“I thought rainbow was for everyone, not just people of colour?”
This month we wanted to answer some of the questions that have been coming into The Nubian Times for the group.
The title question is one I have heard many times before. When minority groups create spaces of their own often the dominant group asks “why can I not join in?”
When women create spaces for themselves often men ask “why can’t we come?”, when LGBT people create spaces for themselves straight and cisgender people ask “why are we being excluded?”
People don’t like to be left out, to have spaces that they cannot enter. But the reality is that if you are part of a minority, this is something you will experience on a daily basis. In an ideal world any minority group (be that because of race, sexuality, gender or any other factor) would feel welcome, safe and acknowledged in all spaces but unfortunately we live in a world and in a society where difference isn’t always respected, understood or welcomed
What people in the majority often forget to understand is that they’re made to feel welcome in all spaces or that all spaces will be in some way catered for them. In our society, whether we like to admit it or not, we hold heterosexuality as the dominant and superior way of existence. We hold and allow men to be at the top, in charge and above women. We create spaces designed for able-bodied people and expect disabled people to adapt rather than the other way around. The majority is in almost all circumstances and spaces catered for. And it is because of this that we need spaces of our own, spaces where we are celebrated, respected and acknowledged. Where our differences don’t set us apart but unite us.
As LGBTQI people of colour (POC), we can often experience in mixed spaces feelings of alienation, of being misunderstood, being ignored or othered. Groups that should cater to everyone often fail to ignore the fact that people have many different backgrounds, faiths, cultural influences, needs and experiences. Ignoring these multiple identities instead of seeing and including them can lead to these people feeling unwelcome and even unsafe. In order to feel accepted we are made to compromise part of ourselves.
Compromise is something that LGBT POC are well versed in – whether that is having to compromise our culture and ethnicity to have a stress-free existence within predominantly white LGBT spaces, or compromising our gender identities and sexualities to exist hassle-free within our cultural and community spaces, or even compromising both to exist in society. This isn’t the case for everyone but for many of us it is part of our daily routine. Compromise is hard work. It’s draining. It’s upsetting and frustrating to know that we can’t be our full selves in all spaces; that it is not always safe to be ourselves.
Rainbow Noir is somewhere where LGBTQI POC can come to, knowing confidently that they won’t be ignored, that there are people here with a shared understanding of what it is like to have multiple minority identities. There is no racism in our space, no homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. There is no othering or judgment. And this is why it is important that our meetings are exclusive: so that we can feel safe, and so that we don’t have to fight to be heard or to explain ourselves.
It’s also a space where we can talk about these experiences without feeling like the elephant in the room, responsible for other people’s unfamiliarity or unease. We can talk about racism without the fear of unsettling people around us; talk about Islamophobia without making people feel uncomfortable; talk about homophobia, biphobia or transphobia without carrying other people’s guilt on our shoulders. In our space we do not feel silenced. Our experiences are heard. Our experiences are validated. Comparisons might be drawn between us and a talking group for men to discuss fatherhood, or a group for women who’ve experienced domestic violence, or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Groups of shared identity, experience and interest create empowering spaces where people can share, be heard and understood. Commonality can be reassuring, comforting and for many minority groups, is a rare and sacred thing.
As a group, we recognise the importance of unity, solidarity and friendship with people of all backgrounds, races and beliefs, and we welcome support and kinship from everyone. Our social and public events are open to people of all races but in order to keep our space safe for us, we believe that there is the need for exclusivity which is why Rainbow Noir meetings are exclusively for LGBTQI people of colour.
By Chloe Cousins