A hegemonic construction of blackness that excludes black gays and lesbians from the realm of black existence continues to plague black politics and identity. This narrow conceptualization of racial identity and politics persists in spite of the numerous—and even violent— ways in which blackness and gay and lesbian statuses interact. De­spite the prevailing, narrow model of racial identity and the often vi­olent suppression of black gayness and lesbianism, many black gays and lesbians continue to "speak their coming-out stories."57 We have chosen to face these risks because the invisibility of the closet de­stroys black people—individually and collectively. Invisibility also prevents us from advocating on our own behalf, in the absence of support from black "leaders." Briefly stated, we accept these risks "because silence is costly."58 By claiming and speaking who we are, black gays and lesbians are demanding a central (rather than mar­ginal) space within black culture and politics and are helping to re­shape black political agendas so that they can respond effectively to the complexity of problems black people face.