AZ Mag is an online magazine for LGBTQ+ people of colour. Its team has become an integral part of my community. Whereas many LGBTQ+ events are centred on drinking or clubbing, the magazine runs AZ Hub, a monthly alcohol-free social space held at The Albany in Deptford. AZ Mag’s online presence is impactful too. Co-founder Akeilah Bennett says that it was important for her to create an online space that people could access daily even if they were unable to physically get to spaces for queer Black Londoners or people of colour. ‘So often POC faces become invisible within the LGBTQ+ movement,’ she says. ‘This is our way of showcasing our stories. We want AZ to feel like home, both online and offline.’
Growing up, I never knew that Black people could be queer. I didn’t have any Black queer friends, let alone know anything about the community. So when I began to question my own sexuality a few years ago, I felt alone. I was unsure of how to find a community and whether I would ever be able to make friends. Fast forward to 2018 and I’m a queer-and-proud mixed-raced woman – and spaces for LGBTQ+ Black Londoners have become home to me. Through them I have found romantic love, I have found support, I have found family and, most importantly, I have found myself. While amazing Black queer events have run in the city for years, recently they have been thriving. They range from alcohol-free meet-ups to cabaret nights for people of colour to the UK Black Pride festival. I always think: If I had known these spaces – and the communities built around them – existed when I was growing up, it might not have taken me 24 years to understand my sexuality and to find home. They are too fabulous to ignore.
Tanya Compas is head of youth engagement at UK Black Pride