DeRay Mckesson stole the show on Saturday night with his moving speech on being “a proud, Black gay man” in the Black Lives Matter movement at this year’s GLAAD awards. Mckesson spoke at length about the power that social media has awarded to marginalized in making their voices heard—particularly in spaces where larger forces want to erase their existence.
“I often think that the Black Lives Matter Movement has helped people come out of the quiet…It’s not just a fight about race. It’s also a fight about systemic and structural issues that affect so many of us around LGBTQ issues as well—people like me.”
Mckesson has quickly become one of the most outspoken and respected figures in the movement. He has almost 250,000 Twitter followers who subscribe to his updates on cases of police using excessive force against civilians.
For Mckesson, pushing for justice is a fight for the present and the future, and it’s an intersectional effort that has to reach people at various levels.
“What I’ve learned as I’ve lived is that there’s danger in the either or,” Mckesson said. “When loving myself only looks one way, when protest is only in the streets or not at all, this puts constraints on the ways that we express ourselves and the ways that we can get free. And expressing and loving myself is often so much more complex than ‘out’ affords me.”
In addition to being an avid user on Twitter, Mckesson has also become one of the most sough after activists in the movement because of his countless hours protesting in areas like Ferguson and St. Louis, MO at the height of the unrest over Michael Brown’s death. He’s also spent a lot of time working with students and educators on college campuses. As recently as today, Mckesson spent hours tweeting and retweeting news clips, photos and videos covering the protests at the University of Missouri that resulted in the university president’s resignation.
“A year ago in St. Louis, we never thought the protests would spread the way that they have. We knew that people were going to stand with us in St. Louis but we didn’t know that it would spread and it did. And here we are.”
Jussie Smith excitedly introduced Mckesson onto the stage, saying: “He is a Black man, he is a gay man, and his voice is changing the world.”
Mckesson is hardly the only openly LGBTQ BLM activist. BLM founders Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza are all known for being queer Black women. Mckesson went on to speak about people using social media to shed light on the murders of Black transgender women as well as the importance of organizers listening to the voices in their communities.
“Just because they aren’t shouting, doesn’t mean that they’re being silent. Just because people aren’t showing up in ways that you expect, doesn’t mean that they are hiding.
“[L]et us continue as my friend Jussie has done to render the invisible visible.”