There have always been marginalized communities within marginalized communities, and for LGBTQ people, this is no different.
There is a stark difference in the issues platformed by white LGBTQ people versus Black LGBTQ people—which often showcases itself during Pride season. When Black folks realize their acknowledgement isn’t going to come at the hands of whiteness, we do what we typically do. Acknowledge ourselves and keep it moving by creating our own. Black Pride now fills the void left by white Prides erasure of our involvement in this movement.
Pride celebrations in this country have been going on for more than 40 years commemorating the overall LGBTQ culture, but what’s lacking is the specificity needed to celebrate all under one umbrella. The intersection of race, gender, and sexuality, especially when it comes to Back LGBTQ people’s disparities, has left little to be desired in a space where whiteness largely dictates the direction in which the LGBTQ community moves.
One need to look no further than what was deemed as the most important “agenda item” for white LGBTQ people to attain. White gay America made marriage equality the pinnacle fight of the LGBTQ movement in the last 30 years.
Don’t get me wrong, it is important in this country that queer people have this right. Capitalism is set up in a way where those who can attain marriage can also gain certain privileges and protections that single people and those without to right marry cannot attain. However, the gaining of said right can’t negate the real issues faced by marginalized Black and brown LGBTQ communities.
Within Black community, we continue to make strides and find common understanding and safety, but there is still a struggle at times to get past homophobia. There’s no turning to the white community due to our blackness, as we also share in the same oppression based on skin color as our hetero brothers and sisters. It is clear then why Black Pride has become the place where we can go to find solace in both queerness and blackness, away from either of the communities that have yet to fully embrace us.
Throughout the years, Pride events have unfortunately struggled to realize and acknowledge this within the big picture of what we are all fighting for and it’s often the reason why we refer to the main celebrations as “White Pride.”
There’s no better proof than the outrage we received from the white LGBTQ community when we added a black and brown stripe to the rainbow flag in 2016. It was met with immediate backlash from the white queer community and further proved that despite our shared queerness, we must continue to manage the ramifications of racism and bigotry.
Reflecting back on societal issues, we have watched white gay America fight and win marriage equality yet remain silent on the deaths of Black transgender women—who’s life expectancy is estimated on average to be 35 years of age. That cognitive dissonance of being able to share in a queer identity, but not recognize that there are oppressions within that identity based on race and other factors has continued to stifle the movement’s work, lending further reasoning for the divide.
Hence, the need for two separate prides—because truth be told, the Black community is celebrating queer pride for very different reasons than the white community. To be Black and queer is a multilayered experience of oppression every day before you even get out of bed. The intersection of race and gender makes us more susceptible to health disparity, fiscal disparity, homelessness—placing us at the bottom of most societal hierarchy pyramids.
Black Pride is the place for us to go when we need to escape a heteronormative society. A place where we can come together yearly across the country and share in Black queer joy. We are celebrating survival, paying homage to our Black queer ancestors who led the movement of the Stonewall Riots of the late 60’s, and inspiring future generations not only to be Black and proud, but Black, proud and queer.
Black pride events are our safe haven in a society that tells us we have no space, and the separation needed from a white LGBTQ culture that continues to use its privilege to oppress those of us within the shared marginalized group.
Any LGBTQ Pride celebration that negates to realize our Black experience is doing a disservice to any liberation we seek because of our queerness. Until then, we will continue to be Black and queer in a space created for us and by us.
And no, you can’t come in…
George M. Johnson is a Black queer journalist and activist located in the NYC area. He has written for TheRoot, ET, HIVequal, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram