Dear Brittney and Jason,
We are a small collective of Black male writers, activists, cultural critics, artists, scholars and athletes. We are straight, gay, cis and transgender men who love other Black men intentionally in the best way. We are Black men in community with Black women, and, indeed, all women. We are Black men who are committed to standing against sexism, homophobia, classism, violence, and rape culture. We are Black men who move positively, productively and peacefully in this world. And we are Black men writing this letter of love in open community to publicly affirm you, Brittney and Jason.
We live in a culture that takes pride in its support of dissension and in its antagonism towards difference. And considering such a climate, for one to disclose publicly one’s sexual identity in it does, in fact, matter. Make no mistake, Brittney and Jason, you did not “come out” of someone’s imagined closet of self-degradation. You, instead, offered an invitation to the wider public to enter the personal spaces of your already abundant lives.
You’ve reminded us of a too-often forgotten elementary school lesson in respect: no one is allowed to control the personal spaces of another person’s life. That’s perverted democracy. And more important than that is the fact that no one is endowed with the right to barter another human’s dignity for his or her marketability. What we are challenged by you both to do is unapologetically bear witness to the human right of personal agency and choice. That charge is powerful. And for that we say, thank you.
We should never feel forced to “come out” for the sake of entering another rigid box designed by a heteronormative fear impulse. We should not have to wait to share our truths because of what may await them on the other side: violence, hatred, disregard, or death.
You’ve committed to your truths and that is the strongest assault to fear. We recognize that your identification as lesbian and gay athletes in this country—a country whose legal mechanisms still serve as proofs that we have yet to accept the fullness of your humanity—was a courageous act. And for that, again, we thank you.
It is no secret that we live in a society that is deeply fascinated with the sexual lives of others even though the same society makes it often impossible for non-straight people to express freely their sexualities. Indeed, the sexual lives of Black folk, however we’ve identified or expressed ourselves sexually, have always been targets of a fetishized preoccupation with the Black body. That you are both Black and lesbian and gay is not your problem. The brilliant James Baldwin states it in this way, after all, “Everybody's journey is individual. If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.” Your journey to your truth is no problem or solution, for that matter. It is just that – your journey. And we celebrate this journey as that which belongs to you.
Both of you have not only encouraged us, but moved us closer to the work of justice in a society that operates on a somewhat self-inflicted limited knowledge of race and sexual politics. And in that regard, we close by offering you our encouragement and a few cautionary points to consider:
· Jason: corporations, movements, and the like will quickly want to turn you into a commodity. They will want to sell your understanding of desire. They will want to anoint you the face of the LGBTQ sports movement. You made history and should very well be lifted up. But remember that there are Black gay m(some of them athletes) whose lives and stories will never register among the very people who will praise you. Some other feminine-performing Black man will still be someone’s derogatory word. Some other non-athlete, non-celebrity, non-college educated, and non-wealthy Black gay man may not receive support, let alone acknowledgement. Given that social fact, we ask that you please remember those black gay men and help those who will turn to you to do the same.
· Brittney: that we have yet to make a lot of noise about your story says something about the way that we undervalue women and women athletes, especially Black women athletes who defy rigid gender restrictions. We recognize that you have been on the receiving end of vitriolic homophobic, sexist and transphobic remarks and, yet, you refuse to allow ignorance to still your success and contentment. You exist in an intersection where your race, gender expression, and sexual identity opens you up to multiple forms of oppression and because of that we believe strongly that you would understand the plights of so many black LGBTQ people. Please remember the depth of their struggles when the movements and corporations knock at your door.
· Brittney and Jason: you have every right to disregard points 1 and 2. You didn’t elect to be the spokespersons for a presumed movement. Yet, we are sure that you also are aware that others will soon render you as such. The tempo of the LGBTQ movement for equal rights is orchestrated by the financially privileged and the middle aged. In this movement, the most marginalized are far too often ignored and neglected. We have yet to consider how we can make sports environments safer for our young people, and we have yet to consider so much else (e.g. increasing rates of homelessness among LGBTQ youth, the criminalization of Black and brown LGBTQ youth, the alarming HIV prevalence rates among young men who have sex with men, LGBTQ senior citizens, public safety for LGBTQ people, et cetera). Your stories hold the pens for these unwritten narratives. Who will speak for the least of these among us? We hope that you will join us in doing so.
In Fierce Community,
Black Men Writing to Live: A Literacy, Love, and Life Campaign
Darnell L. Moore, Writer, Educator & Activist
Hashim Pipkin, Writer, Critic, Ph.D. Candidate (Vanderbilt University)
Mark Anthony Neal, Writer, Cultural Critic & Professor (Duke University)
Kai M. Green, Writer, Filmmaker & Ph.D. Candidate (University of Sothern California)
Mychal Denzel Smith, Writer, Social Commentary & Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute
Kiese Laymon, Writer, Editor & Professor at Vassar University
Marlon Peterson, Writer, Community Organizer & Youth Advocate
Wade Davis, II, Writer, LGBTQ Advocate & Former NFL Player