CHRISTANIA: Hello my name’s Christania and welcome back to Qmmunity.
ALEXIS: And I’m Alexis, the rustling in the bushes outside of olympic cutie Adam Rippon’s house. Today my lovely listeners, our show is based around the night of our panel talk on The Threats to The Community. Christania - what do you feel is a threat to us and our LGBTQ identity?
CHRISTANIA: I think that the threats are constantly changing but the main ones that stick out the most to me are: homelessness among LGBTQ plus youth, racism and the closure of LGBTQ plus spaces.
For this live recording Alexis and I both moderated the panel which was great as I felt a little less alone on stage. Let me introduce the brilliant panelists we had on our show, and the voices you’re going to hear…Lady Phyll, Co-Founder and Director of UK Black Pride, Reverend Jide, Founder of House of Rainbow, Jane Czyzselska, Former Editor if Diva Magazine and psychotherapist and Sabah Choudrey, Co-Founder of Trans Pride Brighton and trans youth worker.
ALEXIS: Our first question to the panellists was, in their opinion what they thought were the current threats that we are facing? Lady Phyll spoke first…
PHYLL: With that huge question there are so many things we can start with youth homelessness, we can start with austerity, jobs, poverty, Brexit, health, education, Oh, so many things, but I actually think the biggest threat to LGBT plus community is ourselves. And I say that because there's something about having to know to mobilise and engage and build the community and if we are not doing that and coming together collectively, with an amplified voice. We run the risk of being able to challenge anything, whether it's in parliament on, whether it's about equal marriage or refugees or immigration or asylum. We run the risk of not being able to challenge youth poverty where maybe 60 percent or a little bit more are BAME; black, Asian, minority ethnic, LGBT people are living in homelessness or living in poverty. We run the risk of just not coming together to support one another.
ALEXIS: A very sobering fact to add some context to Phyll’s point - as she mentioned, unfortunately there are still many external threats that we face - but if we look at homelessness, it’s an issue that over-proportionally affects our LGBTQ brethren. According to anti-youth homelessness charity, The Albert Kennedy trust, 1 in 4 homeless young people are LGBTQ...when you consider that, at best, it’s believed that queer people make up to 10% of the population...we massively over represent. In people under the age of 25, being LGBTQ and facing rejection from family, or having to run away from an unsafe home, is the leading cause of homelessness.Jane continues answering the opening question...
JANE: I was thinking about this and I was thinking about internal and external threats and external stuff you've mentioned. You know, we had our great LGBTQI resources; Pace, you know, disappear, you know, not so long ago, which was a big loss to the community in terms of the support and the wellbeing that it provided.
CHRISTANIA: Pace, the charity that Jane mentions, was formed by volunteers in 1985 to provide counselling and mental health support to LGBTQ people, and was the only one of its kind. After 30 years, Pace sadly closed its doors citing the lack of government funding and support, meant it was no longer financially viable and sadly closed. This shock closure was quickly followed by another big hit - Broken Rainbow, the UK’s only provider of help, safety and support to LGBTQ victims of domestic violence also closed in in 2016 due to funding issues and financial mismanagement. At times of closing, both charities were seeing increases in people reaching out to them for help…where do these people go now?
JANE: And I think again, I agree internally, we need to be. Remember we have to be intersectional about the way that we address issues. And I've been reading Angela Davis’ book Freedom is a Constant Struggle recently and she talks about the threat to freedom is the focus on individualism and the narrow identitarian struggles. For example, you know, the, I often gets missed out in many of the ways that we talk about our community. So I for intersex. At the moment, Intersex people have no protections in the UK. They're operated on without their consent as infants, there's no recourse to law and legal protections in terms of the health access, discrimination, etc. etc. And again something that Angela Davis has said is that we need to focus on the most marginalised individuals in our community and that will change from decade to decade, but we need to be intersectional basically, we’re all inter-dependent essentially.
