Terrance Dean, creator of “Live to Tell,” a panel of black queer writers on black queer literature at the Schomburg Center on Wednesday, August 8, 2012. Co-sponsored by the Black Gay & Lesbian Archive.
How did you come up with the idea for Live to Tell?
I’m interested in preserving the voices of those of us—meaning African-American and Latino LGBT persons—who give power to words in writings through a creative medium be it books, poetry, and other literary writings. I was also tired of publishers and non-LGBT persons telling me how to tell me my story, our story, what it should look like, and who’s interested in buying it. I don’t need them to tell me how to tell my story. I know what the hell it means to be Black, Gay, and Male in Am-er-I-ca. As writers, our worlds are often met with opposition by those who are not part of the LGBT community, thus, in our activism for freedom of speech we fight to have our voices heard, and demand to be included in the literary, and publishing conversations which oftentimes do not understand who we are, and the importance of our stories. I feel it’s necessary that the community, our community, our world, and our society rightly identify us, for we are not invisible, yet, we are brightly vivid contributors, and a vital part of the story that continues to shape the human experience. And, I’ll be damned if I’m not heard!
You’ve said that Marlon Riggs and E. Lynn Harris influenced a generation of writers, thinkers and artists. How did these men influence your work?
Marlon Riggs was bold in his declaration of being Black and Gay. He was proud. Fierce. And, an agitator. He didn’t give a damn what you thought or felt about him. And, I like agitators. I like shit-starters and shit-talkers because I’m like that, but you’ve got to be able to back it up, and I’ve got the ammunition to back it up. That comes with education, empowerment, spiritual muscle, grooming, God’s anointing, and being in the trenches when others are afraid to get dirty. E. Lynn Harris gave me permission to write. He told me to tell my story. He was supportive and nurturing. Always available, and always encouraging. I was fortunate to know him and be supported by him. And, reading Harris’s books gave me a sense of knowingness, and a sense of clarity about my experience and how to identify that experience. Harris wrote about men I could identify with. In turn, it was the truth. And, I wanted to write the truth. My truth. And, there are many men who know it so well but are afraid to touch it, kiss it, hold it, embrace it. Not me. I walk in it!
What black queer women writers inspired your work?
Audre Lorde. Alice Walker. Zora Neale Hurston. Sapphire. Staceyann Chin. Laurinda Brown. Fiona Zedde.
What can folks attending the panel discussion expect?
Folks can expect to experience an engaging, powerful, and spiritual conversation revealing the truth. They will hear stories and experiences based on the love of who we are as writers and artists, and the fight, struggle, and endeared love we have in preserving our stories and getting them told. This panel will not sugar-coat anything because we’ve been sugar-coated with too much damn sugar already. It’s time to be vocal. We have so many stories, so many experiences, so many voices, and, yet, we are not represented on the full scale as a John Grisham, Stephen King, James Patterson, Jackie Collins, or Janet Evanovich. We need the community to be engaged and informed, and this panel will hopefully enlighten them with information to impact the world. Because now that I’ve come through the door I’m holding it open for everybody else to come through, and if you don’t want to come, then shame on you. Sit your ass out there and complain all you want, but just know that when you have the information to be and do better you don’t sit around complaining about it, you take advantage of the opportunity. This panel discussion is that opportunity.