Welcome back to another episode of Toya’s Chronicles. Just in case you missed episode one, go back and read it. In the meantime, I can give you a quick recap. I wrote about my journey to making my first official short film. From the concept of the idea to the film playing on the big screen at a local theater. That was such a great experience and I aim for many more. Let me fast forward to now episode II where I will express my desire on why I want to see more images and stories about queer black women on television. Until then, in the words of Jessie Jackson “Keep Hope Alive”. So, lets jump right into it.
Why is it important to see queer black women on TV? Well, the answer is obvious, at least it should be. Seeing a representation of yourself on TV makes it feel like people know you exist in the world. Makes you feel relatable to those that maybe different from you. At the end of the day we are all human beings that desire to be respected and looked at as human beings with real feelings and emotions. Whether we like to admit it or not the images that we see over time seeps into our subconscious which develops our beliefs. I think of young people or even older adults who may struggle with coming out. Too afraid that they will not be loved. There was a case down in Texas a few years ago where this father bludgeons his 24-year-old daughter to death, shot his daughter’s girl friend to death and disposed their bodies near a dumpster. All because he did not approve of the “sinful lifestyle” even though he was registered as a sex offender. Let that marinate for a minute. Maybe, if the father saw images of queer black women like his daughter on TV he would have thought twice before committing such heinous acts of murder.
From my own personal experience, it would have been easier for me to accept my own sexual orientation quicker if I would have seen more images of queer people of color especially black woman like myself growing up in the 90s, or even during my coming out years in the late 00s. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see people of color in general on tv. But, I yearned for a little more representation in my early twenties (even though I was in denial of my sexual orientation). It was a struggle coming out in my early twenties and I felt all alone. Partly, because I felt as though I had to be either a stud or a fem (more on that later). If you know me, you know that I am neither. Yes, I am quite sure there were community centers or groups that I could have reached out to. But being an introvert those type of settings do not necessarily fit me. I would have felt more comfortable seeing representation of myself in the comfort of my private space.
A friend introduced me to the L-Word (s/o to Showtime) in the late 00s and although the show had a predominately white cast I could relate on many levels. I felt as though I could see myself in the characters due to the fact I was watching a group of LGBT women being portrayed on television. Something that I had never seen before on screen. The show was a breath of fresh air which made a part of me feel recognized and accepted for one hour once a week. After a while I started to wonder did any of these LGBT characters have any black LGBT friends or companions that looked like me with kinky hair, wonderful full lips and darker tone skin??? Yes, I know one of the main characters, Bette Porter, played by Jennifer Beals is half black and half white. But, I am talking about the representation of darker skin individuals. History has shown us that darker skin is considered to be less than and not visually desirable (Side note: Tanning Salons are a BILLION dollar industry… I wonder why?!?). So, I was craving for a little more representation and guess who showed up in season 4, Tasha Williams, (The name alone sounds like a good representation) played by Rose Rollins. I was elated and it felt like I literally saw myself on TV. Even though, it is a fictional character that was written for everyone to watch. Once again, in those moments I felt recognized and accepted.
Fast forward to a decade later, 2018, where there are more stories being told of LGBT women of color primary on youtube. But, even those stories need to be told from different perspectives to give us different visuals of black LGBT people. Remember black LGBT women are not a monolithic. I will be ecstatic the day I see a predominate cast of black LGBT women on a well-known network like showtime, hbo, starz, fox, or even on a major streaming platform like Netflix or Amazon. In the meantime, I will sit back and enjoy the current shows that represent the black LGBT communities like Dear White People, Pose, or replay Master of None season 2 episode 8 “Thanksgiving” Co-Written by Lena Waithe. I am quite sure she (1st black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding writing in a comedy series) is working on something special for her “LGBTQIA family”. Better yet, I should write the characters that I want to see.