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Was Malcolm X Gay?

by David Badash on April 4, 2011

in Civil Rights,History,News

Post image for Was Malcolm X Gay?

Malcolm X — one of the African-American community’s most influential and most controversial activists — has been the subject of recent re-examinations as a new biography, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” comes to press just days after its author suddenly died. And many are asking again, was Malcolm X gay? The biography states that Malcolm X, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska as Malcolm Little, had “an early homosexual relationship with a white businessman,” according to a review in The New York Times. The book, by Malcolm X biographer Manning Marable, scheduled to be published today, is not the first to state Malcolm X had a same-sex relationship. Others have stated Malcolm X was bisexual. Some, like U.K. LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, have suggested the black and gay communities should embrace Malcom X’s sexual orientation.

The Times says Manning’s new work, which spans almost 600 pages, “is particularly critical of the celebrated ‘Autobiography of Malcolm X,’ now a staple of college reading lists, which was written with Alex Haley,” adding that Marable described it as “fictive.”

“Drawing on diaries, private correspondence and surveillance records to a much greater extent than previous biographies, his book also suggests that the New York City Police Department and the F.B.I. had advance knowledge of Malcolm X’s assassination but allowed it to happen and then deliberately bungled the investigation.

“This book gives us a richer, more profound, more complicated and more fully fleshed out Malcolm than we have ever had before,” Michael Eric Dyson, the author of “Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X” and a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said on Thursday. “He’s done as thorough and exhaustive a job as has ever been done in piecing together the life and evolution of Malcolm X, rescuing him from both the hagiography of uncritical advocates and the demonization of undeterred critics.”

In a 2009 article, Peter Tatchell writes, “October is Black History Month in Britain – a wonderful celebration of the huge, important and valuable contribution that black people have made to humanity and to popular culture.”

Read: “Gays: It Is All Your Fault.

He adds, “It is also worth celebrating that many leading black icons have been lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), most notably the US black liberation hero Malcolm X. Other prominent black LGBTs include jazz singer Billie Holiday, author and civil rights activist James Baldwin, soul singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, blues singer Bessie Smith, poet and short story writer Langston Hughes, singer Johnny Mathis, novelist Alice Walker, civil rights activist and organiser of the 1963 March on Washington Bayard Rustin, blues singer Ma Rainey, dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, actress, singer and dancer Josephine Baker, Olympic diving gold medallist Greg Louganis, singer and songwriter Little Richard, political activist and philosopher Angela Davis, singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman and drag performer and singer RuPaul.”

Tatchell laments of “the denialism surrounding the bisexuality of one of the greatest modern black liberation heroes: Malcolm X,” and says the “lack of recognition is perhaps not surprising, given that some of his family and many black activists have made strenuous efforts to deny his same-sex relationships and suppress recognition of the full spectrum of his sexuality.”

He asks, “Why the cover-up? So what if Malcolm X was bisexual? Does this diminish his reputation and achievements? Of course not. Whether he was gay, straight or bisexual should not matter. His stature remains, regardless of his sexual orientation. Yet many of the people who revere him seem reluctant to accept that their hero, and mine, was bisexual.”

In 2006, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, one of the leading hip-hop generation intellectuals in the country, wrote, “according to very good sources, Malcolm engaged in many same sex encounters before his conversion to the Nation of Islam.” Hill describes a conversation he had with a disbelieving friend who came to possible acceptance of the truth about Malcolm X, and observed, “in constructing Malcolm X as a ‘reformed queer,’ as opposed to a gay/bisexual hero, he squandered a valuable opportunity to reimagine Black masculinity and help expand the realm of political possibilities for Black gays and lesbians. Contrary to what is often said, acknowledging who and what Malcolm really was will not tarnish his legacy.”

Read: “Martin Luther King, Jr. Shot 43 Years Ago Today Supporting Labor Rights

Tatchell, one year earlier than Hill’s conversation, says, “There is not a single world-famous black person who is openly gay. Young black lesbians and gays need role models. Who better than Malcolm X, one of the inspirations of my activism and one of the great modern heroes of black liberation?

It’s important to accept that no hero is a super-hero, and Malcolm X, like all heroes and icons, had his flaws. He’s certainly been accused of misogyny, racism, black supremacy, antisemitism, and violence. With Marable’s new work soon to be available, we have another resource to examine the life Of Malcolm X, and more opportunity to decide for ourselves what part of him is “hero,” what part “icon,” and what part just an every-day man. Perhaps that part, for some, will be his greatest legacy.

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{ 9 comments }

Ella April 5, 2011 at 7:31 am

Because of the starch intolerance of homosexuality within the black community, any attempt to highlight Malcolm X's 'bisexuality' will be met with great opposition. The black community absorbs homophobia and prides itself on it, despite the fact that homosexuality do exist among blacks like all other race and culture. Bayard Rustin is still yet to receive his due recognition for the pivotal role he played in the Civil Rights Movement, and that is simply because he was a homosexual. It is shameful and iniquitous of people to go on silencing the truth to satisfy their learnt intolerance of others.

