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GLAAD

11 students explain what being queer, Black, and proud means to them

February 19, 2019

When I was presented with the opportunity to write about being Black, queer, and proud I was extremely ecstatic, but I knew I had the responsibility to illustrate what it's really like to be Black and queer. This means including the challenges along with the triumphs we face daily.

A common misconception people have about Black queer people is that we must always be Black first. Personally, there is no first, both identities influence me equally. Both identities shaped my life and experiences, one no more than the other. So, I would like to tell Black LGBTQ+ youth that you don’t have to decide, this is your life. Live it to the best of your ability and embrace yourself always.

Growing up, I was constantly stuck in this battle with myself, knowing I was gay at a very young age, while going through the constant struggles of being a young Black male in America. It was a challenge trying to find my identity and my place in each of my communities, sometimes feeling like I sat at the outskirts of both. I had no real role models who looked like me and were queer on television, movies, or in music.

Growing up, I went on this journey of discovery alone, a reality I know many Black LGBTQ+ people face; growing up without anyone to talk about the lifestyle, feelings, thoughts, and hardships you know you will face being Black and queer.

The very first person I identified with as I grew older was James Baldwin, a creative, writer, and social justice activist who identified as gay. In a lot of ways, I saw myself in Baldwin. His work primarily explored race, sexuality, and classism in Western society. Unapologetically himself, extremely intelligent, and he rarely filtered his personality for the comfort of others. For that reason, I was drawn to everything he created, said, and took part in.

Today, I live my life free to be myself and represent others like me who were just as lost as I was. So, to me being Black and queer now means strong, compassionate, loving, creative, beautiful, and unapologetic.

Check out below to learn how these 10 GLAAD Campus Ambassadors celebrate their Black and LGBTQ identities.

Ose Arheghan

Ohio State University

How do you identify?

I identify as gender non-binary and queer and as a Nigerian American I represent both the African and the African-American communities.  

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

I’m proud of my queer Black identity because of the legacy that queer Black leaders have left behind. When I look at what queer Black people like Audre Lorde and Bayard Rustin and Marsha P. Johnson did, I know that there’s precedent for the advocacy and activism I see queer Black folks doing now. I’m proud of all the positive change my people have enacted in the United States and all across the globe. That sense of pride is something I’ve been able to share in with other queer Black folks and we’re able to share in such a beautiful community.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

There’s this misconception that my Black identity, my African identity, my queer identity, and my trans identity can’t exist in one body. There’s no inherent conflict within my identities. There’s the misconception that the Black community is more homophobic or transphobic that other communities and that’s wholeheartedly untrue. There have and always will be queer people in the Black community creating culture and history. I belong in both communities and there is space for me in both communities without me having to compromise any one part of my identity.

Rodney Bethea

Lake Forest College

How do you identify?

I identify as a gay cis Black male.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

The one thing about my LGBTQ Black Identity that I love the most is the fact that I have two large backgrounds of history to pull from. In times when I am feeling lost and not sure how to carry myself, I often refer to Black or LGBTQ+ history to reflect on those that came before me. All of the brave activists, artists and role models give me the materials to really walk in my skin with a sense of pride as they did.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

Considering there is a lot of stigma that surrounds LGBTQ+ issues within the Black community, the one thing that people miss the mark on is always thinking that sexuality and masculinity are black-and-white. A lot of people think that there is no wiggle room for sexual expression and physical presentation when you are a Black man which can be severely limiting and detrimental to one’s self esteem. The fact that I can continuously play around with my sexuality and how I present myself is very freeing and what ultimately led me to come out in the first place. I can define myself as “me."

Dion Copeland

University of Louisville

How do you identify?

I identify as bisexual.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

I am proud that I hold two marginalized identities. Being a person of color and belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community allows me to serve as a liaison between the two communities through my work as a campus leader at the University of Louisville.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

People assume that I am gay instead of taking the time to genuinely inquire about my sexual orientation. Although I don't approve of asking such an intrusive question, I would rather be asked than have someone assume.

Mei Eyre

Cascadia College

How do you identify?

I identify as a queer biracial Black woman and I use they/them and she/her pronouns.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

I’m proud of my identity because I am living proof of the resilience of my ancestors. I will always appreciate the ground that has been laid by those who came before me and I’m proud to bring their hopes and dreams for the future to fruition.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

There’s a clichéd assumption that Black people’s interests are only limited to what’s included in Black culture, and that’s simply not true. Mainstream media tells a story that does not recognize the diverse interests of Black people. Nerdy fandoms and rock music are among the many interests left out of this narrative.

