DENVER — Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade made a splash as they called for Black LGBTQ+ support at the NAACP Image Awards on Saturday night.
The couple accepted the President's Award and used their platform to shed light on the disparities when it comes to lifting everyone up within the Black community.
Wade has been publicly supportive of his transgender daughter, Zaya.
Nadine Bridges is a member of the Black LGBTQ+ community in Denver and is the executive director of One Colorado, an organization dedicated to advocating for LGBTQ equality. She spoke to 9NEWS about the impact the speech has made on the Black LGBTQ+ community.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for context and clarity.
9NEWS: What was your initial reaction to the speech?
Bridges: I mean, so many emotions. I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t say at the end of Black History Month to celebrate not just transgender, nonbinary and gender expansive folks, but the LGBTQ+ community in general, is just beautiful.
When I hear Dwyane being a facilitator for the dreams and hopes of his daughter, we want all parents to be that. We want all parents to make sure our young people are being seen and heard so that they can continue to move forward.
To hear Gabrielle be so powerful, my gosh, and to say that we all need to be in the fight for this, that we all need to protect our most vulnerable, and also to recognize the fact that transgender women of color, transgender Black women in particular, are murdered at an exponential rate and they are being hunted, we need to be talking about that.
I think on the other side, how many elected officials and political leaders have been using our transgender, nonbinary and gender expansive young people as political talking points for their own gain and the harm that it’s causing. So, to have an actress put in front of many other leaders, actors and actresses as well who may not fully understand the impact and to say we need to do something, it just changes the conversation. At least, I hope it changes the conversation.
How impactful is it to give this speech on such a major platform?
Bridges: It’s everything that I would hope for. You know, we’ve had many Black and brown leaders in the community who have done great things and have been hidden or swept under the rug because of their gender identity or their sexual orientation, so to stand in front of a crowd of beautiful Black folks who are doing amazing things out there, whether they’re artists or leaders, and to say to them that you too need to be involved in protecting all of us, not just some of us or not just the folks that you deem respectable, speaks volumes.
What is the issue? Why doesn't the Black LGBTQ+ community feel supported?
Bridges: I can’t generalize, but I think it’s a tough subject for anyone to talk about. I think we have been through so much in anything that’s deemed "outside of normalcy" that could cause harm is scary. Even just being Black as we know is scary. Black men and Black women have been harmed in the most horrific ways, and we’ve seen that in the news. So anything that causes attention many times in the community, we try to move away from that. We’ve been taught to assimilate in a way so that we don’t cause harm. So I don’t think it’s hate, I think it’s more so a willingness to conform for safety and a distrust to anyone saying that we can’t be outside of that box.
Do you think this is the largest platform we've seen a statement like this made?
Bridges: That’s a hard question. I think there’s probably musicians that are transgender musicians, Black transgender musicians out there, athletes who have been speaking out for a long time. People just don’t want to listen or they don’t take it seriously.
There are folks out there who have been speaking up and they should be seen here, but I am proud of Gabrielle and Dwyane for putting it out there to create a conversation to be had. But we need to listen to those folks also who are in the community who have been talking about this for years and years and years. I think people need to understand, too, this is not out of the norm. Black folks have been part of the LGBTQIA community before we were put on this country, in this nation, and we will be here even after.
Any particular moment during the speech that sticks out to you?
Bridges: I think the thing I took out the most was to have Dwyane Wade -- a Black father, an athlete, where athletics in general, male athletics, it's been really hard for LGBTQIA athletes to break through -- for him to say he loves his daughter and that he sees her and he’s going to be a facilitator for the hopes and dreams, that’s what we want for everyone.
There are many transgender athletes out there right now who are hoping their dreams are seen and heard, and maybe through that and Gabrielle Union saying we all need to stand together to do this, maybe those athletes can have a life very different than what they’ve been told they deserve right now. Maybe one young Black trans nonbinary gender expansive person can be proud of who they are and maybe one father will have a different understanding of who their child is and allow for them to stand tall and be proud.
How did it make you feel to see that speech?
Bridges: I’m very proud to be who I am as a Black queer woman. I always say I am living my ancestors' wildest dreams, and Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade just showed that dream can continue and I don’t need to be seen as different but as part of the community moving forward to ensure that we all can thrive.
So I hope we can continue to work together to do that, because as the Black community, that should be our ultimate goal, is to ensure that we are all thriving.
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