Activist Deray Mckesson on the complexity of being black and gay


Black Lives Matter activist Deray Mckesson took the stage at a San Francisco gala on Saturday and opened up about the complexities of being black and gay.

“I stand here as a proud black gay man,” said Mckesson, who has become one of the leading faces in the Black Lives Matter movement by keeping his 245,000 followers on Twitter informed about cases involving police using excessive force.

Mckesson went on to speak about the dangers of living with an “either/or” mentality that doesn’t acknowledge being both black and gay.

“When loving myself only looks one way, when protests are in the street or not at all, this puts constraints on the way that we express ourselves and the way that we can get free,” Mckesson said in his five-minute speech on stage at the gala hosted by GLAAD, the national organization that works to ensure LGBT people are presented fairly in the media. The GLAAD event honored innovators who advanced LGBT acceptance through tech and media.

Mckesson said Twitter allowed him and other people who care about police brutality to share stories and analysis. He said the collective whispers on Twitter “made a noise that brought this conversation about race to the forefront in really powerful ways.”

“For so many of us, the world is a place where we’re not suppose to make noise, where we’re asked to hide who we are and be silent about the injustices that we face,” said Mckesson, wearing the signature blue Patagonia vest he has worn to countless protests from Ferguson, Mo., last summer and fall, to North Charleston, S.C., in April.

Mckesson was invited to the stage by actor Jussie Smollett from the Fox television Empire. “He is a black man, he is a gay man, and his voice is changing the world,” Smollett said in his introduction.

DeRay McKesson has a secret. With Jussie Smollett #Empire @empirefox #stevenunderhill #jussiesmollett @jussiesmollett #glaad #glaadgala

A photo posted by Steven Underhill Photography (@stevenunderhill) on

Mckesson also noted activists on Twitter have helped elevate news about the record 21 transgender women who have been brutally murdered this year.

The Black Lives Matter movement was founded by three black queer woman; Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. The founders have been explicit about including black LGBT people in their campaigns.