‘Simon Bedeau talks of his experience growing up Black and gay, and how carnival culture was a unique opportunity to celebrate every part of his identity
Simon Bedeau came out as a gay man at age 27. Some people might consider that late, but for him, it was influenced by a childhood without knowing any openly gay Black people.
Now he’s looking to change that for future generations through open discussion of Black gay identity.
Simon is a public speaker and founder of Power in Discussion, a platform that encourages meaningful community discussion.
The lack of Black LGBTQ+ role models was hugely impactful he said, explaining: “Since coming out its been important to be around people who understand that there can be difficulty existing in community spaces that are focused on white gay men.”
He said though some people are blind to the racism within the LGBTQ+ community, it does exist.
Simon added: “It’s naive to believe that within a minority you can’t be racist. There are privileges people can have, for example as a gay man you have certain privileges in society over a trans man.
“When race is involved it can be anything from being fetishized on dating sites to having a conversation where someone doesn’t like the Black and Brown stripes of the LGBTQ+ pride flag.”
Through open discussion with Peterborough’s Black LGBTQ+ community Simon hopes to create a space where these two identities can co-exist and be celebrated.
He said: “I’m from a Caribbean background, its a part of my heritage that I’m really proud of. It’s been hard to reconcile these different aspects of my identity.
“However, Caribbean carnival culture is something I love about my culture and holds a freeing space outside of gender norms.
“There are history books which evidence the Caribbean as a place where gender norms weren’t as strict until they were colonised. This shows it’s not inherently anti-Black to be queer, and it doesn’t go against your culture to be who you are.”
He also wants to break down the stereotype that Black communities inherently hold homophobia, adding: “Black culture is often put into a spotlight as being inherently homophobic. Though it is important to recognise these issues in our community, homophobia also exists in every community.”
Queer Historian Dan Vo wrote that studying history before ‘homophobic laws of Colonialism were spread across the world’ there was a lot more accepted diversity in gender and sexuality.
It is now still illegal to be gay in many Commonwealth countries but was recently overturned again in Trinidad and India.
Simon wants to discuss this history with Peterborough’s LGBTQ+ community, as well as hosting a speaker to discuss the more recent Black and Latinx History of Ballroom culture.
Ballroom culture was started by Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ people in New York who coined the term ‘voguing’ for their distinct dance moves, made famous by Madonna.
Ballroom culture can be traced back as early as the 1800s but took off in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and was a uniquely safe space for marginalised Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ people.
Simon said: “I want to encourage Peterborough to understand what it means to have a community within a community and having a space to normalise your identity, every part of it.”
To join the talk on February 25 at 7pm you can get tickets through their Eventbrite page in collaboration with Peterborough Pride.