I am tired of hearing about Dave Chappelle. I've heard his point of view my whole life.
I get it. He doesn't understand transgender identity. He finds it strange. Or funny. Or something to be mocked. There's really nothing new in all this "news" about him.
But part of the reason that he and many others don't understand the transgender experience is that media outlets, which have the capacity to reach the masses, rarely use their platforms to share stories told by Black transgender individuals.
With that said, I must acknowledge a few exceptions.
WeTV recently aired a reality series focusing on the life of internet personality TS Madison. Titled The TS Madison Experience, the show follows Madison as she “sets out on a bold, unfiltered and authentic journey to be the first Black trans woman to host a mainstream talk show.” Viewers have described it as “thought-provoking.”
The Chasing Reality franchise on YouTube has recently launched a reality series about one of its trans alums, Lauryn England. Each episode explores the joys and challenges of being a Black trans woman. With view counts in the tens of thousands, viewers are clearly interested in learning about the life of a Black trans person, from a positive, first-person perspective.
And a special shout-out to Fox Soul for broadcasting the new LGBTQ talk show The House (Fridays at 9 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. PST), of which I am a co-host.
The first episode of The House featured Gracie Cartier, an Emmy-nominated transgender hairstylist and host who was recently named to Out Magazine's prestigious Out100 list, honoring the year's most influential members of the LGBTQ community. After that episode aired, I received calls from some of my heterosexual relatives telling me how inspiring she was. Gracie's story is the kind of news the world needs to hear more of, and less from people who don't understand her.
An upcoming episode features another trailblazer whose story will inspire all who hear it. Against all odds Shea Diamond (pronounced "She-uh") has overcome a tumultuous life, rising to the highest levels of the music industry. She has worked with Sam Smith, Demi Lovato, Bebe Rexha, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and was invited to join the prestigious Recording Academy, whose members vote for the Grammy winners.
In her episode, Shea makes a powerful commentary about the violence and sexual abuse that often gets a pass in our families. But to be transgender or even an effeminate male is absolutely inexcusable. "We would prefer you to be anything in the world — to be a mass murderer. We would prefer you to be a pedophile in the family. Just don't tell anybody. But don't come in here switching and twitching," the musician stated.
The conversations we have about transgender identity should be informed by transgender people, and these TV shows help us to do that.
If we took time to listen to the stories of Gracie, Shea, Lauren and TS, there would be more understanding and less conflict and controversy. Because after all, do the continual news reports about Dave Chappelle's lack of remorse for telling transphobic jokes actually improve anyone's lives?