Young, black and gay: Sheffield friends challenge 'culture of silence' around sexuality

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A bisexual woman in Sheffield wants to challenge what she calls a 'culture of silence' around gender and sexuality in parts of the black community. 

Naomi Azeez, 25, grew up in a Christian household where she felt she couldn't be 'black and gay'.

She said: ''It's almost like there's a shame associated with LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans) issues. It's like there isn't room to be black and gay.''

She's now bravely decided to come out online in front of thousands of people as part of a black mental health conference in Sheffield.

''I do think there is a culture of silence within the black community. My family don't know all of me, they can't really ever know all of me.

''I'd like us to talk about problems so we can address and change these problems. You can't fix what you don't know exists.''

''If we keep all LGBT issues outside of the conversation they're never going to improve'', she added.

''We really need to keep the conversation going and increase the volume of this conversation frankly.''

Hayden Barrows Credit: ITV News

Hayden Barrows, 17, has also struggled with his identity as a young gay black man. 

He hopes that greater awareness will lead to greater acceptance, and create more space for black LGBT+ voices . 

He said: ''I was a lot more feminine growing up and that's the kind of thing people would pinpoint and bring out'', he explained.

''I feel like my blackness was taken away from me. I wasn't seen as black by many people.

''Being black and being gay was never talked about, ever. As a child I didn't even know it was a thing that was possible. I didn't know who I was'', he added.

Pride flag Credit: PA

Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination, depending on a mix of their gender, race, class, sexual orientation or physical ability.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of research into the unique challenges faced by black members of the LBGT+ community.

UK Black Pride are trying to fill in this gap and help identify the needs of people who are black and LGBT+.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, co-founder of UK Black Pride said: ''I believe that we have many different challenges to overcome.

''I also want to caveat this strongly by saying our black families are no more discriminatory,'' she added.

''Where we go to next is about being well resourced, mainstreamed and having our narrative told by ourselves. It's about being clear about our needs so we've got voice and agency.''

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help:

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

For more information on intersectionality in the LGBT+ community:

  • UK Black Pride: Europe’s largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQ people.

  • Adira: A Sheffield-based service to raise up the voices of the black community and the specific intersections with mental health.