Much to the chagrin of some nosy people, David Johns doesn’t typically offer up an answer to the ever-probing question of, “When did you know?”
“I would be OK with the idea of ‘coming out’ if it meant that everyone was expected to ‘come out.’ But that’s not how it works in practice. I’ve never seen a heterosexual person have to tell their ‘coming out’ story,” said Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC). “It’s the way that cis, heterosexual people ask questions about queer identities where they are expecting an answer and are incapable of providing one that reminded me that this was a really important concept,” he said.
The concept Johns is referring to is “inviting in,” which some argue disrupts the power imbalance held by those who demand others “come out.” The Root first reported on why some Black LGBTQIA+ folks are done “coming out” last January.
Instead of being expected to “come out,” LGBTQIA+ and same-gender loving (SGL) community members might “invite in’’ those in their life, who have put in the work to show that they are compassionate, competent, trustworthy and understanding, by sharing parts of themselves that are important. All of this ultimately led to the idea for and creation of this year’s first-ever “Inviting In Day,” which aims to spread awareness around the concept of “inviting in.”
August 2 is also the birthday of trailblazing writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin. The late American novelist unapologetically invited others into his full, multifaceted life as a Black gay man.
In collaboration with the NBJC, Johns engaged in a three-part conversation hosted by The Root with Amber Whittington (known as AmbersCloset), Andrew Gillum, and Sage Dolan-Sandrino about the problem with “coming out,” the promise of “inviting in,” and the diversity that has always existed within the Black community.
On this “Inviting In Day,” we invite you to trouble your current understanding of “coming out” and learn more about “inviting in” by watching the video above and learning more on your own about the lived experiences of LGBTQ and SGL people.
Additional reporting by Emily Leugers.