By Janora McDuffie
Originally published on Advocate.com July 15 2013 4:00 AM ET
I've often wondered where the Ellens are in the black community. Do we even exist, or are we just having a party in this big Hollywood closet, occasionally peeking through with no true intention of fully stepping out? God bless the courage of Wanda Sykes, but I'm still trying to understand why in recent years there have been multiple white women who have taken the plunge, yet I can't even count on one hand the number of black women in this industry who are out and proud.
I pay homage to fearless pioneers such as Audre Lorde and Lorraine Hansberry, and to the brave women of color in other fields who have been bold enough to live their truth. But in our current pop culture, media-crazed society, where many people look to television over textbooks for information and validation, having these positive images is more important than ever.
I recognize that as a black feminine gay woman, my journey has been different. My outer expression does not fit into the stereotype of a lesbian. I've often considered playing it safe and not subjecting myself to the potential consequences of being black, female, and gay in Hollywood. In fact, I've been advised by several people that it's nobody's business, so I should just keep it to myself.
But if by sharing who I love makes the world a kinder and more compassionate place, if it inspires and empowers others to find the courage to live their own truth, or to love their neighbor, son or daughter, then I have an obligation to do that. Having examples in the African American community of people living successful lives gives hope to questioning black youth who might be bullied or considering suicide. It gives adults, living in communities dearly attached to a negative stigma of what it means to be black and gay, the courage to love who they really love instead of going along with the norm because it's easier.
By being visible, I'm also able to challenge and break the mold of what the mainstream might think a black gay woman looks like — there truly is a much broader spectrum of same gender loving people of color that exists than many might imagine. The brave act of coming out educates and moves our community forward toward love and acceptance.
Janora McDuffie is an actress and co-host of No More Down Low TV.
More In This Series
Black, LGBT, American: A Search for Sanctuaries
Don Lemon: A Sense of Otherness
Wanda Sykes: On Being Real
Laverne Cox: Threat or Threatened
Twiggy Garcon: Ballroom at 14
Doug Spearman: Breaking the Code
Janora McDuffie: My Obligation
Aaron Walton: Angelic Troublemakers
Editor's Letter: Black and LGBT in America