Black people have always been at the forefront of change in this country.

From voting rights to PRIDE to BLM, the Black community has always championed equality. While enacting change, they’ve also faced great odds stacked against them – being killed and discriminated because their skin color.

But for Black LGBTQ+ it’s even more difficult. Being a double minority means these folx are more susceptible to discrimination and challenges in life, including oftentimes being excluded from the Black community. One only need look at the senseless murders of Black trans people all across the world.

Statistics show how dire it is for those who are Black and part of the LGBTQIA+ community. According to this LGBTQ+ BIPOC are more than twice as likely to experience some sort of discrimination than their white counterparts in their workplace.

SEE ALSO: 11 Beauty products that are so gay they support the LGBTQ+ community

Black folx also are also 16-times more likely to be infected with HIV than white people, and have much higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

Even though there are many challenges, Black folx have always been ahead of the trends leading countless marches and creating various inventions that progress America and push it forward.

For Pride, Very Good Light caught up with various Black men in the LGBTQIA+ community from discussing the current climate of things to what brings them joy, these unapologetic Black men share their stories with us.

Xzavier Kristoff, Vice President

Headshot of Xzavier

Oftentimes I say that “To whom much is given, much is required.” As the only Black and openly gay senior executive hired into my company; I have championed and spearheaded several initiatives that fight for fair and equal rights for black people in corporate positions.

I acknowledge that I am Black before anything; however, my sexuality like most young black boys was a tumultuous experience and harsh realization. I am of the thought that being black and gay means that I must be highly educated, speak well, behave, and perform so excellently in life that whom I choose to love is just an after-thought. I wholly feel that it is incumbent upon me to change the narrative of what many people perceive they think a black gay man to be.

Frankly speaking, I have always felt isolated from the black gay community. Within the black gay community, I just always found it hard to make genuine friendships rooted in trust, loyalty, and reciprocity. The current state of the world is disheartening, uncertain yet hopeful. I am a huge proponent of mental health therapy and have been so for years. Aside from speaking with a therapist, I remain prayerful and cling to my faith.

This year we will be celebrating the 50th year anniversary of Pride month. This year we too will be celebrating the 50th year anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his infamous, “I Have a Dream” speech. 50 years later we are still fighting the same systemic racial and discriminatory injustices as my ancestors. We as a collective have made much progress; and this is our time to relish in the achievements of both the Civil Rights movement and the Gay Rights movement. In addition, to celebrate our wins we mustn’t forget all the work that we still must do as a collective to make this country better for all of us. As the world will never forget the contributions made by leaders of the Civil Rights movement. I can only hope that we can keep the legacy of Malcom Michaels Jr. a.k.a Marsha P. Johnson alive as well.

Damique Rose, Social Media Influencer

Posing photo of Meek

One thing I wish people knew about Black queer people is that we are not monolithic. To meet one of us- is not meeting all of us. As with any human. Being Black empowered me to embrace being different. Historically, being a shade darker than our white counterparts, was something to be ashamed of!  Now looking to the present, the world has adapted pieces of our culture as a way of living. The same could be said of the Queer community and our presence and contributions to the world.

It hasn’t always been this way, when I was younger, I was forced to come out of the closet because an individual ‘bullied me into coming out’. Both my parents were not pleased with me coming out to them because they are from the Caribbean where homophobia is a norm. I am still trying to build a better relationship with my father but my mother accepts me for who I am now.

Through it all, one thing about me that brings me joy is my confidence. It helps me get through a lot of tough times in my everyday life. If someone wants to be an ally they should be present, be themselves, and be okay with the unfamiliar. Fight to build a relationship with the person not just their sexual preferences. Passionately advocating for a friend makes the fight that much more valuable for you to contend for and alongside.

When it comes to isolation: Isolation could potentially be viewed as an ambiguous term. Isolation, depending on the context, could be self- inflicted or community-driven. I believe the key to fighting past isolation should start simple and then expand.

For example:

Expand Your Circle – be intentional on creating a group of people who become your community who force you to stretch your thinking!

Break Bread Together – intentionality becomes intimate! Force yourself to enter into their world- and learn their framework

Join groups that align with your interests. That isn’t just Queer driven. Bring your queer experience to the table – when needed. Every fight isn’t a Queer fight. learn the healthy balance of fighting injustices for all.

