The New Black: Homophobia in the African American Community

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The New Black is a documentary that was filmed in Maryland and produced in 2013 by film director, screenwriter and producer, Yoruba Richen. Richen was born in 1972, graduated from Brown University, lived in San Francisco and currently resides in New York City. The New Black won the audience award for AFI Docs, Frameline Film Festival and Philly Q Fest, and was also nominated for the NAACP Image Award and GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. Yoruba Richen has also produced and directed other films such as Promised Land, which received an award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Her documentary gives the perspective of the African American community struggling with, the then idea of gay rights—it gave insight on gay rights and how it intersects with religious politics and civil politics. The documentary highlights the legalization of same sex marriage and focuses on the different families and religious leaders on both sides of the campaign. The documentary critically analyzes homophobia within the African American community and attempts to determine whether same sex marriage is a religious issue or civil.

“The way I look at civil rights in that order is discrimination is based on something that I had no control over. I had no control over the fact that God made me Black, and I had no control over the fact that God made me a female. So if you discriminate against me on those basis, but being gay and lesbian, to my way of thinking, is something you chose to do.”~ Member of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

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Hope Christian Church is a church in Maryland that is led by Derek McCoy. The documentary follows him and a few other people, Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition; American minister and Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Reverend Delman Coates; Karess Taylor-Hughes, field organizer for Equality Maryland and The Human Rights Campaign; Samantha Master,Youth and Campus Outreach Intern for the Human Rights Campaign; and gospel singer Tonéx.

Religion versus politics is an obvious theme throughout the documentary, but another theme was “Is this a religion issue or civil rights issue?” From the religious political perspective there was Pastor Derek McCoy who was campaigning to stop the redefinition of marriage. He believes that marriage is meant for man and woman and that’s it. During his campaigning he involved children, who appeared to be around 7 and 8 years old, because he thought they were educated enough on the subject. Children only know what they are taught so it is hard for children to form an opinion of their own. From young ages boys are taught they cannot play with dolls because it is feminine and the parents “fear” that their son will become gay. This is especially true within the Black community. Growing up in that setting, on top of growing up in a Black conservative church, homosexuality was something that you didn’t speak about. It is “wrong, damned and ultimately a choice”. Most Black churches believe that being a homosexual is a decision that you made because God did not make man gay and woman lesbian. Pastor Derek McCoy believed that this was a religious issue and nothing more.

“The Black church to this day remains fundamentally conservative.”~ Rev. Delman Coates

On the other hand you have Reverend Delman Coates who was also a religious leader at his church but he believed that same sex marriage was a civil rights issues. He recognized that giving homosexuals, Blacks specifically, this right was another form of freedom.

Oppression on Blacks has existed since slavery and still exists to this day. Homosexuality is not something “new” or “generational” as some religious leaders like to put it. Bayard Rustin was an openly gay Black man who marched beside Martin Luther King, Jr., and was one of the main driving forces of the Civil Rights Movement, but he couldn’t be the “face” of the marches because he was a gay man and that was frowned upon. Reverend Delman Coates critically examined homophobia within African American community because he believed that Blacks are oppressed enough. He didn’t think that African Americans should oppress their own people even more, when the rest of the world is already doing that.

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“They use the pulpit as a space of hate, to undermine people’s rights…”

There is a sense of power that exists when one is in a position to persuade people. There is especially a greater sense of power when religion is involved because when people feel as though they have nothing, they fall back on their faith. Pastors, priests, deacons, etc. use their position to preach what they believe to be true. They use religion and scream what is right and wrong, but forget that denying a human their right to make a decision is wrong. They also turn people away from the church and religion as a whole. One of the gay rights activists in the documentary, Samantha Master, turned away from her faith and fell into a deep depression because the church shunned her sexual orientation.

Saying no to same sex marriage is taking away that freedom—for Blacks it is another form of oppression and is something else that needs the fight.

