Getting to know queer people, specifically queer people of color, can increase empathy and allow people to shift their perspective and change their beliefs. The hope is to normalize something “different” so that differences become normal and not threatening. Queer people of color, particularly black transgender women, are the most marginalized and at-risk population for discrimination and violence.
As I write this, the latest two attacks of Black queer people, both transgender, to make the news are the death of Tony McDade, 38, and the attack on Iyanna Dior. McDade, a black transgender man, was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee, Florida, on May 27—two days after George Floyd was murdered. Dior, 21, was beaten by a mob of mostly black men after a reported minor car accident.
The intersectionality of race and queer identities is complicated at best. “The treatment that the black trans community in America receives from within its own black community is comparable to the treatment black men receive from law enforcement,” reads a statement by Abounding Prosperity Incorporated.
Queer Black people are using social media platforms to tell their stories. These stories educate and provide visibility to the work that needs to be done. They are also representing happy and full lives existing in the overlap of Black and queer communities. Queer people of color are not just the violence that threatens them; they are the everyday routines everyone can relate to. Follow these 15 social media accounts to get to know some badass Black queer folks.
1. Janet Mock – @janetmock
Janet Mock is a transgender woman, activist, director, and writer. She has written and directed shows for Pose, The Politician, and Hollywood. Her two memoirs, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty are New York Times Best Selling books. Mock is a trailblazer for women, Black women, and Black transgender women.
2. Kalen Allen – @thekalenallen
Before Kalen became a star on The Ellen Show, we fell in love with him on YouTube with his Kalen Reacts videos to the ridiculous shit (white) people throw together and call a recipe. Allen is an artist, performer, and hilariously beautiful soul.
3. Ericka Hart – @ihartericka
Ericka Hart is a breast cancer survivor and shows off the scars of her mastectomy in gorgeous body positivity photos on her account. She is a sex educator and an advocate for racial, social, and gender justice. She uses she/they pronouns.
4. Gem Nwanne – @urdoinggreat
Gem is a nonbinary, self-proclaimed unapologetic Black, queer, and leftist person. Their popularity grew with their use of TikTok to break down the struggles of the working class, being misgendered, and the racism in our country. They make it all very clear so folks have no excuses not to do better.
5. Kenny Ethan Jones – @kennyethanjones
Kenny Ethan Jones is a transgender man, model, and activist who became the first trans man to front a period campaign. He was featured in Pink Parcel’s “I’m On” and has been outspoken about the way we need to change the conversation around menstruation. He paves the way for trans men, intersex, and nonbinary folks like me who menstruate but don’t identify as female. Tearing away the idea that only females menstruate reduces stigma and body dysphoria for trans folks.
6. Jessamyn Stanley – @mynameisjessamyn
Jessamyn Stanley describes herself as a fat Black femme. She is also a yoga teacher and is shredding the notion that you have to have a certain type of body to practice. Her account is a refreshing look at the way we move and feel comfortable in our own skin. She hosts a podcast, has a yoga app, and a book called Every Body Yoga.
7. Gabriella Grimes – @gggrimes
Gabriella Grimes is a nonbinary gay visual artist who illustrates queer people of color. They show the beauty of relationships and loving and living in colorful and detailed images.
8. Roxane Gay – @roxanegay74
If you want some no-nonsense feminist truth, Gay needs to be on your feed. She is a writer, New York Times columnist, and New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger. Gay will make you question all of the things, and that’s a good thing.
9. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman – @jeffreybchapman
Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is a gay actor on Hulu’s show UnReal, hosts a podcast called Conversations With Others, and works with the Human Rights Campaign.
10. Billy Porter – @theebillyporter
Come for the fashion, stay for the representation of a gender nonconforming, queer, Black man. Billy Porter is an award winning actor, singer, director, and human. He got folks all worked up when he showed up on Sesame Street in a tuxedo dress. Gasp! How dare he show kids that a happy life is one lived with kindness while being true to yourself?
11. Jamila Reddy – @jamilareddy
Jamila Reddy is a Buddhist writer and life coach who helps people live intentionally. They offer powerful messages about life, learning, and vulnerability. We can all use this.
12. Shaun T – @shaunt
Shaun T is known for his fitness videos and shredded body, but he is also an out and proud man raising twins with his husband. He is a sexual abuse survivor and talks about the balance between loving ourselves and each other. He is also an advocate for donuts.
13. Marquise Vilsón Balenciaga – @marquisevilson
Marquise Vilsón Balenciaga is a transgender actor and activist who brings awareness and demands change to violence against transgender people and people of color.
14. Ashlee Marie Preston – @ashleemariepreston
Ashlee Marie Preston is a journalist and activist and became the first transgender woman to be editor-in-chief of a national publication. She was a campaign surrogate for Elizabeth Warren. She started the organization #YouAreEssential with Revolve Impact to raise money for people and communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
15. Devin-Norelle – @steroidbeyonce
Devin-Norelle is a writer and model and a transgender advocate. Zis work and mission is to show transgender people and our gender expression as a spectrum and not a monolith. Ze was the first masculine model to walk for Chromat at New York Fashion Week in 2019.
The intersection of queerness and Blackness is magic, and we should view it in awe and not fear or anger. Racism within the queer community needs to end. Homo- and transphobia within all communities needs to end. The Black Lives Matter movement needs to include LGBTQIA+ Black folks too. It’s heavy and exhausting work to be part of a marginalized group, especially when we are asked to educate and hand-hold folks on their journey to understanding. Up your ally game and go and follow these accounts before asking a queer person of color to do the emotional labor for you. Google and the library are free too.