"We aint there yet, but we're gonna be"
Homosexuality within the black and minority ethnic communities: “We ain’t there yet, but we’re gonna be”
As a white, straight female, you might be thinking ‘why the hell is this girl writing about homosexuality in the black and minority ethnic communities? What does she know?!’ (or maybe something a little less PG). This, I believe, is the problem. There are issues in this world that are not discussed amongst those who it does not inherently concern– it is the ‘Elephant in the Room’ if you will. To solve huge problems we need to evoke change, but how can we evoke change when these issues are not being discussed? Now more than ever, we need EVERYONE to realise what is happening, and Homophobia within BME LGBT communities IS happening right now.
In the UK, there are approx. 400,000 LGBT ethnic minority people in the UK. Most will agree that at some point in their life, they have struggled with their identity and have struggled to obtain a sense of belonging within their ethnic community, and the community in which they live as a whole. Here are just a few statistics:
More than 2 in 5 (43%) of black gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from family members since the age of 16 compared to 1 in 5 (22%) of white gay and bisexual men. A third of Asian men (32%) and mixed and other ethnicity men (34%) have experienced domestic abuse from a family member since age 16.
Lifetime suicide attempt rates in the LGB population range from 10% to 40%, compared with 0.4% to 5.1% in the heterosexual population.
4 out of 5 LGBT women have reported having had spells of feeling miserable, sad or depressed. 1 in 5 LGBT women have deliberately harmed themselves.
80% of black, gay men have experienced racism in the gay community.
So my question is…why? Why are these statistics even there in the first place? And why are they so different to those statistics of the white population? In a world where gay marriage is now legal, where the US’s first black president has resided in the White House (don’t get me started on who’s replacing him) – why do we seem to be going backwards? Why are LGBT BME people still being persecuted for being themselves? And this is the problem; the questions outweigh the answers.
Each year, more LGBT BME people are living in hiding, scared to come out to their family. They are scared to tell their religious mother or father who has told them from an early age that homosexuality is a sin. Perhaps they are even scared to accept themselves that they are homosexual. Maybe they have come out to those around them, but are now suffering abuse from friends, family, beaten by strangers on the street, and made to feel worthless to the point where they take their own lives. How can you win? Often, there is a sense of double discrimination – they are discriminated for being black, for being an ethnic minority, and they are discriminated for being LGBT. They are having to fight for two parts of their identity – and I can barely begin to imagine how exhausting and painful it must be to hide, or to fight, for what you truly are because of a narrow minded society.
It is true that not all black or ethnic minority LGBT people struggle throughout their lives, but to acknowledge that there is a large portion that do, is essential to change. For those who can’t relate on a personal level, like myself, does not mean that I cannot relate on an emotive level, and I believe it is highly important that this message is spread across the nation. Many are taking steps in the right direction, and discrimination in the BME LGBT community is being brought to the table. Hip Hop artist and word poet Dean Atta has brought homophobia to the forefront with his ‘Young, Black and Gay’ video (Please, watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V4BOQswtTo), where he pronounces… “ we ain’t there yet, but we’re gonna be”.
In television, the US TV Hip-Hop drama, ‘Empire’ has received praise from its depiction of homosexuality and homophobia in black culture. For a cast who is black – and will therefore attract a predominantly black audience – the programme is a pedestal for evoking ethnic minority issues. To feature a main character as a black gay man is a bold feat for this TV show. To see him being ignored by his father, beaten and having racial slurs shouted at him is a safety net for those who have also experienced the same discrimination. It sends a powerful message, does not cover up the truth, and provides a relatable and identifiable character for those who are going through the same issues.
Bringing these kind of issues to the forefront, and releasing the elephant in the room is what is going to open people’s eyes to what is going on. It could open the eyes of the black woman, scared to tell her father that she is a lesbian, or that she is bisexual. It could open the eyes of the white man who shouts racial slurs out of his car window. Either way, nobody should be persecuted for being who they are, and nobody should be persecuting someone who is equal to them. We need to get back into the 21st Century and move FORWARDS, not backwards and homophobia within towards the LGBT and BME community needs to stop.
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