Hollywood is too white, too straight and too male. Year after year, studies keep showing this trend, and now, there’s another one that goes into even more detail about the lack of representation of various minority groups in media.
Researchers from the Media, Diversity, & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC Annenberg this month released a report showing just how bad things are, from the unacceptable sexualization of girls in movies to the virtual absence of characters with disabilities.
A few snapshots: When it comes to speaking characters, the ratio of men to women in films is about 2.3 to 1. In the top 100 films of 2015, there were only 32 LGBT characters (and only 18 films had an LGBT character at all). Nearly three-quarters of all the speaking characters in the films were white. And only 2.4% of speaking characters in the top films were depicted with a disability.
So it has come to my attention that there are some members out there in the trans community who do not find me representative of what the trans community looks like. My question is, what exactly do you expect me to look like, and also what is your idea of how the trans community looks? Everyone’s journey is different, and is at a different place in their transition. I’ve been on hormones for a little over two years now. But there are many who have begun earlier and later in life. Perhaps it is because I do not post many photos of myself as I am shown above. My hairpiece (yes I wear a wig and have for years as my hairline is slightly receded though my hair is growing) is off. I’m not wearing makeup. I’m clean shaven, because even after 1500$ later and six laser hair sessions I still have stubble and coarse facial hair. So here is me…natural and what I look like when I’m at home by myself taking it easy from the constant mental struggle of identity I’m going through. On these days I relax and let my worries disperse. I’m not afraid of the journey ahead, just focusing on the now. To me this is representative of my community.
To me..this is what trans looks like.
Trump has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), if passed by congress. It was first introduced in the House on June 17, 2015 and would effectively legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination across the board, including among employers, businesses, landlords and healthcare providers, as long as they claim to be motivated by a firmly held religious beliefs.
“Trans men, women, and nonbinary folks are largely missing from the comics industry’s stories. Sure, we might appear now and then, but very few comics specifically focus on our lives. These five webcomic stories put trans characters on center stage and explore the ways we live, love, laugh, and hurt as trans people. Serious and humorous, supernatural and slice-of-life, the following five comics are perfect for any trans reader looking to see themselves in the webcomic world.”
Rape culture and homophobia has long been a prevalent staple in
Hip-Hop lyricism. It is as popular in usage as misogyny. Name any one of
your favorite rappers or rap groups - Tupac, B.I.G., N.W.A., Snoop
Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Tyler the Creator. Shit, even Common; all have
stuck their hand in the metaphorical homophobic and/or sexist jar.
“Suck my dick.”
The implications run rampant: sexual
assault and very implicit sexual abuse to women right along with those
who are deemed soft or not masculine enough to thrive in the coliseum
are almost par for the course. That is the art of rap words. Those so
fond of the golden era of Hip-Hop may be too awestruck to recognize the
belligerence of some of our greatest heroes, many of which, if we played
their lyrics out loud in mixed company, may invoke a few throat
scratches and seat shifting. The LGBTQ community, women (specifically,
women of color) and our young people, who are so often the victims of
abuse, for years, have been calling for support of their voices and
empathy for their hardships. And we have, in return, offered them empty
rhetoric, and KRS-One.
I loved KRS-One. Growing up a young,
nappy, Hip-Hop headed Bronxite, Chris Parker was Noah meets Che Guevara
meets Amiri Baraka. When speaking on the elders, the pillars and
foundation of the soil, bones, and infrastructure that is Hip-Hop as a
culture, a music, and movement, Chris Parker could easily fall in the
same category as Kool Herc, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash, Grandmaster
Caz, and the Sugar Hill Gang — legends. If you are a student of the
roots of the music, you know his story. He was homeless, writing raps in
the shelters of New York City, and teams up with Scott La Rock. From
there, he creates the Bronx anthem (“South Bronx”), beefs with MC Shan
and The Juice Crew, and proceeds to create one of the greatest diss
records of all time (“The Bridge is Over”). He loses his D.J., Scott
LaRock, to gun violence, makes a shift in ethics and begins making more
socially conscious records. KRS-One becomes a Hip-Hop teacher, preaching
the gospels and pillars of Hip-Hop which are deejaying, b-boying,
graffiti, and emceeing.
