I just finished watching “If I Was Your Girl,” a CoquieHughes Film about two dysfunctional couples facing mistrust, violence and homophobia. The film was watchable, but definitely didn’t represent my experience as a lesbian. I have grown tired of the butch-fem relationships, domestic abuse, addictions, fears of coming out, and everyone sleeping with everyone. That’s not to say that these issues do not exist in queer communities. They do, which is how some of these issues have come up in my own work in the past. But I want something both refreshing and familiar to people who identify in some of ways I do.
This is not a knock at the film, however. I have respect for anyone delivering queer entertainment on an independent level, especially since mainstream media is not addressing our population for the most part (but thank you Glee, The L Word, Queer As Folk, RuPaul’s Drag Race, etc. for representing a chunk of us).
I have been making it my goal to search out queer and queer-friendly entertainment available for people of color. As a playwright interested in creating a space for voices that haven’t had a chance on the megaphone yet, I want to see who has not been spoken for enough, and how my experience and talents can bring that out. I am especially interested in entertainment for black lesbian, bisexual and queer urban women of various economic, cultural and educational experiences.
My plays traditionally have been drama driven, something I want to clean up. My actors predominantly have been white. First off, I love my cast! They work hard, invest in their characters and we work to represent issues we know exist in Kalamazoo (although I am now writing from Detroit). However, as a black writer its sometimes frustrating to see parts of my own experience that gets written into these characters be culturally drained because its told through a character presenting as white. My story comes from someone who grew up in a upper-lower class Detroit neighborhood, has dealt with losing a parent, navigating traditional black Christianity, sliding on the gender and sexuality spectrum and finding ways to own my blackness as light-skinned, educated woman with not-nappy-enough natural hair and Irish and Native American ancestry.
There are few boxes I squeeze into. My hope is that by the time I’m ready to retire and spend my days traveling to theaters and being a couch potato there will be so many boxes represented in queer media I will be able to find pieces of myself everywhere. The only way that will happen is if people who don’t see themselves in the media start creating. I want to move away from creating what I think is good and will catch on to creating what is honest and speaks the most truth.
My immediate concerns are lack of funding and support for minority-centered media arts. This shows a greater problem in the separations between queers and gender-benders of color and the mainstream population. The voices of minorities are essential to telling the story of the majority, and vice versa.
Also, many communities of color still are not safe for non-straight or gender-role-deviant people, which effects willingness of actors, writers and producers willing to support or help create the very media they wish they had access to.
This is just the tip. I have lots more to say, analyze, watch and read.
Here are some other series I am analyzing, looking at, critiquing or learning from:
The Peculiar Kind
Lovers and Friends
Awkward Black Girl – which I know is not about queer people, but Issa Rae does light-heartily touch on people (even queers) making stereotypical assumptions gender-expression and sexuality for women with fades.