Most of us know the story of the Stonewall Inn: We’ve heard how Black, Brown, and trans individuals in a small Greenwich Village bar rose up against the police in June 1969. While we often credit that night with sparking the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement, the larger queer community ignores the continuation of the story: That discrimination from white, cisgender, middle-class LGBTQ+ individuals often alienated the very people who ignited the movement.
In response, Black LGBTQ+ members created events like Black Gay Pride, which give us a chance to be with others who see us in our entirety. As a Black lesbian, I’m not only proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m also proud to be Black. My intersectional identity means that I face homophobia and racism: Often in spaces where only one of my identities is acknowledged. In queer spaces that can be anything from being ignored by the white bartender to facing outright racist comments from my “siblings” within the LGBTQ+ community.
The only time I can be assured that these slights against my identity won’t occur is in spaces explicitly created for the Black LGBTQ+ community. One of these places was a weekly event called Wicked Bloom, a D.C. gathering for queer, mostly Black women. At one of their events a few years ago, I remember another attendee said to me, “We come here to be free of microaggressions and discrimination. We come here to have a shared experience and heal together.”
The truth of those words stuck with me. At Wicked Bloom and other Black LGBTQ+ spaces, we carve out a refuge where we can let down our defenses and relax. More importantly, these places bring us joy and our joy—in the face of discrimination, inequality and systemic oppression—is a form of resistance.
In 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, many white members of the LGBTQ+ community celebrated the end of our fight for equality. But for queer Black Americans, this was only one small victory: We’re still pushing for more inclusivity. A great example is the current conversation around uniformed police at Pride events. For too many Black Americans, police officers are harbingers of danger rather than a protective presence. Can you understand how including uniformed officers in Pride parades taints what should be a safe space for Black members of the LGBTQ+ community? The same indifference to queer Black issues is behind the unsolved and underreported murders and assaults of Black trans women year after year.
Unfortunately, the harm caused by a lack of intersectional thinking within the queer community isn’t exclusive to Black individuals. Other minorities within the community have also resorted to creating events specific to their intersectional identities as a means of finding a truly safe space. These spaces will remain a necessity until we all acknowledge that the LGBTQ+ community isn’t equal for every one of us and finally make moves to fix it.
Eboné F. Bell is the founder and publisher of Tagg Magazine, a print publication and website for everything lesbian, queer, and under the rainbow.