Today I had a late afternoon coffee with a colleague. After checking in and talking shop for quite some time (there’s a lot happening in Religious Education), we eventually started a discussion about movies. Talking about films such as “Black Panther,” “Moonlight,” my colleague and I landed on the subject of representation and what it means to “be seen.”
“Moonlight” in particular was stunning for me. I had never seen a film portray queer black men like this before; as valuable, as innocent, sexual, as opposed to hypersexual, and as three-dimensional human beings. The line “In the moonlight, black boys look blue” will likely go down as one of my favorite movie lines of all time. This line captures and reclaims the beauty and softness of queer black bodies that is so often stripped away from us. I felt visible when I watched this film... validated even. I needed this film.
This past March I had the pleasure of going to the Finding Our Way Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In case you don’t know, Finding Our Way Home is a gathering for religious professionals of color in Unitarian Universalism.
There, I had the privilege of gathering in one space with other Unitarian Universalists of color, bringing our varied faith traditions, worship styles, languages, sexual orientations, gender identities, hair textures, skin tones, and musical genres with us. We were able to bring our whole selves into this space. We were seen in this space. We got to see one another in this space.
I needed this. We needed this.
I have identified as a Unitarian Universalist for the past fifteen years, but this was the first time where my queerness and my blackness were affirmed in the same space; I truly was at home in this setting.
I even had the pleasure of meeting a colleague, also black and queer, who grew up in the same rural North Carolina area as I did. We had a chance to exchange stories and talk about our experiences growing up in a place that isn’t exactly known for being a progressive place. It was interesting to hear how another gay black man from a similar background came to Unitarian Universalism. After sharing a particularly funny detail about home with our table at the time (no one is ever called “gay” back home, they’re funny), everyone burst into laughter, including my colleague and I. In that moment, I was reminded of something Viola Davis, one of my favorite actors, said in an interview once. She said, “Stories are told to help us feel less alone.”
Just by sharing that small detail, and knowing that my colleague grew up hearing the same, I felt understood in that moment. And I felt that my experiences as a queer person of color mattered.
That’s what I wish for all of us this Pride season. Even if you don’t see it in a movie or television, I want you to know someone out there shares your story... and your story matters.