Coming out: my queer, black identity
Social activist, writer and HIV campaigner Phil Samba communicates on daily basis about LGBTQ+ issues, sexual health and being gay. But it wasn’t always like this. Behind every proud gay person is a personal story, a journey of coming out, finding your tribe and fully embracing your identity!
Phil came out slowly between the ages of 22-24 years old, telling his friends one by one, as his confidence developed. Growing up, Phil felt isolated by his sexuality and his background: “I was scared for a really long time, and I moved out after 6 months of coming out because my home environment was not comfortable. It is especially difficult for queer people of colour to be open on sexuality, as we’re taught that being gay is a western thing, and a choice you make. It can have a highly negative affect on your mental health to pretend to be something that you are not.”
Phil prefers the term ‘queer’ to describe himself, as he feels it is a generalised and less white-centric umbrella term for all communities within LGBTQ+.
“To be young, black and queer is to face lots of different negative stereotypes stacked on top of each other,” Phil explains, “you are not necessarily what society, your family or your culture, or sometimes even your religion expects you to be.” Phil identifies systemic racism, expectations around masculinity, concerns about confidentiality during HIV testing and treatment and a lack of honest representation as major challenges that black queer men still face in 2019.
The future's bright!
Looking to the future, Phil feels positive for young queer people of colour, and hopes they will feel less isolated than he did: “The difference now is that more queer people are more visible, on social media, TV, podcasts, film and publications. They have more access to queer experiences and shared narratives. There have always been queer people, but now there is a black, British movement – with millennials at it’s helm - reclaiming our story.”
Why Pride is still relevant
Phil feels that Pride month has an important role in uniting the LGBTQ+ community: “It’s important that queer people of colour share their positive, not just negative, experiences with each other. We need to bridge divisions, because we are all in the same boat.” Phil states: “I try to use my own narrative. To be seen, so people can see me and know that they are not alone in their experience.”
Where to find support
You should not feel pressurised to label yourself or your sexual orientation. If you do feel you’d like to come out as gay, lesbian, bi or pan to others, and are safely able to, you can find support on how to start conversations, and further advice, at Stonewall.
It is always good to speak to someone you trust about the issues you might be facing, no matter how big or small. It can be hard talking about sexuality, relationships and mental health – everyone finds them challenging at times – so if you are experiencing difficulties, don’t feel ashamed or different, and don’t feel you have to hide away from it. You can also find help on a range of issues at Young Minds.