Jakobe Johnson, Social Media Influencer

Selfie of makeup guru Jakobey

I believe that being who you are and living your truth is one of the most important things ever! The first time I came out was freshman year to one of my best friends, and then to my mother two weeks later. With my friend, I feel like her response not only gave me the confidence I needed to be openly gay at school but gave me a sense of peace that no matter what, she would always be here for me. My mother didn’t blink twice, I knew nothing would ever change between us because to her I was still the same little boy that asked her to make me tuck me in at night.

Being Black and Queer to me means that every day I’m fighting against not only the odds but for change. I want to be the change that my generation wants to see. I don’t feel isolated from the Black community whatsoever I just don’t feel like there is a connection. To be Black no matter what is hard and to be gay and Black is even more difficult and I think it should make us want to band together and fight racism and homophobia head-on but instead it poses a problem that disconnects the black community from the LGBTQ+ community.

Things that allies could do is: eliminate hypermasculinity, educate yourself on our community, protect your brother, sister, or friend, but most of all make us feel comfortable! I wish people knew about all of the hate we experience, I feel like racism and homophobia are the two most prominent issues in the world today and for one gay Black person to have to endure and live through the hate all of their life is not okay. We just want equality, we want Black lives to matter and for pride to be more prevalent in our culture.

K3nnlife AKA the boy next door, Artist and Writer

Selfie of makeup guru K3nn

Growing up, I don’t recall having a coming out story. My mom told me she knew and that was that. I think it was the Bratz. #TeamBratz My family embraced me with open arms which aren’t the case for a lot of people that are in my position. My family supported me for who I am and I couldn’t thank them more. They allowed me to continue to become the person I wanted to be instead of what society told me I should be.

If you ask me I have nothing but flaws, but I feel my creativity is what makes me proud to be me. Also, I like the way I think most of the time. I make myself laugh. Pride Month, to me, stands for hope. It means at least we’ve been seen. It’s not enough because there’s so much work that needs to be done, but it’s a start.

I feel as if being Black is amazing and being part of the LGBTQIA community is just as amazing. I just wish those 2 sides could co-exist more in today’s society. I love who I am and I wouldn’t change it. My gayness somehow comes off to some Black people as a weakness. I wish that type of mentality was broken but unfortunately, it’s been passed down in the black community for years! ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER and anybody in the BLM movement that doesn’t believe in that really doesn’t believe in the words they are saying.

I wish people understood that we’re just people. We have wants and needs and we bleed just like everybody else. There’s no need to look at us like we’re going to ’steal your kids’. We want to exist just like everyone else.

Wsir Amen, Creative Director

Posing photo of Wsir

I came out the Spring of 2010 when I graduated high school. Memphis was not a very inviting place. It was not welcoming to northern relatively eloquent persons and especially not to gay ones. I spent most of my time in high school hiding behind beards. However my senior year I decided officially that I did not want to take “the fake” to the next stage of my life. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was on the phone with my mother headed to a hotel my “guy friend” at the time had rented and it was pouring down rain. I just told her. “Mom, I’m gay.” The line went dead with silence. “Call me later when you get home. “ my mom replied.

My summer before college would be spent on a therapist couch because my Mom was convinced there was something afflicting me and my gayness was the result. It was intense, to say the least. However, what made the transition from that of angst and hurt was visiting Egypt in the Winter of  2010. My first time visiting the place where my parents met all those years ago. While in Egypt I became very ill I thought maybe I drank the wrong water, but as a medical professional, my mother was concerned.

“You have tested Positive,” the doctor said. I saw my mother crumble. I tell people to this day I don’t think I ever cried for me I cried for her. That day I told my sisters and nephew because again I didn’t want to start this new chapter with lies. It was heavy, but a major piece in the armor the universe would help me to develop. The next months brought many new lessons. However, my immediate family held my hand and I was determined. I returned to school not 2 weeks after my world changed. My mom begged me to stay home,  but I was determined. That next semester I got a 4.0 at Morehouse compared to the 1.67 I got the semester prior. Weirdly, my diagnosis gave me something to live for.

