The Heart of Activism: A Young Queer Activist on Building a Stronger LGBTQI+ Community

Activism devoid of passion is like a body without a soul. Let us transform our spaces into sanctuaries of love and solidarity.

Charlie, it has been hard for me as an activist, struggling with numerous mental and emotional battles within spaces where I am supposed to feel a sense of belonging. At times, I feel exhausted by the need to be aggressive just to be heard due to power struggles and the fact that I am part of a minority group within a broader minority. Despite these challenges, I continue to fight for my rights and those of the Lesbian, Bisexual Queer, Transgender (LBQT) and gender non-conforming (GNC) community. My mental and emotional well-being suffers because of the way we often treat each other within the activist space.

In several vibrant cityscapes of West Africa, I have dedicated the last decade of my life as a young queer activist, passionately advocating for the rights of the LGBT+ community, with a particular focus on LBQT and GNC individuals. An unwavering commitment to human rights has fueled my journey, yet recently, I have been grappling with a troubling realization.

What is Activism Without Passion and Love?

Activism devoid of passion is like a body without a soul. It is the fervor and deep-seated love for humanity that drives us to shout from the rooftops about human rights. However, I am increasingly disturbed by the stark contrast between our public advocacy and our internal dynamics. We vocally champion inclusivity and equality yet often fail to practice these very principles within our ranks.

Fighting the Toxicity: The activism space, which should ideally be a sanctuary of support and unity, sometimes morphs into a battlefield of egos and internal conflicts. I am disheartened to witness activists tearing each other down, mirroring the same hostility we strive to dismantle in homophobic communities. International funders and organizations sometimes exacerbate these divisions by fostering competition rather than collaboration. But does this justify our constant infighting and lack of mutual respect?

I have withdrawn from several activist spaces because I have found them to be draining rather than uplifting. Despite our loud proclamations of intersectionality, we often fail to embody its true spirit. Instead of leaving these spaces feeling fulfilled and connected, I frequently depart feeling isolated and disillusioned. This is not the activism I envisioned, nor is it conducive to building a strong, supportive community.

Call for Self-Reflection and Change: To genuinely empower our community, we must first address the toxicity within ourselves. How can we demand love and acceptance from society when we fail to extend these courtesies to one another? We must learn to support and uplift each other, fostering a sense of genuine solidarity. Only then can we be stronger and inspire the same from the broader society.

Defining Community: In moments of introspection, I often ponder the true meaning of community. Does it hold the same significance for every activist? For me, community signifies a collective of individuals bound by mutual respect, love, and a shared commitment to uplift each other. It means holding each other accountable with compassion and striving for a common goal of equality and justice.

A Plea for Genuine Solidarity: My plea is simple: let us shed the bitterness and toxicity that hinder our progress. Let us embrace the love and passion that initially drew us to activism. We must practice what we preach, starting from within. We need to build each other up, celebrate our victories together, and face our challenges as a united front.

Activism without passion is hollow, and without love, it is counterproductive. To truly resonate and bring about change, we must embody the values we advocate. Love, understanding, and genuine solidarity are not just ideals to be preached but principles to be lived. Let us transform our activism from a space of conflict to a sanctuary of support, where every voice is valued and every individual is embraced.

What does community mean to you? 

Reflecting on this question may guide us toward a more inclusive and supportive activism, one that lives up to the ideals we so fervently advocate for.

As a young queer activist from West Africa, meaningful activism is profoundly important to me. It is the lifeblood of our efforts to achieve equality and justice for the LGBTQI+ community. However, meaningful activism can only be realized by addressing the internal conflicts plaguing our spaces. These conflicts often stem from power struggles, egos, and competition fostered by external forces such as international donors. They create a toxic environment that undermines our collective mission.

To transform our activism into a force for real change, we must commit to a fundamental shift towards genuine solidarity and inclusivity. We must embrace the principles of intersectionality in theory and practice, ensuring that all voices are heard and valued, regardless of their background or identity within the LGBTQI+ spectrum.

Our activism should be a reflection of the world we wish to create—one where love and solidarity are paramount. By addressing our internal conflicts, we can build a stronger, more united community capable of making a lasting impact. This transformation requires us to look inward, challenge our biases and behaviors, and actively work towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all activists. Only then can we truly embody the values we fight for and inspire the broader society to do the same.

Leila Lariba – RIBA-WRITES (They/Them) is a Black, Queer, Muslim, feminist and human rights activist whose very existence is a powerful political statement. They are dedicated to creating intentional safe spaces that empower LGBTIQ+ individuals to exercise and own their agency. Their work focuses on safety, safeguarding, sexual and gender violence, mental health, religion and sexuality.  

  1. This is so well written, the problem was stated and solutions suggested. This is a problem I too have noticed and has made me reluctant to go into certain activist spaces. Thank you for speaking up!

  2. Thumbs up dear, I am impressed with your writeup. We should let love and passion lead, shed the bitterness within us so that we can progress ahead with this transformation

  3. This is problem has been lingering for a while and has brought about division in spaces where there should be onenesses. Such a heartfelt message. Thank you for being a voice.

  4. Thank you miss Lariba for the writeup it’s very important for every queer person to speak up when the needs arises and the most important thing is to be supportive , inclusive, empathetic & creating safe spaces for everyone.Thank you once again

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