Queer Women I Feel Inspired By

This year, the advent of Pride Month coincided with the global mass protests of the Black Lives Matter movement,following the deaths of many Black bodies at the hands of police brutality. These lives include those of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in the US, and Collins Khoza and Robyn Monstumi in our own country. It does not seem appropriate to take on the usual celebrations that Pride Month brings when this moment is filled with so much rage, melancholy and grief for the Black community. This is an apt time, however, to remember that the spirit of Pride goes beyond parades and flags; that it is deeply entrenched with actions of protest and riot, similar to what we are seeing now. Queer liberation efforts such as The Stonewall Riots should inspire us in this moment. It is important that we look to queer people to find inspiration for these trying times and for this reason, I have compiled a list of queer women in history (and some, of today) who are inspiring my activism right now.

  1. 1. Audre Lorde

    Lorde would famously describe herself with these words: black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet. She lived her life deeply committed to writing about and exposing injustices surrounding class, race, gender and sexuality. Her writing is foundational to the contemporary feminist discourse we engage with today, which is often centered around the intersections of these identities. Her unwavering commitment in the fight for justice is inspiring, where her poem Power – which details her feelings after a young Black boy is shot by the police – is particularly poignant in this moment.

  2. 2. Alice Walker

    Walker is most famous for writing "The Color Purple" and subsequently being the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Her skillful writing has always worked to communicate racial and gender injustice and is informed by her own hardships as a Black, queer woman in North America. She always translates her pain into something that will not only inform others, but may touch something deeper within them.

  3. 3. bell hooks

    hooks (a pen name that is stylized in lower case) has been a prolific writer on topics relating to Black feminism. Her book “Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism”, is now considered canonical to Black feminist discourse today. Her clarity in understanding the intersections of race and gender are of utmost importance right now, as we must not forget that the fight for racial equality is immediately related to the fight for gender equality.

  4. 4. Frida Kahlo 

    Kahlo is an icon, to say the least. She is considered one of the greatest artists of Mexico and was also a very committed activist in her time. Her politics were informed by communism, as she fought for economic equality throughout her life. She is also hailed by feminists for her resilient spirit and rejection of patriarchal expectations because of her sex. Like Alice Walker, Kahlo always transformed her anguish into something creative and meaningful.

  5. 5. Zanele Muholi

    Muholi is a visual activist and photographer whose self-proclaimed mission is to “to re-write a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond.” Her powerful imagery is globally acclaimed and her life-long dedication to rewriting the narrative for queer and Black people is admirable. She is a reminder to make our activism a sustained movement, as opposed to a brief moment.

The lessons of resilience, of turning pain into power and of consistently challenging systems of oppressions are what we can take from these queer women and so many other queer people in this month and in this moment.

A note on the article title: I choose to use the spelling ‘Woman’ instead of ‘Womxn’; though I recognize the latter is an attempt to reject patriarchal language and be trans-inclusive, members of the trans community are not all comfortable with creating a separate word or category to include them.