Gay Black activist, church minister, and US gospel artist who sang the 1977 gay pride anthem ‘I Was Born This Way’, Carl Bean, has tragically passed away at age 77. Lady Gaga had in May this year said her 2011 hit song ‘Born This Way’, which celebrated its 10th anniversary, was inspired by Bean. 

The Unity Fellowship Church Movement, a church for Black LGBTQI+ worshippers founded by Bean, released a statement saying the Archbishop, “made transition into eternal life” after battling a lengthy illness.

“Archbishop Bean worked tirelessly for the liberation of the underserved and for LGBTQ people of faith and in doing so, helped many around the world find their way back to spirituality and religion.”

“Our hearts go out to all as we mourn the loss of this trailblazing leader and legend in the worlds of activism, advocacy, AIDS, community outreach, faith, liberation theology and so much more will live on for several lifetimes,” the church stated.

Details about a memorial service to honour the life of Bean are still being organised by the Unity Fellowship Church Movement.

Born In A Religious Family

Born in 1944 in Baltimore, Bean was raised in a religious family and played an active role in his church’s community.

At age 16, Bean relocated to New York after coming out to his family and also revealing at the same time that his uncle allegedly sexually assaulted him.

“I felt like, now I’ma be kicked out because I’m a queer. I attempted suicide and landed in the mental health ward of a big hospital,” he told Vice in 2016.

During his stay at the hospital doctors recommended Bean be treated with electrotherapy, but there was a female German psychiatrist who came to his aid and helped Bean come to terms with his sexuality.

“There are many people like you. I can’t do what your parents want— make you a heterosexual—but I can help you accept who you are and go for your dreams,” Bean told Vice in the same interview.

‘Gotta Be Some Change’

Carl Bean & Universal Love All We Need Is Love (1973) album cover.

In 1972 Bean moved to Los Angeles and formed the group Carl Bean and Universal Love.

Making an impression with their 1974 song  Gotta Be Some Change in 1974, Motown records asked Bean and his backing group to sing the now famous gay anthem song ‘I Was Born This Way’ which would be released in 1977.

The song includes a line where Bean openly declares that he is gay and would also go on to inspire Lady Gaga’s hit single ‘Born this Way’.

Although the song was a hit, Bean turned down a career as a Motown singer to create his own church and help with the AIDS movement.

In 1982 Bean founded the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church for black LGBT congregants and in 1985 the minister founded the Minority Aids Project which was the first community organisation to focus on the spread of AIDS in the black community.

Tributes Flood Social Media

Many from the LGBTQIA+ community and HIV/AIDS activists took to social media to mourn the loss of Bean.

American politician Maxine Waters, who in 1997 worked alongside Bean to provide $1 million in AIDS funding also tweeted mourning the loss of the gay activist.

“My dear friend, Archbishop Carl Bean, the founder of Minority AIDS Project LA & a leader who helped awaken America to the AIDS pandemic, has passed. We worked together to initiate minority AIDS funding in the federal budget that has helped save countless lives. RIP my friend, “ the tweet said.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.




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