Tag Archives: Queer People of Colour

Web Series ‘Brujos’ Gives Queer People Magical Powers

Queer people are magic. Ricardo Gamboa’s Brujos harnesses that magic.

This web series centers around a group of LGBTQ Latinx heroes who are grad students by day and witches by night. They face off against witch-hunters, the privileged descendants of early American colonists. That’s right – the Salem Witch Trials are getting a round two.

The series consists of twelve seven-minute episodes; each episode reflects a Zodiac sign. According to Gamboa, Brujos both “reclaims the mystical knowledges of our ancestors” and makes “a statement about the magia [magic] in every queer and trans person of color.”

Gamboa created the series partly because he saw the lack of representation for queer people of color (QPOC) in the media. He watched Girls, and although he was inspired by the slice-of-life storylines, he failed to see himself in the privileged white characters who stumbled through New York. Brujos tells a story close to his heart: the story of QPOC surviving in a world that wants them gone.

The witch hunters, who are wealthy, white and male, clearly reflect upper-class America.

Gamboa decided to produce this series himself instead of trying to sell it to a high-powered studio because he believes in making his art directly accessible to the masses. He believes that people’s hearts change when they see stories.

He told Latina.com,

You won’t see my work in a museum. My work is on YouTube, where it’s accessible to people who can’t afford to visit a museum. It’s grounded in the idea that it gets people to see and feel, and if you get them to see and feel differently, you can get them to act and think differently.”

Why is it so important for queer people to have magical powers? One, it connects them to their ancestral, pre-Christian spiritual traditions, which are still alive and well in West Africa and the Caribbean in religions such as Yoruba and Santeria. Two, to supernatural is to be queer – queer meaning radical and abnormal.

To be supernatural is to push against the boundaries of everyday life in order to make the impossible possible. Society tells queer people of color that they do not deserve to live, so every day that they survive is a supernatural act. Brujos adds magic to the supernatural acts that queer people perform every day.

The first episode comes out on Inauguration Day, January 20. Learn more at the official website.

Watch the trailer below.

If The Name Selena Forrest Sounds New To You, Then You’ve Not Been Paying Attention

One of fashion’s up-and-coming-it girls, Selena Forrest  — who is starring in DKNY and Proenza’s fall 2016 ad campaigns — initially made her foray into modelling via a one-off campaign with international fashion website Farfetch.


Since then she’s walked in 28 shows from Rome to Paris, and is the subject of a feature article in New York Magazine’s The Cut this week, where she drops that she is queer.


On the subject of sexuality, Forrest told The Cut:

I love girls. Or, you know what, I just love people. So, that’s what it is. I don’t really categorize it, but if there was a category, I would probably be bisexual. But I have never been with a guy.”




She also talked to The Cut about what it’s like to be one of only a few models of colour on the runway:

If your clothes look good on everybody and if you’re that confident about your clothes, then you should put them on everybody. Did you see the shoot where I was in Balenciaga just mean mugging?” [pulls up photo] “See? Black people look good in their clothes …and I look amazing!”


Lesbian Bookshelf: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

For queer people of African descent, finding an LGBT-positive book written by an African is painfully difficult.

Usually we’re stuck with books about praying the gay away, or Nollywood movies about the devil turning good women into lesbians (apparently the devil does that a lot).

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta is a breath of fresh air. Fresh gay, gay air.

The book follows Ijeoma, a young Nigerian girl, during and after the 1967-70 Biafran War.

When her mother sends her to live with a family friend in order to escape the war, Ijeoma meets a young Hausa girl – ethnically her enemy – and the two fall in love. Over the next twenty years, Ijeoma wrestles with her feelings toward women, her traditional mother and the expectation of heterosexual marriage.

What makes this book so great?

It goes toe to toe with religion, and admits that there’s no winner.

Okparanta’s depiction of Christianity is nuanced. In the book, Christian characters openly debate the meaning of the Bible’s anti-homosexuality passages. Some Christians fervently oppose gay people, some are accepting and many don’t talk about it. Despite being queer, Ijeoma prays often. Gay and lesbian Nigerians hold secret meetings inside of a church.