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“I believe that there is a lot in the African American experience, that same-gendered families can draw from. How to have a family when you are marginalized.”

Kent Monkman and Miss Chief

Kent Monkman is an artist from Canada that has an ancestry of Cree Native Americans. He works with a variety of mediums such as: paintings, film, and performance. His works are modern interpretations of Native Americans in today’s culture, with a heavy focus on the Two Spirit traditions that the Native Americans have. A reoccurring character in Kent’s portfolio is that of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, which is Kent’s drag queen alter ego. I believe that this is a great addition to the archive because not only are there no posts about Two Spirit traditions, but there is also a great representation of queer culture in his paintings.   One can almost always find a representation of one or both represented in Kent’s paintings.

Miss Chief, the drag queen alter ego of Kent, is depicted throughout many of his paintings. Miss Chief is a two-spirit person, in Native American culture this means that the person believes that their spirit is both male and female and the person fulfills both those gender roles in their tribe. Their appearance generally depicts a more masculine or feminine version of themselves. In Miss Chief’s case, it is the outward appearance of a female but the outward genitalia of a male.

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(Kent Monkman – The Trapper’s Bride – 2006 – acrylic on canvas)

 

In the picture above, on the back of the horse in the middle of the painting is Miss Chief. On can tell, as you look over Miss Chief’s body, there are both male and female aspects to it. The male parts being the very defined muscles and sharp facial features that Miss Chief possesses. The female attributes are a bit easier to detect on Miss Chief, there are the heels on her feet, the long hair with the ribbon in it, and the long black dress she is wearing.

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(Kent Monkman – Study for Artist and Model – 2003 – acrylic on canvas)

 

In this painting Miss Chief is depicted in the lower right-hand corner of the picture. Miss Chief is painting the exposed man that is against the tree that she shot at.   One can tell that it was Miss Chief who shot at the man, because hooked on the easel in the middle of the painting are arrows with pink feathers on them, these match the arrows that are in the mans body in the bottom left of the painting. Miss Chief is wearing a headdress that is generally seen worn by the Chief of the tribe, but is also wearing pink stilettos, pink covering over the exposed testicles, and Miss Chiefs arrow sheath has the Louis Vuitton monogramed cover on it. This depicts both the male and female parts that make up Miss Chief.

Miss Chief is a lot like the Indian woman depicted in “Coyote Takes a Trip” by Deborah Miranda. In this short story, Coyote is taking the bus down to Venice, as he tries to get his mojo back, where he encounters three old women. He pays no mind to two of them but the third, the Indian he takes a fancy to. He describes this woman in great detail about what her hands looked like, that her skin was wrinkly but not too much, that her makeup was well put on and not too heavy. While he was staring at her, he almost missed his stop, which caused him to get up in a rush and inadvertently his pants fell down. Once righted and off the bus, the two other ladies were laughing and talking about him, and he noticed that the Indian lady was giving him the eye. That then, was when he realized that the lady he thought was a lady was in fact a man.  In this short story and in Kent Monkman’s paintings, the two-spirit individual is hard to pinpoint without having analyzed the works thoroughly. In both the two-spirit character is hidden well and unless you know about two-spirit traditions it is hard to pick out.

Burning Blue

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The romance movie,”Burning Blue”, written and directed by D. M. W. Greer tells the love story between three men serving in the United State Navy as fighter pilots. The controversial policy ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ implemented my President Bill Clinton catapulted massive waves of witch-hunts for the prosecution of gay service members. In total, over 14,000 highly qualified men and women service members were forced out of the military under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In this movie, it captured and illustrated the emotional, devastating and tragic consequences of the policy when it threaten to derail the careers of Dan Lynch, William Stephenson and Matt Blackburn who were all fighter pilots in the Navy. This entire movie is reminiscent of “Poem II”, from the Adrienne Rich’s Twenty-One Love Poems collection.

