V Interesting

Possibility Modeling with Tre’vell Anderson, Cops at Pride, Shiny Horrible People

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It seems the NYPD unknowingly painted a questionable acronym on the side of their cop cars for Pride Month. A new docu-series shows what happens when you disguise Christian extremism as a wholesome TLC reality show. And V chats with award-winning journalist Tre’vell Anderson about Tina Turner’s legacy, “possibility models,” and their new book “We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film.”

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V Spehar, Tre’vell Anderson

V Spehar  00:00

Hey friends, it’s June 9th 2023. Welcome to V Interesting, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar and today, the joke is on the NYPD who agreed to paint some questionable queer art on the side of their cop cars. A new Docu series sheds light on what can happen when Christian extremism disguises itself as a wholesome TLC reality show. And Trey Val Anderson is here to talk about Tina Turner pop culture and seeing yourself in media. Also how a diverse digital content diet can improve your life. All that more on today’s V Interesting from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. And now for some headlines. Let’s Start New York City where the largest police department in the United States made a very clumsy attempt to celebrate Pride. Maybe you’ve already seen the photos of the new NYPD cop cars. They say Happy Pride Month and all colors are beautiful and rainbow letters with hearts and stars and squiggly lines. The agency commission to queer artists to create the design which will be on the cruisers for the entire month of June. But it seems that the artist may have taken some artistic license if you will. People online were quick to notice that all colors are beautiful can be abbreviated to AC a be a popular anti cop acronym that stands for all cops are bastards. Oops, I guess the New York PD missed that one. The acronym reemerged in popularity after the killing of George Floyd in 2020. No one knows for sure its origin but many trace it back to England in the early 20th century. And the phrase all coppers are bastards. Punk music in the 1970s helped spread the acronym internationally. And now it’s fun his side of the New York’s finest cop cars. Let’s just say that the internet is loving this. One person tweeted shout out to the queer artists who took money from the cops to plaster a cab on their vehicles for Pride Month. Another wrote the NYPD Commissioner tweeting out their bogus pride cop car with a hidden a cab just warms my cold heart. So far, the artist behind the design has not spoken out about whether it was intentional or just a coincidence. And the NYPD has yet to issue a response to the whole social media kerfuffle either. One other thing I noticed that rainbow squiggly line bordering the design, it looks a lot like bacon. I mean, are we alluding to certain species of swine, often used to describe cops in the design as well? I mean, I don’t know. But I’m not alone in thinking that rainbow looks like bacon. I find this whole story to not only be embarrassingly amusing, but also full of nuance and debate. It forced me to ask myself what is art? What is pride art? And what is protest art? I mean, this could be protest art disguised as pride art. And what happens when institutions that have largely hurt queer people like the police decide that they too want in on the rainbow washing of June? Do we just welcomed their bare minimum attempted inclusion as progress? Or do we call it out as pandering? Do cops even have a place that pride? Well in New York, they actually don’t. Not since 2021. At least. Organizers of the city’s Pride Parade have banned law enforcement from getting anywhere close to the parade route. Police are not allowed to march in the parade and any uniformed officers must stay a block away from the celebration. Pride organizers say that cops make many Members of the queer community feel less safe. And let’s not forget that the first pride involved a black trans woman throwing bricks at police who were trying to raid the Stonewall Inn. So is the parade safe? Yes. Instead of uniformed NYPD officers pride is hiring community based security guards and first responders to take their place. So what do you think? Do cops belong at Pride? Do they make you feel safe? Or do they make you feel threatened? Just like art. I’ll let you interpret that one for yourself.

V Spehar  05:36

Let’s turn now to an update on an episode we did back in January when we chatted with comedian and donor conceived person Laura. Hi. Her work explores the wild wild west that is the fertility industry. And she introduced us and I am so embarrassed to say this to a Rochester gynecologist who was doing some really creepy stuff. His name was Morris Wortman. You will remember him as the doctor who was secretly fathering children by using his own sperm to inseminate his patients. He would then switch appointments around with the nurses to make sure that he continued to do those patients physical exams, so creepy. Laura’s good friend Morgan hallquist was one of the donor babies born into this terrible story. It was Dr. Wartman sperm that impregnated hallquist mother back in 1984. And that’s not all hallquist herself became workmans patient in 2012. Now she didn’t know that he was her biological father, but he sure knew that he was her biological father, and he performed vaginal ultrasounds breast exams and talked about her sex drive with her. I know this is incredibly uncomfortable friends, but I promise you you have to stick with me through the end of the story. hallquist sued Wartman in 2021, after a 23andme DNA test found that she had at least nine half siblings that were tied back to him. The lawsuit alleges medical malpractice, lack of informed consent and emotional distress. But the case unfortunately, may never see its day in court. Because last week, Morris Wortman died in a fiery plane crash. That’s right. The 72 year old was a passenger in a handbuilt experimental plane that went down in upstate New York to crash killed him as well as the pilot. And as much as we may find some kind of comfort knowing this man who was still practicing medicine until his death will no longer be able to hurt anyone else. Morgan may not get justice if the case dies with him. Morgan has not commented since his death, but we hope that she does get justice against his estate or some kind of piece soon, you can go back to our January 27 episode with Laura high to learn more about the seediness behind the sperm donor industry and hear a little bit about Laura’s personal story. Speaking of people who have way too many kids, a god complex and a closet full of secrets. Have you guys been watching the new Docu series on Amazon called shiny happy people. It’s about the family behind the hit TV show 19 Kids and Counting, which was huge on TLC in the late 2010s. The show featured the Duggar family parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children, all of whose names begin with the letter J. You cannot make this stuff up. On the face of it. They look like this wholesome Christian family prospering under traditional biblical values. But surprise, the Docu series calls blasphemy on all of that. Each new detail uncovered about the family and their scandals reveals an insidious threat that we are still living with today. See, the Duggars were part of a Christian organization that has been described by former members as cult like it’s called the Institute of basic life principles, and it was pretty big in the 70s. It’s centered around obeying authority, not just God’s authority, but also Father’s authority. Kids were homeschooled based on scripture, which left huge gaps in their education.

