Cypher Avenue did ask for some unique and different questions for our Advice Column and the below question from a social media reader did have me perplexed and somewhat at a sad loss. This is a very interesting question and I think input from our readers will be most welcomed.
I have been doing some research on gay blacks in leadership positions and I keep on hitting a brick wall. Somehow out of my goggle search the only gay black man I come across is Bayard Rustin. I remember you profiled his story on your website; so this has me wondering, where on Earth are masculine gay men in leadership?
I mean, are you guys the only people who see that there’s a misrepresentation here? Are we just not in politics and business or are we just so discreet that we are almost consumed by insignificance? I’m struggling to understand why masculine gay men are not mentioned anywhere apart from tumblr blogs and AIDS statistics; please help me understand this.
I have been searching for a mentor I can relate to. A public figure whose masculine, gay and a leader but to me it’s like I’m searching for a polar bear in Africa. Are we gay men nothing more than just gay, no ambition or vision to impact the world? I ask hoping that you can assist me to make sense of this.
Before I go into my response, I know this young man’s craving for a masculine black gay man to look up to as a role model may be off putting to some, simply because he wishes for one of a masculine persuasion. Many people relate to what they themselves identify with. Even if there are many examples of LGBT activist of color, that doesn’t mean they are relatable. Another thing to add, there are many masculine gay men of color in the music, sports and entertainment industries. However, they will remain hidden due to the limitations and hindrances (real or perceived) that they may face by way of backlash if their sexuality became common knowledge.
To attempt to answer the question, outside of Rustin, I can’t really think of any. We have shared the story of remembering Uganda’s bisexual king, King Mwanga II Basammula Ekkere. However I don’t think he could be used as a good mentor by today’s standards since he may have used his King’s privilege to sleep with his male pages against their will, in addition to the whole murdering Christians thing.
Then I think about a more current example in Glen Burke; an out masculine black homosexual man who played major league baseball and invented the “High Five”. Tragically, Burke became addicted to drugs and later died of AIDS related illness in 1995. So obviously he’s no longer here with us.
Getting back to the heart of the question, “where are the masculine black gay leaders of today”, I don’t think we have any. Also consider that most black people in general feel like the black community doesn’t have any current real leadership. Honestly, I can’t foresee a masculine gay man of color in the near future that could come close to the same level of activism and spokesmanship of say a Laverne Cox or Ru Paul.
Currently the closest person I feel could fit this mold is Cleo Manago, founder of Black Men’s Xchange. He has spoken at the Million Man March and on numerous panels which have included Al Sharpton and Marc Lamont Hill. He is currently a reoccurring panel member on Roland Martin‘s show on TVOne. I do feel he may not be a public enough persona to fill that nationwide leadership position but I still feel he is a great spokesperson nonetheless.
I feel like I was of limited help to this young man, so readers please help us. Feel free to offer up some suggestions and insight on this subject.