Move to tackle racism on the gay scene

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A new push to tackle racism on the gay scene is encouraging people to be “switched on” about discrimination.

Gay men’s health charity GMFA, which is leading the project, says discrimination inside the community will make it weaker.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some black and ethnic minority gay people face prejudice on the gay scene.

A 2001, a Galop survey titled The Low Down found that 57 per cent of black and ethnic minority respondents said they had encountered racism from white LGBT people.

The project was developed by Big Up, the black gay men’s project at GMFA, which receives Big Lottery funding.

Jaime Sylla, project manager for Big Up, said: “These are big and historically complicated issues we’re dealing with. While we don’t expect to solve the problem of discrimination in one go, we hope this campaign provokes discussion and encourages everyone to recognise the benefits of ethnic diversity.

“We also hope that LGB&T people, irrespective of ethnic background, can draw parallels between the experience of homophobia and that of racism, and appreciate that our common struggle far outweighs what we think separates us.”

Matthew Hodson, head of programmes at GMFA, added: “All too often, society discriminates against us for being gay, or different. We know how hurtful and harmful that can be, so why would we perpetuate that within our own community?”

The campaign features online videos from ‘spokesmodels’ and adverts which carry the strapline: “A divided community makes us weaker.”

‘Spokesmodels’ experiences

Phyll Opoku, a black lesbian, said: “Many, many years back, when I first came out, I went to this club and I thought ‘wow, this is great!’ The women all dancing with each other.

“[I was] hoping that someone would just ask me to dance and. It didn’t happen but I got up and I danced just by myself. And then someone said, ‘You stupid, beep, beep, beep. Why don’t you just get off this dance floor? You’re in my way’.”

“They were drunk but when I say ‘beep, beep, beep…’ it was quite derogatory towards black people. So I realised that maybe that place was not for me; I didn’t see anybody that looked like me, to be able to sit there and feel comfortable with them.”

Hanaan Baig, of Muslim LGBT group Imaan, said: “There was an incident several years ago while me and other group members of Imaan were marching at London Pride.

“Other gay marchers came up to us and said, ‘I didn’t know we were marching with terrorists today!’ And that was a Pride day… yet there were other LGB&T people that felt it was necessary or perhaps even humorous to make such comments. It was pretty offensive.

“It’s very important for us to stand together because, at the end of the day, we need to make sure that we’re unified and we show a unified front.

“We will learn from each other and we will teach other people as well. By interacting with other people, [they] will learn from our behaviour, and from the way we interact with them, about our civility, about our humanity, about our friendship – and about the way we love as well.”