V Spehar  08:58

Dads chose husbands for their daughters, and things like dancing, drinking, dating, watching TV, even winking, were considered no no’s. The Docu series shows how underlying principles of the organization allowed predators to hide and abuse to fester. Like one of the Duggar sons himself, Josh, who recently admitted to sexually assaulting underage girls, including his own sisters back when he was a teenager. Now that’s as far as I want to go with the nasty things festering inside this family, you can watch shiny, happy people to learn more about all of that. What I’m concerned with is what the success of the TLC show says about the ways in which our society sometimes celebrates harmful religious extremism. Like we were all just munching popcorn and watching Christian fascism in our living rooms, wishing our kids were a little bit more like the Duggars we thought this was also harmless. It’s not hard to draw a line from TV shows like 19 Kids and Counting to the type of stuff threatening our democracy in big ways today, like the January 6 insurrection, the fall of Roe v Wade and attack Next on trans rights. NPR TV critic Eric Dickens said the ultimate message of shiny happy people is to pay attention to survivors. And to help tear down organizations that institutionalize abuse. I’m going to tell you to take it even one step further. Think about the reality TV you watch and how it could be perpetuating harm in the real world. The content you consume may be funny to chuckle That, but it can also normalize extremism. And it did as we see here with the Duggar show, it radicalized a whole bunch of people. If something feels yucky, or even if it feels too wholesome to be true, it probably is. Oh, my gosh, babies that was pretty dark. That was too rough little stories. But the good news is there are so many more people out there who are trying to help children, not harm them. And we’ve got some good news on that front. We all know that support for child care has stalled in Congress for years. So now states are taking it into their own hands. Lawmakers in Vermont just approved an ambitious plan that would pour 125 million new dollars into the state’s childcare system. Like a lot of parents around the country, affordable childcare is unattainable for most Vermont families. Vox reports that daycares can cost more than $26,000 a year, more than 30% of many families household income and slots are competitive, especially as more and more childcare workers leave the industry and daycares are forced to shut down. This childcare bill would expand state subsidies so that middle income families could afford to pay those daycares. lower income families would pay nothing out of pocket. In turn, the hope is that daycares could stay open and actually pay their staff a competitive wage. The legislation also asks lawmakers to study how to create a statewide full day pre K system. The bill still has one major hurdle though the money to pay for child care would come from a new payroll tax. And Republican Governor Phil Scott said he would reject any new taxes. That said Democrats have a supermajority in the Vermont legislature and they’ve made clear that they would override the governor’s veto if it comes to it. For months victory comes as federal pandemic childcare subsidies are expiring. President Biden had hoped to sneak hundreds of billions of dollars of childcare investments into the inflation Reduction Act. But the Senate didn’t go for it.

V Spehar  12:21

He’s now trying to make childcare a top priority heading into his reelection campaign. But with politicians like Joe Manchin and Marjorie Taylor Greene throwing tantrums, I am not going to be holding my breath for Joe to come in and save the day. Nope, it’s all about the States right now. And Vermont isn’t the only one doing something. Last year, New Mexico voted a childcare guarantee into its constitution, agreeing to spend about $150 million a year on early learning. And the governor of Minnesota signed bills this year for universal school meals and child tax credits. I love seeing states step in when the federal government is crawling around like a bunch of toddlers having meltdowns. Can somebody send them to daycare? I mean, I can think of nothing better at a time like this than a big old timeout chair for folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene to have to sit and reflect on their attitude. All right, that’s enough of the headlines you may have missed and maybe you wish that you had stayed missing some of those it was a little bit of a gross day, but that’s okay, because that’s all behind us. And right now we are going to go into celebrating and joyful conversation. Because it is pride month as I’m sure you are well aware. And today’s guest is an amazing advocate for queer representation in pop culture. Trey Val Anderson is on our show today, and I’m so excited for you to meet them. We talked about their favorite TV shows and movies right now, how to show up for pride if crowds aren’t your thing, and why God is a black trans woman. Stick around, we’ll be right back.

V Spehar  15:54

Hey, friends, I am really excited to share this conversation with you featuring one of the most amazing journalists out there, but also one of the most amazing people in general, award winning journalist and highly sought after social curator Tre’vell Anderson, Tre’vell has a new book out called we see each other a black trans journey through TV and film. It’s a deeply personal look at the history of transgender representation in media, as well as the look at Tre’vell’s personal journey with their trans identity. We know that trans visibility is at an all time high in pop culture with shows like pose and RuPaul drag race. But as travail tells me in this interview, trans people are under attack from many sides, and perhaps more vulnerable than ever. We’ll chat about their writing projects, thoughts on Pride month how a grandma pastor inspired a deep connection with the church, and much, much more. I hope you enjoy this conversation. I sure enjoyed having it. Here’s Tre’vell. Tre’vell, welcome to the show. So you are a very in demand culture reporter and a highly sought after moderator you keep your finger on the pulse of many topics. I was hoping that we could run down a list of just some recent news events and get your reaction to them. Would you be down for that way? Okay. This is kind of like what you do on your shows. I was like, let’s see. Let’s see what we can do today. So I saw that you were talking about the new Netflix show survival of the thickest. What do you think about the show?

Tre’vell Anderson  17:24

Okay, this is Michelle Buteau ‘s new show. I’m super excited about it one because I’m a fan of Michelle Buteau if you have not seen her comedy special welcome to utopia, also on Netflix. just hilarious, right. And I also love how she, you know, talks about being a fat woman, a fat black woman, about her relationship, her kids. And so I’m excited for this show, which is based on her book. Because, you know, we’re going to have a fat black woman at the center of a narrative. I know it’s going to be laugh out loud, hilarious, because Michelle is. And I also know that there won’t be any, you know, like, when you watch certain shows, and they all have these, like, you know, random, anti gay or like transphobic type jokes that are just like, did you really have to do that? Like, was it necessary? I know that with Michelle Buteau we’re not gonna have to worry about any of that. Right? And you can just watch this show. It’s gotta be laugh out loud. Funny. You’re probably going to cry just a little bit because she, you know, gives that type of emotional energy. And I think it’s going to be hilarious. And we need more funny things on TV right now.