CHRISTANIA: Following Jane’s nuanced answer, Reverend Jide follows on…
Rev. JIDE: I think that for me, the immediate threat to our community is the fact that many people today don't even know our history. I also see that there's a lot of, um, a discouragement within the community, whether or not that you fight for their rights or just carry on, you know, one other thing to is that there are many people who have fought for me to be here today. Uh, you know, so I'm riding on the shoulders of giants heroes and sheroes and daroes. And I think that one of the things that will listen today is that people don't even know the history or the culture of being an LGBT person, you know, safe and sound and free. I mean, there are a lot of people that can just roam about in cities like London and not understand those history. I think that is a threat, you know, we need to capture those histories and take those histories back into the history book and also into academic settings.
ALEXIS: Jide’s point about how the threat of not knowing our history is one I don’t think we’re really aware of enough. Our history, despite us queer people being around for thousands of years, if written out of textbooks & omitted from documentaries & films. Kids are taught Shakespeare in school, but it’s never mentioned that his most famous poem, sonnet 18 which includes the famous line “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” was written by Shakespeare, about another man. If we don’t know our history, and where we’ve come from...then can we really know ourselves?
CHRISTANIA: Sabah took a different view on the question, and contributed next
SABAH: I'm looking at my skin and my clothes and my size and my behaviour and I think, yeah, of course I'm a target. So going back to the question, I was like, who's asking this question and what does it mean? Like our LGBT community? What is, what does that mean to me, and I think with how it's synonymous, LGBTQ is with white, the threat for me is the LGBTQ community itself in that it's not intersectional as as Jane was saying, like so often it's the threat is just having the community there and having to constantly prove myself or push myself into it because my skin colour comes first. My faith comes first. Yeah. That's where the threat is.
ALEXIS: From another perspective - political threats are starting to rear their heads again, two of the most prominent members of the current conservative cabinet don’t support us and our rights as LGBTQ people. If I look directly at my fellow gay men - Mental Health issues heavily affect us and our loved ones, we are more likely to experience anxiety, loneliness, depression and consider suicide than heterosexual men - according to figures by stonewall, 17% of the heterosexual male population have felt like life was not worth living, compared to 50% of gay and bisexual men. Again - these statistics only get worse for gay and bisexual men of colour, another reason why we need to consider intersectionality within our community.
CHRISTANIA: We then asked the panellists what the growing threats are
JANE: I think fear is behind the changing or growing threats. I think a lot of people have fear around so many different things and they usually don't exist necessarily. So for example, you know, within our own community, we saw pride this year. Some cis lesbians who were marching at the front, who were saying that trans women weren't women and you know, I'm sure a lot of you were aware of what happened. This is fear built on lies and ignorance and misunderstanding and connected blinkers.
I think a threat to our community is white fragility. I think that white fragility is the ultimate gaslighting tactic because those who enact, we're embodying it or basically saying that white supremacy as a structure and ideology doesn't exist
CHRISTANIA: For those of our listeners that are not aware TERFs are trans-exclusionary radical feminists - as the quite literal name explains, they are an extreme group of feminists whose exclude Trans women from the sisterhood and state that only cis women are women. A group of them infiltrated this year’s Pride in London parade and held up the march with an anti-trans demonstration. I think that as trans people become more visible, on and offline, people have become even more emboldened in their hate towards them which makes me angry as trans people have played an integral part to LGBTQ plus rights.
PHYLL: Let's be really, really honest and I would hope that we can speak about things quite frankly. I'd been running uk black pride for the last nearly 15 years alongside some absolutely amazing people. You asked what's the growing threats, I think you know, you've both touched on this. We can look at the bigger issues of, you know, legislation, Brexit and everything. We can look at our human rights violations abroad and we can look at, you know, white fragility, who's speaking about particular things I mentioned at the beginning what the threat wAs and it's ourselves within our own lLGBTQ community and I speak as a black lesbian women. I have had to cry tears, draw bloods, use my own money, made sure that we've got our own network to hold each other up when we're feeling that we cannot navigate our way through the BS of busy being black when we're tired, when we're hurt because we also have to navigate our blackness around our workspaces. We have to deal with traumas that haven't really yet been addressed. So I'm going to say that our LGBT plus, wider community is a threat and I speak only for myself and maybe others will agree to me. It's damaging because when we talk about safe spaces and every year at the end of the year in December, I have to fight for a little bit of money to hold a pride event for people of colour who are LGBT plus and their allies and their friends to in a space where it means that they can take a sigh of relief and be their best selves or their true selves. That's a threat because unless we build and we have other activists and other people to continue this work. So we are our biggest threat. Even as a black woman, I have to recognise and acknowledge my own privilege and that's something that we don't do because we're so busy fighting this oppression and trying to do this oppression olympics, like there's a hierarchy of it that we sometimes blinker ourselves from the real issues.
