Thanks to Spotify, I can’t remember the last time I actually bought music by one artist.
Maybe in 2010?
But when Lil’ Nas X’s “Old Town Road” was on its way to beating Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” for the longest-running number one on the Hot 100, I knew I needed to support this fresh-out-of-the-closet, Black man.
He not only embodied #BlackBoyJoy, he was #GayBlackBoyJoy. For him to have a hit across country, hip-hop, and pop—and go down in pop culture history—I knew I had to do my part by buying all 5 million remixes and streaming the hell out of them.
Seeing Lil’ Nas X break that record, then grace the cover of Time, then take home at VMA ,melted my cold, Black, gay heart.
Finally, a victory for boys like me.
And as I reflect on his success, I can’t help but reflect on how so many queer Black folk are out here winning in 2019.
Obviously, I have to start by praising—once again—Pose with its beautiful LGBTQ cast of color. The powerful, captivating, hilarious, nuanced storytelling we are witnessing on that show is mind-blowing and heart-wrenching. Plus, we get an icon in Billy Porter and heartthrobs and stars-in-the-making Ryan Jamaal Swain and Dyllon Burnside.
But let’s not forget about how Emmy-winner Lena Waite is out here running Hollywood with her recently announced deal with Amazon. She has 3 shows on the air now and a handful more in the works. Over the years, white queer creators Ryan Murphy and Greg Berlanti brought some of the most inspiring and entertaining queer characters and storylines to our screens from Glee and American Crime Story to Arrow and Love, Simon. And while both have featured well-rounded LGBTQ characters of color in their work, Waithe brings even richer storytelling from characters with whom she directly identifies.
Earlier this year, Waithe helped bring a spectrum of queerness to BET with the TV version of Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry’s 1992 classic Boomerang. We got Black trans women and men, studs, and femmes on a network that forced B. Scott off its red carpet for their femme fashion at the BET Awards in 2013.
Talk about getting a seat at the table and then shaking it!
Waithe bringing Boomerang to BET is major for everything that we know about the importance of representation. And I cannot wait for her show Twenties, a TBS comedy centering a queer, Black woman.
“I always wanted to tell a story where a queer Black woman was the protagonist, and I’m so grateful to TBS for giving me a platform to tell this story,” Waithe told TVLine last year. “Queer Black characters have been the sidekick for long enough, it’s time for us to finally take the lead.”
And let’s be real, when it comes to representation, gayness, in general, has basically centered on dudes. I’m ready to hear my sisters’ stories. I’m ready to see the L in the LGBTQ community winning. I’m ready to see some girl-on-girl loving!
Speaking of which, Netflix finally dropped season three of Justin Simien’s Dear White People. This season we meet Genifer, the show’s first trans character (played by Quei Tann). Brooke explores her sexuality giving us a lesbian storyline. And Lionel (DeRon Horton) starts a relationship with a classmate who is HIV positive. Plus, it’s just overall entertaining and enjoyable to watch.
Has TV ever been so gay and good?! And it’s not just centered around our trauma!
Over on OWN, Moonlight’s Oscar-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney and executive producers Oprah and Michael B. Jordan premiered David Makes Man this month. The 10-episode series about an intellectually gifted Black teen in gritty South Florida named David was inspired by McCraney’s experiences growing up poor in the Sunshine State. In the series, you see David move through two worlds, navigate a possible same-sex crush on his friend and more much-needed visibility to the Black queer world through gender-nonconforming character Mx. Elijah (played by gay actor-comedian Travis Coles).
McCraney also crushed it on Broadway this year. His play Choir Boy, a powerful story about being Black and gay while attending a prestigious all-male prep school, earned 4 Tony nominations.
Alexa, play DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win!”
Now, before the “I DoN’t SeE RaCe” comments stream in, let me remind you the way to get acceptance of LGBTQ people, which is in decline thanks to our current reactionary political climate, is to tell our stories that shape and change the culture. And we all know the power media has.
So queer representation—even if it’s starring a Black actress—is not just feather in the cap for the gay community. It’s a blow against bigotry.
But the Black queer, trans, and gender non-conforming community faces discrimination to a higher degree than the rest of the community because of the intersection of racism, transphobia, and homophobia. Countless studies find this community experiences a higher level of poverty, suicide attempts, harassment and violence.
I’m so thrilled to see we’re finally getting the heroes we desperately need to keep the next generation’s head up.