This black lesbian activist declined a prestigious honor from The Queen of England. Here’s why.

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Last week, Queen Elizabeth II said she thought that gay marriage was absolutely “wonderful.”

Meanwhile, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah — an LGBT activist in the U.K. best known for founding U.K. Black Pride — was one of 1,200 artists, activists, and other notables listed in the Queens New Year’s Honors List.

Opoku-Gyimah, who also served as a Rainbow List judge and Stonewall Trustee, was 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 honor 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 she has a problem with that:

“…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 honored and grateful, but I have to say no thank you.”

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