SABAH I think that when I think about what's behind our growing threats, it's for me what's important to think about those bigger systems of oppression which are like, those are kind of one word thing. Racism, classism, ableism, islamophobia, sexism, but understanding that there are so many different tools that those systems of oppression use like white fragility, micro-aggressions, you know, those jokes that, you know, oh, it was just harmless, but we've had it hundreds and hundreds of times. Fragile masculinity, all those different things. because when even when things happen on like a macro kind of global level, like whether it's pro gay laws being passed or anti-iMmigration, um, legislations going through hate crimes will spike. Stuff will trickle down into our communities and today's micro levels. And we need to understand that. We need to understand that this happens is not just these little things. It's not just us being sensitive.
CHRISTANIA:Sabah’s point was absolutely spot on, we need to think about the system that keeps certain people on the top and others at the bottom.
Rev. JIDE: I think some of the things that will also forget is the, you know, we also need to look at communities and recognise that some of the interventions need to be culturally sensitive. We need to save spaces for every group, no matter how small the group is. We need those safe spaces for those group.
PHYLL: Okay, so how do we stop ourselves being lost in all of this? So, okay, I'll use the exaMple of uk black pride. now we have seen an increase of wonderful corporates wishing to get involved in uk black pride, which is great because we need the money, but I think what we want to be clear on is that we understand LGBT people work in corporate organisations. We understand the needs to deliver a safe and free f, r e e. uk. Black pride is free. A free event but what we're not going to do is centre corporates within our pride. What we're not going to do is turn uk black pride into a corporate jamboree. What we're not going to do is have profits over people. What we're not going to do is not centre our black and brown bodies within the space that's required because those corporates, whilst they're doing some great work, they can parachute in and parachute out and when they parachute out we are still left homeless. We're still dealing with poverty. We're very particular because we have to check how, how ethical they are, but we said what we want to do is we don't want you just to sponsor us because we do need your money. We want to look at what your going to do about how you recruit, what you're going to do about internships so we can see more black and brown bodies applying for those internships and getting themselves back on a particular ladder or into the labor markets. And we also want to see what are you going to give us jury in the year and not just in that one month of July.
ALEXIS: How companies support us all year round has got to be really looked at - are we really happy with being given one month of corporate support, one month where they turn their logo rainbow? It’s good that companies are now donating percentages of profits from pride ranges & products to LGBTQ charities - but this can’t be enough. In the UK, LGBTQ charities account for only 0.04 percent – or 4p in every £100 – of overall voluntary sector funding. We need companies to dig deeper, and they will only do that if we speak up.
SABAH: I can only speak for myself as a youth worker. I worked with trans youth and non binary. I know how important it is for them to see people like that. Just trans people, trans women, trans women of colour being you know, onstage and in roles that they never thought they could get. Because when you see someone like you exist, you think, oh, I can exist. When you don't see yourself represented, you don't think you can exist, um, you don't think you should exist.
JANE: You know, I hear what you're saying. It's really fantastic to have representation to see it's possible, but it's not the end goal for me personally. I don't think that we can really change, make significant lasting, meaningful change to the majority of people in this country without revolution because, you know, white, cis, hetero, patriarchy, all of these things, all of these prejudices and discrimination, they're all linked up. It's like glue that keeps it all going. And that's why it's so important to be thinking outside of your own particular identity because it's not, it's not about being a, being holier than thou or queerer than thou or anything like that. It's about understanding that all of this stuff is interlinked. All of these groupings of people who don't fit normativity are identified as other because we don't fit. We don't fit there, you know, they're kind of ideology.