V Spehar  18:35

I agree. Did you watch Fire Island? I know I’m like a year late to it. But I just last week. Yeah.

Tre’vell Anderson  18:40

Yes, I did.

V Spehar  18:41

I loved it, what did you think?

Tre’vell Anderson  18:43

So good. So good. Now, you know, I have complex thoughts about Fire Island. I do love the movie. Glad it exists. I think it captures this like very specific experience, right of like being a person of color. In that case, being an Asian person, right. And like going to this very white, very, you know, certain type of bodied, you know, experience that is Fire Island for for the gays. But I thought it was funny. I thought shout out to Margaret Cho, she was my favorite part about the movie. And then I think it was it was a type of narrative that we had not seen in that particular way. And the director Andrew, Andrew on. I’m a big fan of his work his prior work before Fire Island. So I love it. It was another one of those movies and it’s pride season right? So everybody’s trying to figure out you know, the gay things they can watch on TV. But so this it’s one of those like great like pride movies, but you can also watch it when it’s not pride because it’s that good of a movie.

V Spehar  19:45

I loved it. I thought it was kind of Pride and Prejudice See, like it’s sort of Yes, like mirrored Pride and Prejudice with my wife was loving. And as a former cater waiter on Fire Island, which not a lot of you have store Release. Oh, do I in fact, we did the rebrand this restaurant group I was with did the rebrand of Fire Island in like 2008 2009. And I have never been more overwhelmed by a community in my life because it really is, like all very wealthy, very handsome gay men. They have a certain expectation. And then there was me. And I was like, much more femme presenting at this time. And they were like, girl, what are you doing?

Tre’vell Anderson  20:27

Like, this isn’t your weekend?

V Spehar  20:30

Cherry Grove that I cut my hair in the middle, which was the worst part of it. Because in the dark when you’re trying to walk home from the restaurant after working all day, you’re just getting whistled at the meat rack. The whole time? And I was like, No, I’m a I’m a lady.

Tre’vell Anderson  20:44

You’re like, no, thank you. I’m not what you want.

V Spehar  20:47

It was so much. I’m crazy some of my life. But I definitely like one of those things where you’re like, I I’m not sure. You know, you would do it for a check too. But it was.

Tre’vell Anderson  20:58

Absolutely. I’ll do a lot of things for check actually.

V Spehar  21:01

Oh, it was wild. So watching that movie just like cracked me up because there was so many stereotypical things that happened on Fire Island that they put into the movie that was really just like fun and relaxing. Like you said, it was a great time to sort of visit that place. Speaking of things that can kind of like, get you in a stall trick though. The legend Tina Turner passed away recently at the age of 83. What did that feel like to you? I had like a personal like, you would think I knew her reaction. I was like, devastated. Did you have a feeling big?

Tre’vell Anderson  21:29

Same? Yeah, same, right. And I because Tina Turner was one of those people who just was like, you know, like, we throw around the word icon a lot in our culture today. But Tina Turner is a true icon, you know, like an icon of icons, right? And just in terms of just like, what she overcame, just in terms of her contributions to music. And my favorite part is that when she retired from music, she said, I’m gonna go to Switzerland or wherever she went with her rich husband, right? When you know that, like, oh, Tina Turner is minding her business, living her life, and then you find out she’s dead. It’s like, oh, no, it’s just like, it was it was I think, in the broader culture and community. It was one of those deaths that make you go down. Like, you know, also, another opportunity to talk about, and Angela Bassets portrayal of Tina Turner and what’s love got to do with it. And Angela Bassett should have gotten the Oscar for it, but that’s fine. But yeah, just an icon, a clean, the world is worse off without her.

V Spehar  22:43

When these things happen, it just makes us think, you know, like, you look around for like, who’s going to replace that figure? And there just is no one you know, like with any of these folks, there’s no like, Legacy down ballot if you will,

Tre’vell Anderson  22:54

for them. Yeah. And you know, one of the things I’ve loved in this particular moment, because, you know, a lot of the kids may not know a lot about Tina Turner and about her impacted. So I’ve loved in this moment of all of us, like giving her her flowers that like you have Beyonce right at her concert, honoring Tina Turner, right, you have Lizzo at her concert, honoring Tina Turner and telling people that if you like me, then you’re gonna love Tina Turner, because I would not be here if it was not for her. And so I love seeing, you know, the the younger generations that have artists, right, paying homage to her, and also like establishing for their fans, right, her impact and her import.

V Spehar  23:40

It’s just one of these artists who really made you feel included. Even if you kind of had no business being included. The first time I saw her perform, was in the movie Tommy as the acid queen. I was like a 10 year old little white child. Like, that’s what I’m gonna be when I grow up. I want to be the acid queen. I love that. Just believe in it. You know, you’re like my mom’s like, yeah, okay, go ahead. Just go. PD acid queen. Dad’s gonna be home in an hour, though. Knock that off. Right. On a less fun news turn. You know, there are hundreds, hundreds of anti trans bills being introduced and passed around the United States. We’ve got the drag man’s the book bans. And it just feels like there’s so much of a spotlight put on our community. When we are just minding our business and just trying to go about our life. We’re trying to what do you make of all of these attacks on the on the queer and trans community right now?

