Porter is the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy Award for his lead role in Pose, a TV series about New York’s City’s queer ballroom culture. Since the killing of George Floyd, the attacks on other black Americans have gained public attention. Porter demanded that the public give the same attention to Iyanna Dior, a black trans woman assaulted by almost 30 men during one of Minneapolis’ peaceful protests. A viral video captured how the men beat Taylor, screaming homophobic slurs at her before she managed to escape.
Porter’s video condemns the bystanders who did nothing to help Taylor, “the black community’s relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community is appalling at best and eerily similar to that of white supremacists versus black folk.” He continued highlighting the hypocrisy of those in the black community that do not include violence against the black LGBTQIA+ community in their advocacy for black lives. “The tragic reality here is that black trans, as well as gender non-conforming, women and men are being killed in the United States by cis black men to such a degree that it is nearly the worst emergency for trans women on the planet.” Porter reminds audiences that the trans and queer black community is more inclined to experience violence than the rest of their peers, even at the hands of other minorities.
Porter’s sentiments were echoed days later in a post by actor Justice Smith, best known for his roles in The Get Down and All the Bright Places. Smith wrote about his experience at the New Orleans Black Lives Matter protest which took place June 6, 2020.
In an Instagram post, Smith wrote, “As a Black queer man myself, I was disappointed to see certain people eager to say, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but hold their tongue when trans/queer was added.” He cited the killing of Tony McDade, a 38-year-old black trans man shot and killed by police in Florida on May 27, 2020. McDade was killed only two days after George Floyd, whose murder inspired numerous protests across the country and even around the world.
The Human Rights Campaign lists McDade’s death as the 12th violent death of a transgender or gender-nonconforming person for this year alone. Tony McDade’s murder, like the attacks on so many other members of the black LGBTQIA+ community, remains largely underreported. The circumstances surrounding his death are unclear due to the police still reviewing evidence. Smith compares the lack of solidarity towards McDade to white oppression, suggesting minorities have been conditioned to appeal to whiteness. This is evidenced by the long history of white colonialism around the globe, from enslaving black people to the enforcement of European beauty standards to this day.
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@nckash and I protested today in New Orleans. We chanted ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ ‘Black Queer Lives Matter’ ‘All Black Lives Matter’. As a black queer man myself, I was disappointed to see certain people eager to say Black Lives Matter, but hold their tongue when Trans/Queer was added. I want to reiterate this sentiment: if your revolution does not include Black Queer voices, it is anti-black. If your revolution is okay with letting black trans people like #TonyMcDade slip through the cracks in order to solely liberate black cishet men, it is anti-black. You are trying to push yourself through the door of a system designed against you, and then shut the door behind you. It is in our conditioning to get as close to whiteness, straightness, maleness as we can because that’s where the power is. And if we appeal to it, maybe it’ll give us a slice. But the revolution is not about appeal. It is about demanding what should have been given to us from the beginning. What should have been given to black, queer, and trans individuals from the beginning. Which is the right to exist. To live and prosper in public. Without fear of persecution or threat of violence. There is so much tragedy on the timeline these last couple of days so I added some photos of me and Nic to show some #blackboyjoy #blacklove #blackqueerlove ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜 You’ve been my rock and guiding light through all of this and I love you so much. I know that on the other side of this Is change, though the fight is far from over. #justicefortonymcdade #justiceforninapop #justiceforgeorgefloyd #justiceforahmaud #justiceforbreonna #sayhername #defundthepolice #endwhitesupremacy
Smith continued his post by stating, “the revolution is not about appeal. It is about demanding what should have been given to us from the beginning. What should have been given to Black, queer, and trans individuals from the beginning. Which is the right to exist. To live and prosper in public. Without fear of persecution or threat of violence.”
Less than a week after Smith’s post, the Trump Administration announced on June 12, 2020, that it would be eliminating the protections for transgender patients. These protections were created in 2016, during the Obama era and kept transgender people from discrimination when seeking health care. To reverse these protections is, at best highly irresponsible and at worst, endangering lives already. Transgender and gender-nonconforming people are already at more likely to experience violence than their peers and to deny them access to healthcare during a global pandemic is incredibly evil.
On June 14, 2020 thousands of Black Trans Lives Matter protestors gathered around the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. Protesters centred black trans women, demanding justice for the largely ignored killings. The very next day, the Supreme Court ruled to protect LGBTQIA+ Americans from job discrimination. Although it isn’t the same legislation, this critical decision protecting the queer and trans community from workplace discrimination may be able to stop or limit the Trump Administration’s plan to reinstate gender discrimination in healthcare.
However you feel about celebrities, it is important to note their immense platforms and potential influence. Billy Porter has an Instagram following of 1.5 million followers. When he and Justice Smith share their concerns on social media, they have a much bigger audience than you or I do. In an industry as hyper controlling as Hollywood, I for one am glad celebrities are going off-script to raise awareness on important issues.
By asking their audiences to become more politically conscious, Porter and Smith are doing stardom right.