Ricardo Burney, a circulation clerk for Orange County Library System, will lead guests through a thought-provoking event in celebration of Pride Month. He will discuss why intersectionality is important as a Black man in the LGBTQ+ community. “It shows us that identities work on multiple levels and that oppression cannot be reduced to only one part of an identity,” he says. “Each oppression is dependent on and shapes the other.”
Together with staff from Peer Support Space, Burney will tackle the mental health effects of discrimination. Drawing upon the experiences that have shaped him, he will present on the lives of other Black gay men who were prominent historical or political figures. “I hope to create conversation around these topics, and that this gives all of us an opportunity to better understand each other.”
Burney served in the military during the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era – a risk which could have cost him, and many other LGBTQ+ military personnel, their careers. When not in uniform, Burney reveled in the spotlight as he transformed into his drag persona, Bernice Labelle. His significant contributions and involvement in the community has led to many awards, including Miss Gay Monterey (1995) and Dual Empress (1997). “In the beginning, there was a contingency of embarrassment associated with being a drag queen,” Burney said. “I wasn’t proud, and I certainly didn’t understand the platform that was afforded to me. It is now later in life that I realize the incredible power of drag, and I see that part of my life as a badge of honor.”
Today, Burney volunteers with Turn About, an Orlando organization that helps make HIV and hepatitis testing available at no cost. Reflecting on his work in the LGBTQ+ community, his lived experiences and the research he’s done, Burney shares that it’s had a positive impact on his life. “True authenticity is achieved by embracing both my blackness and queerness. They are the sum of who I am.”
Join Ricardo at Eatonville Branch on Saturday, June 11, 2 p.m. for I am a Queer Man. Living life in the LGBTQ+ community can be difficult and challenging. Learn about the unique experiences of discrimination of gay men in the Black community. Registration required. Recommended for ages
18 and up.