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Unshackled Together: Dialogue With My Straight Brothers

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This letter is part of our "Letters to Our Ancestors" project. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, we've asked members of our community to share their own letters to our forefathers. With these letters, we hope to look back on the progress our community has made and give thanks to those who helped pave the way. You can see them all here.

As the Emancipation Proclamation technically didn't free all slaves, when looking at it in the context of today I would say there are those of color who are living a full life with all the advantages, while we have others who are still mentally shackled down with missed opportunities, some created by purposeful societal barriers and sometimes of our own constructed barriers. We can even flash forward to another famous speech when it was declared that 'all men are created equal' and ask ourselves: Does this include the voices of those who identify as black and gay?

As a gay black man I try to see where I fit into the Emancipation Proclamation as I'm sure when it was drafted it didn't involve me. In looking for how I fit in I place myself standing next to my brothers knowing that some of my brothers don't want to stand next to me. The perception of being free is not lost on me but what is lost is the acceptance of straight black men and the missing dialogue between us. In that regard we are not free as the machismo attitudes of black men obstruct the union that would fully unite our community. This missing dialogue only obstructs the strength we would have in the name of unity.

Yet looking in the light of the concept of free and knowing that the freedom of expression I have available to me I can build on those who are open to hear my story and those who do not pass judgment or quote scriptures to me. In this regard I, like others, have lived a life of free expression not bound down by the condemnation of the few that wants us to remain on non-existent plantations.

As people of color who identify as gay we have made many contributions, some that have never left the lips of those making contributions and some that can be seen in the reflection of today's media. Although we have been erased from history books we still continue to make history. Bayard Rustin, a gay black man who organized the Martin Luther King walk on Washington knows of what I speak.

For those who are coming to a place of accepting or discovering their sexual identity, know that more are placing themselves on the front line of being free not only to express ourselves but to simply be ourselves. A change truly is coming into being as even straight brothers and sisters are adjusting their eyes to our realities and moving us from the blind spot of their consciousness.

In this post-era of Emancipation we have to include the voices and spirit of all and not pick and choose who should be a member of the club. As the line in the song states, "None of us is free, if one of us is chained." So to those who understand and buy into this concept of freedom, know that you're not alone and understand that your identity and ideals shouldn't exclude you but do know that your openness and the ability to grasp the fellowship of those who are gay truly makes one free.