It would be easy to vilify Christianity in a book like this, but instead the writer honestly dialogues with it, proving that middle ground exists between blind adherence and absolute rejection. You could give a book like this to both your conservative mother and to a friend who’s questioning her sexuality.

It doesn’t shy away from sex.

But it doesn’t exploit it, either. In many books, even a lesbian kiss would be considered explicit – or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the author will revel in the “sinfulness” of lesbianism and write overly in-depth depictions of scissoring.

Okparanta’s characters have sex. Why? Because lesbians in real life have sex and this isn’t church camp. But Okparanta handles it with tact, and only includes it when it’s relevant to the plot (Blue is the Warmest Color could have learned something from her).

It’s funny.

How do you take a book about a relentless war that leaves thousands dead, a suicidal father, an overbearing and hyper-religious mother, rigid gender norms and the lynching of LGBT people, and make it funny? I wouldn’t be able to do it, but Okparanta has.

Not every moment is ha-ha and I definitely pulled out my tissues more than once, but somehow despite the subject matter, Okparanta keeps the book light. It definitely has its amusing moments.

For example, Ijeoma’s roommate treasures  a “special scarf” she believes will attract all of the best men in Nigeria. And, ironically, Ijeoma’s mother fawns over the “good Christian girl” she believes will be a good influence on Ijeoma – when in fact that girl is Ijeoma’s lesbian lover. Awkward.

As a queer person of African descent, I truly hope that Nigerian writers will follow in Okparanta’s footsteps when it comes to taboo subjects.

More than that, I hope that audiences will be receptive to the queer and transgender Nigerian writers who dare to document their journeys.

Trans Woman of Colour Murder in L.A Signals Third Death in 6 Months

According to statistics, the acceptance of LGB people across the United States is on the rise. Sadly, the same cannot be said about trans* acceptance which appears to be on the decline.

Even as famous trans women of colour such as Laverne Cox (who plays trans inmate Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black) and outspoken advocate Janet Mock gain popularity, the benefits of positive reputation aren’t being reaped by everybody in the trans* community. Instead, recently the US has seen a notable uptick in trans* hate crimes including verbal abuse, violence and sometimes even murder.

It’s murder that another trans woman of colour has again been faced with, with the Los Angeles Police Department (the LAPD) reporting that her death took place on Wednesday the 3rd of December. It signals the third murder of a trans woman of colour in just six months.

According to the LAPD, the victim, Deshawnda Sanchez, was fleeing after being robbed. Sanchez called 911 at 4am before running to a cul-de-sac, banging on the door of a Compton home in an attempt to find safety. Unfortunately, by the time the occupant of the house was able to let her in, gunshots were fired and the person who was chasing Sanchez had left her for dead and had driven away from the scene of the crime in a “light coloured compact car”.

Officially, the police are classing the tragic events as a robbery and homicide, however, as Sanchez was a trans woman of colour Los Angeles police Det. Christopher Barling has said that they are considering that it may have been a hate crime. Barling told Buzzfeed News that he is “very open to the fact that may be the case”.

It’s especially important that they look into that line of inquiry given that the murders of trans women of colour are on the rise at an alarming rate. Sanchez’ death signals the third in just a matter of months with Aniya Knee Parker and trans activist Zoraida “Ale” Reyes also having been killed in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Furthermore, a report published by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations notes that 19 trans* people were targeted in violent hate crimes in 2013, making that a 46% increased on the year before (there were 13 attacks in 2012). With shocking statistics like these it’s all the more important that the LAPD finds the perpetrator and brings them to justice, marking a small step in preventing more crimes like these from happening.

Two New Lesbian Characters of Color Hitting Mainstream TV

Thats correct, our TV screens are starting to see more lesbian visibility and lesbian characters of Color.

New TNT action drama – ‘The Last Ship’, features out lesbian Lt. Alisha Granderson, played by Christina Elmore.

On her new role and character, Christina says

“I knew that she was a woman in her mid-twenties, that she was a Lt. in the navy and her job was often as the officer of the desk, to take the orders that the captain gives and give them to the helmsmen that steer the ship, and that she was smart and serious and a lesbian.

