Being a queer person of colour (QPOC) comes with it a host of issues relating to this specific intersectional identity. Many QPOC are ostracised from their communities, as being queer is not widely accepted in various cultural backgrounds, meaning that LGBTQ+ spaces are often the only place where we can truly be ourselves. It sounds like our safe haven, and it’s intended to be so. The reality is, queer spaces are often white-dominated, with QPOC feeling marginalised further.
I don’t have many queer friends of colour. In fact, most of the queer people I know are white, meaning that I am often one of the only people of colour at Pride events or in a gay club.
During lockdown, I’ve missed the queer community. But, I don’t miss the racist microaggressions that unfortunately come with being one of the only QPOC in that community, in the club toilets or in a smoking area, where I am made to feel other than for so many reasons: I’m asked ‘where I’m really from’ when I say I come from London or whether ‘my family is homophobic’ because of my race.
“Asking whether my family is homophobic is an unnuanced and stereotypical question that assumes that all ethnic communities and families are the same”
Asking someone where they’re really from is something faced by all people of colour, but it’s made all the worse when queer spaces are supposed to be inclusive and progressive, undisturbed by the problems faced in wider society. To be asked whether my family is homophobic is an unnuanced and stereotypical question that assumes that all ethnic communities and families are the same, homogenising them all and not taking into account that there are so many people of colour who have supportive families. While identifying as LGBTQ+ can cause difficult conversations or ostracisation within ethnic families and communities, it is offensive to assume – everyone is different.
My family unfortunately are not accepting of non-straight sexualities and are unaware of my sexuality, which is why I find solace in these queer spaces because I can be myself. But, being myself clearly does not extend to my skin colour, meaning that I’m treated like an outsider no matter where I go. I feel marginalised in the wider heteronormative society because of my queer identity, whilst also dealing with racism, but when I enter queer spaces, I expect to feel safe, to feel like I belong – and yet I’m constantly told whether in words or through gestures that I absolutely do not belong because I am not white.
“It can be incredibly difficult to be a person of colour to figure out where we fit within white queer spaces. These white-dominated spaces can make it much more difficult for QPOC to express themselves in their identities”
LGBTQ+ spaces should be a haven for all who feel marginalised, for everyone who can’t find a space in the wider world to occupy, and need a break from the stream of homophobia and transphobia that exists on social media and in the real world. But, it can be incredibly difficult to be a person of colour to figure out where we fit within white queer spaces. These white-dominated spaces can make it much more difficult for QPOC to express themselves in their identities. It is made all the more difficult when queer people of colour experience racism, or are dealing with bigger issues of racial discrimination in the world and their queer friends do not understand how these intersections are linked.
Over the years, having experienced a variety of racist microagressions at LGBTQ+ events, I no longer feel very safe or happy there. Prior to Covid-19, when I would go to a gay club, I would stick close to my friends, dampening my outgoing personality and desire to meet new people because I didn’t want to be face discrimination from strangers on what is supposed to be a fun night.
“Perhaps safe spaces specifically for QPOC to exist, mingle, and feel like they belong away from the many white-dominated spaces they have previously experienced will become more popular”
Post Covid-19, I don’t know how I’ll feel visiting queer spaces again, or whether they’ll have changed at all. Perhaps safe spaces specifically for QPOC to exist, mingle, and feel like they belong away from the many white-dominated spaces we have previously experienced will become more popular. I would welcome this with open arms.
I can only hope that we will continue to challenge racism and discrimination, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. There are so many QPOC who are looking for a place to express themselves, myself included, and I believe we need to rethink queer spaces with that in mind.
Michele Theil is a freelance journalist based in London, with bylines in gal-dem, The Independent, Pink News and Vice. @micheletheil
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