I’m Jason. I’m Black. I’m Gay.

Black Gay Pittsburgh

In this exploratory series, we ask Pittsburghers to share their stories about being black & gay in the city of black & gold.

I’m Jason. I’m black. I’m gay. I live in Pittsburgh. A lot of people would say that’s three strikes against me. There once was a time I would’ve agreed with them.

I was born and raised in Wilkinsburg. My father was a tough man, a sports man, a strong man and my older brother was and is very much like him. I was a mama’s boy. I sucked at sports and I realized I was gay before I was a teenager. This realization scared me for a number of reasons. What would my brother and father think? And, although my parents weren’t religious, I was raised somewhat in the church (10 years in Catholic school and a Grandfather who was a deacon in the Baptist church). You can see where the fear came from there. But, also, in my community, one of the biggest insults you could’ve used was gay or fag. It was thrown around when you wanted to sting with your words. You see, in the black community, being gay was seen as being less than the strong man (or woman) you needed to be to face the racism and ignorance and such we face every day. It was unacceptable. So I grew up in constant fear of being rejected by not only my community but my family as well.

Thankfully, those fears were unfounded. After coming out, my family was nothing but loving. My late father, in his own way, let me know of his support of me and gay rights in general. My mother, siblings and other family members have joined me for a night out to 5801 to show their support of me.  They loved it and my friends. Many people I’ve grown up with have had the same reaction. “You’re gay?  So what?” And I know, no matter what people say, God makes no mistakes. In that vein, I am truly lucky.

Being black and gay in Pittsburgh wasn’t always so beautiful and harmonious though. In my early 20s, there just wasn’t that many of us around so I personally had a lot of white friends. They called me “token”. Sad but true. Thankfully, “token” has died. As the years passed, the gay community in Pittsburgh grew more and more diverse. I’m not the only black guy in my social circle anymore. In fact, I have many black gay friends who I feel a sort of solidarity with but we have friends of all races who have accepted us. Truth be told, some of our group outings look like a giant Benetton ad. And, personally, I love that.

What’s the significance of my experience? You might feel that my struggles and fear as a youth were very much the same as yours. My experience holds the same significance as Black History Month, I hope. I hope learning about slavery or the Civil Rights Movement or about my growing up as a gay boy in Wilkinsburg helps people realize that we are all human. Our experiences in life are all unique yet very similar, no matter what color our skin is. And I hope knowing that unites our community just a bit more.

I’m Jason. I’m black. I’m gay. I’m from Pittsburgh. And I’m very proud of all those facts!

Jason Shavers is a born and raised Pittsburgh native. He is an actor that has worked extensively on stage and not so extensively on screen. Jason is also a self proclaimed expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Musical Theater and sitcoms that feature 4 women leads. Yeah, he’s gay AF. Follow him on Instagram. (He / Him / His)