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  • LZ Granderson:An Intimate Dialogue on the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Joseph Kitchen

ESPN and CNN Opinion columnist and commentator LZ Granderson visited The Ohio State University's Hale Black Cultural Center as the keynote speaker for the university's National Coming Out Day events on October 8, 2012, to sit down with college students, university staff, and members of the Columbus community as part of this larger series of events focused on diversity and inclusion. Granderson is particularly renowned for his ESPN sports column contributions and his commentary on numerous social and political issues affecting the nation today. He is also highly regarded for his ability to speak insightfully and honestly about being an openly gay, Christian, African American male. LZ Granderson has received numerous awards for his writing and activism, including being recently named the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association's Journalist of the Year (2011) in recognition of his work centering on the intersections of race and sexual orientation. Granderson also recently gave a well-received TEDx talk in Grand Rapids, Michigan, titled The Myth of the Gay Agenda.

This issue of Spectrum features an exclusive video excerpt of Granderson's intimate conversation about the intersection of race, gender, and sexual orientation, part of the OSU event "Compounded and Competing Struggles: Race and/vs. Sexuality." Here, Granderson offers his perspectives on the intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation in American society today as a gay African American male, drawing on his own personal experiences and eliciting the perspectives of [End Page 127] the audience who, themselves, reflect a wide diversity of identities. Granderson and audience members tackle the topic of being LGBT in the Black community and explore the role that media as well as cultural and gender role expectations have played in terms of both real and perceived tension among these communities. Discussants share stories of their personal experiences living across the intersections of identities and the ways such elements have played out in particular environments, such as historically Black colleges and universities, fraternities, and a number of other social spaces.

In one particular moment during the lecture, Granderson spoke to an audience member about their own struggle with reconciling sexual and racial identity and said, "Maybe there's this sense that [you're] leaving this hat here, not because [you] have a problem with it, but because it's not Black. If there were more images of people of color who happen to be LGBT, would then you feel the need to leave that [LGBT identity] at the house because now it feels more a part of your entire being and not siloed to other chunks and sections?"

Later he spoke of his own experience with the tension between Black male racial and gender identities and one's sexual identity, stating, "Often time when I find myself in an environment that is predominantly White and gay, and there are us, peppered around negro spots [sic], some of us won't acknowledge each other as though we're trying to not acknowledge the Black part." Then he posits the question, "Why do you have to abandon [that]?"

In this open and candid conversation, Granderson discusses the layered experiences of individuals with multiple identities, providing engaging anecdotes and illustrative stories. He draws on the complexities of identity to provide the listener with a nuanced vision of what these multiple social identities mean for people, the ways in which they are situated in daily lived experiences, as well as how individuals navigate social expectations, carrying their particular identities with them. He closes the event with a challenge to listeners to engage with those environments and identity groups with which they are unfamiliar to come to a better understanding of the lived experiences of others.


This video footage is courtesy of The Ohio State University and LZ Granderson. [End Page 128]



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pp. 127-128
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