Gay Oppression and Racism

Two weeks ago, I attended the Eliminating Racism Workshop in Maryland, USA, led by Barbara Love1 and Tim Jackins. Before the workshop, Barbara had asked me to lead a topic group on the intersection of Gay oppression and racism—I’m a mixed-heritage Black female who identifies as bisexual. I had agreed, though I was scared to be that visible as a Gay person at a workshop on eliminating racism. I spent most of the first twenty-four hours of the workshop discharging on and planning for this topic group.

I am pleased to say that it went very well. I led it with a team of two other LGBTQ2 people of the global majority and one white Jewish woman who is in the LGBTQ constituency. The group was open to LGBTQ people and heterosexual people, both global majority and white. Approximately twenty-five people came.

I opened the group by having everyone say something they loved about LGBTQ people of the global majority. That took a long time, and I thought it was the best part of the topic group. It was clear how much everyone there loved us, and loved the LGBTQ people of the global majority in their lives. Some of the things I remember people saying were that we are brave, fun, loud, warm, full of life, very ourselves, and strong liberation fighters. It built up an incredible amount of contradiction3 to have twenty-five people say what was great about us.

Following that, we did a mini-session. LGBTQ people of the global majority went together, LGBTQ white people went together, heterosexual people of the global majority went together, and heterosexual white people went together.

After the mini I talked briefly about what it means to face these two oppressions. They are two harsh oppressions. What we need from our allies is tenderness, warmth, kindness, expectation, and an invitation to be fully ourselves. One of the others on the leadership team talked about the fact that these oppressions are isolating. If you come out4 in your home community, you might be kicked out and sent away. When you are in the Gay community, you will likely be targeted by racism. Either place, you are left alone and feeling like you don’t have a home. This is why it is a major contradiction when we can be together as people targeted by these two oppressions.

Another member of the leadership team talked directly to the allies. She told them that the more they show, the easier it will be for her to show. We always have to hide. We need allies to ask about our lives but to talk about theirs, too. We also need them to ask what it’s like in our various constituencies. It would be helpful to discharge with allies about what it is like to be LGBTQ at workshops for our global-majority constituencies—Asian, Black, and so on.

The white Jewish LGBTQ woman on the team said that she had led a topic table for white LGBTQ people earlier in the day. She reported that they had shared what they cherished about LGBTQ people of the global majority. In the context of their close relationships with them, the white Co-Counselors could see the double oppression they faced and had a good angle from which to discharge their own racism. 

I also talked about how even though it’s a unique position to be in—to be targeted by these two oppressions—we are also just “regular.” It is an important contradiction to where we get exoticized that our allies remember that we’re just regular people, too. What separates us from others is the oppression.

I did a demonstration with a Black woman who identifies as Gay. I let her know that it was for her, not for the group. I wanted her to get to show anything she wanted to show about herself and her life. She was able to notice how she had built contradiction in her life. Given the short amount of time we had both for the demonstration and for the topic group, I thought it was important to put her and our attention on the strengths we have as a group and what is going well in the face of our oppressions.

We finished with another mini-session, again in the four groups. I loved seeing each group of us with “our people,” knowing that we all cared deeply about ending Gay oppression and racism and were excited to do that work together. The whole topic group was such a reinforcement of how we are all fighting oppression together and want to have closer relationships across our differences while we do it.

I was reminded again of how much it puts your face in5 an oppression to take leadership in the liberation from it. Deciding to lead this group forced me to look at where I feel terrified to be visible, and scared that I don’t have the right things to say. These feelings have everything to do with internalized Gay oppression, internalized racism, and internalized sexism, and leading the group helped me chip away at all of them.

I love this piece of liberation work in Co-Counseling. It is where I can most readily see what it means to lift the weight of heavy oppression off of people—so that we can be much more fully ourselves.

“Lula Mays”

1 Barbara Love is the International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage  People.
2 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer
3 Contradiction to distress
4 “Come out” means publicly acknowledge you are LGBTQ.
5 “Puts your face in” means makes you face.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00