By Jordan Daniels
When I first moved to Oceanside from the Bay Area, I was surprised by my new neighborhood’s lack of diversity. A Black and Jewish child raised in a multiracial community, and one of seven children from a Black father, diversity was baked into my being. It manifested itself in the smell of fried chicken and skillet potatoes from our kitchen, aromatic tikka masala across the street, and pancit and adobo a few houses down. When we left our bubble and entered a predominantly White and military-affiliated cul-de-sac, I realized I was now in the center of White suburbia.
I found solace in the North County LGBT Resource Center weekly in youth group, where I met a dynamic and diverse group of queer folk, a firm group of us identifying as Black, Indigenous or People of Color. Because we were under 21, there weren’t many spaces for us besides the annual San Diego Pride, which — though it strived to offer multiracial experiences — felt overwhelmingly White.
The county of San Diego is majority White, with Black folk representing roughly 6% of the 3.3 million people living here. While the numbers aren’t much different across the state, the displacement of Black people to the southeastern edges of the San Diego metropolitan area reinforces a paradigm that finding Black community in the center of the county, the city of San Diego, is near impossible. This paradigm seemed proven true every time I drove into the city.
While San Diego has been named a top LGBTQ city before, only 4% of the population represents this community. At the intersection of these two minorities exists the city’s population of Black and queer folk. Add in the nuance of transgender folk and those numbers get drastically lower.
Tracing other queer Indigenous and other communities of color you’ll find similar trends in San Diego, with the Latinx population being slightly higher. It makes sense being a border city, yet even combined we don’t match the amount of White queer folk in the city.
When there’s a lack of diversity period, how does that affect those of us living at the intersections?
In 2020, there are less than a handful of dedicated Black spaces for the queer community year-round. BlacQ Space at San Diego State University centers students, and the Gender Phluid Collective hosts groups for trans, nonbinary and queer Black folk. Outside of those, there have only been a few convenings of the Black and queer community, such as the compact Black Pride zone at San Diego Pride, the tense town hall that took place at the LGBTQ Center last August, the spellbinding “Black Girl Magic” drag show — held in collaboration with BlacQ Space — that took place at Rich’s at the end of February, and the intentionally POC, trans and femme recurring dance party, “Love Affair.” To my knowledge, most of these spaces were only designed within the past few years, despite us being part of the greater community that’s been here for at least 50 years.
In the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the queer community is being affected in particularly harmful ways, adding on to the already increased mental health disparities that we experience. We’re not deeply represented in film or television, we don’t have an extensive list of well-known historical figures, and we hardly see ourselves reflected in the neighborhoods we live in. As a relatively new resident of the queer-friendly University Heights, I still don’t fully see myself reflected in the neighborhood, and I certainly don’t see my Black trans family reflected or represented. If we don’t see ourselves, how can we believe that we belong?
This yearning to see us reflected in the area I live in and the spaces I exist in is exactly why I joined the board of the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition earlier this year.
We’re a board of five, but we each represent a facet of Black queer life, though we’re also striving to encompass so much more. Before the pandemic hit, we were planning several Black queer-and-trans-centered experiences, such as house parties, restaurant gatherings and club nights. While those plans are on pause, we’re focusing on supporting and uplifting the Black queer-and-trans experiences operating virtually around us. We’re also calibrating our role in the creation of those spaces and learning how to be more effective partners in this work so that — hopefully — next year Black queer-and-trans folk can arrive in San Diego and know that they have a thriving and vibrant community.
Diversity right now is lacking, but we’re looking forward to co-creating a community where we belong.
Jordan Daniels is the communications chair at the San Diego Black LGBTQ Coalition and lives in University Heights.
As seen in San Diego Union Tribune