Black Children Are LGBTQ+ Too! By: Stephanie Barbee, LCSW Picture By Unsplash
By Stephanie Barbee | Apr 26, 2023
I was born and raised in Little Rock, AR. I grew up in a rural area, and the story of my family connections is complex, to say the least. Plus, it’s important to note that Arkansas is within what people call the “bible belt.” This is an area of the country where a lot of socially conservative Protestant Christian views and in general, church attendance (of any denomination) is generally higher than other places in the nation. This is important when I think about my awareness of LGBTQ identities early in life.
When my little cousin was born, I knew he was different. I used to call him my personal doll and dress him up. I loved him, and I loved playing with him. His mom was a frequent presence in my life, and so was he for a while. As we got older (I was three years older), life changed for adults in our lives, meaning life changed for us. Our connection, our relationship, and the important lessons of being his cousin would be apparent to me later in life.
Fast forward to around 2016ish (time is hard since COVID), I had a Facebook request from an individual who looked like my cousin but at the same time didn’t. ‘He’ had changed his name, identity, and expression to “she.” This was my first encounter with an individual who identified as trans. And I messed it up royally! My first mistake was referring to her by her previous name. My second mistake was calling her ‘he’ instead of ‘she.’ My third mistake was not realizing the gravity of bravery and misery my favorite little cousin was facing.
Still living in the ‘bible belt,’ attempting to live her life in Arkansas, I can’t imagine what she must go through. I know that research has shown that black youth with identities that don’t fit into social expectations (like being gay, lesbian, or trans as a black child) show higher levels of depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts.
I know there are many reasons. Black parents struggle to accept their LGBTQ youth. Some reasons come from fear, others from blame, and yet others from a desire for protection. This world is not safe for black children who are not within the LGBTQ community, so it feels especially unsafe for black LGBTQ kids. But denying their existence isn’t going to help anyone. I can’t tell you what to do with the information after you receive it, but I can give you the information that black LGBTQ youth exist. They have existed and will exist, whether we acknowledge them or not. The question is, will enough of us acknowledge them in time for their life to be saved? I sure hope so!
About The Author
Stephanie Barbee is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Missouri. She serves primarily Black Queer people who seek to understand their identities, overcome traumatic experiences, or explore how to move through a world that sees them as invisible. She is also a speaker, trainer, and consultant. She can be contacted through her profile here: https://www.cliniciansofcolor.org/clinicians/spectrum-of-healing-llc/