CommunityMy FDL

Queers and Communities of Color

(crossposted at Amplify)

Creating Change 2009…this has been a wonderful week. There are so many powerful spirits here in Denver. On Friday I was scheduled to present a session on the Advocates for Youth Anti-Homophobia/Transphobia Project. The intended purpose of the session was to inform session participants of the project work we have been doing at Advocates in concert with project partners around the country. Also, we wanted to give participants tangible tools to utilize when working to redress homophobia and transphobia in communities of color. 

As usual I asked participants to introduce themselves by telling us their name, preferred gender pronoun, and they motivation for attending the session. As you might imagine, the last request assist me in gauging participants’ expectations and needs during the session. As we went around the room I quickly realized that the needs of my participants were not going to be fulfilled by my “professional” presentation on the work that was being done around the country to build capacity of providers to re-dress homophobia/transphobia. No. Instead, I had a room full of individuals that were eager to discuss the real life challenges to dialogue about homophobia/transphobia and racism. I was ready.

I threw the entire session agenda out of the window and we went to work. We discussed common challenges of being a part of a community of color and the reality that queer issues are not always a priority. In reality, many individuals of communities of color are more concerned with the everyday struggles of battling oppression, sometimes dealing with the constant fear of deportation and possibly trying to figure out how to keep a roof over their families’ heads. We talked about the ever-present divide between the queer groups (majority white) and the Black student groups on some college campuses. People expressed their personal challenges with bringing the two groups together on common ground. And, of course we had a conversation about the infamous Prop 8 debacle.

What I realized was that we, The GLBTQ community, have so many conversations to have. Together we processed through sentiments of frustration about the seemingly unwillingness of those in our people of color communities to consider how homophobia and transphobia effect use all. I challenged people to consider how we attempt to work in people of color communities, to consider that our feelings of urgency are our own and not those of many of our communities at-large. People were open about how they made special effort to consider the intersections of oppression that POC communities are often faced with. Folks were clear about the importance of history and culture in EVERY community, and so on.

We spent a lot of time discussing challenges and experience, but I didn’t want use to leave the space without some concrete tools that could be used when having these difficult conversations in our respective communities and I thought I’d list some suggestions here:

1. Know the community, be clear on cultural norms, beliefs and values

2. Establish trust within the community

3. Consort the gatekeepers an popular opinion leaders

4. Meet people where they are

5. Don’t make any assumptions

6. Do your homework

7. Work at the intersections of social issues (queer issues are not the only issues of importance)

8. Honor the collective experience of the community

9. Be respectful; and

10. Ask questions

By no means is this is not an exhaustive list but it is a start.   We all have many parts that make up a whole. The GLBTQ community is not homogeneous, and therefore we must be willing to have difficult conversations about race, class, gender, etc. And if we want to make changes in other communities we must be willing to step outside of our comfortable queer activist/advocate boxes and get down, dirty and honest about how to tackle the huge problems that plague us. It was both an honor and pleasure to share space, knowledge and power with my session participants yesterday. I look forward to the work ahead …collectively and with honesty and love we will get the job(s) done.

Previous post

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ennis Carter, Author of Posters for the People: Art of the WPA

Next post

Book about Bush's SEC: 'Fooling Some of the People All of the Time'