KRS-One defined my experience as a
budding emcee for years - the tapestry of the learnings, bobbing and
weaving seamlessly into the day-to-day. Mine consisted of ducking gangs,
bus stop razor blade scuffles, and chain tuckings on trains. These were
the things that made up New York City in the early 90’s. This was the
living for a majority of us in the inner-city; what we had grown
accustomed to. I was never a Five Percenter or Zulu Nation member, never
could identify with Israelite brothers bunched on corners dressed like
afro-futuristic ghetto warriors spouting Whitey and anti-semitic views,
but the lyrical content of the KRS-One’s and Poor Righteous Teacher’s of
the world, that of knowledge of self, and supreme mathematics, colored
my days, and made me want to be as Black as I possibly could be, and led
to a desire for self-discovery and evaluation in a way that seemed
non-existent before their arrivals.
Rape victims face many issues when
attempting to go public with their abuse:the possibility of fear and
ridicule at the hands of their community and peers, ostracization from
the public, potentially even family,not to mention the victim shaming
that can occur. During the month of April in 2016, The New York Daily
News ran a story on Ronald Savage,
a former congressman, who sat and told the paper that the Hip-Hop
legend known as Afrika Bambaataa, had molested him. He spoke of being
led into a room and asked to do things that an impressionable
12-year-old, who admired and respected one of the architects of the
sound that helped create what we call Rap music, would do because he was
simply asked Ronald to do it, and was told that it was normal. Ronald
spoke about his interactions with women in his adult years, the
difficulty of impotency, of hiding the past; Ronald expressed a need for
New York to lift the statute of limitations on rape and sexual
assaults. Ronald mentioned meeting with Bambaataa and members of the
Zulu Nation, expressing a need for closure, and an admission of guilt by
Bambaataa. He was, allegedly, given assurances that a public apology
would be issued. He received neither. Countless men came forward
following Ronald’s admission of what happened while touring with
Bambaataa, one of them being Bambaataa’s former bodyguard They
circulated in and out of Bambaataa’s tour-room. There are countless
stories of inappropriate touching involving Bambaataa and boys who
placed their trust in their idol.
The Zulu Nation offered its own
verdict. The Nation described those who decided to come forward as
ousted members who were seeking attention. By this time, KRS-One had
already gotten on the radio, made a semi-fool of himself, and followed
it up with an open letter on his site making more of a fool of himself,
all the while plugging some upcoming projects. KRS’ suggests the victims
are operating from a place of “hate”, and “revenge”. The posturing is
endemic of the hip-hop community as whole, especially when it comes to
the ramifications of admitting that pedestal in which someone such as a
Bambaataa has been lifted upon may be a false one. KRS’ stance fall is
in line historically with what has, at times, plagued hip-hop’s
progression: we have long touted being the voice for the underserved,
and yet remain stoically silent when addressing the concerns and
grievances of our brothers and sisters who may need our voices the most.
Our silence on matters of rape culture, on homophobia, on patriarchy,
makes us just as implicit as those who carry out violence and use
language that vilifies victims, as opposed to supporting them.
Even in a sensationalist news cycle,
full of paparazzi fanfare and political farce, it seemed the noise had
quieted. But KRS-One was not done. KRS-One would proceed to call the leaders of our community infallible
(also, whether intentionally or unintentionally, throwing his name in
the proverbial hat) and that greats such as Bambaataa deserve a pass. It
is this, this act of blatant male privilege that lets Ray Rice back on
the field, Chris Brown back in a booth, and Dr. Dre back running a
record label. We are all flawed, yes, with no exceptions or exemptions,
but where do those who feel unsafe and unheard go when systems created
to protect no longer serve the greater good of the victims, but rather
play the role of accomplice to our most popular and revered
perpetrators? It is this that has brought us here. The implications are
far-reaching — because if our leaders are untouchable, where does this
leave us with the Bambaataa’s of the world, and how and where are the
The Sanctuary, Studio 54, 12 West,
The 10th Floor - the clubs that housed Gay culture in New York City, and
the sounds that would form the foundations of Hip-Hop which are reggae,
R&B, rock, and afro-beat; have co-existed within arms reach of each
other since the days of disco. The music and the creators of said
music, danced, sweated, deejayed and emceed grooves in many of the same
and more popular night spots in New York City, which so happened to be
frequented by those in the gay community. Fab 5 Freddy sharing space
with Boy George, Melle Mel rubbing shoulders with Sylvester. The
surprise and shock of our current state of affairs have less to do with
the deplorable actions of Bambaataa or the outlandishness of the words
of KRS, and more to do with how outdated and backward we as a community
can be, and proof of how far we have yet to go. It is the idea of
homophobia, the fear of Black gay culture, and in particular the outing
of Black gay celebrities, that keeps the conversations that deserve our
attention, in their respective shadows. Whether it is the rhetoric of
respected elders like Lord Jamar or any of the comments under a Frank
Ocean YouTube video, old prejudices and ideas surrounding homosexuality
still exist, and so does victim-shaming.
