Generational trauma and the legacy of slavery has plagued the Black community. Day by day, Black people are experiencing higher rates of sexual violence, mass incarceration, and murder. We have dealt with the effects of overt racism within our social institutions. We have been belittled on political and economic levels. We continue to peril at the hands of the law in unimaginable ways. During Enslavement, throughout the Jim Crow era, and beyond, racial prejudice has been the source of the violence and death Black people face. So why is it that Black people inflict these same destructive behaviors onto other Black people?
Queerphobia is a consistent issue within the Black community due to the eras of conditioning and socialization we have been put through. From being sold as property to being used as machinery, and having our rights stripped away at every step of the way, Blacks have adopted a double consciousness. As defined by W. E. B DuBois, this conflicted sense of self often causes Black people to deviate from any labels that would “other” us any further. These attitudes are perpetuated in Black homes across the world today. It is no secret that Black households produce some of the largest numbers of disowned teens and young adults. What might seem like a mere coming out to the rest of the world, could be a devastatingly dismal invitation for ignorance, hatred, and fear in the eyes of a Black family. To be Black and queer is so wonderful, but equally as difficult. In our eyes, it could be the icing on the cake of the reasons why we are targeted in our day-to-day lives.
The structures of masculinity and femininity, and the roles assigned to these characteristics, are so prevalent within Black households that many Black people share the experience of gender policing. Queer and trans Black people around the world likely share the experience of having homophobic and/or transphobic family members. Feeding into the dog-eat-dog mentality that has been placed onto us, Black people innately perpetuate stereotypes against the more marginalized members of our community. More Black trans women lose their lives at the hands of Black men than any other racial minority. It is common for cis Black women to tout homophobic rhetoric, keeping Black men from expressing themselves authentically. This, in turn, can lead to violence on behalf of the Black men that feel the need to conceal themselves for acceptance. Moreover, A queer identity is seen as more of a weakness, or target on your back, than a state of being. That’s why many Black people have volatile reactions to coming to terms with their sexuality. That’s why homophobia/transphobia within the community has persisted until this day. That’s why the rate of trans homelessness is much higher in the Black community than any other community.
These and many other dilemmas continue to affect the Black community. Just as slavery and systemic oppression has taken centuries to burrow these destructive mindsets into the fabric of our being, it will take an equal amount of time to unlearn these behaviors and strive toward a better, more inclusive future. Never be afraid to call out your family members and close friends on their homophobia and/or transphobia. For some, it could be a matter of life and death.
Watch as Culture Editor Iv Fischer dismantles the motives behind queerphobia within the Black community.
Ivana Fischer is the Culture Editor of WUSSY and a film and media enthusiast who specializes in cultural studies. You can find her across all socials @iv.fischer