“Mr. Davis, I have to leave my mom’s home," the old self-identified “stud” lesbian told me. When I asked why, she said, “My mother is Black and from the Caribbean and you know she will not accept me for being gay and all.”
I laughed to myself because I had met her mother and based on the young girl’s gender expression, I figured her mother knew she was a lesbian.
As we talked about the dangers of leaving home and living on the street with or without a girlfriend, it became quite apparent that she was persuaded that the Black community is the most homophobic and hostile towards its’ LGBT family members. Regardless of how much she trusted me, that single story was what she believed.
The brilliant writing, thunderous musical sounds and stellar acting performances in Fox’s new smash Empire has rightly captivated many within the Black community. But one storyline in particular has opened up an old, and evidently unhealed, wound like none other – the relationship between the self-avowed heterosexual family boss Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his gay son Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollet).
Since the premiere of the show, numerous blog posts and op-ed’s have been written about how awful, yet stereotypical the father/son relationship is. And yet, there seems to be zero conversation or dialogue about how Lucious Lyon only makes up 25 percent of Jamal Lyon’s immediate family structure and support system. The other 75 percent, his mother Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), Andre Lyon (Trai Byers), and Hakeem Lyon (Bryshere Gray) are affirming and by all accounts have no qualms with Jamal’s sexual orientation. Yet, the conversation about that Black love and affirmation towards its LGBT family members in the media world is undetectable.
As a Black gay man and former NFL player, inviting the world into my personal thoughts and fears about my sexual orientation was once unimaginable because I believed the myth that everyone would reject me and their love would remain undetectable. Yet, the opposite happened. From former high school teammates to my NFL brethren to the gentlemen at my black Harlem barbershop – I have been more than accepted; I’ve been loved. I’ve been invited to family dinners; invited out to drinks with guys and to all night spades parties. I’ve been asked to the best man at multiple wedding and even a sperm donor.
Yet, my story and the stories of millions of others are hidden in plain sight due to our inability to see the love all around us because of the actions of a few. Which is why I’ve partnered with writers and advocates Darnell Moore and Tiq Milan to create our #ThisIsLuv campaign. We wanted to make space for black LGBT individuals to share beautiful stories and portraits of Black love in our communities.
The #ThisIsLuv campaign will live on Ebony.com, Tumblr, Facebook. Anyone using the #ThisIsLuv hashtag on various other social media sites can enter the virtual conversation. We need more spaces to share our love.
I ran into the same 16 yr. old young person, whose story I’ve opened with, several months after that incident. She was smiling as I asked about her relationship with her mother. She smiled exclaimed, “Oh everything is fine – she already knew I was a lesbian and I’m back at home.”
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her 2009 Ted Talk, “When we reject the single story, we regain a kind of paradise.” Let us not ignore the stories of rejection that are in our community, in all communities, and also share and highlight our countless stories of love, community and affirmation.
Wade A. Davis II is a former NFL-player and Executive Director of the You Can Play Project. Follow him on Twitter: @wade_davis28
For more info on #ThisisLUV, click here.