In my office, I have a rainbow flag on my desk. My once most hidden secret is now boastfully exposed and illuminates my life. The darkness I once lived in has been infiltrated by a refined red, an overjoyed orange, a youthful yellow, a grown-up green, a brave blue, and a powerful purple. I am wrapped in these colors and I am not ashamed of them, for they are just as significant as the color of my skin.
It took me a very long time to arrive here in this amazing headspace. Thankfully, during adolescence, I had my extraordinary best friend, Danhy, and loads of support from Oprah and her army of revolutionaries that helped me to trust God and myself. There were never any images of gay black men anywhere when I was growing up, so I was extremely fortunate to have other avenues. It doesn't escape me however, that others are not as fortunate.
Today, there is still a severe lack of gay black males in the public space. Arguably, the media is the lead architect of our society. Although recently, Michael Sam, Derrick Gordon, and Jason Collins have all come out, which is a major stride for American Sports and the LGBT community, we need more. Now, before anyone references Frank Ocean, let's not forget that after he wrote the blog about his same sex crush, he apparently purchased a one-way ticket to Never, Never Land because he hasn't spoken about it since, ok? There are loads of white gay celebrities who are quite open and willing to engage in discussion. The disparity between out white and out black public figures is quite bothersome.
There are a couple of obstacles in the way, I know. Religion, racism, homophobia, and career suicide are all major cons, but I am concerned that we will never gear up and barrel through these hurdles. I can't help but think of all the young kids that could benefit from seeing public figures that not only look like them, but who have also experienced the same hardships. There is nothing like a soul-to-soul connection. The only way to achieve that is through knowing. Unfortunately, much like our public figures that hide, young and grown men alike, still live their lives in secrecy. There is no room for pride when shame and fear occupy the spaces of one's mind.
Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.
― Harvey Milk
Some guys may say that they like to keep their private lives private. Some may even say that their sexuality does not define them. Now, while I agree with these sentiments to a certain extent, I am painfully aware that they double as excuses to avoid the sobering reality that "coming out" means letting everyone in. "Coming out" is synonymous with becoming fair game for every ignorant, douche baggy asshole that wasn't raised properly, to freely say what ever the hell they want. "Coming out" means that you will have to do the manliest thing that you could ever do: tell your truth. Confessing to a forbidden truth is like trying to solve a carefully constructed conundrum.
Black men are already under such scrutiny, that it makes sense that we would not want anyone to have additional ammunition to marginalize and alienate us. However, the problem with not showing up is that almost always, someone else will show up on your behalf. Please reference The Real Housewives of Atlanta for examples. The fact of the matter is that we can't complain about the lack of representation or accuracy when there is only a handful ready to experience vulnerability in its truest form. How can we mobilize without any participants?
Organizations like GLAAD, OUT Magazine, and The Advocate are noticeably void of color. Is this because we have not been invited to play, or is it a result of us not raising our hands? It may be both; you never know. I do know, however, that without gay black men who are willing to come forward and offer our community a voice, we will continue to go both misrepresented and underrepresented.
I want my children to see examples of gay black movie stars, award-winning singers, top selling writers, and even more super star athletes that are willing to contribute to what gay is and what it can be. God knows that 12-year-old Donovan could have used those role models. So, get up, grab your excuses and turn that shit into a sweatband. Pick up your crosses, boys. We have work to do -- unless, of course, you'd rather stay seated. Yeah, it may be comfortable, but where's the pride (or fun) in that?
Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start.