“Probably the most serious deterrent to black lesbian activism is the closet itself. It is very difficult and sometimes impossible to organize around Black lesbian issues, such as homophobic violence, child custody, and right-wing initiatives, when you do not want people to know who you are.” Barbara Smith, (1998). The Truth That Never Hurts: Writing on Race, Gender, and Freedom

“Master of None’s” Lena Waithe made history at the 69th Emmy Awards on Sunday, becoming the first black gay woman ever to win a comedy series in the category of writing.

Waithe, plays Denise in the Netflix series, “Thanksgiving” an episode she co-wrote with  Aziz Ansari of “Master of None”.  Her nomination also marked the first time a black woman was nominated for an Emmy in comedy writing.

The Netflix series “Thanksgiving” episodes follow the character Denise as she discovers her sexuality and comes out to her friends and family over the course of five Thanksgivings spanning 22 years.

(Lena Waithe photo credit Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

“My LGBQTIA family, I see each and every one of you,” she said from the stage. “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day, when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”

“Thanksgiving” episodes add a missing and necessary piece to current literature examining Black lesbian lives. The award signifies the important opportunity to create a visible space to tell the stories. This win represents the importance for lesbians to be visible and in control of their daily lives.

Last year, the film “Moonlight” subverted ideas of black masculinity in its story of a young, gay black boy growing up in Florida. Waithe offers a female perspective on what it means to be black and gay.

“Thanksgiving” illustrate the important lived experiences of black lesbians and the need to rise above invisibility on all levels.  The intersectionality of our lives must create room for the angle of our visibility to be shaped above the daily homophobia we face.



Bowleg, L. (2008). When Black + Lesbian + Woman (does not equal) Black Lesbian Woman: The Methodological Challenges of Qualitative and Quantitative Intersectionality Research. Sex Roles, 59, 312-325.

Collins, Patricia Hill (1991). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge: Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge