Being LGBT+ and BAME: my story

The short article I had planned to write after attending Stonewall’s Diaspora Showcase on Thursday 6 September was going to focus on the issues affecting black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT+ people and what the Liberal Democrats, specifically the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality (LDCRE), can do to address those issues.

I was going to go through the findings outlined in Stonewall’s Home in the Community report, and talk about the discrimination BAME LGBT+ people have encountered within their own communities, and double discrimination in the workplace. However, my intended focus is not the right starting point.

The Diaspora Showcase was not about the bad associated with being BAME LGBT+, it was about all the good. As Stonewall advertised, it was a celebration of the beautiful diverse BAME and LGBT+ community. It was quite poignant that this celebration took place on the same day that the gay sex ban in India was struck down. This was of course referenced and applauded on several occasions during the showcase.

I cried when a series of short documentaries were shown, in particular the moment that an African man of religion stated that gay means “God Adores You”. I cried when Khakan Qureshi, the founder of Birmingham South Asians LGBT, told his story about coming up and out. I cried because this event has been a long time in the making. It is 2018 after all.

I have wasted a lot of my time regretting how I’ve not lived an authentic life. I often find myself wishing for a do-over. I wish I could go back in time and tell 15-year-old me to stop trying to convince herself that her infatuation with a high school friend was just jealousy. I wish I could tell 18-year-old me that my sexual attraction to a Muslim sister I used to attend mosque with did not make me a wrong’un. I wish I could celebrate with 21-year-old me about being with a woman for the first time, instead of leaving her alone and stewing in displaced guilt and shame. I wish the me of three months ago, RSVP’d to Ramadan celebrations, wouldn’t have been so tied up in worry about her response if asked: “Do you have a husband or boyfriend?”. Science has not yet produced time travel technology so I can’t do any of that.

All I can do, right here, is to use my present-day voice to reach out to BAME LGBT+ members in the Liberal Democrats (and outside) who may feel alone, isolated or ostracised and say: “You are more than okay, you’re amazing”. Right now, I can be honest, visible and counted. And tomorrow I can start on the path to becoming one of the BAME LGBT+ role models that addressed the audience that Thursday night and gave me the solace I so desperately needed. That is my starting point and that should be the Lib Dems starting point.

Because, first and foremost, that is what the BAME LGBT+ community desperately needs: people who can be seen, people who we identify with and who share our goals. This is why Stonewall has started programmes to empower BAME LGBT+ people to step up as role models and create more inclusive communities. I’m hoping to be accepted to that programme.

And, if you were at Lib Dem conference you will have noted that a motion was passed to set up the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) – a group that will promote, support and mentor BAME members who wish to stand for elected office. The RDC campaign, along with the work of the newly formed LDCRE and other committees already in place, I hope and pray, will empower BAME LGBT+ political role models who can inspire those struggling with their sexual orientation and identities. Together we can create a modern party for a modern Britain.

* Nadya Phoenix is Secretary of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality.

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