Tre’vell Anderson  24:38

To be quite honest, I am exhausted. Right? Like it is especially for those of us who also like we are members of these communities, right? And we also cover them right in the course of like our work. And so we also we end up being not only impacted on like a personal level but also impacted on the person rational level. And then I’m the type of journalist that firmly believes in bringing my own lived experience into the work that I do. And so I’m deeply exhausted about what we are experiencing and going through. And yet, I find it is important to also still be hopeful, right about, you know, the possibilities on the other side of this particular moment. And so it’s, you know, every other day, it feels like another bill right is being passed, whether it’s a don’t say, gay bill, whether it is the drag bands, whether it is, you know, the the particular assault, you know, just the hyper focus in on the anti trans legislation, right, which is hyper focusing on trans women and trans girls especially, right, and the ways in which, you know, they are attempting to exploit the broader cultures, ignorance, right around gender and identity. It’s just really wild, I recently had the chance to, there was an action that happened in DC called Trans Prom, in which these young trans people brought, you know, I think it was 100 other trans young people from 17 Different states across the country, just to kind of have a prom in front of the Capitol in DC, there was a DJ, there was an emcee, there was dancing. And then there were a group of us trans adults who were invited to kind of just be a support system, right for these young folks. And it was it was, it was wonderful and amazing to like, witness, right, these young people choose to be visible, right, in a way that would directly pushed back on this idea that trans kids and trans people should not exist. But it also got me thinking about the fact that these young people shouldn’t have to fly to DC for an action to tell people that they that the gender affirming care that they require, is necessary, or that, you know, they want to play on the sports teams that align with who they are. And they should be able to do that.

V Spehar  27:14

You bring up such an interesting point that I hadn’t really thought about before with that, when you say, it’s like they’re the right is trying to get ahead of the narrative, who gets to decide and educate on what trans children need what trans people need. And there’s, you know, if you look at the last 10 years of even television or the GLAAD statistics and talking about, like, how many more trans people have been visible, we had that show I am jazz, like, there’s been a lot of trying to show the first person narrative of the trans experience in a very, like, normal, authentic way. This is what it is. It’s not always so intense. It’s like a very regular life a lot of the time. And now we’re seeing this sort of like trying to re grab control of the narrative to spin it into something that’s just so obviously untrue.

Tre’vell Anderson  27:54

Yeah, and I think it’s important for people who are not trans specifically to also realize the ways in which many of these laws and bills will impact sis people as well, right? Because it’s overall gender policing, right? That that on its face is targeting trans people. But it will also and can also apply to how sis women show up in the world, right and what you are able, one of the things important, I know, I just cut myself off, but it’s fine. I do it all the time. But one of the things, I think it’s important to notice how right the anti trans movement, the anti, you know, reproductive autonomy, movement, the anti critical race theory, movement, the book bit like it’s all actually super connected. And I don’t think a lot of people realize that like, the same people pulling the strings, as a relates to you know, overturning Roe v. Wade, are the same people who don’t want trans people to have rights were the same people who want to ban our history, right, in certain places, who are the it’s the exact same people. And I think once we, once we realize that there is a concerted campaign, right, that is unfolding before our very eyes, I hope then that that will like activate people in ways that are necessary to just transform our culture in our society. Maybe you’re like me, and you know, going out into the streets is not your thing. And that’s okay, right. But you have a little bit of a expendable income. And you can put some coins right in the pockets of the organizations and the entities who are doing that work. And so I would encourage folks to check out the fuck bands campaign that vote save America is doing as well if you’re looking for ways to get involved. Big because you realize the importance right of that work.

V Spehar  29:53

And there’s a new film coming out that focuses on a trans woman life post transition, which is something that we hear a little bit less about. called Monica. Have you looked into this at all? Do you do you have thoughts on my I have?

Tre’vell Anderson  30:04

I have seen it. It stars Trace Lysette a fabulous trans actress. She you might be familiar with her. She was in transparent a little bit. She had a small role in the Jennifer Lopez movie Hustler’s a couple years ago, she’s fabulous. She’s amazing. In the movie is great. Like, it’s, it’s now let me give you a disclaimer, okay, it’s not a blockbuster, Alright, y’all, it’s not, you know, high action. It’s one of those slow burn movies, that’s less about dialogue and more about, like, that internal acting thing that folks love. But it’s one of those movies that like, is showing a trans woman making coffee, right? Like showing her, you know, hooking up with some dude in the back of his truck, right? These things that we just don’t often see trans people being able to do on screen, because the focus is always on, you know, our transition, or our trauma and our tragedy. And you know, there’s a little bit of that element here in Monica, because she is the general idea of the movies that she’s trying to rebuild a relationship with her family after years of being estranged as her mother transitions to the other realm, if you will. And so it has a little bit of that like, you know, trans one on one one on one energy to it, but it’s done in a different way. And it doesn’t, it’s not didactic in any particular way. And if you’re not paying attention, you might not even know that she’s trans, because the way that they kind of disclose that is very subtle, but it’s a fabulous movie, I hope that it gets, you know all of the attention that it deserves, and that it turns into greater opportunity specifically for choice. Lisette as a fabulous actress, but also, you know, more opportunities for trans people to start in and lead you know, trans narratives.

V Spehar  31:31

What are some issues that you think should be getting more attention from the press?

