Tag Archives: glbt

The Web Series: Where are our Black Queer Women On Screen?

By Guest Contributor Spoken Pandora; originally published at Elixher

In a three-part weeklong series, ELIXHER examines the Black lesbian web series phenomenon. 

It’s human nature to long for reflections of ourselves in our surroundings. Our ability to connect with people, places, and objects is based on a feeling of familiarity. Without this component, the connection is lost. That’s why it didn’t surprise me that I was uninterested in a recent film’s sad attempt to depict a lesbian relationship.

The acting wasn’t bad; nor were the women unattractive. It was more about my inability to connect with the characters. I saw very little of myself within them. I didn’t leave nor did I ask the movie attendant for my money back; instead I sat there purging myself on over-buttered popcorn and large doses of caffeine. I left feeling unsatisfied, as if I have shared the bed of an inexperienced lover.

It has been days and the junk food has left my system. However, I find myself insatiably hungry. My spirit will no longer allow me to be pacified by lesbian-inspired films and television dramas with women who have no resemblance to myself. As a queer woman of color, I long to see my beautiful sisters playing roles that reveal our truth.

What I do not want is to see unstable relationships, the come-save-a-lez male character insertion, or the downward spiral of our brown skin queer women due to their inability to deal with life’s issues. I’m not asking for perfection because I find beauty in imperfection. I am, however, asking to see our truth receive just as much exposure in mainstream media as some of the well-known lesbian flicks that chose to exclude women of our shade.

In my quest, I sent out a call to speak with queer African American women that had been involved in web series.  I asked them why they felt that we have shows that meet our standards popping up all over the Internet but not in mainstream media.

My first interview was with Milanda who appeared in the first season of Come Take a Walk with Me with me directed and written by Mina Monshá. Come Take a Walk with Me is a coming out story that focuses on lesbian relationships during the characters’ college years. The cast is comprised of an eclectic blend of queer women of color. This alone had me at hello.

I spoke with Milanda for hours discussing a wide array of topics that included our responsibility as brown skin queer women to educate the masses of our existence, the reason why we may get a bisexual cameo here and there, and why we find it easier to showcase our talents on the web versus television or the movie screen.

The truth is that we have a responsibility to each other to ask for what we want and when we get it, to show up. Often times we hear the cries for something better but when something better presents itself, we don’t always show our support. We will always be stronger in numbers. We must also look at the fact that more often than not, we create the labels and boxes that society tries to stuff us in. Because of this it is our responsibility to educate our heterosexual counterparts about who we are.

We both agreed that it seems to be easier for those outside of our space to tolerate our truth when we wrap it in a bisexual package. It seems that by including a man at some point of the story allows men to continue the fantasy of possibilities; possibly they can have us, possibly they can change us, possibly they can save us. But we don’t need saving. Black women have worn capes since the dawn of time and know how to make a steak out of a honey sandwich. After my conversation with Milanda my head was in a tailspin and that is when I realized that we are a strong force with the power to create change.

Shortly after our discussion, the opportunity to speak with the cast of Lez-B-Honest fell into my lap. This web series was birthed from the minds of its producers Dacia Mitchell, Shannon Todd, and Tonica Freeman and is filmed out of Palm Beach, FL. The show tackles various issues that go on within our relationships and community. Yes there is drama, cheating, and sex, but there is also true love, spirituality, the journey to finding self, and the battle with creating one’s own positive self-image.

These women brave the stigma that we have been imprisoned to and show how life really happens for some of us. After the first five minutes of watching one of the shows my soul felt quenched. And with over 6 million views combined at the end of their second season, it is obvious that I am not alone in my thinking.

I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down to talk with these women, but what I received was a true representation of the queer family unit compiled of intelligent and grinding women.

In my interview, I had the pleasure of speaking with the characters Reese, Tye, Portia, Renee, Alex, and Shawna. All of the women came to the show for different reasons but after coming together found a bond that connected their spirits. I was able to learn a lot from our conversation. The most important thing I learned is that we all want the same thing.

