The term 'LGBTQIA+ community' is tricky. On one hand it allows people who are marginalised because of their sexuality or gender to locate allies, political groups and people with shared experiences, in the hope of finding a community that will enable them to flourish, and find the power to rebuke a lifetime of marginalisation, in whichever ways they are able. In the same breath, however, the marginalisation of some of those already marginalised as LGBTQIA+ is arguably the most rife among and between people supposedly belonging to this same 'community'.
Education, history, sociability and science in the Western world all place the cis white heterosexual male at the centre, decreeing powerlessness and a lifetime of violence and oppression at any transgression from this position. The LGBTQIA+ community unsurprisingly suffers at the hands of these singular non-representational narratives, and becomes a place where a wildly diverse and different group of experiences are co-opted, and ignored, by the cis white masculine gay men who transgress the least in society's eyes, and resultantly have more power, space and platform both within and without the LGBTQIA+ community.
Dream Babes is a project which is looking to decentralise the narrative of the cis white male and reimagine histories and futures for those who are already marginalised in an already marginalised community. It uses speculative and science fiction to allow space for radical imagination about how the world might be if our narratives were to centre the experiences of QTPOC (queer and trans people of colour).
"This project is kind of about this constant state of feeling disheartened and disempowered and it's like on the one hand we need a bit of escapism—and speculative and science fiction can provide that—but on the other hand speculative fiction can be a tool to reimagine ourselves or reposition ourselves in a situation that doesn't depend on these incredibly violent social structures that we are within," Victoria Sin, founder of the Dream Babes project with Auto Italia South East, told i-D.
It's worth noting that speculative and science fiction is not about technology or scientific progress, but more about imagining a world that is not racist, that's not patriarchal, that's not misogynistic, that's not transphobic: something very far away from our current reality.
Dream Babes is an ongoing project, and takes its form in a multifarious ways. Monthly queer sci-fi reading and discussion groups are where the project first found its feet. "For me it started with reading: reading science fiction was escapism. But you know when you read stories where the main character is a woman of colour—like that centres your experience, because most of the narratives that you get as a woman of colour in the media, in magazines, in movies are centring the experience of the white, cis person," Victoria continues.
The project seeks to be productive: it is about imaging and envisioning a future, and creating a space in the present, where queer and trans people of colour's experiences are accepted, celebrated, shared, validated and taken seriously as the central part of a narrative. "There's so much discourse in queer theory about anti-normativity, but what does that mean and where does that leave us when we try to enact it? There has to be a productive medium for intersectional queer experience. There's so much talk about intersectionality but it's like how do we image and centre our future? What does that look like?"
Dream Babes' upcoming event running from this Wednesday to Friday aims to offer some answers to this question. The Auto Italia South East space has been turned into a big pink spaceship and parties, performances, talks and skill-shares will be happening throughout the week.
"It's mostly QTPOC people, but not exclusively. It's centring the experience of people who are marginalised within the queer community: so this could be from queer people of colour, from feminist perspectives, from trans perspectives. The first event is a DJ workshop for female, trans and non-binary people, with an emphasis on black women and women of colour, because there's not many opportunities for these people to get involved in DJing. So it's a free event we are running to allow the opportunity for other people to get behind the decks and start making their own music."
"The second event is something with Special Tears (Christopher Kirubi and Cassandra Greenberg): they are currently in residence at Space Studios, and they are doing a session of slow jams with three DJs and a performance. It's slow jams for two hours, to create a space that slows us down and help us to think about what keeps us apart, to encourage us to come together. Everything in the programme is free and totally accessible, and the drinks are really cheap. We've also got Manara from BBC AZN Network Djing afterwards until 11 for the opening party."
There's a whole roster of events which look to empower and provide space for QTPOC to create work and discussion in, to dance in, to gather in, to share-skills in and to be empowered in. "More female spaces have closed than other spaces because the most marginalised people are forgotten quicker," Sin explains. "There's been a lot of factors contributing to our loss of space, but it's becoming harder and harder to survive and flourish in London. People often talk about disappearing spaces, but what about QTPOC spaces—they didn't even exist in the first place?".
It shouldn't be the responsibility of the marginalised to represent themselves in the queer community: the responsibility should fall to those with the most power. But while allowing space and platform for queer and trans people of colour seems so far away from the priority list, everyone involved in the Dream Babes project are taking it on themselves.
"It can be really exhausting," Sin remarks. "I have had these conversations again and again with really well intentioned white gay friends who were asking what they could do to help with "the race problem". And I would tell them as an ally, they should educate their other white friends, and that it should be the responsibility of white people to educate other white people about subtleties of racial oppression. But they would respond like 'oh that's unrealistic'. Well why are you asking me then if you're not going to listen to the answer? It makes me so angry. There's a very subtle experience of constantly being talked over, not being listened to very subtly throughout your life that I think many QTPOC people experience."
Dream Babes' intention is to provide a space of lightness and power for QTPOC. The LGBTQIA+ community is a far cry from a place of equality and across the board solidarity.
Describing belonging to a marginalised group, within a marginalised group, is like trying to "indicate the wetness of water while being submerged" as Jared Sexton puts it, and Victoria quotes. Optimistically for many, this marginalisation can lead you to find your real community: and Dream Babes is a place where Sin hopes this community will be allowed to flourish.
Text Tom Rasmussen