Tre’vell Anderson  34:04

Well, specifically as it relates to like, trans, this trans representation, trans identity, I think much of the press is we become machinations of the same systems that are trying to harm trans people, by which I mean, take the New York Times, for example, which is, you know, an entity that I’ve engaged with a lot of advocacy around because of the ways in which they cover trans people. Right, and they reproduce a lot of the same harm that is happening in state legislatures across the country, because they want to equivocate right, the needs that we have as trans people alongside the thoughts and the ideas of people who expressly do not believe we should exist, right? Objectivity is the issue, right? This idea of objectivity that we’re taught in grad school that we’re taught in newsrooms across the country, that because Because in order to be objective, you need to, like get both sides or get every side. But like, there’s no side to the humanity of trans people, right? You either believe we should be able to exist, you know, free from all of these isms in OBS as I called them, or you don’t. And I don’t think I think so many news, people in news feel like making a decision and standing up for the humanity of trans people is like a political thing. I think because of that news, media ends up being right a machination of white supremacy, ultimately, right? That keeps us all no matter what your identity and collection of labels that you use to describe yourself looks like, right? It keeps us all under, you know, the system’s boot. Right? That prevents us from ultimately, you know, showing up in the ways that we need to and the reason why this is a problem, and I will shut up in two seconds. I’m just here for this. The reason why this is a problem, it is so interesting, it comes up because in the course of me writing my book, I was looking through a lot of like archived, you know, images of trans people, stories in newspapers and magazines from 1520 3040 50 plus years ago. And you can see how the ways in which trans people specifically, but this is black people, this is queer people, this is women, this is disabled, folks, this is non Christian folks, how the news media presented and portrayed those communities because members of those communities were not part of the news media first and foremost. Right? And because those people who were doing that reporting, were Oh, okay with being machinations of white supremacy, expressly, right. And so the history books, right, the record, and even our cultural productions are not accurate representations of what life was like for various communities during those times. And so for me part of doing the book, and a lot of the work I do today is about correcting that record, right, filling out the picture of what life is like for trans people today. Yes, you can cover the legislation, yes, you can cover the killings that are happening of trans people, right, the majority of them black trans women and films, but also there’s so much rich community and love and joy and care also, right that we’re navigating. And so part of doing the book was about like correcting the record and building out this narrative so that in 1520 3040 50 years, when someone else decides that they want to revisit, you know, the early 2020s, right, and figure out what the culture was doing around trans people and trans existence, they’ll have a broader, more fuller picture right of today than what I have and what we have of the communities that predate us.

V Spehar  38:09

Now, did this idea for the book start at any time recently? Did you touch on any of these sorts of like trying to fill in the pieces when you’re at Los Angeles Times? Where you created the beat of diversity in Hollywood with focus on black queer film, like, is this something you feel like you’ve done before? And now you’re doing it in a different way? Or where did it kind of come out of

Tre’vell Anderson  38:29

You know, I started my career at the LA Times in a diversity fellowship program like you mentioned, I ended up creating my own beat of diversity in Hollywood with a focus in black on black and queer film this was before Oscar so white so this was before the industry cared about diversity if we’re being honest. And the idea for the book kind of started when I was at the LA Times This was shortly before the season two premiere of transparent which was Joey Salah ways TV show about their parents transition, you know, how their Jewish family kind of reacted to it. See, before Season Two of transparent I had this idea, I was like, oh, I should create a timeline for people just like showing trans images on screen, you know, prior to transparent and when I went to go do research to try to put that together, I couldn’t find anything. I found, you know, slithers, write something about this movie or something about this show, but nothing comprehensive. And then I reached out to GLAAD, Nick and Nick Adams over at GLAAD. He’s the director of transgender representation over there. He’s been in that role for 20 plus 30 some odd years at this point. And I think single handedly has been, you know, trying to drag the industry, you know, into inclusive storytelling, and he had the his own personal spreadsheet of every image of trans people. on screen or ginger expansiveness on screen that he knew of, and that he had come into contact with. And so I started there and then built out that timeline. And then over the years since I’ve always just said to myself, it’s really interesting that we are sort of kind of, as you mentioned earlier, we are as a community as trans people, you know, the most visible we’ve ever been, as a community in culture, right. But we are also the most vulnerable we’ve ever been in culture. And so the idea for the book kind of grew out of that, how do we wrestle with this paradox of visibility, that we are navigating as a community. And then for whatever reason, I decided to put a little bit of my own gender journey into the book as well. So it kind of just like grew from there.

V Spehar  40:51

It’s pride month now. And some, for some people. That’s like a big moment of celebration. They’re excited for the praise. They’re excited to be out there. There are a lot of the shy gays in shy trans folks, too, though, that this month, to your point, really puts a spotlight on us and can be a little bit scary. Do you have any advice for people who are scared during Pride?

Tre’vell Anderson  41:09

Yeah, well, I would say I’m right there with you. Yeah. I’m right there with you. I think, you know, I remember a number of years ago, when the pulse of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting happened. It happened the night before the West Hollywood parade, here. And I remember how unsettled so many of us were around this idea of just like going outside attending the parade, trying to celebrate, you know, who we are, and through that celebration, show the world the importance of our communities, in the space that we take up. But it was that pride that shifted things for me personally, I am not really a pride girl. I know the personality and the energy might say otherwise. But I’m not really a pride girl. But I remember thinking then that year that like, because of the assault that our culture and community is continually facing, pride becomes even more important, right? And in particular, a pride that Hughes closely to the original pride, which was a protest, yes, we were celebrating and click clack in and taking up space and all of that. But it was a protest. Right? And so for me, when I think about pride this year, specifically, and then also in years to come, you know, I think it’s okay, if you are not somebody who goes to the parade, you’re not somebody who goes to the concerts, you just you want to you want to stay at home and manage your business. I think that is wonderful and fabulous. I would encourage you to figure out ways if you don’t already to like lean into whatever your queer community your queer family is, right? And it doesn’t have to be you know, the glitter gays at Pride, right? It can be you know, your book club. It can be you though, you just want to go to the clear out coffee shop down the road. You know, you want to go to your knitting group, your knitting circle or whatever. Like I think we can we can look at ways to like embrace and and demonstrate our pride that don’t have to be tethered to you know, these large group you know, demonstrations.

V Spehar  43:41

For me, I get nervous of the the mom hugs the free mom hugs at pride because for me, yeah, growing up all my whole life. You know, it was like pride was like the day that you got to be gay with the gays. And that’s all that there was. And I love how inclusive the spaces become. But in some ways, it does put a little bit of pressure on queer people to be overly accepting of non queer people in a queer space. And the last time I went to pride was probably two or three years ago and what started is like a very sweet thing this one woman who had like a T shirt that said free mom hugs and that meant so much to me the first time really sort of like shook me by the last time because it was like a bunch of straight women wandering around trying to hug queer people and I was like, okay, there are ways to social support and physically embracing strangers is not always it’s got it gets scary cuz then you feel like you have to censor yourself also, because we don’t want to like offend anyone, or they’re like, oh, there’s little kids here. And I’m like, Okay, well, I don’t know what to tell you. But the Eagles float is about to come by and those boys are gonna be in leather harnesses and right for him, because of pride, so does everybody you know and how to balance all of this trying to be the most inclusive and loving community. And so there are some awkward spots to pride. So if you’re feeling a little awkward too, it’s okay. It’s okay. You don’t have to like it all.

