Story at a glance

  • African Americans can face unique challenges in coming out as LGBTQ+.
  • A new guide from the Human Rights Campaign is a helpful resource helping support this community.
  • A recent survey found 47 percent of black LGBTQ+ youth reported being mocked or taunted by family.

On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, released “Coming Out: Living Authentically as Black LGBTQ People,” a resource for members of the black LGBTQ+ community. 

“We all deserve the right to live our lives genuinely, completely and honestly,” the guide begins. “Race, ethnicity, language, religion, culture, gender expression, sexual orientation and gender identity should never be barriers to us living our full lives. For LGBTQ people, coming out is often a significant part of reclaiming this right and living in our identity publicly.”

The launch of HRC’s new guide is timed with Black History Month, the perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate the storied history of black leadership in the LGBTQ+ movement, including the ways in which black LGBTQ+ and allied trailblazers have been and remain at the center of the fight for equality. 

“For those of us who identify as black and LGBTQ, coming out can present a variety of challenges, and this important resource serves as a guide as we navigate our very personal journeys to living authentically,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Although we come from a wide range of cultural, regional and ethnic backgrounds, we often share similar experiences — and barriers — in coming out. But, as demonstrated time and time again by black leaders who have always been at the front of the struggle for LGBTQ equality, we know how important it is to live as our true selves, and have our full stories told and contributions recognized.”

In 2017, HRC partnered with researchers to conduct a survey of more than 12 thousand LGBTQ+ youth and found surprising statistics from the more than 1,600 black LGBTQ+ youth respondents. According to the survey, 47 percent of them reported being mocked or taunted by family for being LGBTQ+, and only 19 percent of them said they felt like they could “definitely” be themselves at home. 

What you’ll find in the guide

The guide features valuable resources that detail the unique experiences of black people who may be considering coming out. These considerations might include grappling with faith traditions and teachings that may condemn or reject LGBTQ+ identities. Black culture and history are also inextricably tied to queer identities throughout history, which the guide delves into. The resource also discusses the ways in which black LGBTQ+ people must contend with the realities of systemic racism and anti-blackness that influence all facets of their daily lives — including their LGBTQ+ identities.

“For my transgender son and for each of us, coming out and living our full identities is a process that can’t be measured,” said HRC Foundation Board of Directors Co-Chair Jodie Patterson. “But as leaders of our families, parents need to be equipped with information, understanding and a language that fits the current time. For years I stumbled, trying to grasp fundamental facts about my own transgender son. I thought being black and trans was a super wicked problem. Now I understand it to be powerful. This is the exact guide I would write — years later with all the love and experience I’ve earned.” 

After coming out, some LGBTQ+ people report that they are able to better communicate with their family and friends, leading to stronger relationships and greater mutual understanding. While many black LGBTQ+ people have similarities in their coming out journeys, no two coming out experiences are identical. This guide serves as a place to begin exploring the process.

Published on Feb 14, 2020