Tag Archives: queer

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.

Black Freaks, Black F**s, Black Dy**s: Re-imagining Rebecca Walker’s “Black Cool”

By Guest Contributor Darnell L. Moore; originally published at Feminist Wire

15037_10151311871680791_1210328814_nEnter Scene: I am walking in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn—where we do more than die, by the way—rocking a close fade with two parts on the side, a full beard and mustache lined up perfectly, eyes protected by a pair of fresh chocolate browline frames (I was two blocks from Malcolm X boulevard, after all). I am donning a fitted button-up white shirt, closed off with a pink and gray striped bowtie, form-fitting charcoal gray blazer, dark blue kinda-skinny jeans, and a pair of hot pink and silvery gray kicks.

Passerbyer 1 checks out my footwear.

Passerbyer 2 offers up the obligatory, “Yo, son, your kicks are hot.”

Passerbyer 3 is looking at me like I’m way off, as if to say, “Really, you got on pink sneakers, sucka? That’s gay as hell. You are doing way too much!”

Passerbyer 4, my neighbor repeats, like he always does, “You cool, brother.”

My representation as a certain type of black man often transgresses the accepted boundaries of black masculinity. The ways I cut my hair, shape–or refuse to shape–my beard, style my clothes, walk, talk, and gesture tend to confound some folk and, on occasion, anger others because of my seeming transgressions. Sinning ain’t easy.

Indeed, some will stare at me as I make my way down any street rocking a beard, frames, “man bag,” and a little less than loose clothing because my gender presentation seems to be read as a sign of non-heterosexuality, deviance. In fact, most folk are okay with what they “see” until they notice that I am wearing something like hot pink (!) sneakers. According to some, a black man wearing hot pink sneakers, like a black woman wearing a suit, ain’t at all “cool.”

The notion of “black cool,” in particular, seems to be limited, limiting, and quite “straight” (as in hetero and rigid). I am thinking, for example, of one of the inspirations that motivated Rebecca Walker’s investigation of “Black cool.” She mentioned during an interview on NPR that an image of then-Senator Barack Obama exiting a black Lincoln Town Car during the 2008 campaign “was really, at that moment, the epitome of black cool.”

She went on to say that she was “drawn to that image because [she] wanted to decode it and to see where it fit into this Afro-Atlantic aesthetic.” And while that image is but one of Walker’s inspirations (and while her book, Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, actually includes critical and beautiful essays that think through the gendering of “black cool”), that particular picture of Obama locates the quotidian “black cool” in a male-bodied, masculine, straight black man and leaves me to wonder: does coolness exist anywhere beyond black masculinity, maleness, and heterosexuality? As some of the writers in Walker’s Black Cool argue, I think so.

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David Phan’s Suicide Sparks Grief, Anger, And A Call For Justice

By Guest Contributor Terry K. Park, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

David Phan at age seven, at Arches National Park. Courtesy of the Phan family.

After their son took his own life on November 29th, David Phan’s family received two boxes. One box, sent by Bennion Junior High, was filled with generic pamphlets on how to deal with suicide-related grief. The other box, given by current and former classmates, contained over 600 letters expressing their support and sorrow for the loss of their child. These letters, according to family advocate Steven Ha, paint a portrait of a 14-year-old who, despite being a victim of bullying himself, protected other victims of bullying. At a December 20th briefing for local Asian American activists at the offices of the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, Ha read out loud one such letter from a former classmate:

“Dear Phan family. Your son David is a life saver. I’m going to miss him…This kid is amazing, has a great personality…I’ve never met someone who could make me smile when I’m deeply sad. He saved my sister’s life. She was going to kill herself, but you [David] talked her out of it. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have a sister because of him, your son…I will not forget you [David]. I am letting balloons go in the air to honor you. I’m so lucky to have met him. He always made everyone smile…If someone was sad, he’d ask if they need a hug. He was the hero of the school. If only I was still there, I would’ve made sure this wouldn’t have happened.”

Tragically, it did. And now a Vietnamese American family grieves for the loss of their son and seeks answers. The answers given by Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsely in the immediate wake of David’s suicide were not only insufficient but struck the Phan family and supporters as defensive, insensitive, and even illegal. “David,” said Horsely, faced “significant personal challenges on multiple fronts” for which he supposedly received support for from a guidance counselor. And despite a report of bullying several years ago, “[David] never reported any further bullying concerns and, on the contrary, reported that things were going well.”

