On Wednesday, Beyoncé released her highly anticipated “Renaissance” tour dates, and needless to say, she gagged us a little. Spanning May to September and happening everywhere from Brussels to San Francisco, the summer tour will be one for the BeyHive and its allies to remember.
When I saw the buzz around the tour dates drop, though, I couldn’t help but wonder if the concerts will be spaces that are affirming toward queer and transgender Black people — the community she clearly hoped to elevate with her “Renaissance” album.
The world tour announcement arrived on the first day of Black History Month, but it also came just a week after Beyoncé had us all scratching our heads for performing her first concert in years at an exclusive hotel opening in the United Arab Emirates. Some considered her Dubai debut deeply hypocritical: How could she say she’s advocating for the queer community while belting out her hits in a country that criminalizes same-sex couples?
But then again, she is from America, a nation that is increasingly introducing high-profile bills targeting trans people and has a less-than-squeaky-clean track record on LGBTQ-plus rights. Everyone’s feelings are valid, but this situation isn’t black and white.
It isn’t just the Dubai performance that has made fans question Beyoncé’s true regard for the LGBTQ community. This debate that has been happening for years, and it ramped up after she released the “Renaissance” album in July.
People have accused her of profiting from Black trans and queer innovation, particularly in the ballroom cadences of songs like “Heated.” But Beyoncé has done her homework and given credit where credit is due. She has named collaborators, provided enormous platforms to community icons such as Big Freedia (albeit without formally naming her as a feature) and dedicated the album to a family member who lived with HIV.
Now, that’s Beyoncé in theory: She speaks at GLAAD awards, does her research and is newly revered among Black and brown queer people. But then there’s Beyoncé in practice — something we will get to see, finally, this summer.
As a queer brown person, concert spaces often feel actively hostile. Since they are curated specifically for the cisgender, straight, white masses, it’s not uncommon to be shoved and called unsavory things there, or to be stared at, touched or grabbed for dressing too flamboyantly. Of course, I expect Beyoncé’s concert to be different, but to what extent is to be determined.
From my experience, to create a truly welcoming space for queer and trans people, there needs to be intention. Safe and joyful spaces don’t don’t materialize organically in a world where we constantly find ourselves asking for basic respect.
Whether the ”Renaissance” concerts employ and pay queer people well, and whether they are going to feel welcoming to the people she hopes to represent, which are Black LGBTQ individuals, will be the ultimate measure of her love for the community. It’s something we’ll soon find out, if we can scrape up the money to attend.