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LGBTQ

RuPaul’s Drag Race & a Bit of Jargon

It’s finally happening, squirrel friends! Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Friday, March 24th at 8/7c on VH1.

The herstory of Drag is one of struggle, damnation, and, most importantly, fabulous ferocity. Drag is something that has been widely misunderstood, and even more widely unaccepted. RuPaul Charles—more appropriately, Mama Ru—has been working for decades to expose Drag to the masses as a normal and respected practice and art form.

In that time, he has gained notoriety as not only a fashion icon, but as a feminine icon. Drag has shaken the foundations of commonly accepted gender roles and expanded what American society accepts and embraces as beauty. People are beginning to accept that Drag is not taboo. Thanks in large part to the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race and its contestants, the world is learning to not only accept Drag, but to respect it. Read More..

Queer Adventures in Romance

Every year, I try to challenge myself to diversify my reading.  Whether it’s exploring a new genre or delving into books written by authors of color, part of what I love most about reading is seeing the world from a new perspective or gaining a greater understanding of the beautiful lives of others.

This fall, I became obsessed with LGBTQ+ Romance novels, a genre I tend to avoid because I find it to be riddled with stereotypes.  Imagine my surprise when I picked up Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk, which proved to be so much more than the generic romances I’ve become accustomed to perusing at the grocery store check-out aisle.   Read More..

YA Backlist: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

Yes, that catchy electropop hit by Ellie Goulding from 2012 is the inspiration and anthem for this young adult novel from 2015. Anything Could Happen is a light-hearted, pleasant read filled with optimism and a bit of cheese. Read More..

What’s the T? The Best Movie of 2015 You Didn’t See

Produced by the Duplass Brothers, Sean Baker’s fifth film Tangerine is a rip-roaring, relentless comedy that stars newcomers Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor as two black transgender sex workers hustling in the streets of Hollywood.

 Shot entirely on an iPhone 5s with an anamorphic lens adapter created by Moondog Labs, Tangerine is nothing short of a technical marvel.  The cinematography is surprisingly lush and exudes an exquisite, sun-baked warmth that immediately transports viewers to the heated streets of Hollywood.  Each scene plays out like a moving work of art, and it is a world to bask in as events occur on screen.

 On Christmas Eve, Sin-Dee Rella (Rodriguez) gets out of jail after 28 days and stops for a donut with her best friend Alexandra (Taylor).  Alexandra accidentally informs her that Sin-Dee’s pimp and boyfriend Chester has been cheating on her with a “real fish” – aka a white woman whose name starts with the letter D.  Sin-Dee will stop at nothing to scour the city, find the girl, and exact her own form of revenge.  Seamlessly woven into this story is the life of an Armenian cab driver, Razmik, whose actions become irrevocably tied to the world of Sin-Dee and Alexandra with a surprising reveal that slowly unravels as the film progresses.

 Tangerine succeeds because of the rawness and honesty of both the story and the incredible performances of Rodriguez and Taylor.  Unlike other comedies, it doesn’t try to sugarcoat life with a veneer and instead explores street subcultures in a documentary-esque film that functions more as an ethnography and less as a work of fiction.  All of the characters are deeply flawed and yet are unabashedly and unapologetically themselves.  Tangerine doesn’t shy away from sensitive subjects or mature content, because that’s not how the world works, and the film is so much better because of it.

 Tangerine

When I first heard that the Duplass Brothers were producing a comedy about black transgender sex workers, I had some initial concerns with the potential direction and representation.  All of these anxieties quickly dissipated as the narrative unfolded, and I found myself not only drawn into the lives of these complex characters but also reflecting on my own existence and preconceived notions.

 Tangerine is such an empowering film to watch because the filmmakers have created a story that provides a positive and honest portrayal of transgender sex workers.  Underneath the main story is a compelling social commentary on homophobia, drug addiction, and the illicit sex trade.  It never feels condescending or stereotypical but instead humanizes a part of reality that is often skewed in a negative light.

Rather than take brutality to the max for sheer shock value, Tangerine instead focuses on the characters’ inward sense of self-respect and how they try to remain strong in the face of adversity.  In one particularly hilarious exchange between Alexandra and Sin-Dee while walking down the boulevard, Alexandra remarks, “The world can be a cruel place.”  Sin-Dee responds: “Yeah it is cruel.  God gave me a penis.” Tangerine is at its core a beautiful story of friendship, compassion, and love.  Try not to cry as you become enraptured by the experiences of these intriguing characters.  I dare you.

 In the 2015 Studio Responsibility Index, which analyzes the number, caliber, and range of LGBTQ+ representation in 2014 films, GLAAD notes that out of 114 releases from major studios, none of them had characters that identify as transgender.  Although continual progress has been made in including more LGBTQ+ diversity in television and film, especially with the widespread critical acclaim of shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black, there is still a severe lack of both transgender characters and positive representations in popular media.   Not only is it important that there are more opportunities for transgender identifying and gender nonconforming individuals to work behind the scenes and in front of the camera in all types of roles, but we also need a more true-to-life portrayal of the diversity of the transgender experience that moves beyond stereotype or satire.

 Only when the full spectrum of gender and sexual identity are on the silver screen can individuals begin to see their own experiences reflected back at them, which shows them that they are not alone in the world.  With a recent Oscar campaign push for Rodriguez and Taylor, I can only hope that more people will see this incredible film, and it will leave a lasting impression on their lives just as it has left on mine.

Reading Equality

 

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made a historic ruling in favor of marriage equality. Read More..