Dan Lynch is best friends with William Stephenson. They are both fighter pilots for the Navy. Dan and Will made a promise to one another to fulfill their childhood dreams of honorably serving in the Navy and transitioning to the prestigious Navy Test Pilot Program together. Although the movie did not show any obvious romance scene, there were subtle signs that Dan and Will might of had something more than a regular male friendship between them. Both men were dating women. Dan got engaged to a women. Will got married and eventually had a son. Their friendship was intensely homo-erotic.

Matt Blackburn came into Dan life when one of the other fighter pilots in their squadron died of a training accident aboard an aircraft carrier. The crash prompted an NCIS investigation into the crash. Matt was a handsome guy with a chiseled jaw line and the personality of an “alpha” male. He was also married. Dan and Matt eventually starting hanging around each other. They were spotted dancing together in a New York City gay night club while on liberty. Will soon distanced himself from Dan. The initial investigation of an airplane crash soon turned its an investigation into the personal lives of Dan, Will and Matt.

The movie perfectly illustrated the witch-hunt of gay service members under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. Dan was stalked and photos were taken of him with Matt and Will at different occasions. The pictures were “suggestive” in nature but never were any concrete evidences that factually pointed to them to homosexual intercourse. Some of these photos were of Dan and Will drunkenly dancing with each other after a house party while Will’s wife briefly went upstairs. Another photo was recovered as evidence revealing five naked men, including Will and Dan, posing in a provocative nature. As explained by one of the men in the picture during an interrogation, that the picture was only an attempt to recreate a naked painting the men have seen at a museum. Can it be possible that being too close to another man, such as your best friend, be subject to violation of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’?

The tangled triangle romance between Dan, Will and Matt was tested. All of the men showed no ‘stereotypical” physical indications of homosexuals. All of the men were in a straight relationship with other women. Dan got engaged. Will married and had a son. Matt was married. Unfortunately, these types of relationships are common in the military with gay men under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. The suppression of homosexual desires were often masked and disguised with relationship with women. Thrusting themselves deeper and deeper into the heterosexual culture. The military expected these men to be heterosexuals. The investigation led to the death of Matt. Dan eventually left the Navy and Will admitted that he loved Dan all along.

Two of the most profound moments in the movie were when Dan proclaimed his love for Matt by saying, “If we are careful, we can do this. We can.” and Will’s admission of love to Dan at the very last scene of the movie.

This movie is in direct relations to Adrienne Rich’s “Poem II”, the struggles of homosexuals everywhere to be accepted. Even though Rich’s poem was written in the context from a lesbian and women point of view, it is still as equally significant to male homosexuality point of view. A part of the poem I found that correlated well to this movie was “and I laugh and fall dreaming again, of the desire to show you to everyone I love, to move openly together”.

 

I am Jazz

TLC (Tender Love Care) formally known as “The Learning Channel” is owned by the Discovery Communications and has been televised since 1972. From the year 2001 and now, It has been focused on showing educational and learning content to its viewers. Lately, the network admits, “we began to primarily focus towards reality series involving lifestyles, family life, and personal stories.” Approximately 95 million American households have TLC broadcasted  on their cable TV’s in the study occurred in February 2015. On July 15, 2015 the first episode of ” I am Jazz” aired.

I chose this TV show because It represents Jazz as the normal teenage girl facing the common obstacles, yet she has announced she was transgender since she was two years old. She takes the ideal girl image and challenges the norm, which puts pressure on the values, and creates a different outlook on the word “identity”. She fails at being a biological man, but exceeds more in being an inspiring educating realistic woman. She has done more as a 14 year old girl than the average girl her age. In fact her show has sparked interest and inspiration across the globe, to which she receives fan letters and emails everyday expressing their gratitude towards her. But she has faced numerous of obstacles in order to make herself and everyone who loves her, happy.

