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The racist gay man who called me a monkey

As we continue marking the UK’s Black History Month, Linda Olatunji tackles the problem of racism in the LGBT community
UK Black Pride is one of the events designed to give black LGBT people a safe-space to celebrate and aims to tackle racism in the gay community.
Photo by Scott Nunn.

Being black, female and a lesbian shouldn’t have made my life any more complex, it shouldn’t have out me in a position where I would walk through the world being made to feel like an outsider.

All of these things are part of my identity. But they are also words, or rather labels, used to put me into a category. And that means I, and people like me, are singled out from society, made to feel different and less than what we actually are. We are more likely to be mocked or have abuse reigned down upon us for aspects of identity we have no power or control over.

I know the world – or at least the less brainwashed part of the world – recognizes this is an ongoing issue. And it’s one that the LGBT community has relentlessly fought against.

So the thought of having to address racism within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender world simply baffles me. All the same, sadly, the problem is very real.

I experienced racism in the LGBT community once in my first year of university in Liverpool, north west England.

A drunk gay man approached me and proceeded to call me a monkey. Not only did he tell me I looked like a monkey, to labour the point he started barking ape sounds at me. Classy.

I won’t lie – at first the inner sister in me wanted to smack him over his head. But once I had stopped myself, I realized I deeply pitied him and I told him exactly that.

The ‘gay community’ is made up a group of people who are connected through their struggles for acceptance, for the right to have a recognized and respected place in this world.

But some of these same people, linked to me through their individual struggles, turn around and make me or others feel out of place, due to the colour of our skin, cultural beliefs or ethnicity. When they do that to my mind they actually become the ignorant bigots we should be united against. They are undermining the cause that civil right activists, feminists and LGBT campaigners have spent years building.

By taking away the hope of others, they take away their own hope.

It will always shock me when I experience racism full stop. But it breaks my heart to see people enslaved by similar labels and a lack of acceptance projecting that on others simply because of race.

It is a sad thing to witness or go through and it is a testament to how much we as human beings still have to grow.

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