Here is your generous and delightful lesbian news for the day. Kimberly McLeod, who is magnificent, penned a lovely letter to LGBT celebrities of varying degrees of outness in Ebony (An aside. Do you follow Ebony on Twitter? You should. They have an excellent Twitter account) today:
Like many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, I remember first turning to the media to find reflections of myself. The depictions, far and few in between, were oftentimes limited. (The lesbian seductress Opal in Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. The hot-headed Cleo from Set It Off. The privileged, popular girl Evie (played by Nicole Ari Parker) in The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love.) But seeing these characters live in their truth, helped me step into mine. I would seldom find real-life examples of what it meant to be both Black and lesbian. These women embodied existing at intersectional identities—something I didn’t see when I attended the campus Gay-Straight Alliance or the Black Student Union. The fictional Opals, Cleos and Evies reminded me that I was not an anomaly. And I was not alone.
If there is even a small part of you that cares about lesbians, you will watch The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love without fail. It will be off-putting, at first, to see Tina from The L Word as a baby butch, but you will get used to it. Just look at this:
I think about my own experiences with my immediate family and how my mother has done a complete 180. She went from crying uncontrollably when I came out, to crying uncontrollably when I broke up with my first long-term girlfriend.
Nowadays, it’s more common to find multi-dimensional depictions of Black LGBT people onscreen (think Pariah’s Alike). More and more Black entertainers are also speaking out (pun intended) publicly–from artist Frank Ocean’s letter boldly and bravely professing that his first love was a man to basketball superstar Brittney Griner reminding people to “just be who you are.”
Here is a picture of Brittney Griner, because it takes only the slightest provocation for me to find pictures of Brittney Griner. Let’s all sit quietly for a minute and think about Brittney Griner, who is perfect and has a smile like a hawk with a magnificent secret. Brittney Griner has stars on her shoulders and is more beautiful than the sun. (Take your time.)
Brittney Griner is as tall as a fresh yew tree and has a jawbone made of pure velvet. If she asked, I would bring her breakfast every day and quietly stand against a window until she needed something. So far she has not asked, but I’m just putting it out there and letting the universe bring good things to me.
Admittedly, it took me some time not to be disappointed when a rumored-to-be-gay celebrity didn’t unabashedly declare their LGBT identity. How selfish of you not to use your platform, I thought. Now, I realize it is not my place to police someone else’s journey. In fact, it’s counterintuitive. Bullying anyone out of the closet is internalizing the same shame tactics people employ to keep us in.
That is not to downplay the importance of visibility. It matters immensely. People move along their support of LGBT people after personally knowing someone who is gay or viewing an LGBT person onscreen. It’s then that folks realize gay and transgender people are just trying to survive and thrive. It’s then that LGBT youth (and adults) feel affirmed.
But your private life is just that. Yours.
If you choose to let me and the rest of the world in, I promise to come from a place of love and compassion. Despite the critics, there is a family of Black LGBT and ally brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts ready to love on you. We’ll be right here with our arms extended, waiting to welcome you home.
McLeod is also the founding editor of Elixher, an absolutely tremendous online magazine for queer Black women. Some of the more recent articles include “A Love Letter to Studs and Bois” (“You know me. I’m that femme giving you the gay-gal-gaze from the corner of a homey bookstore café. Yeah, I’m the femme blushing and biting my lips because I can’t stand how good y’all look all the time.” Oh, my God, it’s so good) and a “Disrupting Gender” photography series. You are excused from reading The Toast for the rest of the day to go read Elixher; we’ll be here when you get back.
Please feel free to share your tales of Bois/Butches/Studs I Have Known and Loved in the comments.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.