What does Black History Month mean to me? When I was asked this question I would normally reflect on my Black identity and stop there. Yet my identity is so much more than being Black. I have and live through multiple identities. Black History Month tends to only focus on the well-known Black “straight” individuals and erases queer contributions. This year thought I would embrace my full identity and intersections when I answer this question.
How does good mental health relate to Black History Month? People from the Black queer community with multiple intersections are more susceptible to negative experiences. There are multiple reasons for this including stigma, cultural barriers and systematic discrimination. All of which are directly experienced by the Black queer community and will impact their mental health throughout their lives. It can be argued that if people have a healthy relationship with their history, it will have a positive impact on their mental health resilience.
History is a collection of stories that gives us a shared experience, a sense of contribution and a source of pride in who you are. Growing up in the UK being Black and gay, the history that I was taught or experienced didn’t include or reflect me. And when it did, it was reduced to 400 years of oppression before the British gave the enslaved Black people their emancipation. Queer history was also told through the lens of whiteness often erasing the stories and contributions of the Black queer community.
Black History Month provides an opportunity for this omission to be addressed and weave in the collective stories that we share about British history. I want to see a reflection of my own history being told. Histories where I feel personally connected and where my own story is celebrated. As I approach my 50th year, I often feel that my own story hasn’t yet been told.
Being Black and gay in the 1990s was both a scary and thrilling time of my life. It was during this period where I discovered what it meant to be Black and gay. I found safety within a thriving Black gay community. It was in the 90s when I came out to myself and later my family. I think back at those days and reflect how my own mental health was impacted because of my sexuality and ethnicity.
Where do I find the stories of the impact of HIV/AIDS within the Black gay community? What was the impact of Section 28 and its eventual repeal on Black gay teenagers in the education system? Who fought for our equality? Where were our safe spaces? Where did our community find joy? How did we party and feel free to be our authentic selves? What happened to those spaces? What are our coming out stories?
These are the stories that make up my own history and the experiences of many like me. British, Black gay people have a right to be woven into Black history and LGBTQ+ history as well as British history.
As I have got older I understand the importance of having a Black history that reflects all my intersections. This relationship has strengthened my own resilience in my mental wellbeing. It has provided me a greater sense of belonging, positive self esteem within my own identity, and a sense of autonomy as well as purpose. We existed in the past, we exist in the present and we will exist in the future.
This is what black history month means to me.
Trojan Gordon, is a British born Black gay man whose ethnic origins are from the Caribbean. He is a Person Centred Counsellor and Cofounder of a running community called Emancipated Run Crew.