On National Coming Out Day, new video campaign highlights Black LGBT Christians

Many Voices, a non-profit organization working to build a national movement for LGBTQ justice from within the Black Church, has launched a new web campaign on National Coming Out Day. The campaign begins with today's release of the first of six videos featuring the voices of African American LGBTQ people who came of age in Black churches, including lay people and high-profile clergy.

These videos were made to engage church leaders and LGBTQ people, and bring attention to the powerful presence of Black LGBTQ Christians within the Church. The first video features out lesbian Bishop Tonyia Rawls, founding Pastor of Unity Fellowship Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, sharing her story of coming to the Unity Fellowship Church Movement after years of hearing anti-gay messages and feeling she had to give up a part of herself.

"I head that God is love, and love is for everyone. And there was something about that, when hearing that spoken by a man who was reverend, and gay, and unapologetic. I just never knew there could be such a thing," said Bishop Rawls. "And then to go these congregations and see people coming in with their families who were same gender loving people, or to see the trans man or woman show up and not have to be afraid – I had found home."

A new video in the series will launch every week, leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance in late November. Other interviewees, all of whom are based in North Carolina, include Jermaine Lee, Program Manager of Behavioral Intervention, PowerHouse Project; Ai Elo, writer and youth advocate; Julia Wallace, Co-Founder of the Mobile Homecoming Project; A'Omaré Kyyam, activist and poet; and Reverend Brandon Boone, transgender Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh.

"Generally speaking, Black gay and transgender (LGBTQ) Christians in North Carolina, and in the country at large, desire to worship in safe and affirming faith communities, and to enjoy the same protections in all areas of life—employment, housing, health care, and more," says Rev. Cedric A. Harmon, Co-Director for Many Voices. "The truths of the personal testimonies represented in the Many Voices Video Campaign are hard to deny. I pray we hear the message and eagerly engage in efforts to eliminate the inequalities and injustices affecting the lives and aspirations of so many."

You can find out more about the new campaign on Many Voices' website, and watch the full video of Bishop Tonyia Rawls' story here. For the latest updates about the campaign, connect with Many Voices on Facebook and Twitter

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As a Major League Baseball umpire for the past 29 seasons, Dale Scott has worked three World Series, three All-Star Games, two no-hitters and numerous playoff games. He is also the first out active male official in the MLB, NBA, NHL, or NFL, and the first Major League Baseball umpire to publicly say he is gay while active.