LGBT History Month is a significant time of the year for LGBT people to celebrate themselves and also celebrate the work and lives of those who have come before us. When you’re part of a group that has historically faced persecution and still faces huge levels of discrimination, it is easy to focus solely on the depressing struggle we face in getting our humanity to be recognised. LGBT History Month is a month to also acknowledge the beauty in simply existing in a world where homophobia and transphobia is so entrenched in society. That in itself is a radical act.
However, due to the lack of representation, LGBT History Month is not as reflective for LGBT people of colour. White gay men have traditionally been the most visible group in the LGBT community and essentially the face of what is ‘queer’, whilst LGBT people of colour, especially those who identify as transgender receive the least visibility. Extraordinary queer figures in history such as James Baldwin and Angela Davis are continuously omitted from the conversation when LGBT icons are celebrated. Furthermore, last year, Stonewall, Britain’s biggest LGBT charity, pulled out of Pride in London citing concerns over the event’s “lack of diversity”. Disappointingly, prior to this, when the issue was raised, Pride in London failed to accept these concerns and refused to make a public acknowledgment.
However, worrying about a lack of visibility is a privilege when there are LGBT people of colour who face much worse fates. During this LGBT History Month, it was revealed a man faces deportation to Malaysia, where homosexuality is illegal, as the Home Office questioned his sexuality. The Home Office did not believe he was gay and raised suspicions about the legitimacy of his asylum claim due to his lack of sexual partners and lack of a boyfriend. As a result, his claim was rejected and if returned, he faces discrimination, prosecution and even violence. LGBT people of colour experience xenophobia and racism generally but also within the LGBT community. They also face homophobia within communities they identify with culturally. It is crucial that we consider the way both race and sexuality together form a person’s experience of power and oppression and how these identities and their accompanying oppressions cannot be isolated or considered separately. This helps us understand people’s lives with greater complexity and without erasing their experiences.
The needs of the LGBTQ+ community have historically been overlooked in housing. Despite increased discussion surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and celebrating diversity in our cities, we still have a long way to go in terms of tackling insensitivity and exclusion of LGBT members.
A report conducted by Stonewall in 2018 found that 1 in 10 LGBT people who were looking for a home to rent or buy had faced discrimination based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is estimated that 150,000 of young LGBT people are homeless because of intolerance, either having faced rejection from their homes, domestic abuse or financial difficulties with maintaining their homes. Attitudes of discrimination and a lack of progress towards building housing and care schemes that are more sensitive to LGBT concerns are largely at fault.
At Network Homes, the Equality and Diversity Committee have sought to emphasise that LGBT staff and residents should always feel comfortable in expressing their sexuality and/or gender identity. For LGBT History Month we visited the exhibition ‘In memory of Naomi Hersi’ at the London School of Economics, which brought together a collection of works from queer, trans and intersex people of colour.
This exhibition aimed to challenge the narrow discourse often utilised within the queer movement, celebrating those whose voices are the most marginalised and exposing the complex and intersecting nature of the advancements for people of colour and queer people.
On Valentines Day, we held a #LoveisLove party that aimed to illustrate our inclusiveness and challenge the heteronormative portrayals of love and relationships. We decorated the office with colours of the LGBT movement and had a quiz that included questions on historical facts in the LGBT movement and renowned figures who are openly LGBT. It was great to see everyone socialising with music and food, challenging each others knowledge on a movement that has been profound for building a more progressive and inclusive society.
Words by Nafisa D and Edie Marriner