For LGBTQ+ History Month, KCLSU LGBTQ+ Officer Martina Chen writes about intersectional identities, this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month theme, and the importance of amplifying QTIPOC voices and addressing discrimination in queer spaces.
As a queer, second–generation Chinese Italian, my life has always been shaped by a complex web of clashing cultures, values and communities. And because of my multilayered identity I have experienced interlinked forms of discrimination and marginalisation; not just from wider society but also the communities that I am part of, whether that is the Italian community, the Chinese community or the LGBTQ+ community.
When I first came to King’s, I felt a strong sense of acceptance for being queer and found my new environment to be generally more welcoming, multicultural and inclusive than Italy. However, I noticed that intersectional issues and identities were not so visible. As someone whose experience is not informed by solely BAME / POC challenges or queer challenges or gender challenges, but by an interaction and mixture of all of them, I found that the tendency to look at these issues in an isolated manner erased the experience of those, like me, whose identity is more complex and subject to the challenges implied by all of these positions.
In my role as KCLSU LGBTQ+ Officer, my priority has been to uplift and amplify intersectional queer identities and experiences which are frequently neglected and overlooked. From the moment I started organising this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month, my priority was to centre queer, trans+ and intersex people of colour (QTIPOC) and their experiences, as they are the most marginalised group and experience oppression at the intersection of queerphobia, transphobia, interphobia and racism.
Other central focuses have been amplifying non–Western queer voices and experiences; exploring the relationship between colonialism, gender and sexuality, and fostering dialogue about decolonising queer history and our understanding of queerness and gender identity. National LGBTQ+ History Month celebrations and queer movements continue to be Eurocentric, white–centric and cis–centric.
With the rising racism, transphobia, hate crimes and far-right narratives around the world, it is more crucial than ever to create visibility for those who have been historically erased. We need to acknowledge and address the different forms of discrimination happening not only in wider society but within the queer community as well.
It’s time to ask: who is benefitting from LGBTQ+ laws? Who is being excluded? Who is included in the calls for LGBTQ+ equality? Whose stories are being told? There might not be a simple answer, but what is certain is that queer, trans+ and intersex people of colour have been left behind.
We have made huge progress, but queer spaces continue to be white, cis and male dominated, and queer culture is still frequently understood to be a cis, white, gay male culture. Although we might all be part of the same community, cis white queer folks can still be complicit in sustaining white supremacy and transphobia, and the harms that POCs and trans+ folks are subject to. Cis, white, gay privilege is real.
It is striking that, whilst trans, non-binary, black and POC queer folks and their experiences have been excluded, marginalised and erased, queer liberation movements were historically led by QTIPOCs. Trans+ black women led the Stonewall Riots and paved the way for our rights today, yet they were subject to hatred, discrimination, erasure and violence from some cis white queer folks. This persists today through organisations such as the LGB alliance, trans-exclusionary feminists and elitist white, gay groups, who continue to perpetuate hatred and violence against trans women and queer people of colour, especially Black trans women.
I hope that this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month, together with the global conversations about racism and transphobia, encourages us to break down the mirage that there is a united queer community. It’s time to start addressing the division, hatred and violence that is still perpetuated by our own members, so that we can build a truly intersectional, inclusive and united queer community and call for the liberation of all queer folks, not just white, cis, gay men.