Rev. JIDE: You know there are two words that are going on in my mind, has the hit as my colleagues were responded to that question. One is aUthenticity and the second is visibility. Now when we have a reality show, is that reality? but at the same time I know that they probably have an intention to draw to the mainstream some of the issues that we're dealing with in society. So it's like shining the torchlight in the dark places. But I don't think that these shows actually represented a lot of the realities. Have you gone to the rural areas of England to see whether or not we can find the people on this program in the rural area? So let alone rural areas back away in Africa or other parts of the world? Now for me, I think that we can actually challenge corporate and I think that Phyll had really spoken quite elaborately on that. But I think that my problem is the. I've attended quite a few events, you know, in corporate settings, and I'm not goIng to leave names out that's just unfair, but I think that what, what my concern is that, you know, if corporate can have an environment that is inclusive and welcoming for LGBT people in London, what happens to the branch in Nigeria where they have an anti gay law. So if I'm a gay man working for your organisation in Nigeria, what’s was the point? How are you going to support me? This is what I'm talking about.
Now, the other thing again is this, right? I mean I think for me with the church, there’s clearly an issue here in the church, but someone said that you know, the church of England sends out mixed messages around LGBTpeople and inclusion and that's true. For some of the work that I've done. If you go grassroots, some of the churches, church of England actually have the rainbow flag flying somewhere inside the church, but in the hierarchy itself is for me at the moment, that's still institutionally homophobic, transphobic, bi-phobic, you name it also institutionally racist as well. You understand? So I think that there's a level that we need to begin to look at, you know, how the grass-root churches can actually grow and begin to express things in a better form. There's a woman called Sarah Maxwell. She actually published her doctoral research called Transcendent Vocation. And in that book she talked about clergies within the church, 40% of the clergies in the church are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. I'm serious. Honestly, this, this confirmed, confirm mean if she has done a doctorate it better be real information. Seriously. I mean, you know, some of us rely on data, but let me tell you two more points that she raised. She said that 80% of those clergy in the church have partners that live with them in the vicarage, wait for the sad one, about 87% of those clergy did not participate in the church where the partner as a minister, that is a loss to the church as far as I'm concerned. But the point is that when it comes to LGBT people, the discrimination is too much. And sometimes people just kind of handle it so they move away.
SABAH: Personally because of my gender identity and expression has changed over time. So it's, I just kind of wanted to give a different kind of approach to it. So like I was trying to think like what kind of threat was I as a young brown dyke living in Brighton obviously. And um, how has that changed for me now that I'm perceived more as a man, I identify as non-binary, but most times they look like a man sometimes it looked gender nonconforming and realised that I'm still faced with a lot of the same violence. But I receive a lot of physical violence and aggression from men now as I look now. but it's, it comes from the same place, even when I was a brown dyke and like people were leaving me alone. They're justice guide as the men who I like shoving me or like grabbing me or whatever. They're just as scared and it goes back to Jane what you were talking about. The fear is still the same. It's just coming out in different ways or people are just more brave to show you how they’re not scared of you because you might look more like them.
JANE: I mean social media has reached critical mass of venom. I think it can destroy people's lives as well as connect people. You know, I mean it's obviously, it's a bit of a double edge sword, it's increasing amount of hatred that can be levelled at individuals and it's a mental health issue. I know a lot of people who are very connected to your social media and you know, it's a source of connection and it's also a source of threats. I think they're particularly on social media or certain forms of social media. People are policing other people and it's a kind of either or. It's very kind of fear either this or you're this or if you're not this then you're my enemy and people like you were saying, there's a kind of empathy or deficit or listening deficit and it's also because people can sort of talk from behind, you know, anonymous identities, you know, that's really changed and changed the way that we have conversations.
ALEXIS: Jane’s comments here about how toxic social media has become is incredibly real. In 2016, I wrote an article for Attitude Magazine, entitled “Say Goodbye to Mean Gays: It’s time to cheer each other on” and stated that we needed to walk away from negativity and support each other more. Now, I’d go in a slightly different route - I don’t think it’s good enough to just walk away, I think we need to extend compassion in retaliation to the polarisation of online debate and the disharmony that can easily grow.
