Race Matters

Black and gay: The persistence of racism in the LGBT community

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, founder of UK Black Pride, which celebrated its 13th birthday this year, says:

"UK Black Pride (UKBP) was founded to fulfil a real need in our community for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). UKBP continues to grow from strength to strength, we have achieved so much by working with all aspects of our diverse communities, we are building bridges not walls. However, the work is not done to ensure that people live their lives free from homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and racism.

To mark the 50-year anniversary, our supporter Emmanuel Agu wrote on behalf of UK Black Pride for Gay Star News.

A version of this article first appeared on Gay Star News in July 2017, Runnymede has been given permission to reproduce it here for Race Matters.

Image: UK Black Pride 2017


This year marks fifty years since the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.

Originally, only men aged 21 and over were affected by the progressive law; previously, they could be thrown in prison for having sex together in complete privacy. Since then, UK law has evolved to mean an equal age of consent for sex and even marriage equality.

The LGBT community seemingly gains more and more legislative protection. And, in recent years, media and political attention has focused on the astoundingly underrepresented trans community.

As a collective LGBT community, we have a long history of championing progressive rights and movements. But recent trends in politics highlight worrying fractures along subsections and cultures.

How the far right has won LGBT voters

Far right movements have employed homonationalism – the union of LGBT issues with nationalist pride – to further espouse racist and fascist ideology.

In the midst of the ongoing refugee crisis, we’ve seen Marine Le Pen manage to court a significant proportion of French LGBT voters. They seemed to not care the National Front wanted to repeal France’s 2013 marriage equality law.

Similarly, only a few years ago David Coburn, MEP for British anti-Europe party UKIP, said of asylum seekers: ‘Many of these people, as we’ve heard, are ISIS. I don’t know about you but I am a homosexual and I do not want to be stoned to death.’

Later that same year, UKIP’s LGBT faction had the gall to infiltrate London’s Pride parade. They used a grotesque perversion of LGBT campaign organisation Stonewall’s slogan ‘Some people are gay, get over it.’ The UKIP version read: ‘Some gays are UKIP, get over it.’

We might think Le Pen’s defeat and the collapse in UKIP’s vote in the UK general election indicates the end of this trend. But the ‘electoral pacts’ between UKIP and Conservative candidates in Britain suggests the vitriol has not disappeared, but simply changed appearances.

How are LGBT Conservatives able to hold their heads high in public despite Theresa May’s abhorrent voting record on LGBT issues? Our Prime Minister has also defended fellow party members despite of virulent homophobia. And now she has partnered with overtly anti-gay Arlene Foster and the Democratic Unionist Party. I find the LGBT Tory attitude quite incomprehensible.

‘No rice, no spice, no chocolate, no curry’

For queer black and minority ethnic people, this exclusionary ideological warfare fought on the political stage manifests on the gay scene in twisted manner.

At times the exclusionary nature is overwhelming. Owners of our some of our LGBT biggest venues have openly scapegoated us for knife crime and called for the boycott of Muslim-owned venues.

Folk on the scene are far too eager to paint entire races as homophobic.

In fact, institutionalised homophobia was an export of British colonialism to many of our countries of origin. Now, queer people of colour experience more racism in queer spaces than homophobia within their ethnic communities.

Gay apps and dating websites openly parade ‘no rice, no spice, no chocolate, no curry,’ meaning the profile user has no interest in black or Asian dates. When challenged, the perpetrators staunchly defend this blatant display of racism as a harmless ‘preference’.

In the little positive representation queer people have in the media, we black and minority ethnic LGBT people find ourselves pushed to the fringes yet again.

Conversations started by #gaymediasowhite across social media laid bare criminal levels of representation. We are excluded from channels that purport to stand for inclusivity and liberation.

The magnitude of our erasure reached new appalling heights in Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall. It boldly re-writes the Stonewall riots as the achievement of white cis-gendered males, whitewashing the known legacies of black and trans people.

LGBT racism shames our diverse roots

The underlying dehumanisation within queer spaces and culture ultimately calls for a serious change in mindset.

LGBT people cannot seek equality while simultaneously being racist. It shames our diverse and empowered roots.

There are a few LGBT people who have finally come to experience a small amount of legislative privilege. Most of them are white gay men. They should not perpetrate the mistakes wider society inflicts on them, onto the other members of their community.

A simple mutual awareness of experiences and oppression isn’t enough. We as a unified community must invest a collective effort into reconnecting with our radical roots. And we must resist the lure of corporate ‘pinkwashing’.

To this day, the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood still stands (though the government has committed to look at relaxing the restrictions). Meanwhile, vast inequality under the government’s policy of economic austerity hits our least fortunate the hardest. And our histories and sexual relationships still remain absent from school curriculums.

We have plenty to proud of, and plenty to be angry at.

Follow UK Black Pride on Twitter: @ukblackpride

Express your interest in getting involved in next year's event here
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