That is why it is important that contributions made by LGBT Persons be noted in our school textbooks, so that future activists, engineers, inventors, scientists etc, who happened to be gay, will not see the need to hide their sexuality; knowing fully well that their sexuality helps them to be the great person they become. It is the stereotype that has inflicted our society put us in this situation of having to determine whether Malcolm X, Gandhi or other great leaders of the past was gay, lesbian or bisexual.

It is time we get to the point of saying ''So what if he or she was or is gay? It is who they are and what has made them achieve what they have achieved!"

@mxdpoet April 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Time to face facts people: Lots of our Black leaders are/were gay/queer.

billjervis April 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm

It's a damn shame that his is even an issue. Malcolm's sexaul habits are none of my buisiness whatever they were. My true concern is that J. Edgar Hoover's F.B.I. is still J.Edgar Hoover's F.B.I. and Obama hasn't paid that any attention. And why the hell is Louis Farakhan still a free man when the entire world knows it was the Nation of Islam that MURDERED Malcolm at the F.B.I.'s urging. The rumor that fucks with me, is that the trigger man is living happily ever after in Jersey! I couldn't care less that some fat old white homo sucked Malcolm's Dick!

David Badash April 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Obviously, you were never a fan of the study of history. Pity.
This is not about changing the past or the present but about truth. Pure and simple.
Those who ignore the past…

billjervis April 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

Fuck u!

David Badash April 16, 2011 at 11:36 am

Truth hurts.

ron April 22, 2011 at 12:56 am

Malcolm was no faggot and for these fags to make this BS seem legitimate is typical faggot treachery.I have had friends who are faggots but I'll be damned if I will swallow the shit they are shovelling as normal behaviour.Awe the faggots of the universe are having big faggot fun with this one. Now I see why some get their faggot asses bashed in.

veeteeny February 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I don't quite get it. Would Malcolm X's having been gay or bisexual, justify our personal sex-preference or our existence, somehow redeem us OR would it merely be a way to feel better by citing him as a partner in crime?

Admittedly, I am a johhny-come-lately but it seems to be inferred that a few sexual encounters define one's sexuality over all. Does one kiss make a love affair? I don't think so.

I am pretty much a hard-liner myself but would make exceptions here like experimentation, coercion, financial need, etc. Speaking of which, no one provided the age of Malcolm Little at the time of the alleged sexual liaison with the businessman. Could that be a fuzzying up of what we'd call child molestation today?

Taking it a step further, if we also want to pre-suppose Malcolm's sexual activities during the time he served in prison, same-sex interaction was never an uncommon occurrence but really classifies no one as anything unless a continued lifestyle points it out as so.

Also, overlooked is religious calling, real or perceived. Whether Christian or Islam, it is required that you abandon past ways that don't prescribe to the path religion may lead. Total commitment to a deity usually calls for this and, once done, it is believed it allows (like baptism) a follower a "clean slate" since one can perceive him or herself forgiven as long as they no longer err in the sight of their deity. Thus, whatever others may infer hardly matters even when others feel themselves better judges than the "deity" a man or woman chooses to follow.

Unfortunately, we have come to love grabbing at every little straw to justify our gayness. In the name of "outing" we point fingers at others as though justifying some sin by shouting out, "They did it too," like guilty children. It's more than forty years since Stone Wall. I thought we'd come further.

Even as a homosexual male, I do not feel edified by this "news." I think due to the fact we've been denied the truth about so many things over the years, we're experiencing some sort of hyperbolic phenomenon of backlash. Straight guys like Martin Luther King, as John Kennedy, was a womanizer and so the stories go on and on. We're to be left no icons it would seem.

Hopefully not over-generalizing, whatever they were these men sought to help bring minorities of all kinds forward in history — one way or another. Regardless of where they spent their nights, had it not been for their contributions toward civil rights in general, I wonder where the so-called gay movement would be today.

I don't think lies need to be told but there are some things not worth the ink to print regarding people long dead and gone — and who died in the midst of trying to do something good..

Venson Thomas

sobossypowell August 19, 2012 at 10:34 am

What foolishness…if these accusations had any merit they would have been done by a man eho at this time was not MALCOLM X. For all gays who want to use this as a tool TURN AWAY FROM YOUR SIN as this "story" examples. If a million people do wrong it is still wrong, if its not wrong what the heck is all the convo about??? Homosexuality like lying and stealing is sin. Self control is whst you should pursue instead of pleasure. Im really saddened by this article and your examples of leaders were no more thsn talents. GOD gives to all and HE is my only leader. Now its time for his people to give back. I researched what different religions thought of homosexuality…and they have traps there , saying its accepted by some. Thats a lie period but you know that dont you?

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