  1. Girls travel soccer:According to the United States Youth Soccer Association, there are two types of team genders. Jazz is allowed to practice with the girls teams but not play in games. Jeanette and Greg Jennings fought with the board at the matter, the board replied, “she will hurt somebody.” Her parents argued with the stereotypical reply, ” She plays like a girl.” Jazz and her parents fought long and hard on this pressing issue, but sadly denied because of her gender.
  2. Female Restroom: In her middle school Jazz continued to use the nurses office until she was fed up with it. Her and her mother gathered up legalized records stating her female gender, and brought them to the administration at her school. When Jazz received approval, she knew it was another important challenge she over came in order to be seen as a woman.
  3. Teachers: Every year on the first day of school Jazz had to be the first one in her classes to be able to speak to her teachers about her “GID”. She would need to explain her reasons why it was important to be referred to as a “her” and by the name she went by everyday.

Jazz was one of the youngest known cases in America to be documented as being in transition at two years old. Even though her obstacles are far from over, she uses her negative and positive experiences to encourage her supporters to do whats right for yourself, and shows what can be done in schools and sports to make that happen. For six years Jeanette has been speaking at Universities in South Florida to educate graduates and medical students about the LGBTQ scale and specifically gender dysphoric.

Transgender Symbol

Jazz’s achievements consist of:

  1. Being the leader of the trans kids movement.
  2. Jennings founded Purple Rainbow Tails, a company in which she fashions rubber mermaid tails to raise money for transgender children.
  3. She was also named one of “The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014” by time,
  4. Recognized as the youngest person ever featured on Out​s “Out 100” and Advocates “40 Under 40” lists
  5. Became a spokes model for Clean and Clear’s “See The Real Me” digital campaign and shared “the trials of growing up transgender.”
  6. Wrote the novel “I am Jazz” in 2013.

Below is a an interview with news broadcaster Katie Couric that sums up her book “I am Jazz” and a little more about her coming out to the public.

 

Chasing My Sexuality (Life)

Chasing Life, an ABC Family show mainly based around how the main character, April Carver, has cancer, has various subplots. One of them being about April’s younger sister Brenna and her continuous struggle to find herself and search for acceptance within the community. In the beginning of season one, Brenna discovers that she is bisexual. In early episodes when first discovering she is bisexual she meets a well-known, well-liked preppy lesbian named Greer. They hook up, eventually turning things into a relationship, and things get messy because Geer’s parents are set on getting her out of the ‘gay phase.’ So they break up when things got too complicated.

Later during season two, Brenna joins a LGBT+ group at her high school. When telling the group that she is indeed, bisexual, they make fun of her for it and say she’s attracted to whoever she feels like on any given day and that she’s just attracted to anything that walks, bringing out the bisexual stereotypes of that ‘they’re just not sure yet’ or that ‘bisexual girls are straight and bisexual guys are gay.’ Even when she tries explaining herself, another member of the group cuts her off explaining what happened when her ex bisexual girlfriend left her for a guy.

“I’m not going to apologize for my heart, okay?”

Although the one leader of the group seems to get it, no one else in the group does. While in a room full of minority groups, knowing how awful it is to be mislabeled, misrepresented and misjudged on sight, they do the same thing to her, expecting her to either be a lesbian or straight – bisexuality being out of the question. As that portion of the episode concludes, the leader of the group points out that there is a lot more to discuss about bisexuality, at that point, we meat an agender character who also feels that the others need to learn more about that as well.

 

This portion of the episode ties into Judith Butler’s gender performativity, in how gender is an ideal, in that when being attracted to someone, it should be one or the other, not both, or neither, or anything in between. Even in the end, when the agender character, Jerry, says that they need to explain what being agender is, proving that the group doesn’t understand nearly enough about the LGBT+ community. There is also a need to realize that gender is a fundamental concept that is for the most part, irrelevant. There isn’t a need in today’s society to define what gender you are along with your sexuality. Society needs to realize this and accept that it’s not just straight and gay anymore, there are so many more genders and sexualities that those need to educate themselves about.

Gender in Avatar: the Last Airbender

Gender is explored in many ways in the Nickelodeon show Avatar: the Last Airbender. The show was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and ran from 2005 to 2008. It is an animated series that was created in the U.S. but draws inspiration from anime styles. The show is set in a fictional world where certain people, called benders, can control an element; water, fire, earth, or air. In this world each “nation” of bending ability co-exists with the others peacefully until one nation, the Fire Nation, goes to war with the other nations to dominate the world. The Avatar is one person who can control all four elements at once. When the Fire Nation goes to war with all other nations the main character Aang is only 12 years old and is told that he is the avatar. Due to the pressure he runs away and gets caught in a storm and is frozen for 100 years while the Fire Nation wipes out the Air Nation, a nomadic people who embrace nonviolence. Aang is awakened by Katara and Sokka, who are from the Southern Water Tribe. I will focus on Aang, Katara, Zuko, and Toph as representative of prominent male and female characters depicting gender differently.

In the show gender is explored in a way that queers normative culture by challenging gender roles, prominent depictions of gender, and traits that typically correspond to gender. Through its diverse cast of characters the show depicts female characters that embrace masculine traits and feminine traits, and femininity is not depicted as submissive to masculinity. There are also male characters that embrace more feminine traits and defy the idea of heroic masculinity.

Katara embraces feminine characteristics in the show by becoming a motherly figure to other characters. She dresses in a feminine way and is nurturing but she is also very strong. She defies patriarchal institutions as well, asserting herself to become the student of a master who only teaches men. Toph is the opposite of Katara, she is rough and aggressive and does not dress in a feminine way. She is smaller than Katara but equally as strong. She was introduced to the show as an earthbender fighting in an underground competition where she beat out many huge and aggressive men. She also defies her parents who only see her as a delicate little girl by running away. This clip shows her defying her father’s and master’s expectations of her by defeating multiple enemies and saving Aang.

Zuko and Aang, two main characters who are male, help to deconstruct the heroic masculinity ideal presented by Halberstam. Halberstam presents that the typical heroic masculine character is a straight white male who is very one dimensional and depends upon others to prop him up. Aang and Zuko are the exact opposite of this. Aang is the avatar and has to resolve the worldwide conflict but he comes from a nomadic culture and typically avoids violence when he sees another alternative. Zuko is a much more aggressive character and is initially the villain of the series, but throughout the series he becomes less violent and eventually helps Aang defeat his father Firelord Ozai. Zuko was banished from the Fire Nation by Ozai because he showed sympathy for Fire Nation troops. The empathy and sympathy shown by Aang and eventually Zuko as well defies the idea of heroic masculinity. They are both heroic characters who are masculine but are well developed and complex character who also embrace nonviolence and understanding, traits more often seen as feminine.

Overture

Imagine having to leave home to get away from the thoughts and opinions of those surrounding you. Imagine feeling so alone. Imagine having to live your life through a secret. Overture is a short film that is about a transgender girl who starts college and locks away her past from everyone. In the beginning of the film Samantha, the main character, refuses to allow people into her life. This all changes when she meets Will and Jeff. Around Will she. Jeff is her gay friend and the only person that knows Samantha’s secret. She kept it hidden from everyone else fearing what others would think. Samantha’s roommate was the one to uncover the truth. Her roommate told all of Samantha’s friends and Will. This was the turning point in the film. Until this point, she felt like she was complete. After the word was out, she let that take control of her life. The film shows her sad and alone, it is like she is afraid to leave the comfort of her room and face people. Then, the first encounter between her and Will since finding out the truth, ends rather harsh. Through all the pain, she learned some valuable lessons like to embrace being transgender and force others to really see her. She learned to face reality with pride.

