Throughout LGBTQ history, black queer people have constantly been tasked with searching for their place and their belonging in the world and the workplace.
Traditional homophobic and hyper-masculine beliefs within the black community have contributed to the displacement, abuse and death of many black queer people. Historical discrimination and white supremacy within and outside of the LGBTQ community has equally cost black queer people their livelihood & their lives.
Although black LGBTQ individuals have made visible strides in being seen and surviving while doing so over the years, there is a significant amount of change needed. Simply put, queer black folks deserve to feel just as safe, included and guiltless about taking up space as much as we appear to on television and that still isn’t a reality for many.
Despite the amazing advances we’ve seen for black LGBTQ representation in Hollywood, queer black people still experience disadvantages in daily life that impact them personally & professionally.
There is a distorted perspective that somehow LGBTQ black folks receive a disproportionate amount of privilege for being queer in the workplace. This incorrect perspective is largely contributed to the narrative that most queer people are viewed as pets by heterosexual counterparts and that this social position somehow comes with privilege and protection.
To be clear, there is nothing privileged about being anyone’s pet and being a pet doesn’t equate to protection. Many LGBTQ people of color experience the reality of being disposable and it often directly impacts them economically.
Many are misinformed about the needed improvement for LGBTQ rights. Despite media progressions for queer Americans, legislation still proves that LGBTQ life and livelihood is at stake. Here are a few facts about LGBTQ rights as they stand in the US to date according to catalyst.org:
“LGBTQ people of color (32%) are more likely to experience this type of discrimination than white LGBTQ people (13%).18
There is no federal law protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the United States.12
There is no state-level protection for sexual orientation or gender identity in 29 of the 50 US states.13
This means employees can be fired for being LGBT.
One-fifth (20%) of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs.17
22% of LGBTQ Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers.19
Transgender workers are especially vulnerable to discrimination. In 2015, over a quarter (27%) of the transgender population said they were not hired, were fired, or were not promoted due to their gender identity or expression.20
80% of the transgender population who were employed experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job or took steps to avoid it.21”
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Trump administration (specifically the Department of Justice) filed a brief petitioning the Supreme Court of the United States to legalize the firing of LGBTQ workers based on sexuality.
In the current Justice Department’s interpretation of Title VII, “sex” as it is written in the Civil Rights Act doesn’t refer to sexual orientation. As such, they claim, this law should not be used to protect gay, lesbian and bisexual employees.
“Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex does not bar discrimination because of sexual orientation,” the brief states. “The ordinary meaning of ‘sex’ is biologically male or female; it does not include sexual orientation.
“An employer thus discriminates ‘because of … sex’ under Title VII if it treats members of one sex worse than similarly situated members of the other sex. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, standing alone, does not satisfy that standard.”
If the Supreme Court agrees with the Trump Administration’s interpretation when it hears the cases in October, transgender and LGBTQ Americans could find themselves at greater risk for discrimination in the workplace as well as in housing, healthcare and education. Based on the data mentioned before, this reality is even more damning for black and brown queer citizens.
It would only be stating the obvious to say that the current administration has amplified the pervasive bigotry & homophobia that we are currently experiencing in the United States.
We are doing more than merely witnessing hatred; we feel it everyday. This hatred is piercing, painful & gnawing. It is seemingly unending, scorching and scathing and leaves us with lacerations, welts and the scars of injustice on our backs when it seemed like yesterday were proud of ourselves for overcoming this hatred.
This hatred is blatant and out loud and we must be louder. Our cries, our murderous screams, our weeping, our hymns, our skin ripping, our backs breaking, our pride, our gay, and our hauntingly enraged thoughts of being continually disadvantaged, undervalued and impoverished by systems that are vehement about preventing us from succeeding; systems invested in us failing. We must be louder.