Rev. JIDE: I mean, the whole idea of the evangelicals and, you know, doing all this ridiculous gay cure thing and reparative therapy, exorcisms and all these ridiculous healings. And I just think that, you know, these are also partners that we need to challenge. We need to challenge them. I, you know, I want to say, you know, put it on the record. There's nothing wrong with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer child, there’s nothing wrong. There's nothing need fixing. So there's nothing that needs fixing at all, you know, there's no miracle that's going to change me from being gay to be heterosexual. I don't need a pill and I don't need your prayers. It's just as simple as that.
So, um, but having said that, I think there are other things that aLso is challenging as well. We need to challenge the uk, if the uk after 50 years of dilly dallying over, LGBT legislation can change their mind 100 percent. They need to speak to their peers in the Commonwealth to say, look at what we've done. Please change it. This is new colonialism. It just plain common sense around human rights because at the end of the day when you look at places like Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, you know, you can see the atrocity that the penal code has done or the sodomy law has done to our country.
CHRISTANIA: The British Empire colonised over half the world and when they did that they took their laws with them. Unfortunately, buggery laws, also known as sodomy laws, still exist in places like Jamaica,
but things are changing. Trinidad & Tobago recently overturned the colonial law after a judge called it unconstitutional, decriminalising gay sex between consenting male adults.
A similar ruling was passed in Belize in 2016, and even more recently in India. Signs that things are getting better.
PHYLL: Let me just talk about the positives because I think that we will know what those barriers to participation or what the negatives are. I think what I have seen as an absolutely brilliant change is the fact that we're having more spaces and conversations like this and it doesn't only centre around London, that we're getting deeper into the communities and we have got some amazing grassroots activists in places like Sheffield, Wales, Scotland, Northumbria, you know, places that I can't even pronounce. We talk about standing on the shoulders of giants and the people that paved the way for us and we must always acknowledge that, but we also must acknowledge the people who are here now doing some of that work and support them and not tear them apart because what they're doing doesn't fit your particular mould. Remember, we're all unique and beautiful and different in so many different ways, so I'm seeing so much, so many amplified voices. I'm seeing so many young queer people of colour at uk black pride that I'm like, where did you all come from? I'm seeing white allies come through and say, tell me what I can do better. Tell me what I can do to help. That for me is the change that we need in order to change the systems. That's the change that we need In order to have representation in institutions where we haven't historically seen ourselves. That's the change that we need that will allow us to say, you know what? Maybe this space is for me and it looks like me so that the next generation could come forward. I always use this analogy that my mom used to say to me and in translating it, it's we do not inherit this land from our parents. We borrow it from our children. That means it belongs to the next generation, so we have an absolute duty, an absolute duty, to make sure that we are doing what we can here in the flesh in order to make it better for that next generation because we're not all going to be around.
CHRISTANIA: We’re all about finding solutions at Qmmunity so we asked the panellists to let us know what they thought we should all start doing in an effort to protect the community.
JANE: I think too many white people think racism is an individual thing, a person who can be individually racist, but our whole entire political legal education, health, cultural system privileges and assumes whiteness. Robin d'angelo says racism isn't an event. It's a system and I think that we white people need to get used to feeling uncomfortable. Learning about the privileges that our skin colour endows us with and we need to step aside, we need to amplify QTIPOC voices and stories and challenge other white people's racist bullshit.
Rev. JIDE:You need to find your tribe, find your community, find your movement. When I started house of Rainbow 12 years ago, it felt like a lonely place, but not anymore. We need you all to join the movement so that we can make those changes together and tell people about it because one of the important thing is to get the ball rolling and get an understanding into the space as well.
SABAH: I would say to practice compassion. So coming from a place of understanding that other people have needs of their own in whatever that Is that you do quite simply, just believe us. You know, we don't have to be visible to show you that we exist. Practice empathy. If I tell you something hurts, like yeah, I hear that. Yeah. And then, you know, ask what we need, what can I do now and just keep learning.
PHYLL: It's from Angela Davis. The importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and consider yourself not a single individual, but a part of an ongoing historical movement. And that's why I always say we've got to build, grow and win together.
