On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington this summer, a poignant reminder emerged – the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ rights continues to demand attention. Black queer advocates, despite their historic contributions, found themselves speaking before a modest crowd at the event. Hope Giselle, a Black transgender speaker, highlighted the event’s programming as echoing historical marginalization and erasure of Black queer activists within the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, there’s hope in the air as prominent speakers draw attention to recent attacks on LGBTQ rights, particularly gender-affirming care for minors.
Giselle, who serves as the communications director for the GSA Network, emphasized the intersectionality of being Black and queer, pointing out that they face not only anti-Black racism but also homophobia and transphobia. She stressed that queerness is not a shield against racism. This sentiment underscores the pressing need for acknowledging the legacy of Black LGBTQ activists and elevating Black LGBTQ representation in advocacy and politics.
In a significant milestone, Sen. Laphonza Butler made history as the first Black and openly lesbian senator in Congress when California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed her. Butler’s appointment signifies progress in the broader cause of representation, though the future remains uncertain. She remarked, “History will be recorded in our National Archives, the representation that I bring to the United States Senate.”
Black LGBTQ political representation has seen a remarkable increase of 186% since 2019, according to a 2023 report by the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute. This surge includes trailblazers like former New York Representatives Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres, who became the first openly gay Black and Afro-Latino congressmen after the 2020 election, as well as former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The erasure of Black LGBTQ leaders from historical narratives often stems from various factors, including respectability politics and theologically hostile environments within certain religious institutions. However, leaders, activists, and lawmakers are determined to shed light on these vital stories, ensuring that the legacy of Black queer advocates remains an indelible part of history.