Featured Issues

Black LGBT+ Members Exist Too!

By: Isabella Rhodes

Lately, many TV shows and movies have been adding in characters who are apart of the LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)   community, great! It’s about time, honestly. Now you see representation on a vast number of shows, and mass media is now very accepting of LGBT+ members. However, with all great beginnings is a dark side that no one wants to notice. And really, who does notice? Well, just like when there used to be only white people on TV, there is now (virtually) only white LGBT+ members. Issue? There isn’t only white LGBT+ in the entire community.

Just recently, both the black and LGBT+ community made history. Laverne Cox was named the first black (and/or of color) trans woman to have a lead role in a popular, mainstream show for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black. Cox most definitely opened up the door for aspiring trans black women but that door is only cracked.

Being apart of the LGBT+ community has already proved to be a hard life to live. Through oppression and constant harassment, it takes a lot of bravery to openly be apart of the community let alone be famous and have millions of people watching your every move. You’d think that members wouldn’t want to star in TV shows and movies. That is not the case, though.

Take the movie Stonewall for example, it is pure eraser of black LGBT+ members. In 1969, there were riots against police brutality towards LGBT+ members. It took place in New York and to this day the Stonewall Riots are cherished because they started the foundation of LGBT+ rights.

The movie documentary version of Stonewall is said to be a true story but one very important part of the movie was changed. Marsha P. Johnson, a black drag queen, and Silvia Rivera, a Puerto Rican trans woman, were the first people to start the riots. The movies version of them was a white cisgender gay man. Huge difference right? Right.

This change might seem little on the outside, but it’s flat out erasure of race and gender identity. A problem that mass media has yet to fix. It is not impossible to find black trans aspiring actors or any trans aspiring actors. The community is a big one and, typically, known for doing well in theatre productions.

Frankly, you’d think that with the multicultural image that TV shows and movies try to recreate, you’d think that there would be more representation. Mass media is obsessed with the tragic turned terrific life story of white trans people, white gay people, and white LGBT+ people who have marvelous stories to tell and make millions off
of.

While no one is trying to kill off those stories, the lack of acknowledgement of black LGBT+ members is disheartening and quite rude. It is also hiding the talent that is held within the black community. Mostly black casts or black produced films are hardly ever mainstream movie, they are typically only found and only praised within the black community. Producers like Tyler Perry are widely known in the community for a multitude of things but only few things in mainstream media. However, though representing a lot of different aspects of black culture, LGBT+ culture is not one of them.

Perry is not the only producer to lack acknowledgement, though. There are very few movies that have LGBT+ characters in the community.
This also causes issues for black LGBT+ members. A lot of the time life mimics art the same way art mimics life. The black community already suffers from the ignorance and refusal to accept members of the LGBT+ community. There is constant blatant disregard for them,
creating an unwelcoming environment in both real life and in mass media. With the lack of positive acknowledgement of LGBT+ members in mass media, there is a lack of positive acknowledgement of members in our everyday lives and vice versa.

It is not be asked to share so it is not being shared. It is creating a stigma to black people that the only LGBT+ members
are either little white, in the closet gay, cisgender teen boys or shaved head, beer guzzling, manly built trans boys (whose gender was originally a girl, that was a stereotypical lesbian). This is far from the truth.

The LGBT+ community is filled with a vast number of cultural, racial and social diversity. Mass media lacks that representation. There are a few shows that provide such diversity and if it was not for the popularity that they receive, the representation would be basically nonexistent. Being such a large community, LGBT+ members are making a stand against the erasure of their people. It is up to the black community to stand with them and fight against our erasure. Our black brothers and sisters are suffering, we must help them.

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