In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology

“The bottom line is this: We are Black men who are proudly gay. What we offer is our lives, our love, our visions. We are risin’ to the love we all need. We are coming home with our heads held up high.”

Joseph Beam, Introduction, In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology

Edited by Joseph Beam, this groundbreaking anthology was the first of its kind to bring together the writings of Black gay men. Through this collection, a whole generation of Black gay thinkers, artists, and writers came together to shape the horizon of their own world. The impact and significance of this anthology cannot be understood without understanding the sociopolitical conditions of the 1980s. Black gay men where both invisible in the mainstream White queer spaces and often only begrudgingly tolerated in normative Black heterosexual social settings. Doubly marginalized and fighting for their very survival in the heights of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, these writers were speaking their selves into being while at the very same time trying to leave behind a legacy that was of use to the next generation.

This collection was the beginning of a new canon literature by gay men of African descent. Excluded from spaces in which they should have felt at home, or at the very least protected, the writers included in this anthology birthed a new world with their words. A world in which Black gay men were centered, were of immense value, and whose lives and lessons were invaluable for us to know. Even as they faced violent exclusion, callous disregard, and near-obliteration, these writers crafted a space to think anew what they could mean to and for each other, and thus, leaving behind a guidebook for a better world.