“I hope that the next generation of LGBTQIA+ individuals are buoyed by the number and diversity of role models they can see”
BY JACQUI RHULE-DAGHER, IMAGE VIA PEXELS
BHM was founded by Ghanaian activist, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, in 1987 and provides a chance for individuals of African and Caribbean descent to celebrate and share in the rich heritage of our various cultures.
BHM, which takes place every October, also provides an opportunity to consider the
enormous contributions made by Black LGBTQIA+ individuals.
This year’s BHM theme is: “Time for Change: Action Not Words.” To borrow the words of a Tube announcement, “If you see something, say something.”
What are the specific challenges faced by Black people within the LGBTQIA+ community?
Racism and other prejudices exist at every level and stratification of society. A particular problem within the LGBTQIA+ community, however, is the mistaken belief that our members cannot be racist because they may have faced prejudice and discrimination themselves.
Racism is not just about the active loathing of an individual or alienating people who look different to you. It extends to the insidious and passive ways in which racism persists. “I would love to try Black” is an unsolicited DM I once received. “Good for you!” I replied. “Westfield closes at 9pm!”
The transgender community continues to suffer from the deeply harmful consequences of racism and sexism. Notwithstanding the fact that Black transgender women, such as Marsha P. Johnson, played an instrumental role in advancing the modern Pride movement.
What about challenges faced by Black people within the legal industry?
While BHM is a cause for celebration, it can also cause trepidation. There have been times where I have felt that due to the small percentage of Black lawyers, fewer still, Black LGBTQIA+ ones, if I did not organise BHM events, then they were unlikely to go ahead. I also felt personally responsible for ensuring the success of the event.
Although the Law Society has committees such as the Ethnic Minority Lawyers
Division and the LGBT+ Lawyers Division to support lawyers who are part of an underrepresented group/groups, until the number of Black lawyers increases, organising events for BHM is likely to fall to already hypervisible lawyers.
Are there any workplace initiatives that can be implemented for Black members of the
LGBTQIA+ community during BHM and beyond?
Initiatives to celebrate BHM may include sharing achievements and historical milestones. The Black inventor, Lewis Howard Latimer, invented a process for making carbon filaments for lightbulbs. Thomas Edison is rightly lauded for inventing the incandescent lightbulb, yet Lewis Howard Latimer’s contribution typically goes unrecorded.
LGBTQIA+ networks and BAME networks tend to operate in silos. Greater collaboration between networks is likely to lead to a better understanding of diversity and inclusion.
Leaders of organisations also need to ask pertinent questions such as: “What exactly is being done to ensure that Black/intersectional individuals are thriving within an organisation?” “What exactly is meant by ‘diversity’?”
If leaders are committed to improving diversity within their workforce, then in addition to considering colour, gender and sexuality, factors such as ableism, different accents, class-based snobbery, cultural backgrounds, body types and lifestyles also need their attention. Significantly, these are aspects which should be considered all year round and not just rolled out once a year like The Great British Bake Off.
LGBTQIA+ role models I want to celebrate this month
Stalwarts of the LGBTQIA+ community such as Lady Phyll (co-founder of UK Black Pride, now the world’s biggest Black Pride) and Emma Palmer (Impact Culture’s Head of Equity and Inclusion) inspire me greatly. By living authentically and unapologetically they have been instrumental in making me feel proud to be open about my identity.
My daily mantra is “forwards ever, backwards never”. With an eye to the future, I hope that the next generation of LGBTQIA+ individuals are buoyed by the number and diversity of role models they can see.
With any luck, seeing these positive representations will inspire and empower them to actively seek out enriching and uplifting spaces, that value and respect every facet of
Jacqui Rhule-Dagher is a lawyer at an international law firm and is a member of the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division
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