Malcolm X Was Gay?

Two days ago, a good friend of mine stopped by my office to say hello. My friend is a revolutionary activist that I’ve known since he was a teenager. Like always, our conversation focused on social theory, politics, and, most importantly, Black liberation. In the middle of the conversation, my friend turns to my bookshelf and notices a copy of Bruce Perry’s 1991 biography on Malcolm X.

“Is it good?” he asked.

“Yes. It was helpful for showing how complex Malcolm was.”


“Yeah. Especially around sexuality”

“What you mean?”

“You know, about Malcolm being bisexual.”

“Get the f$&% outta here!”

I had set it off.

For more than an hour, I, like Perry, argued that Malcolm was likely a closeted gay or bisexual man. Why? Because, according to very good sources, Malcolm engaged in many same sex encounters before his conversion to the Nation of Islam.

For example, childhood schoolmate Bob Bebee recounts an interaction between him, Malcolm, and a local boy who they caught masturbating. Malcolm, Bebee recalled, ordered the boy to masturbate him, and later bragged that the boy had given him oral sex. Numerous sources, including close family members, confirm that Malcolm earned money by “servicing queers.” According to Malcolm’s sidekick Malcolm (“Shorty”) Jarvis, he was paid to sprinkle a wealthy Boston bachelor with talcum powder and bring him to orgasm.

Malcolm’s acts weren’t always done for pecuniary reasons. In Flint, his former roommate said, Malcolm would often go down the hall and sleep with Willie Mae, a gay transvestite. Also, scholars like Perry have argued that Malcolm’s misogyny, masculine insecurity, and early dissatisfaction with male-female sex are signals of a latent homosexuality. Others point to his obsessive-compulsive work habits, shaky relationship with his wife Betty, and celebrated sexual restraint (X is often constructed as the anti-King) as evidence of sublimation and suppression.

Of course, my friend wasn’t convinced. First, he argued that the sources weren’t legitimate. I pointed out that these were his closest friends and family. Also, each source, many of whom didn’t know the other sources, provided a consistent narrative about Malcolm’s queer identity. Besides, I asked, what evidence do we have to the contrary? He then argued that this might be part of a government conspiracy or a ploy to sell books. I pointed out that neither Perry nor his informants ever sensationalized the information (think Ralph Abernathy). In fact, Perry doesn’t even mention it on the book’s cover, nor does “sexuality”, “gay”, or “homo-“ appear in the index. It seems that Perry is more interested in establishing a clear and fair historical record than drawing attention to Malcolm’s sexuality.

Put more simply, if people in power were trying to sensationalize the topic, people would know about Malcolm’s sex life with the same regularity that they know about Martin Luther King’s. The fact is, most people don’t know that this is even an issue.

After a while, my friend conceded that it “might be true”, which for him is a huge concession. He then argued that if he could further verify the story, he would use it as evidence that “anybody can turn their life around and live correctly.”

He totally missed the boat.

First, he saw Malcolm’s suppressed sexuality through the NOI’s puritan sexual ethic as a positive act. What he failed to recognize, however, was the potentially deleterious effect that such moves have on the very communities that he thinks are protected by closeted sexuality. Even Malcolm, who is an exemplar of morality and discipline of world-historical proportions, had problems in his personal life as a likely consequence of his secrets. Imagine the possibilities for the regular citizen who lacks Malcolm’s moral vision and religious zeal. While I’m not a big fan of the current discourse surrounding the “down-low,” one must concede that such repression contributes to the so-called crisis. By encouraging people to enter the closet (a la Donnie McClurkin), we help constitute the very people that we ultimately blame.

Also, in constructing Malcolm X as a “reformed queer,” as opposed to a gay/bisexual hero, he squandered a valuable opportunity to reimagine Black masculinity and help expand the realm of political possibilities for Black gays and lesbians. Contrary to what is often said, acknowledging who and what Malcolm really was will not tarnish his legacy.

If anything, it will make him more meaningful and accessible than ever.

70 thoughts on “Malcolm X Was Gay?

  1. why tarnish a great man legacy,thats straight bullshit,its a lie malcom wasnt gay,Stupid dr lamont hill,a great man like malcom

  2. Seriously, he decided to marry a WOMAN, have a family, and live his life as a STRAIGHT man… and that he did! Now let the man rest in peace, please? And what do you mean a “gay/bisexual hero”; Malcolm died a STRAIGHT man! Whether he was gay in the past is irrelevant. He didn’t want to die as a “gay” hero. Stop forcing this title on him! Sheesh…

  3. Is this article implying that some gay dudes have the same spirit as Malcolm X, I kinda agree with that cause some of those queens be front and center, leading the choir.