Being a double minority has meant a number of things. I would be lying if I told you it was not hard. However, my pan-Africanist upbringing allowed me to be broader in my thinking and know that the issue is not that my people are inherently prejudiced or homophobic, but rather know that it’s is the same as any other prejudice this society has trained and in bedded in us to tear us apart and subjugate us. It’s comparable to colorism, classism, sexism. This helps me to take it far less personally and recognize that it’s the societal systems that need the adjustment, and my people’s homophobia is a byproduct.

Pride month is an opportunity to voice and spread awareness about issues that affect our community. Often these conflicts and issues overlap. So I’d say pride nonetheless is a space and time where people of all races, shades, sexes, sexualities can find commonality.

Arquez, CEO and Actor

Arquez posing for photo

Fortunately, I was raised in a home where I was allowed to be myself. I used to date females now I talk to dudes. I never had a coming out story one day my mom came over and my dude was there.

To be a person of the LGBTQIA community has its ups and downs as it can be loving but also very judgmental. I myself at times even may unknowingly judge. I guess it’s because we are accustomed to being judged that we offer unwarranted improvements to each other. But at the same time, we understand that in the “straight world” we have at least 2 targets on our backs. One because I’m a Black male and two because of my sexual preferences. At the end of the day the community fights and fusses, but we come together to create some of the most amazing crafts, talents, moments, and experiences.

The community is a creative space of undeniable talent and excellence and I’m personally proud to have the pleasure of meeting so many unique individuals. I personally don’t feel isolated from the Black community, but again I know it exists. I understand that there are a massive amount of issues globally that need addressing. However, I think at this moment we have to focus on the biggest issue which also includes some of the unfortunate people who have lost their lives to hate crimes and violence.

Everyone in the gay community doesn’t act a certain type of way. Everyone isn’t masculine or feminine or like what you see on TV. We are just people who are attracted to something different from the “normal”. So I wish that all people knew just because someone identifies as something sexually it has absolutely nothing to do with anything else.

Me personally like most in our community, we live out loud. So pride month is just a month for us to continue to come together and show the world we are here to stay and are having a great time doing it.

Monroe Howard Shackelford, Life Coach & Media Personality

Lifestyle coach Monroe

I am a product of a single-parent home, an only child born to a strong Black mother who unfortunately passed away from cancer when I was 21 years old.  My personal and professional passion is to facilitate opportunities for communities of color, specifically Black people, to gain exposure and access to spaces and key individuals that will support their individual pathways to success. Through my life coaching practice, I partner with individuals to identify barriers to embracing their authentic life and develop strategies to overcome them.

My “coming out” experience has been perpetual and gradual in nature. I was raised in a Black Baptist church tradition and community with strong heteronormative ideals and it was ingrained in me that being gay was not favorable in the eyes of God. I was one of the fortunate ones because my mother never rejected me and continued her same intense level of love, compassion, and acceptance for her child that had always existed. It was not until the age of 36 when I relocated from CA to New York City that I for the first time entered both my personal, academic, and professional spaces, unafraid to explicitly identify myself as a gay man.

I am in love with my ability to be vulnerable.  It is an attribute of my humanity that allows me to connect with people on a deeper level.  Over time embracing my vulnerability has resulted in a personal paradigm shift that views my vulnerable state as a place of power and not weakness.

I am proud to be BLACK and I am proud to be GAY!  With that being said, I acknowledge the complexities of the intersection of those two salient identities.

I recognize certain privileges that allow me to now show up as my full authentic self in these same spaces, such as my economic independence and my emancipation from toxic religious ideology.  It is my purpose to use this privilege to inspire others to live their truth, while also challenging those same traumatic environments for members of the LGBTQIA community to confront and eradicate their biases and hate.  As a young gay Black boy, I felt different and ostracized which led to more “performance” of masculinity.  In this current climate, I choose to use my platform to reinforce the importance of the inclusion of ALL representations of Black people in the conversation about lives that matter!  If Black Lives Matter, then ALL Black Lives Matter!

Jor’El, Singer & Actor

Jor'El posing

Imagine being outed by your best friend in high school. My best friend and I were super close, during our senior year, I was shocked to find out he was gay when he came out to everyone in our school. I remember feeling relieved. Finally, I felt like I had someone I could talk to about my struggle with my sexuality. When I first disclosed to him that I was curious about guys, he was very supportive and even encouraged me to go to a gay club with him a few times. However, that all changed very quickly when I found out that he was telling people that I was gay as well.

