Martin Luther King MemorialAIDS 2018 PosterMenCount TeamAAMTeam Represent Staff at AIDS 2018

Black Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual (LGB) Populations:

Intersectionality, resilience, and what it means to be out

“[Being a Black bisexual man is a life] filled with pressure. It sorts of seems like you got the short end of the stick in many ways. There are advantages in our society to being a man. In some cases men are paid more or maybe taken more seriously or whatever. But being Black is definitely a strike against you in our society. Being bisexual is also.”

Jay, 32 years old (Bowleg, 2012)

“You need self-esteem. Being Black and gay could make you a great person just by the simple act of trying to live. Because you can learn how to put everything behind you and just love yourself and be productive and just do things for yourself... I would never not want to be Black and... gay.”

—Brandon, 21 years old (Bowleg, 2012)

Read through most journal articles focused on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people and chances are the populations represented there will be predominantly White and middle class. With the exception of HIV/AIDS-related research focused on Black gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM), studies on the experiences of Black LGBs are relatively rare in behavioral and social science research. Thus, substantial gaps exist about the experiences of Black LGBs and their physical and mental health.

To address some of these gaps, Team Represent conducts culturally-grounded research with Black LGBs using the intersectionality framework to understand what it means to be Black LGB at the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexual identity. Through qualitative interviews, we have examined how Black LGBs experience multiple social-structural stressors, such as racism and racial microaggressions in White mainstream and LGB communities and heterosexism in Black communities, and the implications of these experiences for mental health.

Of equal importance, we also aim to understand how Black LGBs cope with these stressors and, despite them, demonstrate resilience and positive mental health. In line with intersectionality’s emphasis on grounding research from the vantage point of marginalized groups, we have also examined what coming out means to Black lesbians.

Narratives from our qualitative research reflect the complexity of social identities and social-structural inequality. For example, whereas some of the Black LGBs we have interviewed say that they cannot separate or rank their race, sexual identity, or gender because they were completely blended, others asserted that they were “Black first” and cited how their experiences with racial microaggressions and racial discrimination had shaped this perception.


David Malebranche, MD, MPH





Team Represent collaborator, David J. Malebranche , MD, MPH, Associate Professor in the Department of General Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine says we need to build a more nuanced narrative about Black same-gender loving men apart from HIV. “Stories of resilience, redemption, and affirmation are what we need to hear,” he says.


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