Black LGBTQ+ history is being erased. These TikTok stars are fighting back

Crazy and dangerous. That’s how 27-year-old TikTok creator and artist Philip Johnson describes Ron DeSantis’ plans to ban a new African American studies pilot courses for high-achieving high schoolers in Florida.

The Republican governor vetoed the courses on 12 January. He claimed they “lack educational value” and violate state law, and attacked their inclusion of queer theory.

He defended the decision by saying Florida requires schools to teach Black history. Technically this is true, but advocates say in reality very few do – meaning the number of students learning about Black LGBTQ+ history is even more miniscule.

For Philip, DeSantis’ actions are contributing to the erasure of Black queer people.

“The way our nation tries to hide the truth from the public is hateful and idiotic,” he tells PinkNews.

“I believe that our nation is run with this antiquated set of beliefs, rules and politics that do not align with what we need as people. The need to discriminate others to keep themselves on top seems to fuel racists and homophobes in our nation.”

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But Philip won’t allow DeSantis to render people like him – Black and gay – invisible. 

He has been making TikTok videos for a few years. But amid right-wing attacks on education – especially on identity, race and diversity – his platform has become dedicated to teaching Black LGBTQ+ history. 

“I love getting to both educate myself on my community’s history, and be somewhat of a teacher for a course I was never blessed with the opportunity to take,” he says. 

“It feels good to increase awareness of our stories and history through my art.”


@jackdapp’s Black Gay History Message✊🏾🏳️‍🌈 Let’s remember to honor those who came before us in the Black LGBTQ+ community, who paved the way for the lives we live today! #fyp #bhm #blackhistorymonth #lgbtq

♬ original sound – Philaye

In one of Philip’s most recent videos, for Black History Month, he reminds his audience that Blackness and queerness are not mutually exclusive. 

“We can’t forget to celebrate the fullness of our identity as Black gay, bisexual,  trans and queer individuals,” he says. “The blessed and free lives we get to live in today’s climate stand on the shoulders of many who came before us who had to fight tooth and nail.”

Philip lists some the most well-known Black queer activists like Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Little Richard and Marsha P Johnson. But he reminds people to not forget those whose names have been forgotten over time. 

“But let us not forget the many unsung heroes who walked so that we could strut,” he says. “Who dipped so that we could vogue. This is for our past ballroom children, our social justice advocates. Our musicians, our artists, our actors, our literary greats. Our educators, our Uncle Johnnies, our Auntie Pats, our enslaved ancestors. Your sacrifices were not in vain.”

Philip’s videos aren’t only filling in the gap on LGBTQ+ history, they’re also challenging the lack of queer Black representation in today’s media.

“I hope to convey the fact that while our media has typically offered very stereotypical representations of what gay people are like, there are a million more nuances to the gay experience and community,” he says.

“I hope my videos educate people on the countless different possibilities and variations within our LGBTQ community.”

Melchisedek Shabaz’s TikTok page is an ode to Black queer icons. He has a regular series called Black Pride which pays tribute to the history most people aren’t taught.

For Melchisedek, TikTok is his safe space, it’s where he found himself.

“Seeing everyone on TikTok be goofy, be unapologetically queer, unapologetically Black. I was like, I can do this too,” he tells PinkNews. “At the end of the day we’re all looking for love and we’re all just looking to be accepted.”

Of DeSantis, he adds: “He is erasing histories, erasing stories, erasing identities and that’s incredibly harmful. Black history has already been erased or rewritten a multitude of times throughout this country and throughout the world. DeSantis is just perpetuating the same cycle.”

When people aren’t educated on LGBTQ+ identities they can learn to fear them, which is a dangerous precedent to set – especially now. 

After DeSantis introduced the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to Florida, banning LGBTQ+ topics from kindergarten to grade three or where deemed inappropriate thereafter, online abuse towards LGBTQ+ people rose by 400 per cent, according to the Human Rights Campaign

After his latest attack, deeming Black gay lives unacceptable for the classroom, Philip fears DeSantis will raise a new “generation of citizens who are programmed to continue racist, homophobic, and overall harmful ideologies”.

“DeSantis is trying to fuel hate,” he adds. “He wants to make the hateful people in his constituency feel empowered to be racist and homophobic. But I have faith that his negative efforts won’t win in the long run.”