CULTURE

Remembering Marsha P. Johnson, a Leader in Gay Liberation

As Pride month ends, we look at the life of one of the most important figures in the push towards gay rights.

Content warning: This article contains a brief mention of sexual assault.

As Pride Month comes to a close, we remember Marsha P. Johnson, one of the principal figures in the gay liberation movement.

A Black transgender woman, Johnson was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1945. Her parents were blue collar workers who raised Johnson with her six siblings. At age five, she began wearing dresses, but stopped after boys in her neighborhood began bullying and harassing her over her outfits. She later recalled being violently raped by one of these boys, who she remembered being around 13 at the time.

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Culture News

Kanye West's Presidential Run Is Great News for Donald Trump

"Better late than never" may not apply in this case...

On Saturday, in a strange celebration of Independence Day, rapper, producer, and sneaker mogul Kanye West announced his intention to run for president in 2020.

As in, this year. Right now.

The announcement quickly prompeted messages of support from Kanye's wife, prison reform advocate Kim Kardashian West, as well as from billionaire weirdo/Grimes baby daddy Elon Musk.

Of course, this news comes well past the filing deadline for independent candidates in several major states—which means that unless a political party randomly decides to nominate him, Kanye's name won't appear on those ballots. As deadlines in other states approach—with little apparent effort to gather the petition signatures required—Kanye is officially joining the long, proud history of vanity presidential campaigns. Unfortunately, that's a lot more dangerous than it sounds.

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TV

Is Jameela Jamil Queerbaiting (Even Though She's Queer)?

The Good Place actress received backlash for accepting a judge role on HBO's new voguing competition show. Then, she came out.

This week, The Good Place star and self-proclaimed "feminist-in-progress" Jameela Jamil received a great deal of backlash for being cast as a guest judge on Legendary, a new voguing competition show to be aired on HBO Max.

Voguing is a style of dance that rose in popularity from the Harlem ballroom/drag culture between the '60s and '80s, and it's since become a crucial aspect of black and Latinx LGBTQ+ culture and history. Some participants of ballroom culture also belong to "houses"—or shared residences with friends who become more like chosen family members—as many of them have been alienated from their biological families. All of this is to say that voguing, as popularized by the Madonna hit song and documentaries like Paris is Burning, is much more nuanced than just a bunch of fun dance moves.

It's great that many of the hosts and judges of Legendary, like Jamil, are people of color, but critics were quick to point out that Jamil was presumably straight, thus unfit to serve as a judge. She countered these arguments by coming out as queer.

"Twitter is brutal. This is why I never officially came out as queer," Jamil wrote. "I kept it low because I was scared of the pain of being accused of performative bandwagon jumping, over something that caused me a lot of confusion, fear and turmoil when I was a kid...It's also scary as an actor to openly admit your sexuality, especially when you're already a brown female in your thirties."

Nobody, Jamil included, should ever be forced to come out–but accepting the role as a judge on Legendary without having publicized her queerness seems hypocritical. Last year, Jamil turned down a role to play a deaf character because, although she was born partially deaf, she has since regained her hearing. "It wouldn't be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role," Jamil explained. "I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space...I don't want to be part of erasure."

Ballroom is an incredibly particular subculture of the LGBTQ+ community, and as Jamil even admitted in her statement, her being queer doesn't automatically qualify her for a judging position, because she's not a member of that specific community. Still, she took the job, despite being completely new to the ballroom scene; is that not erasure?

Hustlers star Trace Lysette, a trans woman who used to work as a dancer, shared her feelings about Jamil's casting on Twitter. "Lol.. I interviewed for this gig," Lysette wrote. "As the mother of a house for nearly a decade it's kind of mind blowing when ppl with no connection to our culture gets the gig. [sic] This is not shade towards Jameela, I love all that she stands for. If anything I question the decision makers."



In Jamil's defense, she's made respectful endeavors in promoting inclusivity and gender equality; her secondary Instagram account, @i_weigh, celebrates body positivity, and she spent much of her time in the public eye as a persistent LGBTQ+ ally before coming out herself. But as many users have observed, the timing and circumstances of her coming out feel, unfortunately, like queerbaiting.

Are queer people in hetero-presenting relationships, like Jamil, valid? Absolutely. Is it fair to gatekeep within the queer community, questioning whether or not somebody is "gay enough?" Absolutely not. But for Jamil, in her relentless pursuit of divine wokeness, to denounce erasure of marginalized voices only to end up doing just that? It's incredibly disappointing.