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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Don Lemon's Coming Out Begs the Question: Who Are the Other Gay Minority Celebrities?

By May 23, 2011

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It's been a week since Don Lemon announced that he was gay, becoming one of the few news personalities and high-profile people of color to do so. Lemon's remarks in the New York Times about the black community being homophobic has sparked debate about the vulnerability of being both gay and a minority and discussion about how come more gay celebrities of color haven't come out.

In response to these discussions, I've created a list of famous gay people of color from black, Latino and Asian American backgrounds. More than 20 such celebrities appear on this list. All are living. Actors, writers, bloggers, models, athletes and musicians show up in this compilation. I'll admit that the list has its flaws. More men appear on it than women, and I couldn't come up with one one famous lesbian or bisexual Latina to include, although I identified multiple black and Asian-American women to include. That's where you come in, readers. Please let me know in the comments section of this blog which celebrities I missed.  If you can think of a lesbian Latina celebrity or more gay women of color period, I'd love to include them. Why? This list can be a resource for queer people of color searching for others like them in the public eye. This means that the more representative this compilation is, the better.

I just ask that your recommendations include people who are living rather than dead and not be fictional characters on television shows, in movies, books, etc. I may create a list of deceased gay celebrities of color in the near future, but for now I'm interested in living, breathing people. My only other requirement is that these people be publicly out--either because they've announced their sexual orientation in the media or had an acknowledged same-sex relationship. Also, because this blog is U.S. based, I ask that the celebrities you pick be either from the U.S. or famous in this country, if from elsewhere.

I look forward to hearing from you!


May 26, 2011 at 11:07 am
(1) Robert says:

Hi Nadra,

Thanks for this posting. It is needed. But I think more for people in the straight world than for those in the gay world including young gay/lesbian/bi/trans/queer kids. We go searching for our world, to many straights we are either invisible or de-humanized.

35 yrs ago as a young gay guy living in a small town in Rhode Island, I searched books, magazines, art history, history etc for references regarding homosexuality etc. What I found was tainted with negativity (to say the least). Today most young GLBTQ youth have access to the internet and lots of info… some good, some neutral and some bad… (you are one of the good sources).

Straight people, be they of color or not, don’t look. Not because of homophobia but because it is not on their radar. (The way tennis is not on my radar.)

The list you are creating is reminding more the straight readers of your blog that GLBTQ people of color exist… and hopefully reduce some of the shame, hate and mis-information that the straight world piles on gay people. I am hopeful because I am seeing a sense of accountability occurring in many places in our culture. It is good to know that hate in all its form are being challenged.

Good for you for being on the right side of history. Good for you for being a solid human being.

And Thanks.


ps. if only my ex had people like you in his life… then maybe he would have the courage to live an authentic life rather than a life of lies and shame… being trapped in the Mosaic world of teflon prophets and false promises.

May 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm
(2) Nadra says:

Hi, Robert. Thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate them. In addition to what you said, hopefully this list contradicts the idea that all people of color who are gay are so self-hating that they remain closeted. There are “out” people of color in the limelight, and it’s important for the public to know that.

May 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm
(3) Robert says:

Again… completely agree with you.

It is important for everyone to know that “coming out” as gay is not a badge of shame or a banner of pride but simple a statement of fact.

I lived “in the closet” from about the age of 7 yrs old till I was 20. And in that time, I lived in shame, in isolation, in the fear of being discovered and of being completely unlovable if anyone found out who I really was. This view was both actively and passively reinforced by my parents, friends, teachers, coaches, classmates, priests, nuns, preachers and deacons. It was reinforced on TV, in newspapers and in almost every single book and article I encountered. When I came out, there were no “positive gay role models” there were only hair dressers and hateful slurs.

But in 1981, I “had” to come out because my best friend, Carlene, fell in love with me. I remember the look of pain and confusion on her face when I did not, was not able to, reciprocate those feelings. I had to come out to her, to tell her the truth, so she could understand what was going on between us. So she would understand that she was the most lovable, warm, caring, generous person I had ever had the pleasure, honor, of meeting but that I was not sexually attracted to her… at all.

May 26, 2011 at 10:17 pm
(4) Robert says:

I was lucky… her and my relationship continued to grow and thrive… and 30 years later, even living on different coast… we still share love.

What I didn’t know in 1981… what I could never have anticipated was how that one act of courage and selflessness would reverberate through my life. How that one act of honesty and grit… helped for the man of integrity, character, morals and strength that I am today. It has allowed me to be open, funny, silly, playful, wise, fair and flexible. All of the old rigidness, the stuffiness, the judgmental-ness and BS has just drifted away.

So, it pains me to know that people like my ex, Jesse, have decided to live half lives filled with shame and deceit. I know why he has chosen his path in life. He was a lost, lonely little boy (of 36)… and searching for friends. But to sell your soul to appease a bunch of white-bread Christians in 2011… and to use a nice girl in the process…. is not only an act of cowardice… but simply beyond my comprehension. My sense of wholeness and integrity would never have allowed me to use people so meanly.

So Narda, again thank you for being on the right side of history and for having the compassion, integrity and grit needed to be a moral and decent human being. I really enjoy your blog. Your perspective, insight, clarity has added a great deal to my life.

Again thanks


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