Where Are The Masculine Gay Leaders of Color?

By OckyDub | Posted Dec 18 2014 | 16 Comments  



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.

Hello There,

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.


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About the Author

Octavius is a founder and editor of Cypher Avenue. He's here to help speak for us and show the world that masculine gay / bisexual men of color are not a part of the stereotypical gay normal that is seen and fed to the masses. No...we are a distinct breed, filled with character and pride. Cypher Avenue is here to show the world how we are different.

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16 Comments Feel Free To Join The Cypher.

  1. Rob Smith
    Rob Smith | December 18th, 2014

    Cypher Avenue, Plz never change, lol…

  2. Kray Kray Twin | December 18th, 2014

    Charles Blow of the New York Times is openly bisexual

  3. ATLGent
    AceSlimm | December 18th, 2014

    I would like to be more helpful to the author; however, I am slightly confused by what they want this person to be a leader of. Are you looking just at people who are masculine, at the top of their game, openly gay, with a public persona? Is there a specific area in which you want a leader (i.e. politics, law, business, civil rights, engineering, medicine, etc.)? Does this person need to be an “A-lister” type or someone who makes appearances and in a quick Google search you can also tell they are gay? Do they have to be an LGBT activist?

    I have some ideas (Wade Davis, Keith Boykin – maybe) but overall it would be great to have more context.

    • Ocky Williams | December 18th, 2014

      I think with this type of subjective description from the questioner, some readers could easily be offended by the request of “masculinity”. Not saying you are but just saying in general. I don’t know how to fully verbalize it but I completely understand his question and can relate the tone.

      I think Laverne Cox is a good example of a trans woman of color who is a nationally and globally known LGBT activist. A masculine gay male of color equivalent would be nice and I think is what the questioner is seeking.

      • ATLGent
        AceSlimm | December 21st, 2014

        I quickly picked up on the fact that some readers may be offended by the adjective “masculine” and as you stated that is not how I was looking at thee issue. I asked for greater clarification because I do believe you could point to the masculine examples in certain subject areas; however if you are asking for an overall leader I think that would be a stretch. Although Laverne Cox was used as an example, I think her leadership comes from a platform that she can’t escape. For better or worse, the proverbial elephant in the room with Cox will always be that she is a transgendered African American woman and the ability for her speak as a leader comes by virtue of Orange is the New Black being a popular show. There is no real way for her to escape speaking about LGBT (greater emphasis on the T) issues because every interview is popularized by her being black and transgendered.

        To the point of looking for “masculine African American male leaders” in the community, I do believe you would have to really dive into the panelists who participate at many of the LGBT professional events (i.e. Lambda Legal). Additionally, masculine gay black men is not a part of the narrative for LGBT. I think Wade Davis is relatively good, and I also think that Keith Boykin’s edited work of personal essays, “For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home” highlighted some interesting LGBT men of color (some more masculine than others).

    • 850famuman
      850famuman | December 19th, 2014

      Honestly, it really is sad that we do not have more to list but one I certainly look to as a black gay role model & activist is Keith Boykin. @ocky I’d encourage the person in that letter to research Keith’s background and read some of his books. Keith-Boykin-at-podiumWeb.jpg

      • Todd Iovino | December 21st, 2014

        …Keith Boykin is an excellent example. I lived in DC for a long time and watched/read of his rise in prominence. At the same time, where are the role models for the LGBT youth. I think all gay men and women can recall that gut-wretching fear of being “found out”/outed. It can make everyday things like going to school an experiment in real terror.
        What’s the thinking on straight, enlightened men acting as role models? thoughts?

  4. Marc versus Marc | December 18th, 2014

    I feel the same way, in that we need more leaders to represent the african american lgbt community. I’m sure there aren’t many due to the homophobia within the black community. The only person I can think of is the producer and director Lee Daniels. Also, actually, Micheal Sam, Jason Collins, and Derrick Gordon are masculine gay men that can be seen as “leaders” in their own way.

    • Ocky Williams | December 18th, 2014

      I do agree with you about Collins and Sam but because they are in interracial relationships, they will be rejected by many black gays. Also I don’t think either would want the role of “leader” of the community IMO.

      • ATLGent
        AceSlimm | December 21st, 2014

        Does anyone know whether that was an issue for Bayard Rustin, since his partner/lover was a white man?

    • straight_up | December 19th, 2014

      Let’s see here: Lee Daniels, Jason Collins, Michael Sam, Derrick Gordon…what do they all have in common (except the obvious)? @Ocky knows…..

      Sorry, but none of those mentioned should serve as a role model for any gay, bisexual, or questioning black man- for obvious reasons. Gay black men need to see other black men with healthy doses of consciousness and self-esteem, not the opposite.

      I’m willing to include Keith Boykin only because he has shown himself to be a real black man.

  5. remyfacade
    Remyfacade | December 18th, 2014

    Instead of asking “where are all the masculine gay leaders of color” how about asking “where are all the GAY leaders of color? also Laverne Cox is not a man so she doesn’t count as a masculine leader.

    We as a society can’t ask questions like this when there is such a stigma in the black/latino when it comes to the LGBT community. What makes it worst is the judgment that gays get from other gays because they don’t act a certain way…(hint, hint)

    • Ocky Williams | December 18th, 2014

      I think your missing the point and the example that was used. No one is saying L. Cox is a masculine gay leader…who said that? I was using her as an example to say her level of exposure and activism is missing as it relates to a masculine black gay equivalent.

      No one would have an issue with a gay man being empowered by his femininity and looking towards strong feminist women and trans woman as role models, but somehow a masculine gay man desiring the same thing is a no no? I’m not following.

  6. TruthTurner | December 18th, 2014

    The problem is the lack of gay masculinity period, in the media. The only people in prominent positions I can think of off the top of my head are Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, and Don Lemon and only 1 is of color and only Andy will talk about gay issues.

    Most of the masculine gay men just blend in and keep their business and pleasure separate, they not in the closet but also not out either, with that being said someone like Karamo Brown from the real world would be a good fit.

  7. BlackguyExecutive | December 19th, 2014

    I think a primary problem with this lack of representation issue is that there is still a significant problem with men of color coming out and living openly. One cannot be a leader and live in the closet plain and simple. I do think that there are some masculine black gay men or SGL men out there but their roles in activism or leadership or business or whatever are not the public ones. They are working behind the scenes.

    I would encourage this questioner to take a look at the National Black Justice Coalition which is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. They are getting ready to publish a top 100 black LGBT leaders to watch list in the near future. I know a few of the inaugural cohorts personally. But to my surprise there were several who did not want to be recognized formally because either they were closeted or at least not out generally. It takes courage to live openly and until men start doing so our representation will be limited.

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