Diversity & Inclusion
On Friday 26th June, STAND had the privilege of taking part a webinar joined by Evgeny Shtorn, Russian LGBTQ+ and direct provision activist, scholar and poet, and Rayann, community organiser, advocate for black queer folk in Ireland and poet. Both agreed that while Pride had accomplished so much, with so many reasons to celebrate, Pride was and still is, first and foremost, a protest.
Although Pride started as a protest, led by mostly black trans women and lesbians; the most visible activism of Pride in the past rested with “privileged, New York, gay cis white men” according to Shtorn, an issue which did not go unnoticed by Angela Davis – she claimed that feminism became white feminism, while the LGBTQ+ movement became fronted by white men.
Even today, Pride is very much still white-washed and run by corporations, resulting in a lack of reflection of many of the community. “Having one or two token gay people at every panel isn’t enough”. Rayann noted that there is a huge amount to combat regarding privilege, race, class and able-bodiedness: “[Pride] has become a corporate party proving that they are inclusive, while the [large intersections of the community] feel disheartened and quite invisible from the movement, but in a social lens, very ostracised and alienated”.
Rayann centred on the black LGBTQ+ intersection, quoting Marsha P. Stewart’s famous line “No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”. They noted that intersections of oppression come extremely close when it comes to black trans folk; as a result of misogyny, race and so on. They are constantly questioning their placement on this world, and are put in a lot of danger – which, according to Rayann, is reflected in the current Black Lives Matter movement, as the lives of black trans folk are often pushed to the side.
Shtorn focused on the LGBTQ+ movement and Direct Provision. At his first real Pride in Dublin in 2017, he joined a small DP column in the parade which resulted in them being the last group to walk. Surely this is a reflection of how DP residents are treated in Ireland. When people arrive in this country and find themselves placed in DP, they know nobody in the country they often cannot speak the language; and have no one to ask for help. Some of these people are lacking very basic needs. Then, as Shtorn explained, if these people were revealed to be LGBTQ+, they could be left completely isolated and without support – ignored, excluded and even abused. Subtle bullying among other residents of DP can be a problem – although not tangible, as Shtorn clarified, it could have very bad consequences on mental health.
A growing problem is gender-based violence, especially for female subjects who are hosted in a mixed environment and are often in close contact with males expressing sexual interest in them – there is almost no way to control it. A solution to all this for LGBTQ+ folk in DP to be able to go to events, to community centres, to meet people. Due to a lack of transport options, people in the asylum process in rural areas do not have the luxury of simply going to Dublin as many Irish citizens can.
“Not only are LGBTQ+ people often more vulnerable in the Direct Provision system, but Evgeny also highlighted their heightened vulnerability throughout every facet of society”
Rayann also addressed the compounding of issues such as housing and homelessness, which affect so many in our society, but disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ people and particularly Black queer youth. They highlighted the fact that lack of access to affordable housing can lead to many LGBTQ+ people either forced into insecure housing, or forced to live with an unsupportive family, often remaining closeted for fear of being kicked out of their home. Rayann focussed on the issues of who is uplifted in society and who is trodden upon; often it is white, cis people at the forefront of Pride parades and campaigns, but it is Black trans people who shoulder the burdens of financially insecurity, violence and exclusion.
In this current moment, when Black Lives Matter protests are taking place across the globe, Rayann encouraged us to reflect on whose voices are amplified during Pride. Trans people of colour are disproportionately affected by discrimination and violence, but their voices are often the quietest in the movement. Who gets to party whilst others are still protesting??
Featured photo by Eduardo Pastor