“Our stories are valuable, our visibility is key”
BY ELLA DEREGOWSKA
Young LGBTQI+ people of colour have shared their stories of love and rage in an insightful new video, recorded to mark this year’s UK Black Pride.
In the video, Pippa, Amy and Issac, ambassadors for the charity Just Like Us, open up about the intersections between race, sexuality and gender and what love and rage mean to them.
Just Like Us is a wonderful charity that aims to empower and celebrate LGBT+ young people. They run an impressive Ambassador Programme which recruits LGBT+ volunteers aged 18-25 years and offers training and platforms to create meaningful change.
Pippa, Amy and Issac each cover their own personal experiences with coming out and struggles with both sexuality and gender.
For Isaac, a trans man, it was one thing coming to terms with his physical transition, but, he says, “managing the weight of how everyone else sees you and treats you is a whole other thing”. People’s perceptions and the portrayal of queer people in the media plays a vital role in the experiences of young LGBT+ people who are struggling with their identity.
Amy talks about how Western media influenced her sense of self as a Chinese lesbian. Being born in the UK, Amy is very aware of the need for a progression in how the British media portrays LGBT+ people’s experience. Admitting that she had “never seen other (openly) LGBT+ Chinese people”, Amy says this made her feel different and added to her confusion.
But, after coming out, she believes that the division between ethnicity and sexuality diminished. Amy learnt a lesson that is definitely worth repeating – her ethnicity and sexuality are “just parts” that make her who she is. An individual’s labels and identity, although seemingly making us ‘who we are’, only represent a small portion of the things that make the whole. While Amy is Chinese and a lesbian, she is also a university student; she has a “passion to become an auditor” and she especially cares about educational inequality. Those are just some of the things that make Amy, Amy.
The fact that she hadn’t seen herself, as a Chinese lesbian, represented in British media as a child, does not mean that her connection with her culture would be affected by her sexuality. In fact, she came to realise that liking girls and being Chinese were wholly separate and individually important aspects of her identity.
Like Amy, Pippa gave us an insight into many of facets that make her, her. Pippa says that amongst other LGBT+ people of colour, she feels that what sets her apart is her hobbies and where she grew up. She sees her identity as much more flexible and dependent on the space she is in, whether that be surrounded by other LGBT+ people, people of colour, or anyone else.
Not only do their experiences highlight the need for more representative and diverse portrayals of identity in the media, but also that our labels and the identifying words that we come to describe who we are are not platforms for limiting or putting us into boxes, but rather ways of indicating some of the ingredients that go into each individual human experience.
It is also worth remembering that a person’s identity and the labels that they choose to use can be whatever works for them. While for some people, being a certain ethnicity or religion may be at the core of who they are as a person, for others, it may be only a small badge to add to their collection. At the same time, being a lesbian for one individual could affect all aspects of their life, while for another, they may not feel the need to mention it.
No matter what, being able to hear the voices of LGBTQI+ people of colour in the media is integral for improving the experiences of young people.
Finishing the video, the Just Like Us ambassadors emphasise one last note: “Our stories are valuable. Our visibility is key.” This sums up well the simplicity of their message this UK Black Pride. Working towards improving representation that is relatable to each and every individual really can make the world of a difference.
If you are LGBT+, age 18-25 and live in the UK, you can volunteer with Just Like Us and help prevent anti-LGBT+ bullying in schools. The charity provides training for volunteers to speak in schools about what it’s like to be LGBT+ – sign up now.
DIVA magazine celebrates 27 years in print in 2021. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable.