Culture Feature

On Transgender Day of Remembrance: 5 Iconic Trans Men From History

While we memorialize victims of transphobia, we should take the time to remember the historic contributions of trans men.

Philanthropist Reed Erickson

November 20th is known as Transgender Day of Remembrance.

First marked in 1999, it's now part of Transgender Awareness Week, and an occasion to memorialize victims of transphobic violence who have died in the course of the year. Trans women of color in particular have long been disproportionately targeted by violent transphobes.

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TV

How “The Real World” Reclaimed Relevance Through Diversity

For this new go-around, The Real World: Atlanta raised the casting age limit from 24 to 34, resulting in five cast members who add significant depth to the reboot.

Facebook Watch

It's been two years since the last iteration of MTV's The Real World disgraced our screens. Now it's back, and most surprisingly, The Real World: Atlanta doesn't suck.

Moving the series to Facebook Watch, producers hit the reset button, rebooting the franchise to enmesh it with social media and today's consumer culture. Even when the show treads on well-worn tropes à la the "religious southern virgin," it harks back to what we originally loved about it: different people from all walks of life coming together, learning from each other, and confronting the status quo.

When The Real World launched in 1992, it was a ground-breaking social experiment hailed for its documentary-style depiction of issues like abortion, substance abuse, and death. Its representation of sexuality and race served as an educational tool for a young early-'90s MTV generation. At 9 years old, Julie and Kevin's New York argument was the first time I really considered racial differences, and Pedro Zamora's activism on the San Francisco season helped explain homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic to me in ways my parents couldn't.

In recent years, the series has shapeshifted repeatedly, disintegrating into a heaping mess of producer manipulation and sadness. Stunt casting's led to unstable situations that seemed like mental warfare on its participants: Exes moved into the house as permanent roomies on Real World: Ex-Plosion, while former enemies moved in on Skeletons and Bad Blood, which were equal parts cloying and distasteful. The show became a hollow shell of its former self, an extravagant circus act that threw ethics entirely out the window. If you bailed on the series miles back, no one would blame you.

But for this new go-around, The Real World: Atlanta raised the casting age limit from 24 to 34, resulting in five cast members who add significant depth to the reboot. Four of its seven cast members are minorities, leaning into the cultural demand for more diverse representation on our TV screens. Highlights include: Yasmin, a half-Muslim pansexual art teacher and champion of body positivity; Arely, a Mexican DACA recipient and mother to a four-year-old; Dondre, a pansexual black man who's vocal about supporting Trump and the wall; and Justin, a Georgia State University grad focused on African-American equality and social justice issues.

For the first time in a long time, the cast actually has something to say, and the diversity in the house has led to storylines that largely match up with today's most pressing issues. Arely's politically-charged immigration story—she can't complete her nursing exams due to her DACA status—conflicts with Dondre's strict Republican opinions, setting off Justin, who can't fathom how a black LGBTQIA person could ever support the current president.

And then there's Meagan, the virgin from Louisiana who's the easiest target of the bunch. After admitting she's not comfortable around homosexuality because of what's written in the Bible ("The ones that are shoving it down my throat, I can't deal with...because in the Bible it says one man and one woman"), her roommates pointed out Christian teachings commonly overlooked in everyday society, even by devout Catholics. Dondre went so far to ask her, "Are you half-assing your religion?" His question sent her into a spiral.

Meagan confessed, "What they're saying makes so much sense, and I almost feel this guilt for saying that. If there are other things in the Bible that we do, why is that one thing not OK? I feel like my whole identity is being challenged."

In the most recent episode, Tovah, a social worker from Arizona, discussed her sexual assault with her roommates, admitting that she lost her virginity when she was raped at 17.

"He started texting me and harassing me, like, 'I raped you. Have a great f**ed up life,'" she told the house. "It definitely changed who I was. It's a big part of how I act around people, how I view sex, how I view relationships," she continued in a confessional.

These seven new strangers aren't afraid to open up, resulting in a season that's as back to basics as we're likely to get. Thanks to its diversified casting and focus on issues affecting Americans today, the Atlanta season is a return to form. Is it perfect? Hell no. (The words and graphics plastered over every scene is damn near infuriating, for one.) The show will never reclaim its San Francisco or Seattle glory days, but it's still a refreshing pivot that could extend the franchise's life expectancy...if it can continue avoiding off-brand twists. Come for the topical life discussions and stay for the club treks, hot tub makeouts, and drunken verbal brawls; it's still The Real World, after all.

The Real World Atlanta: Official Trailer youtu.be

TV

The Best Show That’s Not on TV: A Beginner’s Guide to "Red Table Talk"

Red Table Talk should be discussed in groups like a book club.

The intergenerational show features Willow Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Adrienne Banfield Morris.

Red Table Talk

Jada Pinkett Smith began the Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk with the intention of it being a hobby.

Over a year and thirty-seven episodes later, it's become a must-watch program, gaining millions of views per episode. On the show, Smith usually congregates with her daughter, Willow, and mother, Adrienne Banfield Morris, to discuss pressing issues. The intergenerational show centers on the three black women as daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who discuss difficult subjects. They dig into societal taboos and illuminate deeply ingrained problems in our families, in our country, and within ourselves. Every episode explores new questions, revelations, and personal insecurities.

On Facebook, the comments section is flooded with debate and gratitude. In a period when our country is more divided than ever, so many Americans are longing to come together and for a platform to discuss what's gone unheard. Whether the three women are discussing white privilege, child brides, or sexuality—the red table feels like a safe space for understanding, with the underlying certainty that we're all equally human.

Yet, we're still different. Red Table Talk sends out the flashing message that different perspectives and active listening can transform a generation—if we're open to it. For 20 minutes per episode, what happens at dinner tables across the country is happening on your screen, allowing viewers to reflect on serious conversations based around respect.

Red Table Talk should be one of the most watched educational programs, discussed in groups like a book club, where introspection, deliberation, and debate are possible.

With that in mind, during every discussion in your personal life, you should reflect on the following questions and maybe pose them to others, thoughtfully and respectfully.

  1. How can I productively contribute to this conversation? Should I participate or sit back and listen?
  2. Do I have privilege here? If yes, how do I use it to benefit others and undo the oppressive systems in effect?
  3. What are my biases?
  4. What is my intention in contributing?
  5. Do I dominate conversations? If yes, how can I work to become a better listener?
  6. Am I being defensive or attempting to inform in a positive fashion?
While you watch the more recent episodes of Red Table Talk, here's a guided shortcut to the major topics covered by the powerful women.

Race

Should White People Adopt Black Children?

Unpacking White Privilege and Prejudice

The Racial Divide: Women of Color and White Women

Questions discussed include:

Should white people adopt any child of color?

What are the responsibilities of a person raising a child of a different race?

Do you believe that white people pass down their own biases and internalized racism to their children and in their everyday lives?

How can people teach children to be inclusive?

Can people unteach and undo exclusionary mentalities in adults?

Can all women come together or will race continue to divide us based on our experiences and prejudice?

True or False: Race is a construct. We are the human race.

How can people include and make space for other POC, when race has become such a black and white issue?

Toxic Organizations and Mentalities

Children Forced into Marriage— A National Disgrace

Leah Remini: Setting the Record Straight

Molested As a Young Boy: An NBA Star Breaks His Silence

Questions discussed include:

Why do people raise their daughters with different standards than their sons?

Why do people feel shame when they themselves are the victims?

How can we advocate for the destigmatization of sexual abuse in our society and in our laws?

Becoming a mother can become a source of strength, but also a burden— how can we find support in our everyday lives?

At your lowest, how do you motivate yourself?

True or False: Only you can get yourself out of a bad situation,

Everyone should go to therapy— yes or no?

Should we trust the laws our government enforces, when so often they work against many members of our society?

Does religion cause more harm than good?

Should people indoctrinate their children into a faith at a young age?

Romantic Relationships

Unconventional Relationships: Can Multiple Relationships Work?

Common: Breaking Destructive Cycles

Infidelity: Can Your Relationship Last?

Questions discussed include:

Would you consider participating in a polyamorous relationship? If not, why? If yes, why?

Can polyamorous relationships last and be balanced?

Why do many consider the nuclear family to be the ideal norm in our society?

How do you learn to trust other people?

Being closed off can be a way to protect yourself: Why do people shame others for having walls?

Meanwhile, vulnerability is treated as a strength nowadays: How can we create healthy, emotional boundaries in our everyday lives?

True or false: You can only love someone if you love yourself.

Why do people consider cheating to be the end-all, be-all worst betrayal in a romantic relationship?

True or false: Once a cheater always a cheater.

How can you rebuild trust after cheating?

Are we, as humans, meant to be monogamous?