CHRISTANIA: And there we have it - from our panellists, the way that we can help protect ourselves, each other and the future of our LGBTQ family, in summary is to -
ALEXIS: Find your tribe and become active in it, seeking to contribute and make it bigger
CHRISTANIA: Practice compassion - extend understanding and empathy to one another...even when it’s hard
ALEXIS: And for those of us who are white...understand that as tough as it can be for us and our sexuality...others in the family are dealing with multiple identities and need us to be better allies for them.
CHRISTANIA: As always, the microphone then got handed over to the audience for a good old bit of audience participation
Audience: Hi, my name's Callum. Um, so in the eighties there was a group of lesbian feminist theorists who used to attack bisexuals and sadomasochists and 25 years later they’re attacking tranS people, partIcularly trans women, and they're attacking sex workers. And what I want to know is, and I think they are one of the biggest threats to our community because you know at the moment, the last last week, the ukip voted that actually muslims should be educated in separate schools and yet our community is being torn to pieces by a group of very intolerant people who don't want to give a quality to a large section of our community. and what I would like to know is do you think actually the, it's a price worth having to actually boot these particular TERFS out of our community. If the rest of us can have a equality?
Rev. JIDE: I, I didn't think that his strategy is to kick them out, the strategy is to educate them in my opinion, because I think that, you know, everyone has the rights to be free, have the right to safety and have the right to life and I think it's important that, you know, this is why I think some of the campaign has been to bring education into schools. I think that, you know, kicking them out is not going to solve the problem. I think thAt really finding a way to educate and provide support for everyone.
SABAH: Yeah. I’d like to add on to that point. Um, I think that something I worry that's happened over time is that our communities are becoming like more unforgiving. Like we will boot people out if they don't adhere to our views even though we have the same goals. I think education is really important and I think that when you're thinking about who's giving that education, ie which people have the energy, the time, the Capacity, the safety to give the education. It should not be trans women or trans people or you know, sex workers giving that information. It should be our cis allies, it should be white allies. You know, those people who are safe and you know, we need to also teach people about privilege in that respect too.
JANE: Also in terms of the terms of TERFS I do talk to TERFS who...and challenge them and just. Yeah, like what you were saying. I find it hugely upsetting and disheartening when I come across people who are transphobic and I don't think it's possible to boot people out. I'm not into that. I just think that I, as long as I have the capacity to do that, I'm going to continue to talk and challenge.
CHRISTANIA: That was my favourite panel so far - I even made an insta story about it - *INSERT STORY AUDIO*. All the panellists touched on important subjects, some things that I never thought of. Reverend Jide’s stat about LGBTQ plus clergy was eye opening, I genuinely did not know that such a large percentage of clergy identified as LGBTQ plus and were hiding it.
ALEXIS: I was, and I wasn’t surprised by that. I’m going to be really honest, I’m very uncomfortable with religion, and I struggle to understand why someone would willingly take part in a school of thought that condemns them for how they are...but I can see that to some people, religion brings something to their life, so it’s very sad that the number of clergy that were hiding their sexuality. If they came out, they could achieve so much together.
CHRISTANIA: Sabah’s insight into how, over time, people’s perception and behaviour changed as their gender identity and expression changed - was really interesting. Lady Phyll was electric as always, I could listen to her talk for hours.
ALEXIS: I felt really lucky to be able to hear her speak, didn’t you?
CHRISTANIA: I liked that Jane talked about white fragility and supremacy because, white people don’t call out the racism in our community enough and we’re scared to speak about it as LGBTQ plus people.
ALEXIS: It’s no excuse - but, as a white person, it’s such an uncomfortable discussion to be part of because you’re so conscious of not asking the wrong question, saying the wrong thing in case you accidentally say the wrong thing and cause offence - and so I think, out of comfort,(which...actually...is the whole white fragility thing that Jane mentions) we don’t address it nearly as much as we should.
CHRISTANIA: So this about wraps up the episode - thank you again for joining us and listening to Qmmunity
A: It was fun sharing the stage with you this week bub! Bye everyone - see you on the podcast next week x o x o