And those were the facts I had about her. And so going in it was a process for me, sort of learning about her with everyone else. Every time we get a new script, it’s like, ‘Oh here’s a little more of a taste of who she is.’ But because she hasn’t had much things happen to her — she doesn’t talk much about her personal life — I’m able to sort of invent it a little bit on my own and in my head. So that’s been exciting. And the writers are really open to suggestions and ideas and have been sort of — we’ve been doing it together, seeing what she’s like as we go.”

Christina Elmore

The other new character will be coming to TV this fall. Comedian/actress Erica Ash will play a lesbian named Mary Charles (M-Chuck) on the new Starz half-hour comedy Survivor’s Remorse.

Survivor’s Remorse,” a half-hour comedy, follows Cam Calloway, a basketball phenom in his early 20’s who is suddenly thrust into the limelight after signing a multi-million dollar contract with a professional basketball team in Atlanta. Cam, and an unforgettable group of characters, wrestle with the rewards and pitfalls of stardom, love, and loyalty.

On her character, Erica said…

“Her family is very accepting. She’s very lucky to have that and not have to deal with that struggle internally. It makes her a much stronger person to be able to face the world and say, ‘Hey, if you have a problem with it, it’s your problem, not mine.’ So I’m actually very proud to play this character for that reason.”

Erica Ash

She has also said about the role, that her being a lesbian is never made a big deal of; it simply exists without question.

“I definitely think that there’s something for everyone in the show and my character being a lesbian just adds another nuance,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a big crazy thing. That’s who she is and that what I think a person who loves someone wants to be—just allow them to be! And not make it like when someone’s black or white—it’s just who they are. It doesn’t need to be set aside as something big or, ‘Ooh, let’s tiptoe around it!’ She just is a lesbian and she moves forward in that and people who watch it, especially my gay and lesbian audience and community and friends, will watch it and think, ‘Right on!’”

Erica Ash

Making Space For Queer People of Colour

The following post, part of HRC’s Black History Month series, comes from Joseph Ward:

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

– Audre Lorde

When I came out as a gay, Black, Latino, I didn’t fully know what that would mean. At the time, I was in an interracial binational relationship.

I could walk the streets of my East Harlem community with some general level of comfort because of my skin color. I could stroll through LGBT friendly neighborhoods with some level of security because of my orientation. But the moment my hands or lips would touch my partner’s, the attitudes of those around us would quickly change.

How can two gay men of different racial backgrounds be in a relationship? That’s often what I felt others implied with their confused or sometimes intimidating stares. No matter how subtle or obvious it was, I recognized early that my queer identity would always be uniquely influenced by my racial identity, and vice versa.

Yet as many queer people of color know, this can manifest in more dangerous ways.

Today, a lesbian woman will be discriminated against in a job interview because, though highly qualified, she wore a suit and tie and didn’t conform to gender stereotypes that were inauthentic to her truth. A transgender women of color, whose rich experiences could fill a novel, will try to have a conversation where she’s not being asked about the most personal and intimate details of her body—details others wouldn’t even think to ask a cisgender women. Today, millions of LGBT people across the world will wake up and watch their multiple identities collide, exposing them to unique experiences of racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia that’s prevalent in our culture.

Throughout Black History Month, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of “intersectionality” in the LGBT justice movement. Intersectionality is a term used to describe the unique vulnerabilities LGBT people experience because of other parts of their identity including race, class or culture. Poet Audre Lorde and Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin, two visionary queer people of color, offered a powerful framework for this discussion.

“The barometer for social change is measured by selecting the group that is most mistreated,” Rustin often reminded us. The LGBT community is incredibly diverse and we are only as strong as our ablity to prioritize and elevate the needs of LGBT folks living at the margins.

“Any future vision which can encompass all of us, by definition, must be complex and expanding, not easy to achieve,” Lorde writes. As we look at the LGBT justice movement today, how are the diverse needs, faces, and experiences of our community showing up in our strategies, our funding priorities, and our leadership teams?

Making space for queer African Americans and other people of color in the LGBT justice movement is a powerful way to honor Black History Month. As Lorde and Rustin remind us, it deepens and broadens our collective power as a community, and truly creates a vision that can “encompass all of us.”