Tre’vell Anderson  45:00

And can I just say, for the straight people or the SIS people who may be listening, thank you for your ally ship and whatnot. Absolutely. However, you know, sometimes many of you need to check yourself when you are in queer spaces. Whether that’s at the Pride Parade, whether that’s at the gay bar, what you know, like, drag yourself, drag, oh, especially drag brunch, my God today. You know, like, I think our community is all about, you know, all these, we say, We’re all about like, inclusion, and everyone’s welcome, and all of that. And that’s true. However, it’s important that when you come into these spaces that are for our community, that you’re not taking up space from the community, right, that you that your presence is not requiring the community to then, you know, think differently about how we show up in that particular space. And so you mentioned the free mom hugs, and you know, it did start as this like, really cute, you know?

V Spehar  46:08


Tre’vell Anderson  46:09

Yes, love it. And then it’s like, you know, a few years later, when it’s not just one woman, right? 20 of them, right, and they want to force you into a hug. It’s like, actually, you know, pull back a limo, like the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right. And we know it’s probably well intended. But you know, sometimes just just check yourself and make sure that the queer space is allowing queer people to still do what we need to do in that space.

V Spehar  46:39

Yes, so many of us have very good relationships with our mom, it’s, it’s not something that the entire community is lacking. And I think that that’s an important thing to remember too, is that, at this point in history, especially the acceptance and the love for queer children is at an all time high. And so this sort of history of having to leave your family behind behind because you were gay, is not as prevalent as it once was. And we do have wonderful relationships with our family, and we are married or we do have our own children, there are things that we have as a full embrace community now that we didn’t have previously. So we just want to make sure that you stay up on it. And don’t assume that the queer community is a monolith of very sad, misfit children. You know, some of us and we love those ones, too. I want to jump back to your book a little bit here. We see each other a black trans journey through TV and film. Do you remember the first time you saw yourself represented on screen?

Tre’vell Anderson  47:34

So I talked in the book about how I hate this question? And which is no insult to you for the record? No, no, no, no, no. I love when people ask you because it gives me an opportunity to tease out the question in interesting ways that I think people don’t don’t often think about, right? Because there was a time period in which my answer this question, I would say that there are three entities that I often say were like, the earliest ways that I saw myself when I would answer this question, and that would be the character of Noah on the show Noah’s Ark from Patrick and Polk back in the day. That’s early 2000s. It was basically like a black gay sex in the city. And no one was like, basically the Sarah Jessica Parker character in that group. So I would say Noah on that show. And then I would say two real life folks who came into my life on America’s Next Top Model, Miss J. Alexander and Andre Leon Talley Yes, yes, love them as early possibility models, right? Who showed me various ways of how to exist in the world as a black queer person. But those images do not reflect the me that I am today. Right. And for me, it’s just as important that my younger self saw possibilities on screen, right? And that my today self also sees possibilities on screen. And so when I think about the person I am today, and whether or not I’ve seen that on screen, I’m still struggling to see, you know, the particular type of black, queer, non binary person of trans experience that I am. I think the show that gets closest to it. It’s a show called P Valley. And there’s a character by the name of Uncle Clifford and she is this you know, non binary housemother of a strip club in the fictional Chuck Lisa, Mississippi. And I love this because one, it’s a deeply black, deeply southern narrative that has a queer person at the center of it. And oftentimes when we when we look at the images of our community on screen, all of the gay people go to San Francisco LA and New York, maybe you get an Atlanta maybe you get a DC, you though they all go to Fire Island, right? But the reality is Write for us as black queer folks. Many of us still live in our home communities in the south, right and like showing the ways that we navigate those spaces, the complex ways that we navigate those spaces and important to me. So I love the character of Uncle Clifford played by Nico anon. But I also put an asterisk on it. And I say, Nikko, anon is a sis gay man, he is not non binary, he’s not trans, he’s not, you know, even you know, identify as gender expansive or genderqueer in any particular way. And though he does a beautiful job with the role, a lovely job with the role, I often think about what that role could look like if a non binary person had the opportunity to breathe life into it. And so I tell people that I think one of the questions we should be asking perhaps instead of when was the first time you saw yourself on screen is what is the image on screen that has held you and reflect it yourself yourself back to you the most the longest, right? So that we get to a point where we can constantly, you know, interrogate the, you know, the images that we see on screen to make sure that, you know, beyond the nostalgia beyond the the persons that we were, when we were coming into ourselves, that who we are today, also, right is represented on screen as well.

V Spehar  51:23

Speaking of nostalgia and finding representation, you grew up in the church, right? Does the church still play a role in your writing and the way that you see film now?

Tre’vell Anderson  51:32

It does.

V Spehar  51:35

There’s a lot of good in the church.

Tre’vell Anderson  51:39

It’s not all bad. I do think it’s interesting when people ask me about, like, how how the church specifically shows up for me and my work, I still consider myself to be a church queen, right? Like, my grandmother was a pastor, I speak a little bit about her in the book. And when your grandmother is a pastor, your indoctrination into Christianity and the specific type of Christianity that I was indoctrinated into, it’s very specific, right? And, and you don’t lose those things easily. Right. So I still love gospel music, I still, you know, believe in a higher power. Now, I believe God is a black trans woman. And I say that that’s because we say that God is supposed to be you know, that God is love. And I think that on this earth, it is black trans women who have shown me what love embodied looks like. And so therefore, God must be a black trans woman. And so yes, the church shows up in a variety of different ways. You know, you will hear me say a hallelujah and a man, you know, every which away? Because it’s like one of those things where like, what did they say you can you can take the child out of the church, but you can’t take the church out of the child or whatever, like I am, I am the poster person for for that mantra.

