Surviving the Intersection of Race, Family, and Identity: A Black Person’s Guide to Navigating Marginalisation in African Descent Families & Communities.

Jarell Bempong
7 min readApr 3, 2023
Photo by Ahshea1 Media

Many people of African heritage were raised in communal housing arrangements, finding comfort in the sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. However, this communal structure can have compounding effects on the mental health of individuals who identify with a protected characteristic group while the rest of their family does not. The intersection of race, culture, and family dynamics can result in feelings of social isolation, prejudice, and misunderstanding.

These negative outcomes can take a significant toll on one’s mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and even trauma. The struggle to navigate both familial and societal expectations while dealing with the complexities of intersecting identities can lead to a sense of powerlessness and a lack of agency. A thorough understanding of intersectionality and the ability to speak for oneself within the family system is crucial for overcoming these obstacles and improving one’s mental health.

I understand the compounding effects of discrimination and marginalization firsthand. When I was outed as gay by an uncle, I was initially rejected by most of my family. The consequences of their rejection were devastating. I found myself homeless, struggling with depression and anxiety, and grappling with deep trust issues. The emotional toll of being marginalized by my own family left a lasting impact on my mental health. It took years of therapy and support from my chosen family and allies to rebuild my sense of self-worth and learn to trust again. My experience has taught me the importance of creating inclusive and accepting communities where all individuals, regardless of their background, feel seen, heard, and valued.

It’s a harsh reality that society often sees people with impairments or neurodiversities as nothing more than a burden on our resources and emotions. Those who are different in other ways, whether it’s due to their faith, skin color, or sexual orientation, face similar injustices and exclusion. Unfortunately, the negative perceptions towards Africans have been strengthened by the brutal legacies of colonialism and enslavement, which imposed Abrahamic religions and patriarchy on these communities.

As someone with dyslexia, I also understand the compounding effects of discrimination and marginalization. Dyslexia, like other neurodivergencies, is often misunderstood and stigmatized by society. Growing up, I struggled in school and faced constant criticism for my difficulty with reading and writing. I was often made to feel dumb or lazy, even by teachers who should have known better. This negativity and lack of understanding took a toll on my mental health and self-esteem, leading to feelings of inadequacy and isolation.

It wasn’t until I found supportive teachers and mentors who understood my dyslexia that I began to see my worth beyond my struggles with reading and writing. The importance of inclusive and accepting communities cannot be overstated, especially for individuals with marginalized identities, whether it be race, gender, sexuality, or neurodivergency. It is essential that we create safe spaces where all individuals are valued and celebrated for their unique experiences and contributions.

It’s time for us to challenge these misguided beliefs and attitudes, and it all starts with education and activism. We must understand the cultural and historical roots of discrimination in order to dismantle them. Only then can we create a world that is truly welcoming and inclusive of all people, regardless of their differences. We must come together to create a culture of acceptance and openness in our homes, neighborhoods, and beyond. It’s up to us to make a difference and create a better world for everyone.

Tension between one’s identity and one’s family’s expectations can cause severe anguish and lead to feelings of isolation, rejection, and humiliation for Black people who identify with these protected characteristic groups. Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are just some of the mental health problems that might result. Black people who belong to numerous protected characteristic groups confront particular problems, and it is critical that this intersectionality be acknowledged.

The marginalisation of Black people who belong to numerous protected characteristic groups — including racism, sexism, and homophobia — is a systematic problem that must be recognised and addressed. Raising awareness of these issues and promoting cultural consciousness and acceptance can go a long way towards supporting and empowering these individuals within their families and communities. This requires a multifaceted approach that includes advocating for policy changes, supporting community-led initiatives, and amplifying the voices of those most affected by these issues.

Yet, many African families have conservative attitudes that are influenced by religion and patriarchal societal systems, which contribute to the pervasive urge to conform to traditional gender norms and heteronormativity. Those who are LGBTQ+ or who have other protected features that are different from the norm may find themselves in a hostile environment as a result. Negative effects on mental health, including as sadness, anxiety, and low self-esteem, are a common result of the rejection and discrimination experienced by many LGBTQ+ Black people from their families.