Since we were from a small town in North Carolina, and I was pretty popular, it didn’t take long for rumors of me being gay to spread. It changed everything for me. Until I left home for college, everything had become awkward. In addition to that, my family and friends began to distance themselves from me. Being outed that way was one of the most painful experiences of my life. After some time, my family did eventually come to a place of understanding and acceptance, However, the experience made something very clear to me: No one should be forced out of the closet like I was, especially by someone they trust.

I think my charisma and my talent brings me the most joy. I love the way that I am able to connect with people because of that. It means everything to me to be a part of the Black and LGBTQIA community! I’m honored to be a part of two of the world’s most dynamic communities.​ ​Both communities are filled with incredibly talented and creative people.

We [Black LGBTQIA] are some of the most resilient people in this world. ​We are able to push through our oppression with such finesse and flair! Pride month is a time to stop and reflect on my journey to accepting and loving myself as a black gay man. Moreover, a time to reflect on the history and progress of the LGBT community. A figure that stands out to me is the visionary and prolific writer Joseph Beam. He once said, “​I am angry because of the treatment I am afforded as a Black man. That fiery anger is stoked with the fuels of contempt and despisal shown me by my community because I am gay. I cannot go home as I am.” Pride month allows me to stand witness to all the ways we have built our home.

Nolan Tesis, Creative Director & Multidisciplinary Artist

Nolan posing by Malcom Kaldhi

Since I am a part of the Black community and the LGBTQIA community, I am doubly privileged because both communities possess a rich history and heritage of brilliance and resilience. I really benefited from having strong mentors, particularly my gay father Michael Roberson, that instilled in me the importance of having a solid understanding of the history of our community and what it means to uphold such a legacy. One thing from Michael that has always stuck with me is when he said,“It is utterly important for us to be reflections over and against who we have been told we are and reflect back that that is not our truth!”

Inspiration and hope were the last things I expected to be feeling during a time of such political and social turmoil. However, the recent Black Trans Lives Matter rallies across the country changed everything for me! The fact that thousands of people marched nationwide for the black transgender community is monumental. I can vividly recall being at a Black Trans Lives Matter rally in Boston a few years ago and feeling disillusioned as the rally had almost no turnout. This progress has given me a sense of hope which has helped with allowing me to cope with everything that is going on right now.

When I think of what being black and queer means, the first word that comes to mind is a possibility. A possibility that allows people to exist outside the space heteronormativity imagines for them. I wish people had a more solid understanding of the many significant contributions the Black LGBTQIA community has had in shaping our current culture and society.

My understanding of pride is ever-changing. It is interesting to compare World Pride in New York City last year to pride month in 2020. I remember that amidst the sea of bright lights, what shone the most were the rainbow logos and the word pride etched on virtually every window or billboard. I looked at everything with such wonder and awe as I pumped through the streets hand in hand with my boyfriend. However, at that same moment, I began to feel a sense of dissonance. I noticed that holding my boyfriend’s hand was still causing so many reactions from people. While to some degree, we are used to the fact that we together will make people react; the reactions made me think that society is still not used to seeing two black men together. Even in New York City, during World Pride, with all of the Pride Advertisements, two black men holding hands is still something foreign to some.

Davi Stefond, model

Davi posing in front of Playboy images

For the longest time, I have not seen anyone who looked like me in the queer community who represented for ethnic queers, I am hoping to be a voice in the queer community and be someone people can relate it.

I love being Black despite the downfall the world “tries” to give us, we age amazingly. Even though I am a queer man and an ally obviously to the LGBTQIA community. I’m not much of a label person. I am just my own alien visiting and leaving my mark before I leave this earth. What brings me joy, is seeing platforms given to ethnic queer people and those people using those platforms for the better.

With what’s going on in the world people are becoming more and more aware of how LGBTQIA Black people are treated. So I think if someone wants to be an ally to our community, you sit you listen you ask questions and learn, educate yourself. That’s the only way.

Being Black and queer to me means being Black, queer, and unapologetic, those words in itself say it all. How I cope with being a double minority, I just continue to stay confident, and stay off social media and distract myself in other ways that bring me happiness and joy. Pride to me means being your authentic self and unapologetic despite whatever obstacles come your way.

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