Rolling Out

DeRay McKesson opens up about coming out, his sexuality

Photo credit: DeRay McKesson’s Facebook (
Photo credit: DeRay McKesson’s Facebook (

Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson found himself in the private lives of thousands of gay and bisexual men this week when popular gay dating app Jack’d announced that they were publicly endorsing his campaign in the 2016 Baltimore mayoral election. Now, McKesson is letting fans and supporters into his private life as he opens up about his recent high-profile coming out story.

As one of the most recognizable faces of the Black Lives Matter movement, many supporters typically assumed that because he’s a vocal leader of the movement that he must be cisgender, a heterosexual man. However, McKesson “quietly” came out to the world last November during a speech at a GLAAD and challenged the idea that Black male leaders must be straight men.

According to media reports, in a recent interview, McKesson opened up about his coming out speech and explained why it’s important for him to be proud of his sexuality.

“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.”

McKesson then explains the importance of making space for intersections of Blackness and queerness in the Black political movement so that a diverse array of Black people feel included and empowered to work together to make changes.

“In that [GLAAD] speech I talked about coming out of the quiet,” he said. “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.”

The civil rights activist also explains why it’s so impactful that Black Lives Matter, which was founded Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who all identify as “queer,” is inclusive of Black people across the board, including the LGBT ones.

“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.”

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