How do you show up for Black Lives? By actually showing up and getting to know them.
In the last four years, we’ve been beaten over the head with the fact that the world (and specifically the U.S.A.) is an anti-Black landmine. The world gets even tougher for Black Queer people. In the past few months, we’ve seen a lot of social justice movements and actions taking place to support Black and Queer people. But you know the most powerful action you can take in this mission? Getting to know one.
As you begin to realize how much America (and the world) are not as Black-friendly as you once thought, it’s important to take a look at your social circles. The Gay male community is not as welcoming as you may think. For instance, how many Black Queer men frequent your favorite bars or hangout spots? How many Black Queer men do you know? How many of us are your friends? And by “friends,” I mean people you hang out with regularly, get a coffee with, talk to over the phone, are friends with your other friends and introduce you to their Black friends. While you can be sympathetic to Black causes, it’s telling if your “world” is without a prominent Black presence.
So how do you meet, connect with, and learn to LISTEN to Black Queer men? Go where we are. Keep in mind, these spaces exist BECAUSE white spaces and white people have left us feeling devoid of comfort and acceptance. So when I say, “go where we are” I mean in FULL respect and consciousness. These are not your spaces to colonize. They provide an opportunity to learn and grow, but NOT to take over.
Anyway, here are some basic ideas to help. (Another note, some of this advice is biased toward those who live in highly-populated areas. If you live in a small town, some of these tips may not equally apply).
Join Community/Activist Groups
If that doesn’t work, look into specific groups supporting Black Queer people. Groups with a mission to serve a certain subgroup are always a place where people within that group will congregate. Look into these groups and understand their missions, their purposes, their goals. Sit in QUIETLY in a meeting (if allowed) and understand that you are a guest. RESPECT and ALLYSHIP are key here.
Activist groups are another great idea for finding a connection. Frankly speaking, Black Queer people tend to be at the forefront of Black and LGBTQ activism. If you join a group like Black Lives Matter, Reclaim [Insert City Name Here], or Sunrise, you have a significant chance of connecting with Queer people of color. Then, you’ll see something you haven’t seen before. The LACK of White faces in these rooms. When the photo-ops and shoulder pats are done, how often do our White peers stick around to support community initiatives? Less often than you think.
Of course, Black Queer people (and Queer people of color in general) are out in the world. We are everywhere. So, you don’t have to stick to spaces that are JUST for us. We exist in sports leagues, book clubs, church groups, and more. If you do happen to find us out in “the wild”, consider striking up a conversation. Respectfully, though. Don’t be weird. The point is, humanize us and learn from us by getting to know us.
Respect Black Gay Spaces
First, you have to try going to spaces where Black Gay men feel comfortable to congregate (but again, with respect). Frankly, these aren’t the mainstream bars, clubs, and spaces that most White gays (and then straight people) congregate. Again, take a look around and see that your “gay space” is looking largely one way. While Black people will hop into those spaces, they aren’t the places where we feel the most comfortable because we often feel like second-class citizens there.
Instead, ask around, do a good search, or look up a Reddit post about where are the Black Queer spaces in your town or city. These could be community/art spaces, Black-owned establishments, or they could be the bar reclaimed by Black patrons.
Now as you enter that space, do you feel unwelcomed? Do you feel a sense of “otherness?” If so, know that feeling is how Black men feel in gayborhood bars and gay community centers. That feeling of “otherness” is your first step in understanding how we feel living in your world.
If those ideas don’t work, you could always consider trying digital spaces. Now, I’ll speak in a language you’ll probably understand. Dating apps. There are dating apps besides Grindr and Scruff! With dating apps like Grindr making us feel like we’re objectified or unwanted, we’ve gravitated to other apps like Jack’d. Of course, Dating apps aren’t the best place to get to know a person. And, frankly, approaching someone BECAUSE of their race on a dating app is messy for a number of reasons.
In that case, you can consider other digital spaces to learn and grow. Try online forums or subreddits, Black Queer news sources (though, they’re very sparse), and more. Reading is a great way to learn.
In the end, this is a tough time for Black folk (but guess what? It’s been rough for American Black people for CENTURIES). It is not our job to educate you on race or our experiences as Black Queer people. But, most Black Queer people would be happy to see their White or other non-Black peers trying to be more receptive to that topic. Though it’s too late to congratulate you and we shouldn’t have to.
If you really believe that Black Lives Matter, then you MUST recognize that Black Queer Lives are always put to the sidelines. Then, next, take the time to join us, talk with us, and LISTEN to us. These are not your spaces, this is not about you. It’s about taking the first step to being a true ally.
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.
Update: This article’s title and content was updated to better reflect the author’s intent of getting gay men to listen to and support Black Queer people.