V Spehar  52:57

Well, it’s joy provoking, it’s its light, it’s energy, it’s celebration, it’s all those things. Sure, the church can cause harm on the judgment side on the backside, but when you’re inactive worship, there really is no greater feeling that’s pure joy and collective celebration. So please, definitely, and

Tre’vell Anderson  53:14

You know, I’m I’m of the school these days, you know, I was on a panel a few years ago, pre pandemic, about like black folks and religion. And I said on the panel that for me, church, for me today is like being on the dance floor, like when I’m at when I’m at a nice bar or club, and the music is doing what it needs to do. I’m having a spiritual transcendent experience on the dance floor. And that is church for me. And so I think, you know, I tell people, a lot of times that I think, you know, religion and spirituality, especially for us, as queer people and trans people, you might have to create something, you know, create an experience that is all your own, that that may or may not be tethered to the Bible, or whatever religious texts, right you might have grown up with, and may or may not be, you know, tethered to a church house, specifically, or a particular pastor. But like, figure out what works for you so that you can tap into not only this, like divine universe, person thing, that being that we talk about, but also the divinity within yourself. Right. And I think that is how we get to a point where, you know, we can have these spiritual and religious relationships and still love the fullness of who we are.

V Spehar  54:39

Was there a piece of history you uncovered for the book that really surprised you?

Tre’vell Anderson  54:43

I think for me, a lot of it was about properly contextualized seeing the impact of the work of a variety of different folks and so many folks who I could not, you know, put in the book, because it just didn’t fit. come to mind. I think of someone I’d like I knew it was it was important for me to talk a little bit about a Gita Wilson, who was a black trans woman who was a jet beauty of the week back in the 80s. And for those who don’t know, jet magazine was like, you know, an iconic black publication, it was like one of those magazines that was on everybody’s coffee table, in their house. And for a black trans woman to be this featured beauty of the week, which is like, beauty of the week was like, it would always be some, you know, woman in a bikini or whatever, you know, the type of profile that people would tear out of the magazine and put up on their walls. You know, it was one of those types of situation. And so to know that a black trans woman was a jet beauty of the week. Are you kidding me? More people need to know that. So GIA Wilson’s in the book in that particular way. And she was she was involved in film and television. She was a, an adult film actress. We love. Absolutely. Right. So like having her in the book was important. And then also, it became important for me to not only talk about the people who’ve been on screen, who’ve been impactful in in terms of how trans people are treated and rendered in our society, but also the everyday folks. So I take a little bit of time, for example, to talk about Monica Roberts is a book Monica Roberts was a fabulous journalist, who was also black and trans, she had a blog called Trans Grieux. And she almost single handedly is responsible for what we’re beginning to see now, which is the appropriate and proper gendering of trans people in news media, right, Monica Roberts would call up news outlets across the country and say, you have misgendered, this transgender woman, and you need to have this is the name that her community use. This is the these are the pronouns. This is how you talk about her right now. It’s kind of you know, gauche right to to miss gender, somebody, you know, in, even if the police report says the wrong thing, or whatnot. But Monica Roberts was like, paving the way for that and doing it almost single handedly, I put her work on the same level of as Ida B. Wells, right, as somebody who was just up against so much, and was doing it anyway. And so it was important for me to also talk about the people on screen, but also the, you know, the folks with the feet on the ground, you know, in the last decade or so, right, who have also been pivotal to how we as a community have been just like, rendered in society more broadly.

V Spehar  57:41

Where do you think Black trans film and TV can go from here?

Tre’vell Anderson  57:46

Oh, it could, it could go to the moon, it could go to the next galaxy, we have barely scratched the surface of the possibilities that lie for what Black trans representation of visibility can look like on screen. Right? We’ve made immense progress, particularly over the last decade. Since Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black and you know, the quote, unquote, transgender tipping point. But we also have so much further to go. Right. You mentioned the movie moniker earlier. You know, I think it’s interesting, even in this moment, where it seems like we’re having the most visibility and the most success for trans people and trans narratives in this industry. traceless set and that movie got an 11 and a half minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival last year. Now, for those who don’t know, standing ovations at these international film festivals are like the barometer of like greatness, right? If you get a standing ovation, that’s wonderful. It should open up opportunities for you. It should open up opportunities for your movie. If you get one of the longest standing ovations at that festival for that year. 11 and a half have Do you know how long 11 and a half minutes is so people to be standing up in a theater, and reportedly, they would have kept going, but the ushers had to kick people out, because another movie was supposed to go in. I say all that to say, that movie struggled to get distribution. After an 11 and a half minute, standing ovation at one of the most prestigious film festivals in our industry. It eventually got distribution. But because it’s an independent film, because the distribution deal was whatever it was, they could not afford a PR team to help them market the movie. And so trace lasat, who was also a producer on the film, turned to the public, she did a GoFundMe to raise money to pay for a PR person to help promote the movie. I bring that up in this conversation about where we are right now as it relates to trans images and opportunity and where we could go and I should note, try Suicide is a white woman. Okay? Because I just the question was about black trans. You know, the question was about black trans film and television. But if the white girls are having to go through all of these hoops to get her very fabulous movie that got an 11 and a half minute standing ovation at one of the oldest film festivals in the country, imagine what the black trans folks are having to go through to get their projects off the ground to get their projects on a TV on a on a streamer platform, we’re in a movie theater. Right? And so that’s what I mean, in terms of like, just a world of possibilities of so of what could be. Right? And I think it’s it’s those possibilities, right? that keep us going, right, that keep us doing this work? Because we know that yes, it’s great to have a show like pose, right that did was it is so historic in so many ways. But polls, I don’t even know more. So what now, you know, and I think that is something that I encourage.

