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Inviting In: Jeff Perkins

My #InvitingIn story started when I was 17 years old when I first came out to my best friend, then my mom. It was an interesting experience for sure! I remember I wrote my mom a letter and left it for her to find. Back then, I think it was a little dramatic how I did it, but it happened the way it was supposed to. I can remember my mom and I not talking that much about it. She has always supported me but I think it was hard for her at first to accept it—-having a queer son. She always taught me that as a Black man I would have to work twice as hard in life, something that many Black folks hear from our parents. Being queer was the unexpected thing to have to navigate. But one thing I’ve always prided myself on, is knowing who I am. It was important for me to invite my mom into my life, my full and authentic self. My mom is my biggest supporter and she always reminded me that no matter what, the love she has for me would never change, even if she didn’t understand everything I was going through. I’m grateful for that. Sadly, I know that’s not that case for a lot of Black LGBTQ people when it comes to our families and loved ones. 

It's hard to believe that was over ten years ago! My life has changed so much since then and I've taken it upon myself to try and make spaces for more Black LGBTQ folk to invite others in. It's hard because in our society, race tends to be so salient for a lot of folks, but like Audre Lorde says, there's no such thing as a single issue. My Blackness is contingent upon my queerness and everything else. The love and brilliance we have as Black queer and trans people is dynamic. We push everything forward from pop culture to politics. We’ve always been here. Inviting others in can be scary when so many continue to push us out. But we have to for the sake of recognizing our power and honoring ourselves as a people. I strive to help Black queer and trans youth be empowered through education and building community. The youth will propel us into the future. It is up to us to help them cultivate the tools they need for liberation. Although we face rejection and violence from many, especially our families, we become the love we need for each other. If I could tell young Black LGBTQ folks anything I would say I will always be your family when you need it. I will always invite you in. —

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.