It’s been one hell of a year for queer Black people: First came COVID-19. Black and brown Americans are disproportionately dying of the coronavirus, exposing deep-seated racial health disparities that have existed too long in the United States.
Then, over the last month, we’ve seen another spate of senseless killings of Black people by police across the country, including the death of Tony McDade, a Black trans man, who was killed in Florida.
Then on Friday, the Trump administration removed protections that prohibit discrimination in health care against transgender patients. (The timing of that move ― Friday was the fourth anniversary of the mass shooting at Orlando gay club Pulse ― seemed especially cruel.)
Given the widespread injustices felt by so many in the Black and LGBTQ+ communities, Pride this month is needed more than ever.
Pride Month may be a celebration for people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but it’s also a time to remember hard-won civil rights moments in the past ― many of them led by Black (and brown) trans and queer people ― and to recognize that the fight for queer and trans equality is still very much alive. (It’s especially important to advocate for the rights of trans women of color, who face starkly disproportionate violence in comparison even to the rest of the LGBTQ community.)
“We’re still assaulted and killed at disproportionate rates compared to non-Black queer folk,” said Asanni Armon, a Black trans organizer who works with For the Gworls, a nonprofit that raises money for rent assistance and gender affirmative surgery for Black trans people.
“And we’re still being erased in this larger fight for Black liberation by other Black cisgender and heterosexual folk,” Armon said. “Pride to me this year is the same as every year — it’s about making sure that Black transgender people are front and center in the fight for Black liberation because if we are not liberated, no one is. Period.”
With all that in mind, we asked advocates like Armon and allies to share some ways readers can uplift and fight for the LGBTQ+ Black people. See what they had to say below.
1. Recognize that Pride Month began as a riot and Black queer trailblazers were at the forefront of it.
We would not have a Pride Month or the modern gay rights movement without the Black queer community.
Pride began with a series of riots and demonstrations led by queer Black trailblazers such as Marsha P. Johnson and Stormé DeLarverie in response to a police raid at The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.
Here’s a Cliff’s Notes’ version: In the early morning of June 28, 1969, police raided a popular gay bar, The Stonewall Inn, in Manhattan. Stonewall was (and still is) located in a heavily gay neighborhood, and although police claimed they were raiding the bar for serving alcohol without a liquor license, law enforcement of the era was notorious for targeting spaces frequented by the LGBTQ community.
When police hauled away employees and patrons, the Stonewall crowd and neighborhood residents grew incensed. Resistance turned into a riot, followed by days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement. Today, the Stonewall uprising is heralded as the beginning of the mainstream LGBTQ rights movement.
“We need to remember that it was QTPOC, specifically trans women of color, who threw those bricks and kicked off the Pride movement as we know it,” said Arielle Gray, a queer Black writer and artist based in Boston.
“Pride has undergone very many iterations over the years, but we must always, always remember its roots,” she added. “Otherwise, we become complicit in the erasure of womxn like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.”
2. Donate to Black transgender and queer-led organizations that are doing work on behalf of the community.
Be intentional about donating to local Black, trans and queer organizations in your communities, as well a Black, trans and queer organizations that do their work nationally and internationally, Armon said.
Here’s a (by-no-means comprehensive) list of organizations to consider donating to:
The Okra Project combats food insecurity in the Black trans/gender non-conforming community.
Black Trans Femme in the Arts connects black trans women and nonbinary femmes in the art world. Recently, the group helped launch the Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund to support Black trans protesters with bail funds, medical care and other resources.
Black Trans Travel Fun works to provide Black trans women with financial resources for accessing safe transportation alternatives.
LGBTQ+ Freedom Fund posts bail to secure the safety of people in jail and immigration detention.
For the Gworls raises money for rent assistance and gender affirmative surgery for Black trans people.
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute works to protect and defend the rights of Black transgender people.
Black Transmen is focused on social advocacy and empowering trans men with resources to aid in a healthy transition.
The Black Trans Task Force at Lavender Rights Project provides low-cost civil legal services and community programming for trans and queer low-income people in Washington state.
The Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project uses leadership development and organizing to address the ways in which Black LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual) migrants are targeted by the criminal law and immigration enforcement system, and marginalized in the broader migrant community and racial and economic justice movements.
3. Join the fight toward eradicating homelessness, which disproportionately affects Black transgender and queer people.
Forty percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, even though they make up 5% to 10% of the overall youth population. That’s why the fight to end homelessness and establish universal housing is so pressing in the queer community.
