Lee Daniels is certainly the man of the moment as his new film, The Butler, which stars Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker, sits triumphantly atop the box office with more than $25 million in sales. And during a recent interview with Larry King, Daniels discussed the ways in which his life as a black gay man influenced the empathetic way in which he depicted the Civil Rights Movement in the film about a White House butler and how stigma and oppression still deeply affects the black LGBT community.
Daniels revealed to King that he knew he was gay when he was five-years-old and cited an unforgettable moment in his childhood when he wore his mother’s red pumps in front of his dad and all of his policeman friends.
“He beat me severely for it,” Daniels remembered. “But that didn’t stop me because the following Sunday I walked down the stairs wearing her blue pumps — this time with her purse!”
Daniels also looked outward at the LGBT community around him and went into detail about his reasonings for claiming that gay people are treated like third-class citizens in America. Daniels explains that homophobia is not only perpetuating a cycle of shame and self-hate in black gay men but it’s also fueling the HIV infection rates that plague black people of all sexualities and genders.
“Black men can’t come out. Why? Because you simply can’t do it. Your family says it. Your church says it. Your teachers say it. Your parents say it. Your friends say it. Your work says it. So you’re living on this ‘DL’ thing and you’re infecting black women. And it’s killing us. The black culture and the hispanic culture have a thing about [homosexuality],” said Daniels.
Although it’s important to note that HIV transmission still occurs mainly in the heterosexual population of the world, Daniels’ words shine a light on issues of shame, homophobia, effemiphobia and religious oppression that must be addressed in the black community to not only stop the marginalization of black gay men within their own community but to turn the tide of the ever-present and ever-high HIV infection rates.
Thankfully, the tide seems to be turning for better representation and acceptance for black gay and bisexual men in both entertainment and our everyday lives. Check out some other openly gay and bisexual black celebs below. – nicholas robinson