Legends, idols, prophets, leaders
- all will fail, will wilt, die, deceive, and fall. And with them, the
ideals and ideas tacked to their memory often fall along with them.
Hip-Hop is changing before our eyes, becoming more inclusive, bridging
more gaps, opening more doors for the voiceless in ways that were
unheard of in the days when Boogie Down Productions was an affiliation
and namesake a little kid from the Bronx could be proud of. From the
androgynous rap stylings of Young Thug to the recent success of the
openly gay, Young M.A to Pusha-T and Kendrick Lamar both being invited
to the White House; Hip-Hop seems to have grown up. Unfortunately, when
times change, sometimes the people do not. Hip-Hop is for the people.
Some of Hip-Hop’s icons need to be reminded of such.
Kenny Cooley made headlines in his hometown in Halifax, Nova Scotia and all around the world last week, as the first out transgender football player on his high school team. But two days after the news broke, Cooley said he was fired from his job at the local McDonald’s, and his boss said it was in part because of those headlines. In an interview with Canada‘s Metronews, Cooley said he was given two reasons for dismissal: “one because of the media, and two because we had some schedule mishaps.”
When Cooley, 17, was profiled in LGBTQ Nation, he spoke about how “caring” and “accepting” the other boys on the team were. But Metronews reports his boss at McDonald’s on Bedford Highway didn’t even respond to press inquiries. A McDonald’s spokesperson contacted by Metronews would not confirm Cooley had been let go. The website did receive an emailed statement from the branch owner, Bob Smith, who said he was “shocked by these allegations as they are simply not true.”
LGBTQ Nation emailed and tweeted to McDonald’s corporate PR for clarification but did not receive a response at press time.
According to Metronews, a local group called the Youth Project has asked McDonald’s to reinstate Cooley and issue an apology: In addition, Executive Director Kate Shewan says McDonald’s should update their policies on gender identity and sexual orientation to make sure “they’re much more inclusive and respectful of everybody.”
“Youth are constantly telling us that they’re denied employment opportunities because they’re trans – we hear it happening all the time,” Shewan told Metronews. “When it’s in the media, we felt that it was important to show our support.”
Obama called the museum necessary because “It reminds us that routine discrimination and Jim Crow aren’t ancient history, it’s just a blink in the eye of history. It was just yesterday.” People “should not be surprised that not all the healing is done,” said President Obama. The 400,000 square foot museum includes over 34,000 items within 11 collections that tell the story of African-American history and culture through sports, music and performance, military history, civil rights, and more.
President Obama mentioned the importance of unity between cultures during his speech. “And so hopefully this museum can help us talk to each other. And more importantly, listen to each other. And most importantly, see each other. Black and white and Latino and Native American and Asian American — see how our stories are bound together. And bound together with women in America, and workers in America, and entrepreneurs in America, and LGBT Americans,” Obama said Saturday.
The museum features several LGBT artifacts, including a famous photo of a man holding a sign that reads “I’m a black gay man,” from the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., in 1995. The museum will also have a playbill on display from The Colored Museum, a sketch series from Tony award-winning playwright George C. Wolfe, about African-American life from a satirical perspective. One of those sketches features Miss Roz, a black transgender woman.