“I can finally get married!” Raven-Symoné tweeted on Friday. “Yay government! So proud of you.” Everyone immediately decided the tweet was an overdue admission of Symone’s sexual orientation. She came out.
Last year the National Enquirer reported that Symoné was in a serious relationship with America’s Next Top Model contestant AzMarie Livingston. After that story, Symoné quickly issued a statement that didn’t deny or admit that she was gay. Instead, she asked for privacy in her personal life.
Symoné’s failure to come out angered some who felt the 27-year-old actress would add a much-needed and rarely seen face to the growing list of gay celebrities. Symoné gained fame as a child on The Cosby Show and later on the popular Disney series That’s So Raven. High-profile Black females are rarely—if ever—identified as gay. Many believe this is for good reason.
As entertainment blogs rushed to publish galleries of celebrities who’ve made their sexual orientation publicly known, Wanda Sykes appeared to be the lone African-American woman on a list that included Jodie Foster, Ellen DeGeneres, and Anderson Cooper.
“Interracial relationships and sex-same relationships are still subjects most famous people of color won’t discuss,” says Black film historian and NYU film professor Donald Bogle. “The response from the Black audience is still so unknown that it’s a risk that most really fear taking—and that’s understandable.” A segment of the Black community, particularly older African-Americans, harbor long-held conservative views toward same-sex relationships that usually trace back to strict Baptist-church teachings. Those ultraconservative beliefs can go a long way in deciding who is and who isn’t supported by the Black community in Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and beyond.