Dustin Lance Black at the 2012 HRC National Dinner

Hello HRC people. Thanks for having me here.
I bet there are more than a few of you here wondering why this is the year when we have
four state wide ballot initiatives that they sent the federal strategy guy from California
to talk about it. Cause didn’t California screw it up for years ago. I think so. So
in order to tell you a little bit about why I am here, why I felt I needed to be here,
I want to do it telling a little story and that’s my job tonight to tell a little bit
of a story, and I felt like for a lot of us that story that most defines our why. Why
we are here and why we are doing what we are doing is our coming out story. I don’t tell
mine that often, not publically but if you care to hear it ill tell a little of it tonight.
Mine starts in 1996 at LAX airport as I am flying out here to northern Virginia on my
break from my college and I came out to my mother. Now a little about my family – I
grew up in a Mormon home out in San Antonio, Texas –
and we were in the military so the deck was
a little bit stacked for coming out right. Not the most friendly place, not the most
accepting place to come out and do it but a lot had changed from me since my childhood.
I had gone out to San Francisco and I just discovered the theater world. And then I had
gone down to LA and started at UCLA and I started meeting actual gay and lesbian people,
real gay and lesbian people and they didn’t have those horns the Mormon prophet said they
were going to have and they didn’t see particularly disturbed, depressed or upset. In fact, we
had a really good time and if you went down to West Hollywood during happy hour we were
having a great time. And so I started to have my first crushes and one in particular this
guy – I was into older guys at the time, and this guy, he was 22 year old grad student
and I’m thinking about him on this flight out here to northern Virginia in 1996 and
I’m thinking “boy how am I going to tell my mom anything that’s happening in my life,
I can’t come out, I can’t talk to her about being gay, not in my household, and
before I knew it the plane had landed right out there at Dulles, and my step dad had picked
me up and drove me through the woods to Manassas Virginia and there was my mom her arms spread
wide. And she held me, and I thought “boy would she hold me like this if she knew who
I really was” and standing right next to her is my big brother. Now that was a real
tough one, he was the tough guy of our family, he loved watching cars go round in circles
repeatedly, he loved shooting things for fun, he had a mega death poster, and a Metallica
poster, and he made endless fun of my new kids on the block and my NSYNC posters, so
I tried to fix it with a Paula Abdul poster, and that didn’t work either. And I thought
we are just like oil and water. Just constantly growing apart. And I wondered if my family
would ever truly love me for me for who I was and I was so nervous about that I just
raced through opening Christmas presents on Christmas morning, and I raced through dinner
that night, I said “hey guys I am so tired from traveling I going to go upstairs and
go to bed. And I got up there and I was so relived I didn’t have to say anything and
then I heard this sound coming down the hall way, this click clack sound, click clack click
clack click clack, and it was my mom coming, the same sound I had heard my entire life,
my mom on her braces and the door opens and she comes and sits down in the corner of my
bed and she starts to talk. She wants to talk, its what we have always done, we talk about
everything but I don’t feel safe talking right now so she has the agenda and she decided
to talk about the news of the day and this thing that’s really bugging her, this thing
called don’t ask don’t tell. It was really bugging her not because it excluded anyone,
but that all of a sudden gay and lesbian people could just hide who they were and join up
in her army. And she didn’t like that. She didn’t understand why these broken people
had any place in her army, why these people who she had heard were sinners had any place
in this nation’s army. And she went on and on and I felt my face start to turn read and
I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I prayed for them to stay there for them not
to roll down my cheeks, but they did and my mom looked down at me and she knew. And I
looked up into my mom’s eyes and I could see the despair and the pain, her questioning
what she had did wrong to break her son, what she and done wrong to ruin her baby boy. And
we didn’t resolve it. In fact I flew back to LA the next night and I was a little worried
because my mom was coming to see me in about three months for graduation. And my friends
could see that something was wrong but I didn’t want to talk about it, they just knew my mom
was coming through and they said its fine well just makes a dinner no big deal – just
pasta and salad, and it’ll be fine. And that day came sooner than I thought. And I
heard that click clack sound coming to my door, click clack click clack, and she comes
in and my friends are there with their salad and pasta and I got to admit something I completely
copt out. I never told my friends my mom was homophobic, I didn’t want to, I never told
my friends my mom had a big problem with me. And I never told my mom that most of my friends
at that point where gay and lesbian. So she comes in and sits down and they start serving
her pasta and salad and I start backing into the kitchen because I realize that because
I said nothing they think she accepts and loves her gay son. And this is pre Ellen,
pre will and grace, they think she is a god damn saint. So they start telling her their
stories of when they came out, their stories of rejection and pain, and being isolated
by their parents not able to even come home for Christmas and pretty soon their so comfortable
they’re talking about their dating life and their sex life. And I am rather scarred
and I watch them walk out one by one by one and she says once everyone’s gone, hey come
over here and sit with me and I did and she said well I liked your friends, ok good I
like them too, she said I spent a lot of time talking to one in particular, that 22 year
old grad student. I said yeah, she said I spent a particular amount of time talking
to him and I told him he best stop taking you for granted and he better take you to
dinner and this time he ought-a pay. And I felt this light inside of me I had never felt
in my entire life, I felt hope and freedom as she wrapped her arms around me and for
the very first time in my life I knew my mother loved me for me. And it happened in one night.
It happened in one night because she heard the stories of real gay and lesbian people
and in one night it dispelled all the myths and lies and stereotypes that she had heard
