I exist at a unique set of intersections, but Black is not one of them. And yet, in the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter marches, I thought an outside perspective might be one that resonates with many. I hope to do it justice.
As the founder of The Gayly Dose, I had the recent pleasure of recording Terence Stewart and Amber Moore, who have been at the core of the year-over-year growth and success that is Atlanta Black Pride. Their commitment to our community and our progress exudes passion as they dream of a bold new future not only for Black LGBTQ+ people, but for all humans. Their vision and energy are intoxicating.
Seek to understand
I have been curious since childhood. Ever since my second-grade teacher handed me the “Mr. Inquisitive” award, I’ve been asking questions. I was overjoyed when I learned that the scatter of certain wavelengths of light was what made the sky blue. I ran home to report this tremendous find to my mother, who replied, “Yes, sweetheart!” A set of encyclopedias was soon purchased for our home.
When we are faced with different people — different gender, race, creed — we must start at the most important place: learning! This is not a one-time moment — this is a LIFETIME disposition. Are you prepared to be a lifetime student? If not, you will probably find this earthly experience to be dull and unexciting. There is adventure in discovering even the simplest new thing … but how much more exciting it is to discover your neighbor!
Read before you ask
There is a lot you can learn about the Black and the Black gay experience by simply searching Google. I have referenced an excellent resource at the end of this column. So many of my friends of color are exhausted from fielding questions regarding their experience. I think when you are at the intersection of Black and gay, it’s a double whammy. In fact, this is one of the MOST important lessons I have found in my search.
Trying to be the best Black person you can be, while also trying to be the best gay person you can be, is a unique place of exhaustion and challenge that is oftentimes at the heart of life for our Black queer family.
I can relate to the challenge of being gay, of going out into the world and striving tirelessly to prove that despite my sexuality, I deserve the same respect as my straight colleagues.
But I have learned that the Black experience is one that has rested strongly on doing everything possible to “compensate” for racism and bias, so that every aspect of your being, from your clothes to your hair, your car, your everything needs to be perfect just so that you have a chance at the same opportunities. That’s exhausting, and when Black people can’t meet that cultural demand, they are often forlorn, despondent, and even defeated in a way that isn’t easy to translate to non-Black people.
I’d never have learned this perspective without some fundamental understanding of what the Black experience is. I am certain that I can and will learn more. How much time have you invested in really understanding your neighbor?
“Do life” with people of color
From Kevin, my high school bestie; from Ponce, Kniche, Tim, and Shoshanna, my coworkers; to Yemia, a dear girlfriend; and Mike and Marcus, my bro besties; and our dear Dante, my friend and Gayly Dose cast member, my life is marked by the nurturing of friendships with people of color who have helped my understanding.
When I meet people who claim to desire to understand but haven’t invested in seeking people of color to befriend, I often take this as lip service. I certainly don’t suggest seeking connections like collecting stamps — relationships must be authentic and genuine. However, we can all seek diversity in our friendships.
Talk about things that matter! You won’t learn from your friends if you keep things superficial. Get deep, gain trust, learn more! It is not just through our shared experiences, but also through our shared discussion of life’s experiences, our feelings, our intentions, and our learnings that we can level up in our understanding of what is foreign to us.
This is true for all people, not just Black folks. We live in the United States of America. There is no better place for you to seek and find this intoxicatingly beautiful mix of humanity with which to live and learn. Double down and take part in a human experience that is uniquely available to us in these modern times. It’s an unprecedented opportunity and it should be grasped and appreciated greatly.
Respect the intersection, support It with love
My greatest learning about Black pride is that it is immensely important to many gay Black people. Black LGBTQ people need time to themselves, to simply be with others who experience the same challenges, exhaustion, and victories that they do.
I think this is important not only for these individuals, but for all of us.
At the end of the day, it is from this part of humanity that some of our greatest gay leaders have and will continue to come from. Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Barbara Jordan, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Lori Lightfoot, RuPaul, and many others are instrumental leaders of their time.
It’s my belief that at this challenging intersection of Black and queer, one can blossom into a place of leadership. Because it matters, we should take a moment to celebrate, to learn from, and even to follow.
Happy Black Pride to our Black family. We see you, we support you, and we can’t wait to witness the private and public victories you will achieve. You are loved.
Learn more with Brown University’s LGBTQ reading list at brown.edu/campus-life/support/lgbtq/graduate-student-resources/queer-theory-reading-list and visit AtlantaBlackPride.org for more information.
Helmut (@helmut_smile) is the Founder and Co-Host of The Gayly Dose, an Atlanta-based podcast hosted by an all-gay cast. Unique in its mission and follow-on format, weekly episodes are known for their real conversations about things that matter to the community and their listeners. Purposefully candid and brutally honest, the cast speaks on a range of topics including monogamy, body issues, coming out, dating apps and growing up gay in the church. Listen at thegaylydose.com.