GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two members of the Grand Rapids Pride Center say they want others to understand the challenges of being both Black and part of the LGBTQ community to help everyone move forward.

“Why, when I’m talking about race, can I not show up as Butterfly and …. whatever sexual orientation I identify with? Why can’t I show up with both?” wondered Butterfly Kingsley, an intern at the Grand Rapids Pride Center.

Kingsley said she has often felt shamed for just being herself. In one case, a former employer wouldn’t address her by her name, deeming it unprofessional.

“Can you imagine having to go into your job day-in and day-out not being addressed? You have to be inclusive for all, and when you don’t take the time to do that again, you’re denouncing who I am as an individual,” Kingsley said.

Kingsley isn’t alone in the struggles she has faced.

“It’s harder because it’s a lot of emotional labor,” Roman Blck, a sexual health consultant, said, explaining he often has to explain his identity.

“Having to prove my Blackness, having to prove my queerness, having to prove either my masculinity or my femininity,” he listed.

Looking toward solutions, Kingsley and Blck said people should be more accepting of one another.

“Number one, address pronouns. We should all be when we introduce ourselves,” Kingsley said. “We are resilient and we stand for the highest justice because to me, we understand what it means to be discounted, dismissed, invisible.”

They also encouraged people to attend more events that don’t necessarily align with their identity. They say it will help people become more well-rounded and inclusive.