“Black transgender and queer people are disproportionately homeless, and this is due to bigotry in families, institutional homophobia, transphobia and general anti-Blackness that allows businesses to discriminate against Black transgender people,” Armon said.
To show up in this fight, donate to nonprofits that work to keep Black transgender people off the street. Advocate for citywide and statewide housing measures where you live, and amplify housing rights organizers’ voices, Armon said.
It’s also important to pay attention and call attention to efforts by this current administration that target transgender people. For instance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed a new rule that would weaken Obama-era protections for homeless transgender people, allowing federally funded shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds or force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men.
4. Amplify Black queer voices and their causes.
Have you been following more people of color and LGBTQ+ voices the last month? That’s a good thing. Continue to listen and share their words. Listening rather than talking over is a vital part of being an ally, said Sampson McCormick, an award-winning gay Black comedian.
“What Black people need for our allies to understand is that one of the most compassionate things that a person who truly cares about justice, equality and that really believes that Black lives matter can do is be quiet and listen,” McCormick said.
“It’s an opportunity to be educated and hopefully take that education, apply it to how you see us, hear about us in the media, and to correct false and inaccurate perceptions,” he said.
Don’t minimize Black people’s experiences (“We know what our experiences are as Black people because we’ve lived them, and so many generations before have, as well,” McCormick said). Instead, share those experiences with members of your family or friends who may not hear about it otherwise.
“Take the education back to your friends, family and spaces that Black people usually don’t get to hold space in,” he said. “Listen to us out of compassion, not fear or shame.”
5. When you’re at a protest, follow the lead of Black and queer organizers.
White people who’ve been protesting police brutality the last month have made headlines for being rather overzealous in voicing their discontent. In many cities, they’ve ignored Black protesters’ pleas to not spray paint or damage property, for instance. (In a viral video from protests in Los Angeles, Black women are shown confronting a white woman who’s in the midst of tagging a Starbucks. “They not going to show y’all’s faces on the news when they see that on their building. They going to blame that on us,” the woman tells the non-Black protesters.)
Don’t go rogue at protests. Follow the lead of Black leadership and Black organizers, said Jaelynn Scott, the co-executive director at the Lavender Rights Project.
“It’s easy for white rage to be centered at protests,” she said. “Let the most marginalized lead the movements, because if you secure rights for those folks, you’re ensuring the rights for everyone else, too.”
6. Support Black asylum seekers and immigrants being held in detention.
According to a report by the Transgender Law Center, Black migrants in detention tend to be detained longer, are put in solitary confinement more frequently and are forced to pay the highest bond amounts to get out of detention centers.
“We are talking about bonds as high as $25,000, $30,000. Most people can’t pay and are stuck in detention, aka immigrant prison, until the money is raised,” said Ola Osaze, the director of the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project.
Osaze pointed to the case of Sza Sza, a Jamaican trans woman and asylum seeker who has been detained for several years in immigration prison.
“Black asylum seekers like Sza Sza who have fled near deadly persecution are often denied asylum by immigrant judges, which means being detained for longer periods of time while they appeal their cases and/or face deportation back to places they fled in the first place,” he said.
7. Use your white privilege for good.
Continue to be an active supporter after Pride Month ends and once protests against police brutality start to taper off. Now that you’re politically engaged, stay that way. Get involved in community efforts and vote for candidates who openly fight for queer and transgender rights.
Then, use whatever privilege you have to continue to elevate Black queer voices with your purchasing power, on social media, in the workplace and beyond.
“You can read books and essays that we’ve written. You can pay us to write about these things,” Armon said. “You can put us in leadership positions with the intention of us making sure that your organizations begin to put Black, trans rights at the forefront of their missions.”
Become aware of how queer people of color are barred from resources that will help them start their own organizations because of white bureaucracy, then “once you’re conscious of that, help us acquire the resources to start our own organizations by using your voice and redistributing your resources to us,” they said.
8. Stay hopeful and recognize the victories, but keep fighting and learning.
We touched on some of the ongoing civil rights battles being fought by queer people and people of color right now. But there are obviously glimmers of hope, too.
In a landmark decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that federal civil rights law protects employees from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The decision will for the first time extend federal workplace protections to LGBT employees nationwide.
Celebrate those wins ― it’s important to stay hopeful ― but keep your eye on the prize: Don’t forget there’s still more to fight for and still loads more to learn as an ally.
As Gray put it: “Ultimately, amplifying Black queer voices means listening attentively, learning and sharing the work that Black trans people are and have been doing in the liberation movement.”