I believed him. Because when victims of targeted violence come forward, we should believe them.

I believed him. Because the number of anti-LGBT criminal offenses reported to the FBI—and the number of reported hate crimes overall—continues to rise. And because most reported hate crimes are racially motivated. 

Mostly I believed him because the precious gay Black men in my life have told me their own stories of discrimination and violence, how they live with the terrible burden of intersectionality, not fully accepted in either the Black community or the queer community. I believed him because I love them, and they were scared and sad and overwhelmed that night. 

Now it looks like Jussie Smollett lied, a tragic, stupid, self-centered act that will have serious repercussions for actual victims of hate crimes. It makes me sick and angry.

When the story first broke, nearly a month ago now, I wrote: “We’ve come a long way, but there’s still so very far to go. How long, oh Lord? THIS is why I’m doing all I can to speak out against bigotry and ignorance and hatred and to live a life of love. THIS is why I live my gay Christian life out and proud. THIS is why we need our allies now more than ever to speak out against this kind of violence AND to affirm the value, dignity and goodness of LGBTQ+ people and our lives and loves. THIS is why we must unapologetically affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.”

I still mean every word.

I speak out on behalf of James Craig Anderson, a 47-year-old Black gay man who was murdered in 2011 in Jackson, Mississippi, severely beaten and run over by a truck. 

I speak out on behalf of Mark Carson, a 32-year-old Black gay man killed by a homophobic stranger, shot in the face in New York City’s West Village, just a short walk from the historic Stonewall Inn, because he “look[ed] like a gay wrestler.”

I speak out on behalf of August Provost, a 29-year-old Black gay man who in 2009 was shot five times and then burned in a fire that was set to destroy the evidence. He had complained of being harassed about his sexuality in the days before his death.

We cannot let Jussie Smollett’s alleged lies deter us from the crucial work of advocating for victims and fighting for the civil rights of Black and LGBTQ people. To quote Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: “The great work continues.” And to quote the words of St. Paul in the Epistle to the Philippians: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”