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Quoted: Battameez on Interpreting the Kamasutra


Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai published Queering India: Same-sex love and eroticism in Indian society and culture wherein they read many “key ancient texts” against the grain to state that they’re texts that challenge the assumed heterosexism of our “ancient Indian society”; Kamasutra, they said, was one such text. Burton’s translations (along with a few other Orientalist scholars like Max Muller, Clarrise Bader, etc.) saw “Indian sexuality” as effeminate, and predictably justified its colonization, whereas Upadhayaya writing in the post-Independence era, washed away any queerness the text may possibly have suggested and re-framed it to fit the needs of the Hindu nationalist agenda. Vanita and Kidwai use all these texts to illustrate how pain and sexual pleasure can coincide and how there is plenty same-sex action going on, enough to say that Kamasutra is a queer and therefore, a liberatory text. On close inspection, the incidences where BDSM seems to be evoked, it is mostly practiced on bodies of Dasis—the slaves in the Vedic age—sometimes by the wives, usually by the husband/master. Again, most queer instances happen under the surveillance and force of the husband/master. The question here isn’t whether people then were “really” queer, nor am I concerned with the politics of BDSM and consent within this particular text (not sure if consent can even exist, if one cannot say “no”). This is where I want to inspect the politics of feminism itself, if slavery is seen as liberatory simply because there are events where the boundaries of “accepted sexuality” are pushed.

Studies like Queering India create a frame that suggests Indian culture is “inherently radical” because “see queerness has always existed here too!” frames that are produced and upheld within Subaltern historiography departments, the very academic disciplines that critique and challenge the colonialism within academia! They tend to equate queerness with progress, backed with Vedic texts like Kamasutra and Manusmriti—both of which mention queerness only within the contexts of slavery and caste/skin-color based sexual domination—and the conversation is limited to “We have always been queer, because our heritage (the texts) say so.” Don’t think I need to point out the dangers of such a limited conversation again.

However, I do want to ask why talking queerness is inherently political, revolutionary, and radical, given that many of these conversations happen at the cost of erasing slavery in ancient India (books like The Palace of Illusions, The Pregnant King come to mind here). Talking sex—especially about the Kamasutra—is progressive, but discussions of the political economy of the text don’t get the same pedestal. How can I claim and embrace queer liberation (as much as I may want to), when it silences someone else?

—Battameez in “Kamasutra and the Indian Feminists,” published at Bitch Media.

Nicki Ménages Urban Black and Latina Sexual Identities

by Guest Contributor Sabia McCoy-Torres

Nicki Minaj got media circuits buzzing after performing alongside Madonna at the Super Bowl 2012 halftime show and then commanding the stage a week later at the Grammy Awards in a Catholic themed extravaganza. As usual, Minaj got people talking about sex(uality). After the halftime show, viewers jokingly wondered why a sensual kiss between Madonna and Minaj never transpired.

Meanwhile, Minaj’s Grammy performance included a mini-film depicting a priest making a house call to exorcise the demon possessing a child named Roman. Roman was referred to many times as “he” but when the child was revealed, rather than a boy we saw a tormented and psychotic Minaj with long blonde hair applying pink lipstick singing “I Feel Pretty.” Does the possessed boy become Nicki Minajwhen dressed in drag? Is Minaj possessed by Roman, a boy who likes pink lipstick and Broadway songs, or is she just trying to be as quirky as possible? Regardless of where Minaj was leading her audience, it was clear she was toying with gender presentation and interpretation, a hallmark of her persona that has an impact on her community of listeners.

I most recently noticed the impact that the openness of artists like Nicki Minaj to sexual ambiguity is having when I returned to my neighborhood in the Bronx after a two year stint living in Costa Rica. In that brief period away I realized much had changed: men in the hood were wearing tight jeans, 80s style had come back in full effect, and there was a growing visibility of what I dubbed “neo-soul Black hipsters.” I also noticed an abundance of pretty teenage girls on the 4, 6, and D trains to the Bronx with their equally handsome boyfriends who on second glance, and sometimes fourth and fifth, I realized were actually two beautiful girls unabashedly holding hands, in the midst of quiet embraces, or giving voyeuristic displays passionate kissing.

