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Black LGBTQ Stories: Finding the Strength to Identify with Pride (VIDEO)

02/10/2012 03:32 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
  • Nathan Manske Founder and Executive Director, I'm From Driftwood

I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) stories. The first full week in February, to commemorate Black History Month, every story will be from a member of the black LGBTQ community. These stories will reinforce the fact that there are black people in the LGBTQ people, and that there are also LGBTQ people in the black community.

Shara Dae, of Philadelphia, Penn., was always quite aware that she was gay. She was out to a few friends and at school, but she never had a girlfriend.

In the meantime I needed to get strength, and power, and courage up. Conveniently, I was looking through the Daily News and they had a little spec about the Attic being hosted or created by Carrie Jacobs at the time.

Upon arrival at the event in Center City, there were only four other kids roughly her age, around 14 or 15 years old.

Everything was so quiet. It's like everyone's going to hear me. Everyone's going to hear me, my name. What am I going to say?

Carrie immediately asked Shara, "How do you identify?"

I went, "Uhh, what does that mean? Identify? My name?" She said, "No, how do you identify? Are you gay, lesbian, bisexual?" ... And I kinda whispered "lesbian." And I don't know why the word was harder to say than "gay," but it was a lot harder to say than "gay" or "bisexual." So I said, "Lesbian, gay." And she just kneeled, she knelt by me very carefully and very gently just said, "It's good to have pride in what you are. And when you say it, maybe, you know, project a little bit more. Feel it. Feel pride in it."

Shara reflected upon the advice as she went home after the meeting. That night, she went to see Alice, the girl who would possibly become her girlfriend. They decided to pull away into a secluded corner away from Alice's parents so that they wouldn't hear the conversation.

I had my courage up, and I felt a part of the community. And I thought, you know, I'm a part of the gay community, I'm feeling stronger about who I am, and and I'm going to open up and offer this to her, as well, and maybe this is something we can do together.

In that moment, they were comfortable, and managed to profess their love for each other. Shara told Alice that she thought she was bisexual, but she's actually gay. At that point, her mother had approached, and heard everything the couple said to each other without the two of them knowing.

She decided after that that I was a gay threat of some sort. I was the gay agenda that had now co-opted her daughter.

Shara had no idea about this. She was too busy being excited about what she and Alice would now do as a couple. When she got home, she got a random call from her neighbor, who was a mutual friend.

She said, "You have to get over here. Everyone's here. The whole neighborhood's in the kitchen talking about how you told Alice that you were gay and that you wanted to be her girlfriend." So the whole neighborhood was there, in the kitchen. And I was infuriated. I wasn't nervous, I wasn't scared. I was absolutely infuriated because I felt as though my rights had been, you know, trampled upon. They were absolutely encroached by people who didn't know me.

Shara responded to being outed so inappropriately by taking it in stride, taking Carrie's words to heart and using that courage to properly come out and own her identity in front of her entire neighborhood.

I asked them to look at me, look at who I am, and let them know that they should be ashamed of themselves... I am a lesbian. And I am a proud lesbian. And in that moment, I realized being able to say that out loud, being able to say it with pride and conviction and strength, and with a smile on my face... I remember walking away and feeling as though I empowered myself, but I also took away their ability to weaken me by defining who I was.

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