Queen Latifah comes out for gay pride: Why her symbolic gesture speaks volumes

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When Queen Latifah performs at the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival this weekend, everyone is waiting for her to confirm what they’ve been speculating for years: that she is a lesbian.

Latifah has dodged the rumors for the majority of her career, especially after photos surfaced of her and her trainer Jeanette Jenkins in what appeared to be an intimate embrace while vacationing in France in 2010. Though she’s never come out as a lesbian, she has also never denied it, preferring to stay mum on the situation. For her part, Jenkins has denied she is gay.

However, this is Latifah’s first appearance at a pride event, and organizers are definitely promoting her appearance as being a historical occasion. “In a staggering first, entertainment superstar and Grammy Award winner Queen Latifah will headline the 29th annual Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival, performing on May 19, 2012. This will be Queen Latifah’s first-ever engagement at a Pride celebration anywhere in the world,” they promoted on the event’s official website. For the record, many a heterosexual celebrity have made appearances at gay pride festivals, so Queen Latifah’s appearance isn’t exactly unprecedented.

The symbolic gesture alone of Queen Latifah performing at the Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival helps broach the support for gay rights equality in America, and especially in the black community. As a whole, the African-American community leans to the conservative side on the issue of gay marriage.

Even in Hollywood, a notoriously liberal place, not many black celebrities have been vocally supportive. Queen Latifah’s presence at a Pride event is certainly a step towards increased awareness.

Whether Queen Latifah is gay remains to be seen, and announcing her sexuality is a deeply personal choice that really should have no consequence to her presence in the entertainment world. Regardless of her sexual orientation, Queen Latifah has already shattered so many ceilings in entertainment just by being a black female rapper, turned actress, turned singer, turned makeup spokesperson. She’s opened doors for so many different people, her contribution to society has pretty much been paid in full.

But if she is gay, and if she does decide to publicly announce it, the impact would be immense. Queen Latifah would likely be the biggest African-American celebrity to come out, ever. She couldn’t pick a better time to do it, either, especially in consideration of President Obama’s recent announcement that he too supports same-sex marriage. If Queen Latifah were to announce she is a lesbian, she’d be making a huge step in helping to normalize LGBTQ acceptance in the black community, especially hip-hop.

And yet there’s this stubbornly ignorant aspect of hip hop. Though the hip-hop community has made some timid strides towards relieving the negative stigma from LGBTQ culture, thanks to rappers like Kanye West and Lil’ B, there’s still a long way to go. As much as Queen Latifah could impact the black community at large, would it be enough to convince a closeted black male hip-hop artist to come out?

Unfortunately, that seems highly unlikely. The super hyper-masculinity of hip-hop still fosters an extremely homophobic sentiment. As great as it is to have the support of people like Queen Latifah and President Barack Obama to the gay rights cause, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Follow Kia Miakka Natisse on Twitter at @miakka_natisse