Life without Labels: Walter W. Walker II, Defining Fairness

Walter W. Walker II has lived in Louisville since his family moved here in 1986. Here’s how he describes himself:

Honestly, I would say I’m Walter. I think that everyone is different, everyone has their own identity, everyone’s unique, and I think that I’m a unique person. I do consider myself an African American, a Christian, a Presbyterian, and also a gay man. When you put yourself in these boxes and you start labeling, you know, being African American you’re going to experience the African-American experience. Being gay, you’re going to experience the gay experience.

When I was younger, before I did come out, I was living in those boxes. So as I matured, as I got older, as I got comfortable with myself and started loving myself for who I am, I’ve kind of stepped away from those categories. And that’s the reason why I say, I’m just Walter.

Walter Walker spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis as part of this month’s Defining Fairness series. You can listen to the interview here, and find extras below. In the audio above, Walter begins by talking about why some LGBTQ African Americans might choose to remain in the closet.

On Self-Awareness

“I knew when I was five years old that there was something about me that I guess quote-unquote wasn’t norm, or wasn’t right. And I did the boy things—I was into Transformers and He-Man. I was raised in a military family. I came here to Louisville in 1986, and as I was going through school I kind of suppressed those thoughts those feelings that something was wrong. And I became severely depressed. When I was 23 I met someone who was a male, and became involved with that person, very briefly. I finally decided to come out.”

On Coming Out

“I came out to my friends first. I remember it was my birthday, and I was with my friend and we were sitting at Red Lobster—she took me out to dinner. And I told her, ‘Well… I’m gay.’ And she was like, ‘Okay,’ and she continued to eat her food on her plate. So I said, ‘Did you not listen to me? Hello? I am gay. I like men.’ And so my friend says, ‘Okay, but we’re friends. You gonna eat that?’

When that happened, I came out to my family. I was with my mother over at her house and we were watching the 5:30 news, and I just kind of looked at her. And I stood in front of the TV and I said, ‘Mom, I have to talk to you.’ And she’s like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Well, this is important.’ She said, ‘Well, what is it?’ And I said, ‘I’m gay.’ And she was like, ‘I am your mother. I’m not stupid. Now would you move out of the way? I’m trying to watch the news.’ So I’m like, ‘Okay! This is not bad.’”

On Reconciling Religion and Gay Identity

“Religion, especially in the African-American community is so… it’s big. It’s everywhere. I didn’t want that backlash from the religious community. My family, we grew up, we’re all Presbyterians. But Presbyterian, the denomination as a whole, is very GLBT-friendly, which is lucky for me.

But at the same time, you still have the black religious community as whole kind of shunning you or frowning down on homosexuality. That’s the reason why I went into a depression. Because I just thought that, from a religious standpoint, that was wrong. Like, oh, well, I feel this way, but I’m told that this is bad. So then ultimately I just finally said, you know, ‘God, I don’t know why I feel this way, but if this is wrong… sorry.’ And that’s how I’ve come to terms with it.”

Laura Ellis

Laura is the producer of Strange Fruit, a weekly talk show focusing on race and gender, and produces other news & feature programming.

@funambulator

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