I’m starting a monthlong celebration of Black gay characters in TV + film! For those of you that don’t know, I’ve been working on a screenplay for a couple years now. It’s a zesty romantic comedy set in a world where only Black gay men exist. My writing this piece is an act of resistance against stereotypes and limited visibility that suggests that Black gay men do not know joy and love amongst ourselves. And it’s a celebration of the unique intersection of being Black and gay. When the world first started to go to shit in a big way with the pandemic I took some time to reflect on the existing stories about Black gay men. Who are the characters that make up the “canon”? What are the images that we’ve been given thus far? One day my film will exist in this timeline and I wanted to do a codified, deep dive into this legacy. So I committed to using June 2020, LGBTQIA Pride month, to celebrate and explore this lineage of being Black, Gay and on Screen. But then, the block got really hot over the last week or so. George Floyd is dead for no fucking reason. Tensions that have been boiling for generations are coming to a head. I asked myself, should I still be doing this, at this time? Is this what is important right now? I sat and called on the ancestors – the Black gay and queer folk that walked before me. I asked them to tell me what to do? And they spoke to me, clear as a bell and said this: They kept our names out of the history books because they didn’t want you to know us. They didn’t want you to be able to connect to us, or for you to be able to call on us, to learn from us. They knew the power of knowing yourself, of passing on these lessons, this history. But our names are etched in your souls, in our DNA. Tell our stories. I’m not a looter, I’m not a rioter. I am a storyteller. Even in the midst of this chaos, I’m telling stories. Some of my own imagination, some from the historical record. And I am still using June 2020 to explore this journey of being Black, Gay and on Screen.
Over the next month, each day I'm celebrating and exploring a different Black gay male character from television and film. The list is not absolutely exhaustive (but it is pretty damn close!), so please let me know who else you might add. Our lives are complex. But as Black people we have always found joy in the face of incomparable suffering. We jumped the broom. We played the drum. We braided our hair. We sang negro spirituals. We made jazz and hip-hop and more things than I can ever list here. We are a jubilant people who are frustrated and tired. And, we have always been able to hold multiple truths. I stand with my brothers and sisters taking to the streets. I stand with my brothers and sisters taking meetings and organizing. And I stand with my brothers and sisters sitting somewhere trying to make sense of it all. We all feel it differently, but we feel it together.
[Artwork created by the amazing artist Nickolas Vaughan, my brother and my friend.]