They too would like to see more of us in mainstream media, outside of the stereotypical labels and preconceived notions. They feel that we have the power to make this change. They also expressed the importance of queer women supporting one another in their ventures and educating each other about the resources that are available in order for us to produce more of our brand of work.

See here is the thing: queer women of color come in as many types as we do shades and hair textures. To limit our ability is to kill the spirit that makes us who we are. When we invest in the next big movie or television series, we should invest not only our time and money but our hearts into media outlets that represent us in all of the forms we come in. We, as a unit, must come together because it’s time the revolution be televised.

It’s long overdue.

What’s your go-to Black lesbian web series? Make a commitment to supporting our own! Share your favorite episode on social media, advertise your business on their website or purchase their merch.


Spoken Pandora considers herself a gypsy that has traveled worlds through the literature she writes. Currently she resides in North Carolina with her daughter and partner. When she is not writing, she publicly speaks at LGBTQ events on sexual related topics. Her work can be found on her website.

Quoted: A Letter of Love to Brittney Griner and Jason Collins

On New Black Man (In Exile), writers, academics and thinkers, including Mark Anthony Neal, Darnell L. Moore, Hashim Pipkin, Kai M. Green, Mychal Denzel Smith, Kiese Laymon, Marlon Peterson, and Wade Davis II, offer an open letter to newly out, black athletes, Jason Collins and Brittney Griner:

Jason: corporations, movements, and the like will quickly want to turn you into a commodity. They will want to sell your understanding of desire. They will want to anoint you the face of the LGBTQ sports movement. You made history and should very well be lifted up. But remember that there are black gay men (some of them athletes) whose lives and stories will never register among the very people who will praise you. Some other feminine-performing black man will still be someone’s “fag.” Some other non-athlete, non-celebrity, non-college educated, and non-wealthy black gay man may not receive support, let alone acknowledgement. Given that social fact, we ask that you please remember those black gay men and help those who will turn to you to do the same.

 Brittney: that we have yet to make a lot of noise about your story says something about the way that we undervalue women and women athletes, especially black women athletes who defy rigid gender restrictions. We recognize that you have been on the receiving end of vitriolic homophobic, sexist and transphobic remarks and, yet, you refuse to allow ignorance to still your success and contentment. You exist in an intersection where your race, gender expression, and sexual identity opens you up to multiple forms of oppression and because of that we believe strongly that you would understand the plights of so many black LGBTQ people. Please remember the depth of their struggles when the movements and corporations knock at your door.

Queering The Faith: Why The Church Is—And Always Has Been—Our Home, Too

By Guest Contributor Helen McDonald; originally published at Elixher

When I was a child, it seemed as though everyone was hellbent on telling me where, as a Black person and as a woman, I did not belong. I did not belong on athletic teams because I am of the “fairer” sex. I did not belong in the school district’s “gifted and talented” programs because Black kids aren’t “smart enough” to be distinguished scholars. Like my other Black sisters, I have had to fight for inclusion in various gendered and racialized spaces. However, there was always one space no one could deny me access: the Church.

The Black Church is a revolutionary realm. It is where we, as a community, took a religion violently imposed on us by means of colonialism, slavery, and imperialism, and turned it into a beautiful, spiritual experience. In fact, many modern Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist and other Protestant church rituals are still informed by our Afro-Diasporic roots. “Rituals in African American Christian churches include call-and-response interactions between the congregation and preacher, calls for parishioners to approach the altar to embrace Christ, the laying on of hands and personal communion with the Holy Spirit,” explains Jocelyn Prince in “The Role of Ritual in the African American Church and Theatre.” Our praise honors our heritage by preserving many of the traditions inherent to our Afro-Diasporic communities.

Moreover, the Black Church, while obviously imperfect and still patriarchal, has rejected—in practice—the idea that womyn must remain silent and learn quietly. Black womyn essentially have built Black churches for centuries. Even when forced to occupy background positions, we control the Church. The pastor moves the congregation to its feet, but no one defies the Church Mothers. We are the cornerstones of many congregations, the ones who cook for church dinners, who raise the future leaders of the church, who are quite often the most passionate about our faith. As Black womyn, we have often found ourselves relying on the spiritual to cope with the violence of reality. Bruises paint our knees black and blue from nights kneeling in supplication. Our hands are the first to hold our siblings in Christ when they need prayer. Our voices linger in the sanctuary, whispering songs of victory, even after the pews have long been empty.

And yet, it seems as though the Church is the last place for queer people, and many members of the LGBTQ community opt to distance themselves from God or from homophobic congregations. I have spoken to a number of queer Black womyn who agree that, in spite of the religiously grounded homophobia, it is not so easy to cut off ties from our sacred spaces. Frequently, our unique relationship becomes a divisive factor in the big, white-dominated queer community that insists that if the Church isn’t playing nice, we simply should not go. But, how can we leave one of the few spaces where we historically have been granted authority and agency?

I don’t think that the problem is the Black Church, but rather the way the Black Church has adopted white supremacist principles. Describing the historical relationship between the Black Church and gay people, writer and feminist bell hooks defends, “It is no accident that the most ‘out’ of [Jim Crow era] gay people were often singers and musicians who first made their debut in the [Black] Church. Just as the Church can and often does provide a platform encouraging the denigration and [ostracism] of homosexuals, a liberatory House of God can alternatively be the place where all are made welcome—all are recognized as worthy.” The Black Church is not inherently homophobic, but rather, an extension of our communities wherein we are allowed to be equals even when mainstream society maintains that we are inferiors. hooks further elucidates, “In some small segregated Black communities, the Church was a safe house, providing both shelter and sanctuary for anyone looked upon as different or deviant, and that included gay believers.”

If anything, we queer Black womyn cannot give up on the Black Church. The Black Church has lost sight of its roots, but if we leave our home, who will remain to remind our siblings in faith that we belong? We need to know our history and to teach those who worship alongside us about the love that has been embedded in our spirituality. The cornerstone bears the weight of the structure and, if we are truly the cornerstones of the Black Church, we retain the power to influence whom our spiritual families accept. Through us, the Church can return back to its roots of communal love and reception.

When I first began my process of coming out to myself–and to other people–I knew that one of the hardest parts of my journey would be the inevitable God-hates-gays sermon. I spent many tearful nights asking God why He let me be this way if He loved me. But the Sunday evening when a white visiting preacher screamed, “Someone here is living in sin—homosexuality, adultery, promiscuity—and this person will die tonight,” I felt a sense of peace that reassured me that I was not condemned. You see, in the midst of my spiritual-sexual identity warfare, I happened to stumble across a promise that spoke to my femininity, my Blackness, and my queerness. “God is in the mist of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalms 46:5). God is in the midst of us, and with patience, perseverance, faith and love, I believe we beautiful, queer Black womyn can be in the midst of the Church once again.

Helen McDonald is a 20-something college student living off of bad cooking, social justice and a lil snark. She also discusses the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality on her personal blog revolutionaryrainbows.tumblr.com and is a contributing writer at BloodyShrubbery.com.

My Family: Providing Children’s Books For The LGBT Market

By Guest Contributor Monica Roberts; originally posted at Transgriot
Monica and Cheril Bey-Clarke

Monica and Cheril Bey-Clarke

When married power couple and business partners Monica and Cheril Bey-Clarke were seeking to become licensed foster parents in New Jersey, they were frustrated by the lack of materials and books available for the children of GLBT parents.The couple featured in a recent “Most Powerful Lesbians” issue of CurveMagazine.decided to step in and fill the void of books and materials for kids of all ages and backgrounds.   They sought by doing so to give the children of same-sex parents a sense of normalcy.  Their goal was also to promote the celebration of our differences, the importance of family values and reinforce the morality being taught in the home.It didn’t hurt that Cheril has been an award winning author, novelist and playwright in the LGBT community for over ten years and Monica has over a decade of experience formulating, creating strategies for and implementing business concepts.