V Spehar  1:01:08

It’s gonna save everything.

Tre’vell Anderson  1:01:12

Right, because there’s, you know, always I see us in a RuPaul drag race.

V Spehar  1:01:17

It’s all Rue all day. Of all things queer and trans, not on drag race, it’s not happening. You know, earlier in this interview, we were talking about how difficult it is to report on a community that you’re also a part of, and then so much of the stuff that we want to say, there’s just not enough time to say it all, and educate everyone and hold everybody’s hand through all of it. What do you do to take care of yourself when you’re researching and writing?

Tre’vell Anderson  1:01:52

Oh, I make that noise. Because I am horrible at the whole self care thing. Like I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to, you know, put in the necessary boundaries, right? I’m trying to get more comfortable saying no, I’m trying to, you know, take more baths, right, I’m trying to sleep in a little bit, maybe I’ll go to the gym, because they say, you know, physical health is important, or whatever, I don’t know. So I’ve been trying to, like do all of these various, you know, self care type things. And I think that is how we recharge, you know, in a way to like, be able to continue doing the work that we’re doing and having the impact that we hope to have. And so taking vacations, taking more more baths, you know, I’ve been trying to schedule naps in the middle of the day, because I’m older.

V Spehar  1:02:48

Is such a thing. We talked about it. I think it was last week’s podcast, we talked about the nap ministry, which is run by a black woman I believe. And she talks about how that is such an important part of resistance.

Tre’vell Anderson  1:03:00

Listen, that is right up my alley. You mean I can sleep and still be part of the revolution? Yes, love that. It’s a dream for me. But also, right, just like, you know, many of us are not getting enough sleep, right? Many of us are just not getting enough rest. And so as a freelancer as somebody who theoretically is in control of my own schedule, that’s what I say at least. How can I build in to my everyday schedule, more time to just sit with myself, whether that’s a nap, whether that’s meditation, whether that’s watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta, you know, it runs the gamut, but like just doing more time that like, allows me to not to disengage just for a little bit from from the news from the headlines from covering it all.

V Spehar  1:03:53

That’s what it is. For me. I watched sister wives and 90 day fiance and I just watch how straight people struggle to it makes me feel less alone and less chaotic. It’s there sorry to be the spectacle these cookie relationships on Discovery plus and TLC and it just it really is such a good place to rest rest your mind in the comforts of 90 day fiance. Before we go, I have one more question because you do so much work. This could have been a five day interview. Tell us about slay Shawn.

Tre’vell Anderson  1:04:23

Yes. My middle name is Rhajon Okay. It’s Rhajon in that’s how you spell it. But phonetically it’s like ra y z H O N is like what I give people. My instagram name is radon if you’re interested in following slay Shan, which I also have on Instagram is a media production and social curation house that I created earlier this year. I really want it to one of my goals is to create spaces where black and brown queer and trans folks can be in community To talk about film and culture and TV in a way that’s like digestible and approachable. And so I created slay John as a means to be able to do that. And a lot of that has been thus far, you know, through a Instagram page that I have at Malaysia. And I also have a second one called at Black movie posters in which I talk about black film, but then also curating these actual physical spaces, right, where we can do some of this work. And I say that I am the chief imagination Officer of Malaysia, because I want imagination, in particular, the black trans imagination to like, drive everything that I’m doing, to not be beholden to what other people think about as possible. But based on what I know, is possible, because of the ways that we in particular, as trans people have to create ourselves out of the depths of our imagination. And like, this individual that is before you today, like wow, like, if my imagination can do this. Imagine what else it can do. So that’s Rhajon.

V Spehar  1:06:12

I love it. Your imagination and a pastor grandma, and here we are with the most dynamic, interesting person of the year for sure. Trey, will you tell people where they can find you?

Tre’vell Anderson  1:06:24

Yes, you can find me of a whole lot of places. I co host a podcast called What a day over on crooked media. It’s a daily news podcast, we give you the news you need to know and the reasons why you should know it in about 2025 minutes, every single weekday, I co host that with three women of color, you’re not gonna get your news. Like you’re gonna get your news on what a day. I also have a second podcast called Fan tie that I do with Jared hill that comes out on Thursdays. And then you can follow me, wherever on all of the apps, even the the one with the man who we don’t like at travail Anderson is on Twitter, and then at radon on Instagram.

V Spehar  1:07:01

We will link to all of that in the show notes so that folks can find you. Thank you so much for being here.

Tre’vell Anderson  1:07:07

Thank you for having me.

V Spehar  1:07:09

Happy Pride, Happy Pride. Maybe we could get like a pride song on the way out or something.

Tre’vell Anderson  1:07:17

Right, you know, which, which one I’m coming out. To, you know, they run that one over and over.

V Spehar  1:07:25

I need a gospel version of I’m coming out just good.

V Spehar  1:07:30

I’m gonna call a Billy Porter tell him to get on it.

V Spehar  1:07:36

Wow. I mean, it’s incredible to think that the show transparent was the first time that many people saw a trans character on screen, and that was fewer than 10 years ago. Fast forward to last year when Mikayla J. Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for her work on posts. And think about how much further we can go from here. Thanks so much to Trey Val for teaching us so much about trans representation and film. And be sure to tune in to next week’s episode, where we dig into the headlines that you may have missed. Don’t forget to leave us a five star rating on whatever platform you’re listening on. It really does help people find the show. Follow me at under the desk news on tick tock Instagram and YouTube. And guess what friends? There’s even more be interesting with laminata Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like former Miss Tennessee, Telly Bevis, talking about her pageant besties and judging a tablescaping competition at the county fair. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.

V Spehar  1:08:35

V Interesting is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Kryssy Pease, Kathryn Barnes and Martin Macias. Our VP of weekly programming is Steve Nelson. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittles Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mix and scoring is by James Farber. Music by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by reading and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar, @underthedesknews and @LemonadaMedia. If you want more V Interesting. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium only on Apple podcasts and follow the show where ever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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