As Pride Month approaches, many LGBTQ leaders prepare for weeks of celebrating of sexuality and gender. However, the rainbow flags and tee shirts disregard the violence disproportionately affecting Black LGBT members. Sean Ebony Coleman, founder of LGBTQ Center Destination Tomorrow, wants to bring their voices to the forefront.
Currently, he’s the only Black transgender grant maker in the country, distributing nearly $1 million in funding with the Gilead Science’s TRANScend Community Impact Fund. Destination Tomorrow goes further providing financial literacy education, job readiness programs and overall healthcare support to nearly 50,000 Black LGBT members. The centers’ locations in the Bronx and Atlanta were specially picked to acknowledge the areas’ lack of advocacy and self-affirming services.
As the country comes under a racial reckoning, we must understand the ways race intersects with gender and sexuality. How can leaders better address the ways racism affects the LGBT community?
Some of, particularly, Black leaders need to understand those intersections and recognize that when you’re having a discussion around reproductive rights or the criminal justice system, all voices need to be at that table.
I was watching Rev. Al Sharpton and he said how the Biden administration needs to bring in Black community leaders. But when he says that, they never include Black LGBT leaders as if we’re not fearful about being shot in the street or in the supermarket.
Our leaders need to recognize that whatever table they’re preparing, they need to prepare space for LGBT community members. When you’re looking at housing, food insecurity, and criminal justice reform and all of those things, we intersect in all of that. I guarantee you there’s a Black queer person somewhere in that space who may not feel comfortable enough to say what their unique needs are as well.
We are in a politically intense moment right now regarding the conversations around reproductive rights, “Don’t Say Gay” bills and the rise in white supremacist violence. How can we look at these issues through the lens of the LGBT community?
The first way is by having discussions like this. Ordinarily, you don’t see Black folks having this discussion on the national platform. I think it has to start with having these types of discussions in education and letting folks know you don’t have to necessarily agree with who I am, but you have to understand as a human, we are all facing the same fight.
The second thing is making sure our elected officials on a local level are including us in these discussions because they get the opportunity to elevate us to a national level. They have to make sure if we are talking about Rikers Island reform, that Sean from Destination Tomorrow, or someone is there to give that voice for LGBT community members.
Lastly, journalists need to do a better job of telling [our] story. When folks, (when I say folks, I mean Black folks) think about the LGBT community, they think that everybody is doing well. I need us to celebrate the victories, but also show the reality. Some folks in the community are doing well, but you still have an incredible amount of folks that are experiencing violence.
One of the things that we have to do is hold folks accountable to tell a story accurately and then give us an opportunity to address it.
Sometimes, allies can be a bit much. Slapping rainbows on everything and stressing someone’s sexuality isn’t true support. How can we be better allies without exploiting LGBT individuals this Pride Month?
People have a misconception of what an ally is. They’ll come on board and they’ll be like, “I’m gonna do this, this, this, and this for you.” And you’re like, “I didn’t ask you for that. These are actually the things that I need.” An ally is there to listen and lend their platform or their space or whatever it was they’re offering in a way that’s significant for the [LGBT community].
Don’t come around once a year. I’m this person every day. So you can’t pop in June 18th and say, “We’re here. We support you.” and then two days later, you take your flag down and you’ve forgotten me until next year.
In my opinion, Unilever is an excellent model of how brands can get it. I’m a consultant with Unilever and we are in year four of the United We Stand Project. I selected five organizations that are really having some challenges when it comes to being queer in the southern space. Unilever gave them $50,000 to address frontline and systemic issues (such as food insecurity and HIV prevention).
Our goal was to go in and provide them with the resources and the platform they would need to grow their [Healthcare Equality Index] score or grow their city to become more LGBTQ affirming and safe.
There are more spaces out there that cater to the needs of Black LGBT members. What makes Destination Tomorrow stand apart from others?
What you see here with me is what you get when you walk in. We don’t know any strangers. The minute you walk through the door, you’re like a family member and we need to figure out what we need and how we can help. Then once we got you, we keep you. A lot of the clients then become interns and from interns, they may take one of the courses. From there, they may get employment here.
It goes back to me wanting to provide what I didn’t have. I didn’t have an adult who at the drop of a hat I could say, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” We want to be that for [our] community.
Destination Tomorrow is hosting a Pride Week celebration beginning June 14, 2022. Tickets are free.