  4. X had children. We live in a poor today, and you are one who sucks the unfortunate reality to earn a buck. Mmm! Self hating self! What’s the opposite of what you have written about X. You are one of those who walked on the other side of the street when you saw X coming on your same side. Some of us get some hard-on impressing our masters. Like the house slaves of old who wanted to lie down on the floor and ask the ‘massa’ to put his rheumatic feet on them so that the disease could pass from the ‘massa’ into them, thus relieving the master of his suffering. You think that when you cross-over you will be hailed as ‘ole sell-out’ to the chagrin of your mama, I hope so! Selling Black folks is a marketable idea and commodity. You have bee educated into ignorance and on your skinny black lapels had DDR., inserted and embedded in there. As a historian myself, I think your lot should be ushered in the garbage can of history as shameless executioners of living and dead Africans of note and those of none, Word, G! Anywho!, what maters is whether your bile is sweet to your followers, or your asshole too expanded to matter to anyone. Maybe that it! You no more have a grip, now you lament the days you had cum that you too knew was that you were wasting your self and your asshole, for naught! Tell us about yourself and your escape hollier-than-thou Doctor…

  5. Oh, Sucker, I forgot to cite some of Malcolm X’s thoughts: “We must liberate ourselves from depending onother people to reestablish ourselves in the world as a sovereign and self-governing people by any means necessary” You have never ever been liberated nor have any sense of national and self-soveriegnty up to till you were able to formulate such ghastly ideas about others. To sum-up: Our intellectuals have never told us that our role should be the protection of our language, our culture and our people and the bringing of dignity to our men and women. Very few historians in Africa, in the United State and in the Caribbean Islands have dealt effectively with the intellectuals’ responsibility to their people at a time of crisis and stress. We have produced a few scholars who dal with our traditions, through the years, including the traditions of our religion, the concepts of which we created in the first place. Instead of reading and learning about our positive selves, there are still those who want to define the African people, all over the world, in terms of what the master likes and will find interesting. Marc Lamont Hill. is that your name? That is why you think you are white of European because your name and all its concomitants write o and pronounce -like that!,, does not make you anywhere African, even if you feel so, which you deny. If you are Gay, yourself, good for you, live it up to yourself and write about yourself in it. To say all what you’ve said about dead folks and some other gross over-gerneralizations about Africans, I think you should look for some things you can write about.
    Mr. Cruse wrote: “Freedomways’ inability to deal concretely with Negro-White realities is characteristic of the peculiar backwardness of other black publications that have appeared since 1961. Since they cannot deal adequately with the past, they cannot deal perceptively with the present social complexities. But what can be expected of the young writers when the old writers, such as Richard B. Moore, writes articles that don’t reveal the issues of their own political history?” As for you Marc Lamont Hill(sic) is-that-your-name-succker, if you dare answer, of which I still have a lot to tell and teach you, What African Public Good is this going to do for tomorrows children who need icons and leaders like Malcolm X? You creating a dis-joiner to African History’s fluidity? MMM! you truly is ‘ignant’!! Sh****ttt….. You are really ‘dissing’ African folks….

  6. THIS IS NONSENSE. MALCOLM X WAS NOT GAY. These people are just trying to ruin MALCOLM’S LEGACY. IF Malcolm was GAY why didn’t his MALE SEXUAL PARTNERS do interviews and write books themselves so they can get PAID? Why not? Because it’s a PACK OF LIES. Marcus Lamont Hill should be ashamed of himself for reading ONE book that bashes Malcolm and running with it as fact, without doing his own research on the writer and doing more research on the matter, we all know you can’t believe everything you read. 20 years after President Obama’s death their going to say President Barrack Obama was having sex with male prostitutes in the white house, LMAO!

  7. I always find it shocking when a so-called academic takes one piece of ‘evidence’ and tries to erect a concrete case around it. I had a lot of respect for Dr Hill until I saw him speaking with absolute certainty about Malcolm’s sexuality based on the findings of one book. The book in question isn’t even thoroughly footnoted and is based on anecdotal ‘interviews’ with friends and acquaintances. None of this information is backed up with anything that can be challenged and would be consider nothing more than hearsay in a court of law. Nevertheless if the event witnessed by Bob Bebee did take place it is well documented by psychologists that many children have these types of experiences as part of their sexual awakening and in many cases have no relation to whether or not these individuals grow up to be LBGT. The talcum powder incident that Hill refers to is just a terrible attempt to twist an event that Malcolm actually refers to in the autobiography. According to Malcolm the act of sprinkling the man with talcum powder was enough to bring him to orgasm it is not suggested that Malcolm did anything physical to the man in order to make him climax, nor that he enjoyed the episode!
    Perry has been lambasted by critics as well as Malcolm’s family, here is a criticism of Perry’s book from the Washington Post by Robert O’Meally

    Several very large problems plague this “first complete biography of Malcolm X.” First is its fake scientific method, which at its worst becomes a verbal mishmash of Freudianisms, Ericksonisms, and other -isms from popular psychology: what psychologists themselves call psycho-babble. …. To buttress his thesis and his claims of various sorts, Perry presents incontrovertible evidence along withspeculative fluff and mere hearsay and gossip.

