In a country where even straight men and women face discrimination at all levels, being African-American queer with a non-conventional sexual identity poses a much greater threat of further racism, oppression, and torment. It leads to subsequent deterioration of mental health and peace, lack of a safe outlet, life-long trauma, lower self-esteem, and even in some unfortunate cases, a threat to one's own life.
Issues commonly faced by the LGBTQ black community:
● Coming-out to families and peers
91% of people of color have said that racism affected their family lives. Most youths admit that they face stress and fear when coming-out in front of their families. A lot of families, even though they are changing their perspective on homosexuality, are still unwilling to accept the fact that their own sons or daughters may be homosexual.
At school, teenagers going through a sexuality crisis are often still deemed "queer” in a condescending manner by their classmates or friends. Afraid and shunned by potential friends and families, they choose isolation and fear confession - choosing to be oppressed mentally and silently.
● Lack of trusted sources for discussion
Young men and women grappling the concept of sexuality fall into depression and declining mental health. They often fear disclosure to counselors or therapists they visit because therapy sessions usually require a patient's confidential information, including the source of anxiety and distress. Fearing a backlash, they remain covert about their real feelings and thoughts.
Being black brings about further difficulties - the majority of black youths are unable to afford counseling sessions, and, even if they do, finding a counselor that is empathetic and gentle about racial prejudices is not only difficult but also rare. More often than not, they do not know any place they can approach that will protect their racial identity as well as sexual one without subjecting them to biases.
● Lack of awareness at school or work
67% of kids have been verbally and 30% have been physically threatened for their sexual identity. School or workplaces often remain mum about these issues and pretend to have a notion that they do not exist. Special signs or logos to show that the school or the organization genuinely cares for the identity-sexual or racial- may encourage more youths to speak up. They can be assured that it is safe for them to share their thoughts and experiences.
Schools and organizations should allow greater representation and appreciation for different cultures. Having people of various sexualities, ethnicities, color, racial identities, religions, etc. at an authority level may also be a great morale booster for LGBTQ youths shying away from disclosure.
Most schools in the USA are predominantly white with teachers, and administrative staff, adhering to policies that treat homosexual black youths more sternly than their peers. Schools and teachers pretend to turn a blind eye when young people with queer identities are bullied or name-called.
● Lack of safe sexual health practices
Only 20% of the received information on safe sex practices at school is relevant to their own bodies. Lack of people to trust and confide in lead members of the LGBTQ community to continue to practice sexual acts in secret. Often, they get entangled in something larger than themselves- mental and physical abuse or worse, even involvement in crimes like drugs, etc.
They have very little awareness of sexual health and safety and are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Some youths may be subjected to pressure and abuse by their partners and have no means of venting out the anxiety and distress.
● Lack of physical places or zones to practice gender preferences
50% of African-American youth can never use restrooms that match their gender preferences. Black members of the LGBTQ community are further subjected to isolation because there are seldom any places they can practice their gender choices and norms. Restrooms at schools and facilities hardly accommodate gender choices, and users have to choose one of the two fixed sites. Some of them either avoid using it or don't know if they are allowed to use it - this malpractice may lead to future health defects.
What can we do for greater representation and trust-building?
Here’s what you can do to support the Black LGBTQ community:
● Encouraging and appreciating black African-American tales
Allow platforms for youth to confidently and comfortably share their narratives of social and racial identities. Giving them a medium- social media, books, films, music, theaters- which caters to their needs, that doesn't mercilessly turn a blind eye, and encourages them to voice out is vital. Black young voices should not be snuffed out. Greater representation of members of the black community and LGBTQ community is important. When they see more people like themselves, they would naturally be more inclined to come out and regain their self-esteem.
● Raise awareness amongst parents and guardians
Facilitating open discussion sessions where youths and parents can project their fears, feelings, and thoughts is essential. Figures of authority, like organization heads, should encourage open sessions where information is exchanged and issues are dealt with positively. More communication, rather than treating the matter as taboo, is needed. The support of families is the strongest ground for LGBTQ people to lead a normal life.
● Making service more accessible and open
People who deal with black LGBTQ youth on a daily basis, for example - socioeconomic workers, doctors, health care providers, etc., must shun their historical biases and prejudices and be more open to change. Providing equal services to both black and white youths may be a good starting point for that.
● Reforming Policies that neglect racial differences
Policies and procedures that continue to force black communities, especially homosexuals, to face lengthier processing times, indifference by higher officials, delayed service, distrust, further levels of security checks, etc. make them exasperated and fed-up of the existing frameworks. This builds a mutual conflict and mistrust among the blacks and the laws or policies that are in place to protect them.
Black LGBTQ communities are still subjected to bullying, hate, and oppression at homes and schools by people they trust and love. Change is needed at all levels. Most importantly, it is imperative to free the mind against any bias. Sexuality is already a difficult card to deal with, and racial identity trauma shouldn't pile up on top of it to make lives impossible for youths of color.