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Darnell L. Moore Centers Black, Queer Men in 'Being Seen' Podcast

darnell moore

The author of No Ashes in the Fire speaks about questioning his faith and how uplifting queer stories connects us all. 

Darnell L. Moore was born to tell stories.

The thought leader, activist, 2019 Out100 honoree, and author of the award-winning memoir No Ashes in the Firegrew up a devoted "church boy," until he came face-to-face with what he believed to be dangerous ideologies inside the church that suppressed queer people. Those experiences led him down a path of searching for his own identity as a Black queer man.

Moore's memoir, which beautifully chronicled his early life growing up in poverty as he struggled with his racial and sexual identity, was just the beginning. Now, he is giving a platform for other folks to tell their own stories of identity through his new podcast, Being Seen.

In the project, produced by Harley & Co. in partnership with ViiV Healthcare, Moore explores the queer Black experience in America through conversations with leading artists, community leaders, and public figures. With guests like Harper's Bazaar editor in chief Samira Nasr, poet Said Jones, designer Jerome Lamaar, and TV creator Lee Daniels, among others, Being Seen aims to give hope and affirmation to listeners searching for their own place in the world.

"I don't want to be a part of anything that is not honest," Moore tells Out. "What I hope we are offering is something that's transparent, where we get to see Black men of all expressions be vulnerable, where we can be honest about our lives, we can reckon with things."

Even moreso, Moore encourages listeners to ask themselves what does it mean to be present and hyper-visible, yet still invisible in society?

"We know that Black, queer, trans and nonbinary people are represented within culture. We see it," he says. "And still, not only are we representing culture, but Black, queer and trans lives are legislated against, prophecized against. Even in terms of representation there is a muting on the invisiblizing of our lives, our contributions, the textured aspects of the work we do that is still active. Being Seen is an invitation, a proclamation on the part of the Black, queer and trans person to say, 'We are here.'"

A few years ago, Moore and several other Black male writers, several of them trans, created a community called Brothers Writing to Live. Together, they wrote letters and published them, sometimes reading them in public spaces. The host used that experience to help shape the model of his own podcast.

"It was such a beautiful and intimate sharing and sort of unlocking of ourselves that I hadn't experienced before," Moore says. "That allowed for us to reveal things that we may not have revealed before. I sent that same spirit and energy in [Being Seen]. What the listener is getting access to are the inner thoughts, the most bare stories that these guests bring to the show. On some occasions, there were tears. There are moments when I'm talking to a guest and you feel the love present. Like, I'm in love with this person's mind, I'm in love with this person's heart, and they love me back. I think that part of it is also an intervention because when we think about Black manhood and masculinity as it's imagined in the larger public sphere, we are imagined as predators, as bodies to be desired and devoured. People are seeing our penises before they think about our hearts. We are taught to not have feelings. And here, the texture and tone and mood of this is contrary to all of that. That's one of the things I love about what this can offer as a model for Black folks."

Growing up in the church, Moore says he felt called to ministry. Like everything he does in his life, he was committed fully to his beliefs. The church was no different -- until it wasn't.

"I was out there rocking for Christ, uplifting and subscribing to a theology that kills," he reflects, "a person who was coming into the fullest sense of myself. As a man, the parameters of my sexual desire, my infinite desire, was far beyond what the church had dictated as moral and right. But I was still out there."

Moore may not be part of an institutional church anymore (he prefers to call himself spiritual), but his calling to ministry has not dissipated. In fact, it's only grown.

"I feel like my work that I'm called to do is to be out here creating spaces for those who exist on the edges of the margin," he says. "And not just create spaces for them, but to advocate and do right and to do justice work in community with those folks. If that's not the gospel, I don't know what else is."

In many ways, the writing of No Ashes in the Fire was an act of contribution to younger versions of himself, to the institutions that were surrounding him that either had its hands in a positive way or negative way in his life. As Moore continues working in advancing equity and justice, Black liberation, and the liberation of queer and trans and nonbinary people, at the center of it all is an ethic of care that is deeply connected to his call to service.

"In my mind, whether I'm using the pen or typewriter, whether I am using my voice and speaking in public or hosting the podcast, whether I'm using my my administrative skills to run an organization, things are always going to be used with an eye toward the lifting up of someone else," he says.

"It could be the Aquarius in me, it could be the former church boy still lurking in me, but how can we get to the realization of our freedom dreams to a more just and equitable world, unless we build it? That requires all of us to do. That requires all of us to commit to the work of building that world. That might look like resistance, it might look like policy advocacy, it might look like letting someone in the house who might need a plate of food to eat. It is an act that I think all of us are asked to commit to at some point at almost every day in our lives."

Darnell L. Moore's podcast, Being Seen, can be streamed at

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