    Here is another criticism of the book from the St. Petersburg Times by Sheryl James

    At one point, Perry says Malcolm “had been seen wearing a dress. Though the garment may have been a Halloween costume . . ” There is no source for this strange incident, no elaboration. The incident hangs in the air with little or no relevance.

    The inclusion of a couple of Malcolm’s adolescent sexual experiences seems equally pointless. Almost all youngsters have these kinds of scenes that are embarrassing in retrospect and meaningless in the larger scope of their personalities.

    Any academic would be foolish to claim that one of the most important figures in Twentieth Century history was a sexual deviant based on the claims of one man who obviously struggles with his own biases and maybe his sexuality? What about you Marc-do you have something to hide?

  8. I love how all of these comments that are all pissed off at the Dr. are the people who will consider Malcolm X as a “bad man” or he’s no longer a good man. So, bc he’s a homosexual, did he not do what he did? Is he no longer this great man? You chastise the Dr. As if he is belittling Malcolm by stating a fact. But by being so enraged by his post, it is you, makes your beloved Malcolm look smaller than what he really was! If you could have an open mind, like Dr hill does, maybe you’d get his point. I guess, just like his friend in the story, you completely, “missed the boat”

  9. I do recall reading about Malcolms lifestyle before he joined the NOI. He smoked, drank, robbed, and performed certain sexaul acts and favors. His life was immoral and a disaster! He life was kinda like the life of many black men in America today. As unfortunate as his lifestyle was it is part of the reason why he became so great. The man went from being a total low life to being a good example and a strong character. I think he is a great example of how a human being can turn their life around from being some of the worse things in life to being great!

  10. Many things taken out of content. Malcolm X was not gay. Any one who knew the life of Christians back in the 40’s,many things were done out of character,for many different reasons. Yes I knew Malcolm Little,I lived across the street of shorties shoe shine shop and pool room,just below Mr.Holiday Barber Shop on Columbus Ave. Did Malcolm do some crazy things you bet he did,but a (faggot )homosexual he was not, a gay he was not not,did he live a sinful life yes he did.. Your article is exaggerated and to exacerbate Malcolm X
    so you can be pleased with your self. Any one who will waste time with it is either a gay person having fun to amuse themselves or just down right a pig. Malcolm was not a perfect being but remember that all of that ws done when he was a Christian calling on Jesus.About his wife Sister Betty she was a wonderful woman who loved her husband and family. I am sorry that you had to go to the pig pen to get some notoriety.I am sure every gay loves this article.( Malcolm X was not Gay or bisexual.)

  11. Lamont Hill go play with Bill O’Reilly. on Fox news,you all make good company for each other.
    I am surprised the Brothers at Temple U in Philly have not taken you to task. Your a sick puppy Dude..
    You did not know Malcolm X except out of a book. Not only did I know Malcolm X but his Brothers and his Sister Ellen she lived on Mass Ave. Some folk would say That The Prince Charmer was gay but was he? Just because he sang in Night Clubs. Lamont we know about Negroes like you. Many worked in the House but you were in the yard and some time in the field. Shame on you.

  12. Just ran across this article…Too bad Malcolm X isn’t here to defend himself…Not everyone agrees that having sex with the same sex is normal behavior…That is why people are upset…His image is being tarnished.

  13. I can’t believe in a million year that I stumbled on some bullshit like this..First of all..being a MAN is a powerful thing that GOD made us in charge of his be strong, wise,protector,can lift three times his body weight, tough, put on this world to work with his hands .and a black man was the first man to walk this earth..and GOD greatest gift to a man is a women,soft, smell good, tough enough to bare young,nourisher, can lift only half her body…He made a penis for men, hard, a tool, and right fully so…A vigina for a women,soft, wet, rightfully so..and that comes together to bare LIFE..He made an ass, for waste and GARBAGE disposal..nothing else…I human body and mind is like a very advanced computer which is damn near perfect..but can malfunction from time to time, handicapped,autism, bi polar,etc..what we call a disease..a computer glitch..And God put a device in are brain called hormones…that controls are bodily, mentally, sexual, and gender preference..usually fully kicks in about early teenage year…Guy growing body hair, muscle development, dick hard, Love for the opposite sex..and women..their period to bare children, breast to feed them, and a shape and smell to attract the opposite sex..animal instict…So wit all dat is a mental disease..and once you loose your MAN card by thinkin’ you’re a women..then you can’t get it back…real G talkin’…if you a fuckin’ HoE my nigga.. then you’re a hoe fo life…so stop tryin’ to bring a real nigga to hell with you….and if I was Malcolm X people… I would’ve found your women whatabe tail…because you had to be soulless to speak real man shit like Malcolm..and really think your a women at heart…well being gay is a sick disease…shitty dick ass hoezz

