A WordWe’d like to have A Word with you. In The Root’s op-ed video series, thought leaders across various disciplines give their perspectives on the important issues you should know about.

David Johns’ issue with how society frames “coming out” stories stems from who we expect to tell them—and who we don’t.

“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 works in practice. I’ve never seen a heterosexual person have to tell their coming out story,” said the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition.

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Instead of “coming out,” Johns opts for black members of the LGBTQIA+ community to “invite in” those in their lives who are concerned, competent and compassionate, to have conversations with them about things that are important to how they show up in the world. And sometimes that happens without public proclamation.

But, according to Johns, for “those among us” who are able to advocate publicly and stand up for others who can’t do so themselves, must do so. People like Nigel Shelby, for instance, a 15-year-old boy who lived in Huntsville, Ala., and died by suicide after having been bullied for being both black and gay.

“It’s important for me to invite people in such that they see me, that they see Nigel,” he said.

In the video above, watch Johns as he highlights the differences between some black people who are LGBTQIA+ and their white counterparts, and shares his hopes for future generations when it comes to moving away from “coming out” and towards “inviting in.”

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About the author

Jessica Moulite

Jessica Moulite is a Video Producer for The Root. She loves telling stories people often times can't tell themselves—and Oprah. She's probably watching Black 90s reruns.

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