via The Fab Femme

InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each week ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. That’s why this week it’s so fitting to highlight The Fab Femme’s interview with the president of the LA Chamber of Commerce, Marquita Thomas.

TFF: Tell us a little about your adolescence. How old were you when you realized you were a lesbian and when did you decide to come out?
MARQUITA: I was a late bloomer. I didn’t realize I could be interested in a woman until I was about 23 and it didn’t occur to me that I was gay until I was 26.

TFF: When did you decide to get involved with the political side of the LGBTQ community and why?
MARQUITA: I’m not entirely sure it was a decision. When I was coming out, I felt a lack of support – there weren’t a lot of community or cultural events for me to go to to understand this new identity of mine and I made a conscious decision to work to make the community stronger in every capacity so no other black lesbian would feel unsupported during her coming out journey. I work in the social, networking, political and entrepreneurial realms so she can be supported as a woman, a partner and a businesswoman who just happens to be gay.

TFF: Tell us about your work with the LA Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. When did you get involved with them and why?
MARQUITA: I was recruited to the chamber by a former board member and was very interested in becoming a part of chamber and the board of directors because small businesses are the backbone of the American economy – LGBT small businesses are a part of that backbone and I see their sustainability as a political action. Our visibility in the economic market and leveraging our economic strength to make our voices heard are vital to increasing our political strength.

TFF: How has working with the LAGLCC changed your life and made you a better person?
MARQUITA: The LAGLCC has changed my life by allowing me to be a part of the hundreds of other people working at LGBT chambers and with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to increase the economic development of LGBT businesses. Being president of this chamber and helping people be successful in their businesses while being out about who they are is an extremely fulfilling experience. “Out” celebrities are great but they’re not a part of the day to day experience of most people. A rainbow flag at the dry cleaners or the copy store or at a car dealership is more apt to change hearts and minds as it relates to LGBT rights – it’s difficult to discriminate against people when they’re part of your everyday life.

TFF: Why is LGBTQ equality so important to you? How does Prop 8 affect you on a daily basis?
MARQUITA: LGBT equality is important to me because being denied rights re-enforces the idea that LGBT people are second-[class] citizens and that is unacceptable. Prop 8 affects me on a daily basis because it re-enforces that idea of second-[class] citizenship and it makes me realize that there is so much more work to do.

TFF: You are a very positive example for young black gays and lesbians around the world. Do you ever feel pressured to be a role model or a leader to the community?
MARQUITA: I do but I don’t hardly see it as a bad thing. I do get called on to be a part of several different causes and events and I can’t be at them all so that’s probably the only downside but it means a lot that I can a part of making life better for others.

TFF: Is there a touching story or experience that you’ve had during your time at the LAGLCC you would like to share with our readers?
MARQUITA: Every time I’m with my board is a touching experience. They are a wonderful, engaged, supportive group and I’m so thankful that they support me in my capacity as president. I also find my time with LAGLCC members, the Pacific Summit or the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce touching, I’m hard pressed to find more supportive people!

TFF: Last question. What are some words you like to live by that would inspire our youth? What inspires you on a daily basis?
MARQUITA: I have many. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” has long been my personal mantra and whenever I’m anxious about trying something new I remind myself that “Life begins right outside your comfort zone.” On a daily basis, I’m inspired by the fact that I want to leave the world better than I found it.

– Aryka Randall,

Aryka Randall is a 25-year-old biracial blogger that was raised in San Diego, California and currently resides in Louisiana. Her passion for writing has taken her on a journey she will never forget. Aryka’s long-term goal is to unify a wide range of people through one common interest. A passion for communication.

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Your go-to resource for all things empowering, thought-provoking, and pertinent to Black queer and trans women and non-binary people.

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