V Green

Georgia State University

How do you identify?

I identify as queer and non-binary.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

I'm proud every day because of the unique experience of my culture I get to experience as a black queer non-binary African American. I love that I'm able to create new spaces with people like me, who know my struggles and my triumphs and see me as I am first and foremost before assuming anything about me. I think that my life would be duller and altogether less worth all the effort I put into living it without the support and friendship of so many Black queer people in my inner circle and those I admire for their creative endeavors.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

I think that there's this idea about black people all being so much more homophobic than any other race and that really bothers me. Before anyone accepted me it was cisgender heterosexual black people in my community who understood me and supported me. People even outside of my family who've always pushed me when I felt like I couldn't push myself. I'm not foolish enough to say that people could never pose a danger or threat to me and my queer peers but I know that there's a lot of love in my community and I believe more than enough to accept me and anyone else for all that they are.

Briannah Hill

University of Colorado-Boulder

How do you identify?

I identify as everyone’s favorite friendly, radical, loving, emotional, extra Blaqueer, non-binary femme.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

Me being queer and nonbinary makes me proud because, even though I have sacrificed my safety I am happy. I’m proud that my identities have given me the confidence to stand up for myself and demand respect.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

So many people get it wrong that I and many other Blaqueer/Trans folks can’t be both Black and queer/trans at the same time. Also, people get it wrong that Blaqueer/trans people even exist, we exist, and we are here thriving.

Kayla Iman

St. John’s University

How do you identify?

I identify as a queer Black woman; more specifically, bisexual. I choose to say queer before Black because my blackness is visible, my queerness is not, and both are equally important to me.

What about your LGBTQ black identity makes you proud?

What makes me proud about my LGBTQ Black identity is being able to support LGBTQ Black youth. Since being gay is still frowned upon in many Black communities, young Black gay kids are often forced into being closeted, given wrong and toxic information about sexuality or relationships, or are beaten just for stepping outside of the toxic masculinity norm. It makes me proud to be able to combat that and stand up for them. It makes me proud to be able to dispel stereotypes about what it is to be both Black and gay.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

Something people get wrong a lot about my identity or my community is they assume I’m bisexual to attract men, or that my being queer makes me less Black. None of those things are true and they are some of the things that make me angriest to hear in 2019.

AJ Lawrence

Berklee College of Music

How do you identify?

I am non-binary.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

I love my identity because I can carry myself, personality, and identity like a banner of victory, displaying with pride that this is who I am as a whole.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

People misunderstand that queer people and Black people are separate and isolated, they are not. They intersect and I happen to be one of those people who embody both identities.

Dane Scott

Vaughn College of Aeronautics

How do you identify?

I identify as a gay Afro-Jamaican man.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

LGBTQ people unfortunately have the disadvantage of being one of the only minority group not raised by their own people. To make things worse our history is rarely taught in schools, so it’s left to gay youth to seek out our history. It’s common knowledge that the Gay Rights Movement struggled against their oppressors (that alone made me proud to be gay and Black) but as I read more, I discovered LGBTQ icons who worked in the Civil Rights Movement like Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin. Along with inspiring me to do the work, they showed me that when it came to activism, I didn’t have to choose “black first” or “gay first.”

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

Due to lack of education, whether purposefully or incidentally, I think people are mistaken about what LGBTQ activist had to go through to get where we are today and what they have to go through today. We, as a community, often get accused of being “sensitive” but if there were places they could get fired, evicted, beaten or murdered for being who you are, I don’t think they’d take everything so lightly.

Ryan Wagstaff

Washington University

How do you identify?

Black American of Afro-Latinx/Afro-Guyanese descent.

What about your LGBTQ Black identity makes you proud?

Being Black Queer makes me proud of where I am from and I know that queer people have existed in African history long before colonization. Black queer people are resilient, we lead, push change, and organize.

What do people get wrong about your identity and/or communities?

Being Black, many in my community believe that my sexuality is a choice when it is how I was born. Being gay, my community of other queer folks who are white do not speak to my racism or believe in colorblindness. Because of this colorblindness from my peers I am also vulnerable not only to homophobia from my Black community but anti-Black racism in my queer community as well. Having this intersectional identity I believe is important for my family of white LGBTQ+ to advocate not only for queer liberation but also Black liberation. Because inherently we all are a part of a larger struggle.

D'antae Johnson is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and sophomore at Prairie View A&M University studying communications. D'antae is from Dallas, Texas.

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