Louis Tongbong-Thomson


42 Years, Berlin

“Despite all difficulties, I found the
courage in my 20s to acknowledge
all facets of my identity …”

Published: May 2022

Being QPOC.

As a QPOC in this mostly heteronormative-cisgender, white environment, I learned very quickly to identify (un)conscious oppressive phenomena in order to navigate the world (relatively) safely. It was simply a matter of survival – at least it seemed that way to me at the time, often rightly so. Despite all these difficulties, I found the courage in my 20s to acknowledge all facets of my identity – thanks to the support of QPOC friends I met in the activist scene and whose stories motivated me.

Shortly after coming out, I had the opportunity to move to Cologne to continue my studies. Like all my peers in one of the queerest strongholds in the country, I went to one of the numerous discos one night. There, a (white) man came up to me smiling, but spoke to me in English. Although I kept talking German, he always answered in English, which irritated me a bit because his German accent was easy to recognize. The gentleman was polite, nice, offered me a drink. Although the conversation was quite pleasant, it was clear to me that despite his interest, nothing more would come of it. Quite politely, I then showed him that I wanted nothing with him except for a friendly chat. Suddenly, out of nowhere came the statement that completely threw me off:

“Why do you have to play hard to get, when a white man is interested in you?”

My jaw dropped … I was flabbergasted. The man shook his head and walked away. He probably thought my stunned reaction was because I was offended that he had suddenly lost all interest in me – and not because of the racist connotation of his statement …

At first, I thought this was an isolated incident. Our shared experiences as queer people had made us similarly minded people who could put ourselves in the shoes of any minority better than anyone else, I thought naively. How could people who, like me, had experienced exclusion and discrimination have the audacity to shamelessly express such things in public? It was simply inconceivable to me at the time, let alone understandable … until other QPOC friends told me similar, sometimes more horrific stories over time. That’s when I had to come to the realization that the queer community (especially the male-dominated mainstream), in addition to the long identified issues of sexism and transphobia, is unfortunately plagued by racism, despite all the denial and whining. And (un)consciously perpetuates the racist (but also sexist) mechanisms of oppression in general society. This imbalance in power relations is also reflected in the workplace in my interactions with other (white) queer colleagues.

Therefore, the next big challenge for the LGBT*IQ community is to continue these discussions and the work derived from them in a more intersectional way. I do this every day, both in my role as D&I manager and in my personal sphere, because there is indeed still an insane amount of work to be done in this area …

Dear Louis, Thank you very much for YourStory!