While speaking at the Schomburg Center in New York City last year, Darnell Moore discussed his transformation from a Black gay church boy inured to anti-queer antagonism into the antiracist, pro-feminist, queer advocate that he is today. During one particularly memorable exchange with TheBody’s former senior editor, Kenyon Farrow, the two mimed Jesus Christ kicking merchants out of a temple as a demonstration of demolishing the walls of injustice and homophobia.
With Being Seen, a new podcast—produced by the New York City–based creative studio, Harley & Co.—Moore continues to burst through that oppression by creating “a virtual space that centers and celebrates Black, queer, trans, bi, non-binary, gay men; where we are not the backdrop to a conversation but at the center of it.”
As Being Seen’s host, he takes listeners on an adventure that expands their understanding of the many contributions that Black LGBTQ+ identifying men have made to culture, “especially in a moment where we are demanding and asking people to think about the mattering of Black lives.”
Shows such as Pose and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt have undoubtedly broken the mold on presenting Black gay men as magical handbags devoid of interior lives by allowing them to step beyond the function of oozing shade or serving as the lusty butt of a joke for an unattainable straight guy. But there is still much work to be done to undo decades of humiliating gay stereotyping.
Farrow—who appears on episode 3 of the series—says that Being Seen does that work by allowing listeners to hear from real live Black gay men—from numerous walks of life—about their lives and work. “Hearing from Black gay men is still a rare thing,” Farrow says. “And I think it is important in terms of making people see us as fully human.”
The podcast, which premiered on Oct. 6, releases new episodes every week through Dec. 1 and includes noteworthy guests—such as Academy Award–nominated writer and director Lee Daniels, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Michael R. Jackson, and fashion designer Jerome LaMaar—in conversation with Moore.
Marc Meachem, the director of external affairs for ViiV Healthcare—a pharmaceutical company focused on HIV, which partnered with Moore to create the podcast—says that Being Seen “approaches cultural representation of Black men in a holistic manner with respect to who crafts that image.” [Editor’s note: ViiV is often an ad sponsor on TheBody, but this article—just like everything we publish—is created independently by our editorial team based on our assessment of its importance to our readers.]
In this case, it is a “for us, by us approach” that dives into numerous intersections of what affects the lives of Black gay men. That includes health care.
“There’s also something to be said about acknowledging HIV as an aspect of the larger struggle for Black liberation,” Moore says. “That is also part of the struggle, and articulating it as core to the fight is equally important.”
The focus on Black same-gender-loving men who are living with HIV is particularly important during this current pandemic, wherein HIV medications have been used to explore possible cures for COVID-19 even as many people living with HIV continue to experience massive disruptions to their health care.
Though the overall media has ignored this plight, living with HIV is one of many aspects of thriving while Black and queer that Moore holds space for throughout the podcast.
This multi-pronged approach is born out of his political activism, which he says has been nurtured by Black feminists. He credits Kimberlé Crenshaw’s notion of intersectionality—that structural inequities are interconnected—for showing him that “You can’t solve a multi-headed problem with a single variable.”
For Meachem, Being Seen encapsulates an ethos “that no person living with HIV be left behind. If you're going to fulfill that mission from a U.S. perspective, you have to focus on communities of color.” And that includes talking about things that might make some people uncomfortable. “Everybody loves to focus on success—especially when it comes to talking about U=U, wherein people with HIV are no longer transmitting the virus—but how do we focus on people that aren’t being reached?”
By having conversations that speak about the issues that affect their lives with as many people as possible. With Being Seen, Moore and his partners are doing precisely that.
Listeners can access Being Seen for free on www.beingseenpodcast.com, Apple podcasts, or Spotify.