from generations from our church and in the south and in the military. And they were all
gone. And I thought my god if that was the power of personal stories then that is what
I am dedicating my life too. So I graduated from college and if it was a reality show
it was the gay episode and if it was a TV movie it was the pages of horror story and
within ten years I was getting to tell the story of my great hero, Harvey Milk, right
so I’m up in SF and I’m so damn proud of myself I’m so eager for it to turn out
right and so eager for it to turn out right and well that I’m absolutely ignoring all
the phone calls and all my voicemails and in particular the voicemails coming from my
older brother. And I’m thinking these are always hard phone calls because this is the
guy who tried smoking for the first time in our family, and he was the first to start
to drink and these things in a Mormon home, (finger shake) no no he was the bad boy, so
there was always trouble and when I picked up the phone I heard that sound of desperation
in his voice that I often heard and I said hey man what happened, did you get somebody
pregnant, its going to be all right, and he said, no no um, you know my friend larry,
oh yeah, Larry’s got the tooth missing and you guys like to watch the cars go in circles.
Yeah what’s wrong? And he said um Larry broke up with me. I said what! And he said
larry um where down in the basement about a year ago, watching a race drinking a beer,
and larry leaned over and he kissed me and there is nothing in my life that has ever
felt so true, and there is nothing In my life that has ever felt so right, and I love larry,
so much and he loves me but he is afraid, that people are going to find out and he’s
afraid of what’s going to happen. And I said OH well you have come to the right person.
So I whipped out every hope speech I had, every it gets better speech and I gave it
to him and I gave it to him but there was nothing I could do to make him feel hope,
there was nothing I could do so I could hear that sound of liberation in his voice that
I had had. And I thought what a fool. What a fool I had been. Of course I had felt freed
when I came out I came out in CA where we have laws protecting us where we have laws,
some laws, so we don’t lose our home or our jobs when we come out. So people are coming
out, they are dispelling the lies of gay and lesbian people out there and so there is a
community coming out. He grew up in Texas and came out in Virginia, where he could lose
his job, he could lose his home. And people aren’t coming out because of that, or dispelling
the myths and the lies and the stereotypes, especially in the community he holds dear.
So he has every reason to be afraid. So I said alright, it’s time for me to change
my goals, make them bigger. I had the great privilege to be on the Oscar stage and when
I took that stage I made a promise to the young people out there that they will have
rights federally across this great nation of ours. And when I got off, luckily, I knew
a man who had the vision and the strategy to make that promise a reality and that man
is named chad griffin, and I am so very proud that he is leading HRC today. And together
we sewed the state of California in federal court saying that prop 8 is unconstitutional,
and if you have been paying any attention at all, We Have Been Winning! We won at the
district court, and if you were paying any attention you would know we won again a few
months ago in the 9th circuit court of appeals and I was so excited when that happen I just
wanted to race to the phone and call my brother and say my god, we are one step away, one
step away from the US supreme court where my freedoms will become your freedoms where
my hope is your hope, where my liberation is yours but I couldn’t I couldn’t. Because
two weeks earlier my brother lost his battle with cancer and he died. And he will never
know that feeling of liberation. He will never know that feeling of hope and freedom that
we all fee, we will never know what it feels like to be a full American. And do you know
why I am here tonight. I am here tonight because that has to end. I am here tonight because
I want Texas, and Virginia and Utah to be free and equal and if that is ever going to
happen then we need to send a message to this nation. A message coming from Maine and Minnesota
and Washington and Maryland on November 6, that the voters, the people who believe in
that this constitution applies to all of us. And who will be hearing that message. The
young people of this nation will hear this message and it will give hope and it will
save lives. But do you know who else will hear this message, 9 people right here in
the district of Colombia called the US Supreme Court they are listening, they are paying
attention, they are watching what will happen in these four states. Because they don’t
like to be 10 steps ahead of the country, they like to be about 2 but they most certainly
never want to be behind the arc of history when it comes to equality in this nation again.
They have seen this dark day in this country before and they will not let it happen again.
So we must send a message to that court that the people want freedom and the people want
equality. So how do we do that? How do we do that? Number 1 and I hope I have demonstrated
this today, you have to get out there and tell your personal story, you have to come
out never ever under estimate the power of your personal story between now and Election
Day. I want you to tell it, I want you to go shopping in Maryland and come out to every
cashier you meet. And number 2, and I have some good news tonight from HRC, that every
single dollar we raise from here on out will go directly to the ground in those four marriage
equality states so they have the resources they need to tell their stories, on the phone
on the television and person to person so that they can tell their stories because we
must win. So I want you to give and to give and to give tonight until it is uncomfortable,
because we must win so that we can change the narrative of this nation a narrative that
says the p[people of this nation, every single person and every single family in this country
has value, will be respected and will be protected. And we must also change the narrative of this
nation and on November 6, send a message loud and clear that we will never again leave one
of our brothers and sisters behind no matter where they live, in these great states these
great united states of American, thank you very much. (Applause)

About the author


  1. Sodomy should move anyone to tears and then a bucket.Biological fact——The anus is a exit point, not a entry point.

  2. Wow! One remarkable, strong and amazing speech. We all love you Dustin. The US needs you as President of America.

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