In 2010 they founded My Family! a retail arm of Dodi Press LLC, to provide those books and materials and positive experiences for LGBT parents for generations to come.   The company went international in 2011 and has a website you can purchase their diverse multicultural line of books and products

When Leonard Lost His Spots

As I perused the site and its gender identity section I noted that Cheryl Kilodavis’ My Princess Boy is one of the books for sale on their website in addition to others from a wide array of authors that cover the various aspects of the LGBT community and the issues that would impact the children of same-sex, bi, and trans parents.

One of them was a trans-themed book by writer Monique Costa entitled “When Leonard Lost His Spots.”

So for you parents in the LGBT community looking for some quality books and items for your kids and wanting to circulate your TBLG dollars in the community, may wish to surf by the My Family! website and see what they have to offer.

Black People More Homophobic? You’re Kidding, Right?

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally published at TransGriot

One of the memes that has irritated many Black people gay, transgender and straight since the Prop 8 debacle has been the ‘Black people are more homophobic’ one.

You’re kidding, right?

Every time I’m watching TV I see predominately white ministers such as James Dobson, other white fundamentalists, white dominated anti equality orgs and peeps like Tony Perkins leading the anti gay charge. Fred Phelps checks the ‘white’ box on his census forms, and the megachurches bankrolling these rights rollback or anti same gender marriage amendments have membership rolls of predominately European ancestry.

I’m not saying we don’t have ‘phobes in our midst. The peeps who are selling out to the white fundies like the Hi Impact leadership Coalition come immediately to mind along with the homophobic pronouncements of people like Rev. Gregory Daniels, Donnie McClurkin, and Rev. Bernice King.

But it was the Mormon church who provided the cash to fund and provided the foot soldiers for the Yes On 8 Forces of Intolerance. Last time I checked, the Mormon church ain’t exactly chock full of members who look like me. Continue reading

If A Transwoman Can Play A Transwoman In Indian Movies, How About In Hollywood?

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally posted at TransGriot.

karpaga

I found it interesting last year that a young Indian transwoman has gone somewhere that transpeople in the States haven’t. But what else is new for us here?

Last year Karpaga made history in India as she became the first transwoman to be cast in a lead role in a commercial film. She was cast as the lead in a Tamil language film called Paal, which means gender in the Tamil language.

While Indian transpeople are justifiably proud of this cultural step up since they have been dissed for far too long in movies like their American cousins, at least they actually have transwomen playing transwomen in their films.

And based on the plot synopsis for this one, Paal looks pretty interesting. She’s playing an intellectual filmmaker who falls in love and faces the ‘do I tell’ dilemma.

What we’ve gotten here in the States, be it the silver screen or television is cisgender actresses scooping up those role. The recent announcement that Nicole Kidman is set to play pioneer transwoman Lili Elbe in the indie film The Danish Girl only heightens our annoyance about this.

candiscayne1

It’s not like we don’t have transgender actresses in Hollywood. Candis Cayne, Calpernia Addams, Aleshia Brevard, Jazzmun and Alexandra Billings are some of the ones that come to mind. Candis recently had her groundbreaking role in the now cancelled Dirty Sexy Money that ended predictably in her death, but that’s another post.

It would be nice if Hollywood would actually put a transwoman in a transgender role, but they still can’t get it right with cisgender women of color either.

What’s going to have to happen is that transwomen are going to have to write, produce and direct their own stories, and one of those indie films is going to have to make enough money and garner enough awards to get the peeps in Hollywood’s attention.

As for Paal, here’s hoping it’s an artistic and commercial success in India and beyond, and it leads to a nice career for Karpaga and other Indian transwomen who follow in her pumps.

Japan’s Transgender Community

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally posted at TransGriot

fujio

Japan is a giant in terms of its economic, technological, industrial, and medical prowess, but when it comes to treating transgender people lagged behind the rest of the world. The first sex reassignment surgery in Japan (for an F to M) didn’t take place until 1998 and was followed up by the first M to F surgery a year later.

