Position paper
Policy brief
Published on
March 21, 2024

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: White-Led Queer Organisations Need to Do Much More


It’s important to note that IGLYO is currently a white-led organisation in the early stages of its anti-racism journey, which will be guided by our upcoming Anti-Racism Panel. We acknowledge that there is significant work to be done to bridge the gap within our community. This article serves as a call to action, not only for our network and partners but also for our white staff and board members to engage in individual and collective reflection. We recognise the need for ongoing introspection, education, and active efforts to address systemic racism within our organisation and the broader queer community.

A Call to Action for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

This International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March 2024), we're giving the word to our IGLYO Board Member and Coordinator of the IGLYO Anti-Racism Panel Yassine Chagh (He/They). In this piece, Yassine addresses the lack of BIPOC+ representation and inclusion within mainstream white-led queer organisations, and puts forward some recommendations for them to move from words to concrete actions against racial discrimination, both within and outside their organisation.

On this day, I couldn't help but mourn the overlooked realities faced by so many racialised queer individuals. This includes the missing truths, ongoing erasure, police brutality, discriminatory migrant laws, perilous asylum shelters, limited opportunities, dehumanisation, white saviourism, and the prevalence of white-led and dominant queer organisations that claim to be "aware" but fail to recognise the urgent crises experienced by so many throughout the year and chose SILENCE.

I mourn for communities — my communities — that are often forgotten, seldom cherished, recognised, or celebrated on a daily basis like our white counterparts. For example, our visibility is often limited to a few tokenistic posts during Black History Month (if that even happens!), considering many still view it as solely an American observance rather than a global recognition of BPOC queer icons' phenomenal achievements (including in the EU). This perception serves as a troubling excuse that further reinforces our absence in historical records, archives, and discussions, despite the significant racialised communities in Europe hence the reinforcement of our disappearance and conscious or unconscious discrimination. 

These communities are often only invited sporadically to speak about their struggles in brief events or training sessions (maximum), reducing their role to mere storytellers rather than providing ample opportunities to shine as symbols of resistance, empowerment, and liberation in the front lines.

The concerning lack of representation [1] and inclusion within mainstream queer organisations is troubling. What is even more concerning, from my experience, is that when confronted with this reality, many, if not all, claim that BIPOC+ individuals lack interest in engaging and collaborating. For instance, at IGLYO, when we launched the call for our Anti-Racism Panel, we received over 100 applications from various places across Europe. This experience made me realise that: YESSS the problem is not our absence or disinterest in engaging and collaborating but rather being overlooked, not invited, or not accommodated in spaces where our full presence is crucial — not as a choice, but as a right for our liberation and the unity of the entire community.

It's frustrating to witness the perpetuation of victimhood narratives and blame-shifting within the white queer community, who rarely fail to fail in acknowledging their own complicity in oppressive systems, systems they belong to or they even lead. This cycle hinders progress and undermines collective efforts for genuine unity and liberation for all.

“A liberation for all” — must be a core ethos of all in our movement. This aligns with the sociologist, author, and consultant, best known for her book "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”, Dr. Robin DiAngelo's views discussed in a conversation at the Seattle central Library (2018), which emphasise that the role of white progressives and liberals is a major obstacle to achieving true liberation. Dr. DiAngelo highlights the challenges created by white progressives who believe they are not racist or are less racist and assume they already understand the issues. She describes them as "one of the most difficult" groups for BIPOC+ individuals to engage with because they invest their energy in maintaining the perception of being fully enlightened, rather than doing the necessary work. This pattern is especially noticeable within the European queer community, where I have personally observed it.

Another related perspective is the reluctance of many to engage in uncomfortable conversations or to display vulnerability, particularly within activist circles. This reluctance often stems from ego concerns and a desire to avoid appearing uninformed. Consequently, people may prioritise actions that seem productive but are not truly effective in addressing systemic issues.

This dynamic has led to a rise in figures like "Mohammed(s)" or "Ayodelo(s)" in operational roles within organisations who claim to be intersectional, but these token BIPOC  team members are often relegated to non-decision-making administrative positions within organisations. Additionally, there is a noticeable trend of white saviourism, where white individuals lead anti-racism discussions, events, and grant programmes targeted at BIPOC+ communities, yet these initiatives remain fully controlled and managed by white individuals. This perpetuates racism within activist spaces, as defensiveness and entrenched beliefs make it challenging to address the underlying issues effectively.

In conclusion, the myriad of challenges faced by racialised queer individuals underscore the urgent need for profound structural changes within the queer community. The prevalence of systemic racism, limited opportunities, tokenistic gestures, and the dominance of white-led organisations not only perpetuate inequalities but also hinder genuine progress towards unity and liberation for all members. Addressing racial discrimination is not just a moral imperative but a strategic necessity for creating inclusive, equitable spaces where every voice is valued, celebrated, and empowered to contribute meaningfully to the collective fight for justice and equality. It is time to move beyond superficial acknowledgments and actively dismantle the oppressive systems that continue to marginalise and silence BIPOC+ individuals within our community.

Things to reflect/remember on this day:

  • The EU lacks a solid canon of BIPOC+ work compared to the US, where figures like Audre Lorde, Lori Lightfoot, Marsha P. Johnson, Indya Moore, and others are not only celebrated but also historically recognised for their contributions to the community. This disparity is alarming, as racialised voices in the EU are often unknown unless one actively engages with them within closed circles.
  • You cannot effectively amplify or prioritise a voice that is not present and real in your personal life — unfortunately, the queer community has become overly focused on corporate aspects, neglecting the essential community connections that extend beyond office actions. True engagement encompasses not only professional endeavours but also meaningful relationships outside the work sphere.
  • You're not expected to apologise for your ancestors, but rather to actively dismantle the systems they established, from which you benefit and are an integral part. Instead of remaining silent while others are silenced or erased, speak up and leverage your privilege to effect real change, rather than merely pretending to be enlightened when there is still much awakening to be done.
  • It's your personal responsibility to contemplate your privilege and the influence you wield in the spaces you inhabit. You should observe your surroundings and acknowledge the absence of diverse voices beyond those who share your appearance. Refrain from progressing in conversations until you involve individuals who have firsthand experience with racial discrimination. Take the initiative to educate yourself further and actively contribute, both internally as an individual and externally by advocating for change. (Don’t be complicit)
  • BIPOC+ communities are exhausted from constantly raising awareness about their basic needs and desires. They are a community well-aware of their challenges and are urging "progressives" to transition from the prolonged acknowledgment phase to taking tangible action phase without using funding-related excuses in 2024.

This piece was written by IGLYO Board Member and Coordinator of the IGLYO Anti-Racism Panel Yassine Chagh (He/They)

[1]  Navigating this in predominantly white spaces can be challenging. In this context, what I'm highlighting is the importance of accurate representation. Having a BIPOC+ individual who upholds white supremacist views and aligns with oppressive systems is not beneficial and will never be. The necessary representation is one that questions established foundations and challenges internalised racist ideologies that benefit the organisation.

This is an IGLYO resource

Know more about who we are

This is a resource from
IGLYO member

Know more about this member

This resource comes from

Check out their website

We have plenty more resources !

Dive into our ever-growing resources library for insightful publications, articles, learning modules, and audiovisual content from IGLYO, our Members, and the global LGBTQI community.

Check out all our resources