Thursday night was an eventful evening for the University of Connecticut Rainbow Center and the Beta Iota Chapter of La Unidad Latina (LUL), Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. The organizations hosted an event titled “Masoquista: Lifting BIPOC Voices Throughout Queer History,” discussing major events in LGBTQIA+ history.
The event began with a presentation outlining some of the most pressing issues in LGBTQIA+ history that still affects the community today, especially those who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). The presentation also provided tips on allyship and current progress in the movement for LGBTQIA+ rights.
A social group that was mentioned in the presentation were the Travesti activists in the South American LGBTQIA+ community. Travesti women are women who were assigned to the male gender at birth but developed their own feminine gender identity. The term was originally an insult but was reclaimed in the 1970s by activists in Chile and Argentina.
The AIDS epidemic in the United States disproportionately affected those in the LGBTQIA+ community who were BIPOC. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) were the organizations who directly provided medication and treatment to people affected by AIDS, LGBTQIA+-based organizations like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) were the driving force behind this. However, the first drug trials for AIDS and HIV treatment were tested on and mainly marketed toward cisgender gay White men.
“That really prevented a lot of people from accessing PREP because they didn’t think that it was for them,” Kyle Rodriguez, a member of LUL, said. “Because they didn’t really see Black gay men on the billboard, they didn’t see trans women or trans men on the billboard.”
The stigma against LGBTQIA+ people in Black and Latinx communities also led to a disproportionately high number of straight Black women being diagnosed with AIDS and HIV during the height of the epidemic in the 1980s.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 50% of Black men who have sex with men (MSM) and 25% of Latino MSM will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime. This is commonly due to lack of access to healthcare, transportation, stable living conditions and sex education.
The presentation portion concluded with a discussion about modern events that indicate progress in the LGBTQIA+ rights movement, especially for BIPOC, and tips for people who wish to be better allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. The legalization of same sex marriage in Massachusetts, Lori Lightfoot becoming the first openly LGBTQIA+ Black female mayor of Chicago and Laverne Cox becoming the first transgender woman to receive an Emmy nomination were a few of the many achievements mentioned. The Rainbow Center ultimately reminded the audience that an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community remembers to use language that is inclusive of all genders, financially supports LGBTQIA+ artists and organizations and remembers that the Black Lives Matter movement includes Black LGBTQIA+ lives.