deray mckeeson

*As a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, DeRay McKesson is recognized as someone who addresses the concerns of all people who are against police brutality and social injustice, including those in the LGBT community.

The point hits close to home for McKesson, who “quietly” came out to the world last November during a speech at a GLAAD event. It was during that occasion, the activist challenged the notion that Black male leaders must be straight men.

In a recent interview with Rolling Out, McKesson spoke about his coming out speech as well as why being proud of his sexuality is so important to him.

“One of the many unintended consequences of the [Black Lives Matter] movement has been opening up space for talking about the complexity of black identity and that blackness is not monolithic,” he said. “It’s so many things to so many people. People have different identities. We’re talking about the trans community in public in ways that we haven’t before. As a gay black man it’s important to me to show up — that I’m able to show up as my whole self, in every space that I’m in, because that’s how I’m able to be the most true to who I am.”

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McKesson’s comments come as he received a public endorsement in his campaign in the Baltimore mayoral election from the gay dating app Jack’d. Prior to his coming out, many Black Lives Matter supporters assumed McKesson must be cisgender, a heterosexual man, in light of his status as one of the movement’s most recognizable faces.

During his interview, McKesson emphasized the importance of making room in the black political movement for those who are black and queer in order for a diverse array of Black people to feel included and empowered to work together to make changes.

“In that [GLAAD] speech I talked about coming out of the quiet,” McKesson stated. “This idea that, just because you didn’t know, doesn’t mean that I was hiding something. In the [Black Lives Matter] movement, there were so many people in the quiet, so many people who cared about justice, who cared about equity, who wanted to fight. But they were just waiting to know that they were not alone, and that was important to me as well.”

As the interview progressed, McKesson touched on why it’s so important that Black Lives Matter is inclusive of all black people, including those within the LGBT community. The founders of the movement are Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. All three women identify themselves as “queer.”

“I think that we’re starting to have these conversations in public in ways that are really important,” McKesson explained. “It’s powerful. We are talking about the complexity of identity. We know that talking about it is just the beginning of the work and that none of this stuff happens quickly. So the fact that we are having these conversations is helping more people to enter into the conversations about queerness and the trans community, and I think that work is actually happening.”