This short film was different from Casey Plett’s writing discussing her life as a transgender. Casey wrote in a very casual tone and, at times, made it even humorous or light hearted and straight forward where Overture was mainly a sad film. The entire film was about Samantha hiding the fact that she was transgender instead of embracing it. Casey seemed more open to allowing others to understand what she was going through. She was willing to open up to her roommate, friends, and girlfriend and they turned out to be very supportive. The people that mattered most, respected her and liked her for being herself. Samantha did not want to open up to anyone; she tried to stay closed off and hide any evidence of her previous life. When others did finally find out, they were angry with her for keeping it from them. They also looked at her differently. In ways, these pieces can be very similar, though. Both are about a young adult who now identifies as a female. Both pieces show how others do not understand transgender people. They struggled with coming to terms with being transgender and how others react to that. These pieces both show their struggle with dating. Casey writes a piece about the guy she met at the bar showing she was afraid to pursue him. Samantha was hesitant towards Will, at first, and even after getting to know him, refused to reveal the truth. I believe Casey and Samantha came to an understanding about themselves, as well. There was a special moment for Casey when she decided to refer to herself as a female, and there was a similar moment for Samantha at the end of the film, when she realized she should stand proud and stay true to herself.

I think this film did a decent job of showing how challenging it is for transgender people to feel accepted. I think it also goes to show that the people who truly care about you, do not care what you identify as; they just want you to be happy. I do think the film could have been a little more realistic of the hardships a transgender college student would face. To me, it did not seem like the film took place at a college, and the way the characters acted did not match up with how I would assume a college student would act.

Sunday Lush (Fictional Character)

A senior at FIT in NYC, Antonio Devita lives his life college student by day, drag queen by night. Sunday Lush, Devita’s drag queen was created to criticize the idea of perfection. Devita is from an Italian family, raised in the abnormally conservative town of Plainfield, Pennsylvania. He attended the Big Spring School District, a school located in the middle of farm fields. This small town impacts Devita’s performance in a huge way. Devita’s first major experiences with queer culture began in this town. While the majority of the high school population spent their time going to vocational school or volunteering at the fire department, Devita spent his days in room 219. Mrs. Mitsliski was an art teacher Devita spent a lot of time around. His experience with high school art not only developed his skills; it liberated him from the harsh conservatism of the community.
After graduating, Devita began his journey in New York City at the Fashion Institute of Technology (his dream school). Devita explained how drag wasn’t something he fell into overnight. Rather, it was an artistic process and personal development. Devita said he started painting on canvases, and then moved to painting on his face to create fictional characters. Because Devita is so heavily involved with fashion, he learned how to use fabrics and materials to express himself artistically. The combination of fashion and art is what moved him to drag. NYC also plays an esse10650060_1624554744452452_5734296502450745139_nntial role in Devita’s drag life. It has brought him endless opportunities and supports his journey.
The drag culture Devita partakes in is very relative to the unit on gender and our exploration of drag. The class studied RuPaul and other drag stars. Devita explained that his role models vary based on the character persona he portrays. Pop culture icons like Brittany, Madonna, and Cher are frequent inspirations. Devita also expressed his appreciation and inspiration in his mother. Regardless of the inspiration, the theme of strong women is the backbone of Devita’s role models. The class through the entire gender unit has also focused on the strength in femininity.
As an overall analysis, Sunday Lush is essentially a climax for Devita. After growing up in a picture perfect town ruled by narrow minded conservatives, Sunday Lush has allowed Devita to break free. Sunday Lush is a criticism of the community he came from and “picture perfect girls”.
He was once approached by a stranger in a café (without makeup). The stranger asked “are you Sunday Lush?”
“Yeah.”
“Well I fucking hate you.”
That was when Devita decided that this kind of hate would fuel Sunday Lush. She is the embodiment of hate towards anything that goes against the grain, especially women and the LBGT+ community. The hate is why Sunday Lush is so successful. Coming from such a small town, Sunday Lush helps Devita make a comeback at the ‘picture perfect’ town he came from. As Devita wraps up his senior year, he is unsure of whether he will go back to grad school, or pursue a job. One thing he knows, is that Sunday Lush will be with him forever.