The marginalisation of LGBTQ+ individuals by their families have far-reaching effects beyond their personal lives. This is worsened by the dearth of visibility and support for Black people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the media and larger society. It can also help spread attitudes of bigotry and hostility towards minority communities. Having one’s LGBTQ+ identity out in the open can result in more severe consequences than just rejection and discrimination from family in some parts of the world.

Prior to the arrival of colonialism and Abrahamic religions in Uganda, the Baganda people had a long-standing tradition of accepting and respecting gender-nonconforming individuals known as “mubisi.” These individuals were believed to possess special spiritual abilities and were highly regarded members of their community. However, in recent times, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment has led to the justification of discriminatory laws and policies that harm and discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals in African and African Diaspora countries.

A tragic example of this is the recent passing of a law in Uganda that allows for the death penalty for those found guilty of same-sex sexual behavior. This law has sparked widespread condemnation from human rights organizations and activists worldwide, exposing the harsh reality that many LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in nations with anti-LGBTQ+ laws, continue to face.

The psychological toll of being subjected to such an environment cannot be emphasised; it contributes to the normalisation of homophobia and helps discriminatory legislation like this acquire support. A variety of mental health problems, including anxiety, sadness, and trauma, can result from living in continual fear of persecution and prejudice. Furthermore, even in nations where the death penalty is not implemented, LGBTQ+ individuals are still at risk of violence and discrimination. This can be especially challenging for Black LGBTQ+ individuals, who may already endure discrimination and marginalisation owing to their colour.

Despite the significant challenges faced by Black LGBTQ+ individuals, there are inspiring examples of those who have found acceptance and support within their families and communities. This is particularly important in light of the disproportionate victimisation of Black transgender women in the UK and the United States, who are at alarmingly high risk of hate crimes and violence, including murder even from sources of support and love.

It is crucial for families and communities to recognise and celebrate the diversity and complexity of identities within the Black community, and to actively create safe and inclusive spaces where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and supported. Such efforts are vital for promoting equality, justice, and dignity for all members of the Black LGBTQ+ community.

This can be done by educating loved ones about LGBTQ+ issues, finding allies within families and communities, and connecting with others who share their experiences. Black people who identify with protected characteristic groups can find the acceptance and love they need from their families and communities if they work to dismantle negative stereotypes and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and neurodiverse people. Better mental health, higher quality of life, and a stronger sense of community can result from this.

Though I can’t speak for everyone, I know from my and the history of racism against black people that these experiences are painful and isolating. Black families must understand that just because we have experienced discrimination and marginalisation in the past does not give us the right to inflict the same on others, and that stopping this behaviour within our own communities is crucial to breaking the cycle of oppression. Examining our own biases and prejudices against others who are different from us is essential, whether those differences are based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religious practise, or geographical.

It is time to embrace diversity and inclusion inside our own families and communities. We must tear down the walls and biases that hinder us from seeing each other as humans deserving of respect and dignity. It’s time to confront our own biases and prejudices head-on and fight to overcome them. Let us be the change we wish to see in the world by working towards a society in which all people are respected and cherished for who they are. The shackles of prejudice and exclusion have kept us down for generations; it is time to break them. Time has come for humanity to come together and build a society in which all people are accorded the respect and kindness they deserve.

In conclusion, the challenges faced by Black LGBTQ+ individuals cannot be fully understood without acknowledging the historical trauma of slavery and colonialism that still affects the black psyche today. We must recognize the intersections of our identities and the ways in which they shape our experiences in the world. To overcome these challenges, we must continue to engage in cultural consciousness, historical and generational trauma healing, and work towards creating safe and inclusive spaces for all members of our community. By doing so, we can move towards fulfilling our full potential as a people and promoting equality, justice, and dignity for all. If you’re looking for more information on these topics, I invite you to visit my site Together, we can create a better future for ourselves and future generations.



Jarell Bempong

Advocating for AI-enhanced, culturally conscious care to elevate diversity and inclusivity in mental health practices.