Taking A Stand

Why Did This Black Lesbian Activist Decline A Prestigious Honor From The Queen Of England?


Last week, the Queen of England was all “hey black lesbian activist, you’re dope and I wanna give you an award and title” and the black lesbian was like “yeah thanks, but no thanks.”

OK, it didn’t happen exactly like that, but that’s pretty much the gist of it.

Related: Queen Elizabeth II Says Gay Marriage Is Absolutely “Wonderful”

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is an LGBT activist in the U.K. best known for founding U.K. Black Pride, and she has also served as a Rainbow List judge and Stonewall Trustee. Last week, she was one of 1,200 artists, activists, and other notables listed in the Queens New Year’s Honors List.

Opoku-Gyimah is happy to be noticed, but it’s complicated. As she told the U.K.’s Diva magazine:

“If you’re a member of a minority – or multiple minorities – it’s important to be visible as a role model for others [and] for your successes to be seen. An honour is a very public statement that the establishment has decided that you, and what you do, are valued by the wider society. You’ve worked hard, and they’ve actually noticed.”

However, inclusion on the list comes with an MBE, which makes her known as a Member of the British Empire. And that she has exactly no time for:

“…Member of the British Empire? I don’t believe in empire. I don’t believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists. I’m honoured and grateful, but I have to say no thank you.”

Good for her, and her decision raises interesting questions about the line between celebrity and activism, and how easy it is to get sucked into the very structures some activists are trying to rise against.

Although we’re sure it would’ve been pretty cool to be a Dame.