 

To see more pictures, check out the Facebook and Instagram pages:

https://www.facebook.com/sundaelushh?fref=ts

https://instagram.com/explore/tags/sundaylush/

Pretty Little Transgender

The ABC Family television show, “Pretty Little Liars” has recently been one of the most popular shows on air. Over the past five years, millions of fans have been watching the lives of (from left to right) Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Emily Fields, and Aria Montgomery unfold after the queen bee of their group (center), Alison DiLaurentis, disappeared one night.

Soon after Ali went missing, the other four girls began recieving threatning text messages from an unknown source known as “A.” I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not Alison. It would be far too easy if it was Alison. Besides, Alison ends up coming home later in the series and getting tortured by “A,” as well. The entire plot/mystery of this show would take me far too long to try to explain. However, there is one aspect of this show that connects directly to the LGBT community: “A.”

“A” is one of the most cruel, heartless, and insane characters I have ever come across. “A’s” goal in life was to ruin the main character’s lives, and “A” did pretty well at it. While “A” managed to reveal every secret each girl ever had, these girls also have been put in the hospital, been in trouble with the police, been drugged, gagged, gassed, burnt, and even attempted to be drowned.  Here’s some examples of how terrible “A” is:

1. “A” hit Hanna with a car!

2. “A”  crashed a car into Emily’s home!

3. “A” tried to burn the girls alive!

4. “A” kidnapped all of the girls and put them in a real life dollhouse where they were tortured!

5. Finally, “A” set them up as murderers!

In summary, “A” has done a lot of terrible and psychopathic things.

In the most recent season finale, the identity of the horrendous “A” was revealed after five years of waiting.

“A’s” real name is Cece (full name Charlotte) Drake, who was born as Charles DiLaurentis. Charles just so happens to be the lost brother of main character Alison DiLaurentis.

“A” is a transgender woman.

Charles DiLaurentis

Cece Drake

As a child, Charles acted out. For instance, he accidentally dropped baby Alison into the tub while trying to give her a bath. His father found them and thought that Charles was trying to drown Alison. After multiple incidents, they sent him to live at Radley, a mental hospital.

A very crucial video (pay attention until 2:12):

Charles spent his whole childhood and teenage years in the seclusion of a mental hospital where only his mother visited him. His father never accepted him. His mother, however, accepted Charles for who he really was and let him become Cece. Although she was accepting towards Cece, she told everyone on the outside that Charles had died in Radley.

Alison never even knew of Charles’ existence, and Mr. DiLaurentis was under the impression that Charles was dead and gone.  Mrs. Dilaurentis continued to see Cece in secret after her transition.

This transgender woman lived a life of seclusion and loneliness, only wanting to be with her family and accepted for who she really was. Instead, she was surrounded by a world of hatred and lies.

Looking back on the horrible, crazy things that Cece did as “A”, it sheds a terrible light in the transgender community.

Since Cece was so full of rage towards the girls and her family, she tormented them. Susan Stryker talks about the term “Transgender Rage”  in her article, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above The Village of Chamounix,” that easily applies to Cece: “Transgender rage is a queer fury, an emotional response to conditions in which it becomes imperative to take up, for the sake of one’s own continued survival as a subject, a set of practices that precipitates one’s exclusion from a naturalized order of existence that seeks to maintain itself as the only possible basis for being a subject” (249).

Cece was secluded and rejected from her family her entire life. When applying the term “Transgender Rage” to Cece, one can assume that it was her motivation to become “A.” However, I don’t think a normal transgender person would ever go as far as to do what Cece did to innocent people, and it is an awfully negative representation of the transgender community.

ABC Family associated transgender with evil, sociopathic behavior; an association that no group of people would ever want. Transgender people all deal with major hardships when transitioning as it is, and this negative representation in such popular media is a slap in the face.

“Pretty Little Liars” is also a series of 19 books by Sara Shepard. The major plot of the books is represented in the show, but the show has many different aspects. In the books, “A” is not a transgender woman, and I think the mystery is still just as captivating, if not more captivating.

