Dustin Lance Black – American Storyteller
“Knowing our LGBTQ history is important. We stand on the shoulders of countless brave men and women who paved the way for us.”
Our community has made marked strides toward mainstream acceptance and understanding in recent history, largely due to LGBTQ stories being told through our lens. Dustin Lance Black is a screenwriter, director, producer, and LGBTQ rights activist. He is widely known for writing the film Milk, starring Sean Penn, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2009. He subsequently wrote the screenplay for the film J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and the stage play 8, a staged reenactment of the federal trial that led to a federal court’s overturn of California’s Proposition 8. On the activism front, Black is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Growing up surrounded by Mormon culture and military bases, Black had some hurdles to overcome as he grew into himself. While attending high school, Black began to take an interest in theater. He later attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television while apprenticing with stage directors, taking acting jobs, and working on theater lighting crews. He graduated with honors in 1996.
Prior to the international acclaim of Milk, Black wrote and directed The Journey of Jared Price, a gay romance film, and Something Close to Heaven, a gay coming-of-age short film. In 2001, he directed and was a subject in the documentary On the Bus about a Nevada road trip and adventure at Burning Man taken by six gay men. Black’s film Pedro, profiling the life of AIDS activist and reality television personality Pedro Zamora, premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.
Black recalls visiting San Francisco as a young man in the early 1990s, while AIDS was devastating the city’s gay community and thinking that Harvey Milk was about the only hopeful story there was at the time. He spent three years researching Milk’s life including meetings with former aides and city leaders while writing his screenplay. Renowned director Gus Van Sant signed on to direct the feature. And with an all-star Hollywood cast, his story reached audiences worldwide.
During Black’s Oscar acceptance speech, he shared, “I heard the story of Harvey Milk, and it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall I love and one day get married.”
Well, hope springs eternal … Black started a relationship with British Olympic diving champion Tom Daley, in 2013. And four years later they married at Bovey Castle in Devon, UK. They welcomed their first child in 2018.
Outside of family life, Black recently published his autobiography Mama’s Boy: A Story From Our Americas, and Daley brought home an Olympic Gold Medal in men’s synchronized 10-meter platform from the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games. Shortly after, Daley said he would make it his mission to campaign for countries where homosexuality is punishable by death to be banned from the next Olympics.
We love that Black and Daley are telling our LGBTQ stories and creating their own.
Last modified: February 8, 2023