In 1992, Kenneth Reeves broke boundaries when he became the first openly gay African-American man to serve as mayor of a major city when he was elected in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Reeves had already been serving on the City Council at the time of his election and was an out gay man. Earlier this year Reeves revealed in an interview that when he was growing up, there was a family friend who was a State Representative and also gay that had an influence on him. “I kind of knew from the fact of him that I could be gay and in politics, that it didn’t foreclose that possibility,” Reeves said.
The world of politics is evolving, albeit at a slow pace. For years, the typical politician was a white male in his mid-30’s or older. Though that description still fits most politicians, times are changing. That’s no longer the case we see across America, seats of elected officials being filled by women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community. The number of Black gay men involved in politics is growing and as this number grows, it becomes their role to define what it means to be Black, male, gay, and political in a rapidly changing world.
In April of 2016, Deray Mckesson, famous for his work with the Black Lives Matter movement, finished sixth in the Democratic Primary for Mayor of Baltimore. Mckesson has been open about his sexuality and found that during his campaign, it was other people who often made more light of it than he did. Weeks before losing the primary, Mckesson spoke to the Huffington Post about his sexuality and how it affects his movement and his politics. “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,” he said.
The role of the Black gay male in politics is deeply rooted in the role of the Black gay male in society and it’s a role that is still being fleshed out. As Mckesson said, it is important to show up. There is a need to be vocal without being a token. There is an authenticity that comes from being Black and gay that can translate itself into the world of politics much better than people believe.