ABC Family did not have to choose the transgender route, and many fans think they did it just to jump on the transgender bandwagon following Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. However, the creators of the show claim they made the decision to make “A” transgender four years ago.

Executive producer Marlene King told Buzzfeed.com, “I knew we had so many years to build this story and make it layered and not what it could have been. We were pretty confident we would get a few negative responses — and there are negative responses from people who just don’t want to see transgender on TV at all,” she said. “To be honest, I see a lot more of those than people who were upset about a transgender villain. I think, again, we’re bringing more awareness to the subject and, really, humanizing Charlotte.”

I disagree with the fact that they are “humanizing” Cece. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, the definition of “humanize” is to “to make (someone or something) seem gentler, kinder, or more appealing to people.”

The character of “A” completely contradicts that definition. “A” was not gentle or kind; she tortured people and even killed some.

That is definitely not “humanizing” to me. If anything, it reflects to the public that they should fear transgender people because they are insane.

I will admit that the creators of the show did give Cece a back story that probably many transgender people can relate to, and it does spread awareness for the terrible treatment that transgender people go through. However, I think “A” was the wrong character to spread awareness with. Most of “A’s” wrath was directed towards Spencer, Hanna, Emily, and Aria, who did nothing to Cece directly. In turn, she hurt innocent people that had nothing to do with the foul treatment against her.

Overall, the representation of the transgender community in the television show, “Pretty Little Liars,” comes off as extremely negative and may even increase transphobia in our society. Cece Drake, previously known as Charles DiLaurentis, may have a past that other transgender people can relate to, but how she turns out is insulting to anyone like her.

“Till Death Do Us Party” by Adore Delano

Till Death Do Us Party is the debut album of drag queen, singer-songwriter, and television personality from Season 6 of Rupaul’s Drag Race, Adore Delano (Danny Noriega). Released June 3, 2014, this eleven track album quickly gained popularity peaking at Number 59 on the US Billboard Top 200, Number 3 on the US Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums, and Number 11 on the US Billboard Independent Albums in 2014. Till Death Do Us Party was the first of hopefully many more serious projects by Adore Delano, and was received with open and eager arms by the public during its release.

Although most albums made by past Rupaul’s Drag Race contestants have been well received by the public, Adore Delano’s album Till Death Do Us Party was the first to involve personal experience and performance to emphasize the life of a young aspiring drag queen. Some songs on the album such as Party and Hello, I Love You are based on her high school experiences as a gay boy growing up in California. Party is about her nostalgia for her high school days; she was young, gay, and not afraid of gender binaries.

Hello, I Love You is Adore’s homage to herself as a gay boy in high school. In Let the Music Play, an online show produced by WOWPresents, she describes the song meaning as, “Me – when I was in high school. I was basically in love with this guy … he came up to me and gave me his number because he thought I was a girl and I assumed he loved me.” I Look Fucking Cool ft. Alaska Thunderfuck is drawn from the criticisms that came from within the drag community after she left high school. Being constantly judged by the “polished” queens of the industry is not something she was concerned about. This song was her smack back at those queens telling them that she does not care what they have to say about her because she knows she looks beautiful even if she is not a cookie cutter image. All of these songs and others come together in a collection of self-love, expression, performance, and nostalgia that is Till Death Do Us Party.

As a drag queen Adore Delano has branded herself as a female in the entertainment industry even though she is biologically male. The drag persona “Adore Delano” and the man underneath “Danny Noriega” represent two halves of a whole person. This album served as the ultimate form of gender performativity for Adore Delano. In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler states “Performativity of gender is a stylized repetition of acts, an imitation or miming of the dominant conventions of gender.” Adore utilizes this method of gender performativity just as many other drag queens do. Her persona is based off of a ditzy young girl who is boy crazy but increasingly confident. In her school years she saw the acts of female classmates and has combined them into her drag persona today. She is a gender performance.