  14. Its funny how the immediate response for many is to “defend” homosexuality and “attack” those who see these revelations as slander. That reflects a sign of the times, when Race is off the agenda, and the rights of Homosexuals is front and centre, despite 1 in every 3 Black Males in USA destined for a “for-profit” Prison System before they are born.

    Needless to say, casting a critical eye over these revelations is not “the same as racism”. Malcolm was the target of State sponsored terrorism. Only a fool would accept this book at face value.

    First of all, even if Malcolm X himself confirmed to the world in the 60’s that he was openly homosexual, I have no doubt whatsoever that TODAY he would still be accepted as a Hero by the Black Community. No doubts at all. His homosexuality, if it were true, could not detract from his legacy around the world. Only a FOOL would think in these terms. Malcolm X was a revolutionary, not an online media personality.

    We as a Black People should not allow European commentators to “dictate” to us that ALL Malcolm taught would be lost on us, “just cos he was gay”, as that would be akin to STILL regarding Black People as “simple children”. European commentators are QUICK to ignore new information about his assassination, and instead choose to argue that the gay allegation is a bomb shell for Black People across the world. BULLSHIT.

    When will the mind and soul of Black People STOP being “determined” by Europeans? That is very important. The significance of his sexuality to his legacy should be for US to determine, as the recipients of his legacy, not Europeans with a vested interest to destroy it. Are we still being told how mad to get? I digress.

    Secondly, and most obviously, the FBI/CIA had Malcolm under constant surveillance and investigation once his activism began. They visited his hometown, they followed him around the world, they interviewed and harassed his close friends and family, they monitored all his correspondence. This was common knowledge during his lifetime. Today we know about the Black Messiah Policy and Cointelpro, so we know exactly what the Secret Service apparatus is capable of. We also know that the Black Panther Party posed a real and present danger to this power structure in America, and finally we know for sure that Malcolm X was CENTRAL to BPP ideology.

    So are we to believe, off hand, that an ageing sick academic was able to extract sensitive information about Malcolm X that the US GOVERNMENT were unable to obtain? That is highly unlikely. Wasn’t Alec Haley an informant? Are the unpublished final pages of the original autobiography not sitting in a safe vault yet to be released? Are we seriously to believe that Marable succeeded were DECADES of Secret Service activity failed? If there was any shred of evidence PROVING these allegations I am sure the Black Power movement would have been COUNTERED with it decades ago. The FBI/CIA attempted to use MLK’s affairs to control him.

    The tapes have been released of Malcolm refusing to cooperate with FBI agents trying to convince him to “snitch” on the NOI. This is evidence of his integrity, and evidence of the lengths the US Gov was prepared to take. Thus, to suggest that Malcolm X’s apparently “well known” GAY PAST was somehow missed by the American Government is bordering on ridiculous.

    The author of this book is dead, Malcolm is dead, and so is Betty. The allegations do not make up the majority of the books research. We as Black People would be fools to accept this as Gospel (Latin for Good Military News) without casting a critical eye first. Fear of being branded homophobic, or allowing the debate to descend into a gay rights issue would both be unbecoming of the great man himself.


  15. These guys are basing their comments about Malcolm’s sexuality solely on hearsay and rumor. There is no physical evidence supporting these claims and nothing from any of his family members suggesting that he was gay. His his “new” (although no new inormation regading Malcolm can be found in the book) biography on Malcolm, Manning devotes barely two full paragrahs to the topic, and references a secondary source, a white man named Bruce Perry to support what he “believes” to be the case. Marc Hill and Manning Marable are gay! They are projecting onto this brother their own issues. Finally, the worse thing about these clowns, both Marc Hill and Manning Marable (even in death) is that they will sell their souls for profit and attention. Manning does this in an attempt to increase book sales, and Hill does it to continue to draw attention to himself and his website in his ongoing desire to be perceived as a so-called public intellectual and spokesperson on “Black issues”. Classic House Negro.

  16. Very disappointing essay. I am really surprised that Hill cites Bruce Perry approvingly. It is very obvious that Prof. Hill did not read Perry’s book very carefully because it contains very obvious lies that are meant to defame Malcolm. kzs

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