Dwayne Ratleff knew he was different at a young age. Growing up gay and black in the 1960s, Dwayne learned how to be comfortable in his own skin and live life on his own terms. On this episode, he talks about his book, “Dancing to the Lyrics,” growing up gay and black, and the importance of accepting yourself, living counterculture, and shedding societal labels in order to find true freedom.
More About Dwayne
Dwayne Ratleff was born in Ohio but grew up in Baltimore and Connecticut. As a product of the segregated Baltimore school system, he did not learn to read or write until the age of ten. After moving to Connecticut, he spent the first two years there as a Special Education Student. This quickly changed and he graduated high school with honors. Dwayne opted not to pursue college, choosing a blue-collar job as the swiftest exit out of poverty as it allowed a wage earner to have a decent standard of living without much education.
Eventually, he saved enough money to relocate to San Francisco, where he lived for the next forty years. He met his husband there and the two have since moved to the Palm Springs area one and a half years ago.
His book is a gift from a young boy who never thought he would learn to read and write. If anyone would have told him when he was in Special Ed that he would someday write a book, he would have laughed in their face. Shortly after beginning the task of writing his book, he lost most of the use of his left hand in a tragic accident. Not to be deterred, he typed the book with one finger on his right hand.
Although hard at times, growing up Black and Gay in the Sixties was a blessing. “I did not ‘fit in’ so I did not even try,” he says. “There was no peer pressure because I did not have peers. This provided a special kind of freedom.”