Put Yourself ‘In the Picture’

Black bi/gay/trans men who live, work or play in London are invited to complete this online survey and contribute to this BlackOut peer-led research project undertaken with support from the Mayor of London.

Below, we explain why we are undertaking this research project and the difference we hope to make; using the results to build a picture of the needs and experiences of Black queer men in London.

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At Westminster, politics is in the kind of disarray normally only witnessed in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Diasarry in which political tribalism dictates actions based on beliefs that remain impervious to facts. Bombast delivered via soundbite is often enough in this political atmosphere to dismiss evidence generated via methodical scientific enquiry. Senior Cabinet ministers argued during the 2016 Brexit referendum that ‘the people of this country have had enough of experts‘ and then made decisions based on they alone know what; deftly side-stepping any rational debate.

Meanwhile experts have kept ‘experting’ – a phallanx of reports show economic inequality growing, empathy declining, increasing numbers reporting feeling left behind, and fewer with time or inclination to stand up and be counted. Now could be seen as the most inopportune of moments to launch this call for evidence to inform policy.

Even if many of our politicians have turned their backs on facts in favour of faith, the lack of robust evidence about the experiences of Black bi/gay/trans men continues to put us at a disadvantage. A lack of evidence in a world of KPIs and contract management means that there are few if any public officials who have responsibility for our inclusion. The Drucker maxim favoured by management gurus that, ‘it’s what gets measured that gets fixed‘ translates to public policy and in turn impacts our lives.

The partial picture of those who identify as Black bi/gay/trans men means that even vigilant policymakers only get a glimpse of us in statistics and research briefs in relation to sexual health, youth homelessness and among those seeking sanctuary. For the rest of our ‘policy-visible’ lives we are ‘missing no action’. Our experiences in education, work, play, love, growing older, happiness or death are unrecorded and our intersection of identities is relegated either to the ‘too difficult’ or ‘too expensive to sample’ box or elided with the experiences of others under a ‘BAME’ banner. A banner that ultimately blurs the focus that might be necessary to address the contours of any of our different relationships to racisms, patriarchy and the class systems in which we live.

“…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.”  – Audre Lorde

Into this evidence-free vacuum rushes the tyrannical single story, followed closely by the rest of the gang; denial, sensationalism, and well-meaning pity. Together they work to obscure the truths of our lives from policymakers, but far more importantly they hide us from each other. A challenge particularly acute for a group of people like us who have to find each other as teenagers and adults rather than being able to rely on family structures to make those introductions. It is no surprise in this context that currently the best means of getting a message to Black queer men in London is via nightclub promoters, dating apps or freak Snapchat. It is no surprise that social media platforms have a better handle on the size of our population and our behaviour than our ‘community organisations’. This makes us better placed to be marketed to rather than to participate in the elements of our society beyond the marketplace.

The civil rights movement … is now concerned not merely with removing the barriers to full opportunity but with achieving the fact of equality ‘ – Bayard Rustin

In response, we are pleased to be able to initiate this research project; closing the knowledge gaps about us. While the report from this study will not be the final word, we will be able to use it to start a further process of engagement from researchers and policymakers.

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”  – Audre Lorde

As well as the online survey, we will be conducting a series of one-to-one interviews with Black queer men. We are particularly interested in hearing from men who are

  • under 25
  • have experience of seeking asylum in the UK
  • living with HIV
  • over 55  
  • trans men

If you are a Londoner from one of these groups and would be interested in sharing your views in an interview please contact us. Participants will be paid a small fee in recognition of their time.

We will also be hosting events to enable group discussion about the initial findings in November. Make sure you are on our mailing list to find out more.

Take the survey. Share it with friends.

Put yourself in the picture

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