Keilah Davis | Correspondent
Everyone knows about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks but whose stories get left out of Black History Month? Whose contributions go unnoticed? Too often, queer people of color (QPOC) are pushed out of our historical narratives.
“Queer people of color have always been at the root of activist movements,” said Natalie Nguyen, the assistant director of the GLBT Center.
Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most renowned leaders in the Civil Rights Movement; he gave his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. However, the organizer of the March was a black, gay man named Bayard Rustin. (Rustin.org)
“Because he was queer…we’re just gonna give [credit] to Martin,” said Nguyen.
The 2015 film Stonewall tells the story of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which are credited with sparking the gay liberation movement in New York City. However, the film conveniently omits that the riots were started by QPOC. (Forbes.com)
Only recently have conversations intentionally highlighted the contributions of QPOC. The hashtag and organization #BlackLivesMatter was founded by three queer black women. The organization’s website also explicitly states that Black Lives Matter “affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks.” (Blacklivesmatter.com)
The protesters of Ferguson, Missouri, who arguably sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, were black people with identities across the gender and sexuality spectrums: women, men, non-binary, transgender, gay, lesbian, queer.
It’s clear that QPOC have been integral to social justice movements, including black liberation movements. But why is it important to inclusively reframe historical narratives? Intersectionality.
Intersectionality, or intersectional theory, refers to the concept that different oppressions cannot be separated because each one acts on individuals simultaneously. It’s important to address the contributions of QPOC and it’s equally important that we address the oppressions faced by QPOC.
“We can’t look at [systems of oppression] separately. We have to look at them collectively if we’re going to really be effective at addressing the ways in which people face not just oppression, but violence and even death,” said Renee Wells, the director of the GLBT Center.
According to a Human Rights Campaign report, 87 percent of the transgender people killed from 2013 to 2015 were transgender people of color.
“These conversations have to dovetail. We have got to be intentional about thinking about systems of oppression that impact race, sexuality, and gender. They all intersect; they’re the same systems,” said Wells.
What is NC State doing address intersectionality and further these conversations?
The GLBT Center and Multicultural Student Affairs collaborate in hosting events throughout the year. As part of Black History Month, the GLBT Center sponsored the screening of Out in the Night, a film about a group of black lesbians who were jailed for defending themselves from a homophobic attack. The discussion that followed addressed the intersections of race, sexuality, and socioeconomic status that negatively impacted how the women were seen by the justice system and the press.
The GLBT Center also has a support group called QPOC for students of color who identify as queer. QPOC creates space for queer students of color to discuss how they experience these intersections.
“People without the QPOC lens often don’t get it,” said Nguyen.
Nguyen is also the advisor for QPOC. Students interested in joining the group can contact him or visit the GLBT Center website for more information.