3 Powerful Role Models Blazing New Trails This UK Black Pride
What is UK Black Pride?
On the 14th of August, the UK celebrated Black Pride (‘UKBP’), the largest LGBT+ celebration of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and Caribbean heritage in Europe. Founded in 2005 and hosted in London, UKBP saw nearly 25,000 people celebrate together this year.
The Theme for UKBP 2022 is “Power”
Empowering Black voices should be on everyone’s agenda and acknowledging the extant structural discrimination in historically and predominately White “mainstream” industries and platforms is a critical part of the broader conversation. As organisations, teams, leaders, and allies across financial services celebrate and acknowledge UKBP 2022, we must do more to uplift, empower and spotlight the stories of the amazing Black and POC role models throughout our industry because theirs are the voices that need to be heard.
Below, three LGBT Great team members share their thoughts on an LGBT+ person of colour that epitomises this idea of power and impactful representation across three different industries.
"Unless you have been living under a rock these past months, I’m sure everyone is familiar with the Netflix series, Heartstopper (2022), a show about LGBT+ teens navigating school, relationships, and sexuality. One of the narratives we follow is the story of Elle, a Black trans girl who has recently moved from an all-boys school to a nearby girl’s school. We see her struggle to find her feet, only then to blossom. Honestly, I cannot remember such a joyous representation of trans youth in media. The brilliant actor, Yasmin Finney, brings Elle to life in such a human way. For UKBP, I think we should acknowledge the amazing Black trans and queer folks changing the game for representation in mainstream media and the queer writers, directors and producers proactively spotlighting their stories.
Finney is not just a fantastic actor - set to star as the first trans Companion in Dr Who (here we should also acknowledge the first Black and gay Dr Who has been cast in Ncuti Gatwa), but also increasingly a fresh voice advocating for the inclusion and protection of trans-POC youth. On Saturday, 9 July 2022, Finney spoke at Trans Pride in London. She discussed the progress (and lack thereof) in the media industry around trans and non-binary representation. She admitted her delight at seeing trans stories be joyous and not just tragic. Now, tragedy is central to eliciting pathos - but let us not overlook the power of joy in resetting that narrative.
Trans people and queer people of colour should not be demonised nor relegated to the tragedies of pulp media, where the token queer relationship in a series ends in death or (a là Timothée Chalamet, an extended crying scene). Granted, tragedy is a glorious form of classical art, but so is comedy.
Finney ended her speech by leading the crowd in a chant of “We’re here” and by remembering the trailblazing historic activists that paved the way for LGBT+ rights today: “…and also to remember the ones that we passed, like Marsha P. Johnson, my mother, my icon, the legend. I hope we’re making you proud.” Marsha was a pioneering figure in the post-Stonewall LGBT+ rights movement and worked tirelessly to support trans and gender-diverse youth. Well, to end with the words of Marsha herself, “No pride for some of us, without liberation for all of us.” Trans and non-binary folks are here, have always been here, and not going anywhere. Isn’t that alone something to celebrate?”
— Alex Hoare (he/him) is LGBT Great’s Global Insights and Content Manager.
“Being part of our beautiful LGBT+ community is sometimes hard, given the chequered history and discrimination looming behind us; a constant reminder of how society treated us (and sometimes still does). With that in mind, we should also acknowledge it is even harder to be a queer person of colour. Tanya Compas’ life is an example of the hardships that come with this background and, for me, is defined by the empowerment of self and others.
Taken together, her story, work and activism is the epitome of overcoming sociological conditions that constantly threaten to bring you down. Born in London in 1992, Tanya embarked on her journey of activism in 2019 when she joined the Albert Kennedy Trust as a caseworker supporting the needs of young homeless LGBT+ folks, having been recently thrown out of her own house because of her queer identity. Then, in 2020, she founded Exist Loudly CIC, an organisation providing spaces for creative invention, digital storytelling, and safe community spaces for Black LGBT+ youth. The organisation was borne out of a personal need for more of these spaces that Tanya herself felt. Indeed, personal experience has been the impetus for starting Queer Black Christmas, an initiative for Black LGBT+ youth who feel displaced during the holiday season, even with their own family.
In an interview with Scape, an organisation that provides student accommodation, Tayna spoke candidly about choosing a “logical family” that supports your mental and emotional wellbeing, with a specific emphasis on LGBT+ youth: “These are people from the LGBTQ+ community who not only understand and accept you, but also hold you accountable and are there for you outside of the club nights and fun stuff. Because the reality is, being LGBTQ+ means that not everything is easy, not everything is rainbows and glitter and it's important to acknowledge that too. It is super important to find tools to manage your mental and emotional wellbeing.”
The power of creating safe spaces for LGBT+ youth cannot be understated, especially in environments where more traditional/conservative attitudes remain prevalent and latent homophobia and racism still abounds.”
— Shreyas Dutta (he/they) is a Research Analyst at LGBT Great.
“Char Ellesse is a model and content creator who uses her platform to talk about the joys and struggles of being a Black queer woman. She is the creator of a storytelling initiative, Girls Will Be Boys, which aims to break down the gender binary. She does this by carving out an online space for discussions of LGBT+ experiences and exploring new attitudes towards masculinity and femininity.
In an interview with The Nue Co, she said, “I had a lot of internalized homophobia and ideas on what I thought being queer had to be and I thought I wouldn’t fit that box.” In addition, she recognises the importance of “passing the mic” to others by profiling photo and video content of gender non-conforming people, trans people and people of colour, telling their stories and highlighting their journeys of self-acceptance.
She also explores the intersection between queerness and hair. She discusses how liberating it can be to express yourself through a hairstyle that doesn’t conform to gender norms. Char Ellesse is a role model to many as she is so unapologetically herself. She is redefining and diversifying what it means to be a woman and, moreover, showing how fluid this can be through hair, clothing, personal style, and make-up.
Whilst herself being an important online role model for others, she also recognises the importance of using her influence to uplift the voices of those with less of a platform to ensure that everyone, no matter who they are, will have access to the most diverse pool of LGBT+ role models possible and that the online presence of LGBT+ people is as diverse and intersectional as possible”
— Vivienne Leech (she/her) is a Research Analyst at LGBT Great.