Living as a member of the LGBTQA+ community is no walk in the park, but like most lived experiences in this world, life gets more difficult when you add racism into the mix.
Speaking as a person of colour (POC) who knows about systemic racial oppression, I consider it hypocritical to create a system in our communities that marginalizes our own LGBTQA+ members – and yet, it still happens.
How do we begin to identify the source of the marginalization of LGBTQA+ people in our communities? Should we start with the cultural pressure that does not allow anything outside traditional gender and sexual binaries? Or, the fact that homophobia is imported into countries inhabited by POCs under the guise of religious enlightenment?
One recent example of this occurred after the Orlando nightclub shooting, when pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church said, “the good news is that there [are] 50 [fewer] pedophiles in this world.” Anderson was then still allowed entry into Botswana on the grounds of missionary work.
He asserted that “multitudes” of LGBTQA+ would be “saved” in Botswana as a result, furthering the myth that LGBTQA+ people somehow need to be fixed. I personally walked away from religion years ago, but from what I remember, God did not put any caveats on the commandment to love thy neighbor.
Anderson was later deported after stating on public radio that gays and lebsians should be killed. “We don’t want hate speech in this country. Let him do it in his own country,” said President Ian Khama.
The countries where it is hardest for LGBTQA+ people to live free of violence and discrimination are places inhabited by POCs. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association, same-sex sexual contact is a criminal offence in 74 countries. In some countries, being gay or bisexual is punishable by death.
This problem extends beyond religious individuals, institutions and governments. LGBTQA+-based oppression has spread to our families and friends. Nothing cuts deeper than having the people who are supposed to love you the most treat you as if your existence is a mistake.
Queerphobic hate crimes actively seek to terrorize members of the LGBTQA+ community simply for being who they are. The fact that I even have to write this is angering. The idea that we can end a person’s life based on personal preference is an incredible injustice.
As POCs, we should know better. The whiplash of existing in this world with the injustices of systemic racial oppression should be a cautionary tale to the damage that can be done by systems based on discrimination.
This is not to say that we as POCs have not progressed when it comes to LGBTQA+ rights. South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are some of the places where same-sex marriage is now legal, but in my opinion, not enough has been done. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
So what can we, as members of various communities of colour, do about this? We must educate ourselves, demand safety and stand up to bigotry in all its forms.
As we go into Pride week in Sackville, I encourage you all to think about how you can make a difference in your daily life. I want to bear witness to a collaborative effort demanding justice for our fellow human beings in all communities.
Nelson Mandela said,“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate.” Anything we learn can be unlearned, despite how hard it may seem.