TV star Raven-Symone unofficially came out on Twitter by saying she can finally get married, referring to the defeat of the defeat of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. The That's So Raven star not only outed herself; she helped the Black LBGT community come out more as well. While a former child star coming out may not undo decades of homophobia in the Black community, it is part of the evolution of support of African-American support for LGBT rights.
Although there is still anti-gay sentiment in the Black community, change has been slowly happening over the past 10 years. In the 2004 and 2008 elections, same-sex marriage was a wedge issue that led many Black socially conservative voters to vote against gay rights. However, before the 2012 election, President Obama "evolved'' to support gay marriage last year, and Black support for LGBT rights has taken time to grow as well. Just as Obama has evolved on issues such as marriage, Black voters have as well, with African-American support for gay marriage doubling from 26 percent to 51 percent, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.
Although many African-American ministers are still anti-gay, there is still a shift towards progress with more religious leaders being more open-minded towards their LGBT parishioners. Keith Boykin wrote in the Huffington Post last November that Black LBGT people "were coming out, getting married, challenging their churches, defining their own identities, and creating institutions to support and sustain them." By creating their own safe spaces and being unapologetic about who they were, Black LGBT people forced their families and churches to reexamine their beliefs about LGBT people.
Black civil-rights groups like the NAACP have included gay rights as part of their agendas for at least 20 years. Outreach between LGBT and Black organizations have certainly helped the increase of mutual respect. The NAACP fought for marriage equality, while many LGBT organizations openly protested the not-guilty verdict of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin trial. The coalition between the two communities shows the connection between the civil rights of Black and LGBT people.
The simple act of coming out can be revolutionary. As the late great Harvey Milk said, gay people should come out to "break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions." Just by coming out, Raven-Symone has proven that anybody can be gay, including a former Disney Channel star. The bravery of other Black LGBT people such as Jason Collins, Frank Ocean and Brittney Griner helped Raven-SymonÃƒ© and other Black LGBT youth feel more comfortable with coming out.
When more Black people come out in the United States (and even across the Diaspora in the Caribbean and African countries), they are making the world safer for others to come out and challenge anti-gay laws and beliefs. In the African-American community, it proves that being gay is not a "European'' or "white'' idea.