As a lesbian and young black feminist, I regularly talk about heritage and identity with friends, family.
And in my work at Imkaan – a black feminist organisation that addresses violence against women and girls. Looking at heritage allows us to reflect on our histories, backgrounds, and all of the things that contribute to who we are.
In London, we are lucky to have the new London LGBT voluntary and community sector Almanac produced by Centred.
There are more than 100 voluntary and community organisations addressing the needs of London’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and the Almanac takes a snapshot of them, looking at the way they are working what they are doing and how they are funded.
But the Almanac also provides a special section on heritage – focusing on how lesbian, bisexual and transgender women have organized in the UK capital.
So why does that matter?
Reading the chapter on heritage was moving and inspiring, particularly the stories about black lesbian activism, and the challenges that come with trying to tackle homophobia at the same time as combatting racism.
Being able to compare stories of black women’s political activity in the past, to conversations with queer South Asian women today, gave me a real picture about how activist movements began, and how and why they have changed.
Reading stories about heritage in the Almanac makes it really clear that we are all different, and just how important it is to recognise and celebrate difference. The stories show that ignoring differences between people can lead to conflict and even to the closure of organisations. We also see ignoring difference can lead to some groups, such as LGBTQ people with disabilities, being side-lined by other LGBTQ people.
The heritage section shows the need and value of tackling multiple equalities issues within the LGBTQ voluntary sector, such as race and disability, but highlights that organizations that address other equality issues earn just 6% of the entire sector’s income. It is clear there is a lack of recognition and support for equalities groups within wider LGBTQ communities, as well as from funders and decision-makers.
As someone with ‘mixed heritage’, I am often seen as ‘different’ by communities I supposedly belong to. Perhaps as a result, making space for difference within any group of people seems so simple and so crucial. I love the quote in the Almanac which says ‘everybody’s different, and it doesn’t mean anything other than, everybody’s different’.
This quote makes me think of Centred as an organization. Whenever I engage with Centred, I feel space is given to every aspect of my identity – young, black, lesbian, feminist – and this really strengthens my sense of self and community.
The Almanac is a reminder we need to continue to create visibility and space for all groups of LGBTQ people. Every story that contributed to the heritage section of the Almanac demonstrated the defiance and creativity of LGBTQ activists and really made me appreciate the movement, past and present. I now look at the challenges ahead with energy and pride in LGBTQ activism.