A friend recently asked me: “Remember back in the day when there were no gay youth?” And I had to agree that I shared that memory. Of course it wasn’t that there were no gay youth, rather it was that they weren’t as visible, especially in our predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods. It was clear to me that a shift had occurred while I was away. Gay openness was becoming not only a thing of adult men and women in the West Village but also of urban Black and Latina youth in inner-city New York. Continue reading

Exotic Taboo [Love, Anonymously]


by Guest Contributor Tiara the Merch Girl

I often feel that I’m not taken seriously as a full well-rounded nuanced person when it comes to things related to eroticism, burlesque, sexuality, queerness, and so on. I have grown up constantly being the Other, having everything I do viewed through the lens of the Other, assumed to be the representative of the Other, rather than just a representative of myself and my myriad views and backgrounds. I’d make a piss-poor representative for any other culture or background anyway, given how I stick out like a sore thumb in all of them. Too foreign for Bangladesh, too Bangla for Malaysia, too Asian for Australia, too X for Y.

I have been introduced at burlesque revues as the “Bollywood Princess”- which ticks me off a lot, particularly since I have yet to do a piece that involves Bollywood in any shape or form. Not even a subcontinental song! Anything I wear automatically becomes “exotic” on me. For example, I have a beautiful red dress, with some gold embroidery, that I bought from an op-shop for a performance project. When I first wore it to a rehearsal one of the other girls there said “wow! It’s just so YOU!”. “Me” doesn’t tend to go for dresses very often (it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve started wearing dresses and skirts more regularly). It only looks exotic because it happens to be red with some gold embroidery and on me it looks like I’m wearing sari cloth. On a Chinese person it’d look like a reimagined cheongsam. On a white person? A Snow White or Red Riding Hood dress. The dress itself isn’t especially exotic; what makes it exotic is the lens brought on by people’s perception of the wearer.

Similarly, I think people in queer scenes are so mystified by the presence of a Racial Other that they fail to comprehend that I could also be a Sexual Other too. I swear, I’ve been to so many queer events with a bevy of straight people, and THEY get the attention. There’s probably been two queer girls in my entire life that have shown even a smidgen of interest in me as more than just a friend. I don’t ping anyone’s gaydar. As my Redhead Girl said one time, here I am proclaiming to the world my sexuality and hardly anything’s opened up, while here she is denying her sexuality until very recently and already she’s got a strong support network and even a relationship or two. I suppose having a boyfriend doesn’t really help (“yay, another barsexual”?) but at least talk to me beforehand and not make assumptions?
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Is Black Queer Back?

by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual

In Brooklyn one night in May I was treated to my very first performance from Monstah Black, an artist who defies categorization, but whose show I would characterize as part-rock concert, part-live art theatre, with a black queer bent. Despite my awe I managed to divert my eyes long enough to dwell on the audience, mostly avant-hip black Brooklyners, but with two notable exceptions: indie filmmaker and artist Hanifah Walidah and, looking a touch out of place, internationally renowned artist Chuck Close.

I started thinking that something rather trendy was going on. Monstah Black seemed to be just one of a several black artists, performers and personalities working today trafficking in what he calls “genderfuckery.” (Though maybe I was just flush from an unusually art-glamorous day at internationally renowned artist David Salle‘s salon with such art world luminaries as Dana SchutzAmy Sillman and Eva Respini in attendance!).

Has black queer (and, in many cases, black androgyny) come back in style?

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“La Mission” and Latino Masculinities

by Guest Contributor Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, originally published at Hairspray and Fideo and Blabbeando

[For a summary of the film, see here.]

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a screening of Peter Bratt’s La Mission. The screening, which was part of a limited release, was at San Francisco’s Metreon Theaters. My compañero and I, joined by two of our queer sisters of color, were lucky enough to find seats in relative proximity to each other in the sold-out space.

It was a late night screening and the vast majority of folks in the theater were people of color. In fact, I’d say most of the people there were Latina/o, with a nice mix of generations representing. The experience was unforgettable as all four of us, none of which were born and raised in San Francisco, were sitting in what seemed to be an intimate living room screening of La Mission.

We all smiled and were occasionally misty-eyed as people in the crowd, youth and adults, loudly expressed their pride in the various shots of San Francisco portrayed in the film. During the movie, I realized that this was the first time I had ever witnessed the screening of a film that embodied the geographic and cultural identities of the audience. People not only saw themselves on the big screen, they also saw the places that have shaped and witnessed them.
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