By Hayley Thompson, Ph.D. This Op-Ed was originally published in the Detroit Free Press.
Summer is here, and it’s Pride season, a celebration of LGBTQ inclusion and self-affirmation. Detroit is home to Hotter Than July, the world’s second oldest Black LGBTQ Pride event.
This year, it may feel like there’s not much to celebrate. The fight to protect the dignity of African American life against police brutality is more intense than ever and taking place against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has disproportionately affected African Americans. As a result, there is growing awareness of the connection between systemic racism and the unequal burden of illness that this group bears.
However, Pride season has a lesson to teach us about easing that burden, with its roots in the 1969 Stonewall uprising against police aggression towards the LGBTQ community.
Marsha P. Johnson, a gender nonconforming African American, is credited by some with starting the rebellion by throwing a brick at a police officer and reminds us that, as we tackle health disparities, African American health and LGBTQ health can be the same thing.
Michigan has the 9th largest LGBTQ African-American population in the U.S. That’s 5.1% of the state’s African Americans. LGBTQ African Americans are integral to our communities as beloved family members, trusted co-workers, faithful churchgoers and much more. Yet we tend to forget they are also included in the alarming statistics that reveal worse health outcomes among African Americans in general.