If you’re an anime fan there are numerous titles that have transgender characters such as my fave series You’re Under Arrest which features transgender Tokyo police officer Aoi Futaba. But unfortunately real life transgender people in Japan have been reluctantly hiding in the shadows in a culture that prizes conformity.

Things are changing in Japan as it make moves to grant more personal freedom to its citizens, and the Japanese transgender community is a beneficiary of this openness.

It’s estimated that there are 7,000 to 10,000 transgender people in Japan, and while it seems that the ascension of Japanese transpeople has been meteoric, much of what has happened was the result of years of behind the scenes work.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first (and so far only) transgender person elected to public office in Japan when she won a place on the local assembly for Setagaya, one of Tokyo’s biggest local government areas. She has played a key role in lobbying for changes at both the national and local levels, including the 2004 gender change law. Kamikawa has also successfully lobbied to eliminate unnecessary mentions of gender in public documents and was reelected in 2008 to serve a second four year term.

aya2

Following on the heels of Kamikawa’s historic political victory were groundbreaking legal reforms in 2004 that allowed some transsexuals to change their officially registered sex. Unfortunately the law only allows unmarried, childless applicants to change their official gender. In addition, applicants also must have had SRS and been diagnosed by two doctors as having gender identity disorder.

That has resulted in only 151 people officially changing their gender codes between July 2004, when the law took effect, and the end of March 2005, according to Japan’s Justice Ministry.

Despite the victories, there’s still some stigma attached to being transgender in Japan, although that is slowly being overcome. “As long as we keep silent, nothing is going to change,” said Kamikawa. “We need the courage to make a society which respects diversity.”

The L Word ends with most unsatisfying series finale ever

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

I love series finales–even the not-so-good ones, even the ones tied to shows in dire need of being put out of their misery, even ones for shows I never really watched in the first place. Series finales evoke this nostalgic, high school graduationesque, joyous/sad feeling of tying loose ends, wrapping up and moving on. They are like little gifts to loyal watchers of a program. A chance to achieve closure with beloved (or not-so-beloved) characters. But with its finale last night, the groundbreaking show “The L Word” once again managed to conquer new territory, by being the most annoying and unsatisying television series finale in recent memory. (After Ellen called the debacle “lame, lacking and legacy tarnishing.” Bwah!)

I came to the show during season two, after deciding to watch some episodes On Demand to see what all the fuss was about. The fuss, of course, was about the first mainstream television program to center around lesbian characters and relationships.

Wikipedia describes “The L Word’s” first season thusly:

Season 1 was first aired in the United States on January 18, 2004, on Showtime and featured 13 episodes presenting several entwined storylines. Set in West Hollywood, the series first introduces Bette Porter and Tina Kennard, a couple with a seven-year relationship who want to have a child. Tina eventually becomes pregnant through artificial insemination but has a miscarriage during episode 1.09: Luck, next time. Later in the series, Bette develops an affair with Candace Jewell, which Tina learns of during the season finale. [5]

The pilot introduced a coming out/love triangle storyline involving Tina and Bette’s neighbor, Tim Haspel, his new-in-town girlfriend, Jenny Schecter, and Marina Ferrer. Marina is part of Tina and Bette’s circle of friends, and owns the neighborhood café, The Planet, which serves as the group’s hang-out and focal point for the show. The season also introduces Shane McCutcheon, an androgynous, highly-sexual hairstylist and serial heart-breaker; Alice Pieszecki, a girly, bisexual journalist looking for love in any way she can, and Dana Fairbanks, a professional tennis player who is still in the closet and torn between pursuing her career and finding love. In the first season, Dana falls for a sous-chef named Lara Perkins whose
sexuality is questioned by the group until Lara has an unexpected meeting with Dana in the locker room.

I’m a straight girl, but I couldn’t resist the great, soapy plotlines of this show. (Betrayal, intrigue, kidnapped babies, fatal illnesses, lost fortunes…Dallas and Dynasty have nothing on “The L Word.”) Add to the high drama (and comedy) awesome fashion, and I’m hooked. “The L Word” was a great, guilty pleasure.

That said, I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the show. Continue reading