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Phyll: Loving your whole true authentic self

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of UK Black Pride, and Head of Campaigns at the largest civil service trade union. Here she tells 1000women about recognising intersectionality and learning to love your

phyll authentic self

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of UK Black Pride, and Head of Campaigns at the largest civil service trade union. Here she tells 1000women about recognising intersectionality and learning to love your authentic self.

In anything that leaves people disadvantaged, marginalised, or depressed, I see a cause that needs to be fought for. If it’s not necessarily my own particular struggle, I will speak to whoever’s struggle it is and join that group, join that challenge, that battle. But for LGBT rights and women of colour, I am that. And if I value and see myself as important, I’m going to talk about it. I want you to recognise that’s not all that I am, but it’s certainly a really big part of where my intersects have met.

I see myself as an activist that happens to be part of the LGBT community, happens to be a woman, and happens to be a woman of colour. I also happen to have a hidden disability that people don’t see. I suppose it’s another one of those facets that make me up that you don’t see.

Intersectionality and being your authentic self

We mustn’t let certain pockets of communities tell us that intersectionality is a buzz word, because that’s what’s happening at the moment. You know, they’re not even recognising now that it was a word coined by a feminist black woman called Kimberle Crenshaw. But how those different parts intersect with each other – for me, it’s sitting here at this table and being able to talk about my race without having to leave my gender, talk about my gender without having to leave my sexual orientation, talk about my sexual orientation without having to leave my disability. I can be here with my whole true authentic self.

I treasure my now-ability to be authentic. What authentic actually means to me is living my life with no filter. And I say now-ability because that was not always the case. I really like who I am and I can say that now, at this grown up age! I can look in the mirror and I find who I am as a person really attractive. I could be called an ugly fat cow on the street and it’ll bounce back off me, ricochet and knock them out. I feel like there’s this force field – this energy or something around me that means ‘you can’t harm me any more’. And that may be because of my lived experience and my journey thus far. I treasure the fact that I can appreciate myself. I can say without apology or hesitation that I love myself. And that confidence has come from years of me building myself up to know that I am a woman of colour of substance.

There are some people who absolutely hate labels, but there are some people who are at a part in their journey where they need to feel like they’ve found a place they belong, that they can identify as something or somebody and if that works for them and they want to call themselves a ‘lesbian’, call themselves a ‘stud’ or ‘butch’ you know whatever they want to call themselves – then we have to let them. It’s like the word queer started resurfacing itself, we claimed that word back and for a lot of people who may be part of the LGBT community but didn’t want to say they were lesbian or gay they say they’re queer. Language is evolving and is such a powerful thing, it’s rich.

Even sometimes when we are dealing with the planning of UK Black Pride, we don’t always get it right, so I need people to come and tell me. We can talk about inclusion, but maybe it’s for you to tell me and get involved. Because that’s the only way we are really going to start having those conversations, when people tell their stories. Let’s empower each other, let’s feel confident – let’s walk away from this knowing that there is another ‘me’ out there who’s gone through this particular thing, telling her testimony.

Get involved: empower yourself and others

There are many organisations you can get involved with according to your own values, interests and ideals. Get informed about issues affecting women of colour by visiting websites like Media Diversified or gal-dem. You can also join groups such as UK Black Pride, which promotes co-operation and celebration of diversity among all Black people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent. To find out more or get involved as a volunteer, click here.

1000women@naz.org.uk

1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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