UK have heard or witnessed racism and the Guardian reported last year that UK schools recorded more than 60,000 racist incidents in the past five years. For young queer people of the global majority this means having to face an education system that is vastly homophobic, racist and classist in their formative years. I waited until further education at 19 to come out because of this.
Many global majority young queer will experience internalised homophobia and racism because of this. But what is internalised homophobia and racism?
Internalised homophobia and oppression happens to gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and even heterosexuals, who have learned and been taught that heterosexuality is the norm and ‘correct way to be’.
Robin Nicole Johnson emphasised in her study The Psychology of racism that internalised racism involves both “conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy in which whites are consistently ranked above people of colour.”
Secondary school education was where I felt most of my internalised homophobia and racism and continues to be this way for many young queer people who aren’t white.
Both racism and homophobia and the internalised feelings play out way beyond education for most queer global majority people.
The same report showed that this trend in education continued over into the workplace for global majority people with 86% saying they had experienced racist language in the workplace and over half feel that bias or prejudice such as their name on a CV is a barrier to getting into employment.
The queer community face similar barriers with one in five being discriminated against for work opportunities purely because of their sexuality or gender identity. Having secure employment is more difficult for queer global majoirty people, with one in eight reporting job loss.
Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain work report showed that queer staff have regularly been targets of negative comments and conduct from work colleagues and worryingly for one in ten queer people of the global majority this means psychical violent attacks at work which only three per cent of white queer workers have experienced.
For the majority of queer global majority people barriers to accessing work are rooted within systemic racism and heteronormativity within workplaces and over a third of LGBT+ staff aren’t openly out within the workplace because they are afraid of discrimination.
In my personal experience despite starting work from 16 I was never openly out at work in fear of discrimination, until I moved to Manchester at 19 where I started working in a more progressive diverse workplace.
I was once told at 17 that my natural afro hair (that grows outwards and wasn’t shoulder length) had to be tied up, working in retail. It was only a couple of years later until I moved to Manchester that I realised this was discrimination when I saw my fellow colleagues with afro hair wearing their hair naturally with no complaints from management.
In education and the workplace, it’s undoubtedly more difficult for individuals who exist between two or more intersections of society that are marginalised. So where does this leave global majority queer people to turn to when faced with discrimination for things they can’t change?
You’d think that many queer people who aren’t White would seek out LGBT+ communities as a safe space to be themselves away from the oppressive spaces. Well unfortunately, for many queer people who aren’t White they face discrimination within these spaces that are celebrated for inclusivity.
Stonewall’s ‘LGBT in Britain Home and Communities’ report revealed how LGBT+ spaces provide a community lifeline for many but the same can’t be said for individuals already marginalised because of their race, disability, religious and gender identity.
Half of queer global majority experienced discrimination in their local LGBT+ community because of their ethnicity. This impacts the black queer community the most with three in five experiencing discrimination.
No Rice, No Curry and No Blacks
It was only two years ago that gay dating app Grindr got rid of their ‘ethnicity filter’ as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement but still blatant racism remains on the app with some people putting in their bio’s ‘No Rice, No Curry and No Blacks’. A deeply disturbing contrast to businesses in 70’s excluding Black and Irish people.
These are demoralising facts for people on the receiving end of discrimination and is guaranteed to have an impact on overall health and wellbeing.
You only need to have a brief look at Stonewall’s LGBT+ Britain health reports key findings to see the LGBT+ community are disproportionately affected by health inequalities in mental health, substance abuse and discrimination from healthcare workers. Queer global majority people are worryingly overrepresented within these categories.
Queer global majority people are more likely to experience depression and eating disorders and troublingly they aren’t supported by healthcare staff with one in five experiencing unequal treatment from the people that are supposed to help them. It’s even more worrying that nine per cent of queer people who aren’t White are pressured to access services that change or suppress their sexual orientation/gender identity.
Black Minds Matter connects Black individuals and families with free mental health services in the UK by professional Black therapists to support their mental health. They also advocate and campaign to make mental health topics more relevant and accessible for Black people in the UK. – Black Minds Matter
My experience of healthcare when I was dealing with my sexuality wasn’t great and I had healthcare professional’s almost outing me to my parents as a teenager and sadly I think this isn’t an experience unique to myself. It can create real dangers for those with parents who aren’t accepting such as; homelessness and domestic violence which for some could further worsen pre-existing mental and psychical illnesses. Stonewall has a great article on why it’s never OK to out someone.
Global majority queer are alienated not just by these social inequalities but by the cultural/religious communities they belong to.
In 70 countries that global majority queer people have their cultural roots it is illegal to be gay for religious and cultural reasons and in 11 of those countries it is punishable by death.
I grew up with a diverse range of music that has black roots and there was nothing I loved more than reggae. But a real issue within reggae and dancehall is anti-gay murder music. Stop Murder Music was a campaign by gay rights activist Peter Thatchell in 1992 that opposes Caribbean artists that produce music with lyrics alleged to glorify murder of homosexual men. Until murder music is acknowledged by the music industry as damaging to queer people of Caribbean heritage many will suffer damaging internalised homophobia as a result.
Queer global majority people face systemic inequalities, as homophobia and racism are widespread in society. Community organisations such as UK Black Pride set up by Lady Phyll and Rainbow Noir in Manchester offer what they can to support queer people who aren’t racialised as White.
These organisations alone are not enough to change the wider socio-economic landscape. We need the mostly white leaders in healthcare, education and the workplace to take a stand against discrimination.
We need those with a platform to act and in the words of Lady Phyll (the leader of UK Black Pride) in an interview with Forbes:
“The LGBT community is not exempt from being bigots, just because we’re of a marginalised group. Everyone should use the privilege they have with their platforms, especially when you have access to something we don’t.”
If we continue to not have an intersectional outlook for equality, then much of these inequalities will remain, with global majority queer suffering consequently. If you want to know how best to support queer people of colour here is Stonewall’s list of 15 things LGBTQ+ people of colour want you to know.