Pride Month: Celebrating Black Queer Culture in Media
By: Norman Dotson Jr.
Representation for the Black LGBTQ+ community has experienced great fluctuation, with actors snagging pivotal roles that help shape a proper picture of Black queer life in America.
Stars such as Billy Porter, Laverne Cox, Keiynan Lonsdale and Angelica Ross are just a few of the actors paving a way for others to see themselves in a world where they are often overlooked or told to tone it down. Inclusivity and diversity in the media have seen some strides in the right direction, but the road ahead still has a few hurdles. In a report from media monitoring organization GLAAD, in 2019 only 34% of LGBTQ+ characters were people of color and out of 50 characters counted, only 11 were Black.
In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month and promoting our Black queer brothers and sisters, we at BNC have compiled a shortlist of movies, shows, and actors starring in or about Black queer media.
The hit LOGO series is set in the early 2000s and followed Noah Nicholson and his group of friends, Alex Kirby, Ricky Davis and Chance Counter. Noah’s Arc shined a light on queer issues such as dating, marriage and parenthood. It also tackled social issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness and the stigma around the disease.
The series ran for two seasons before ending its run in 2006. It was LOGO’s first scripted series and the first to center around a group of Black gay men.
This Academy Award-winning film took the movie industry by storm in 2016 as it depicted the life of Chiron, a Black man from Miami, Florida, in three major chapters of his life. The movie explores many aspects of his life as Chiron struggles to grasp his identity and his sexuality. The film showcases the internal conflict of a Black man traversing through the ups and downs of a tough way of life, and the soft side of his sexuality.
His journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that raised him, in the form of a father figure Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, who won an Oscar for the role. Juan plays a large part in Chiron’s development in his adolescence and shares the unspoken understanding and acceptance for who he was at an early age.
This love letter to a Black queer boy is bolstered with the introduction of young Chiron’s love interest, Kevin, who had a significant part in his life. His struggle to accept his feelings for him follows him into manhood, eventually leading them back together.
The film gained critical acclaim and garnered numerous awards, including three Oscars, several NAACP awards, and a GLAAD Media Award.
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Hosted by the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul’s Drag Race gives those in the drag community the center stage to showcase their talent.
RuPaul has always been larger than life and works tirelessly to give a voice to drag culture, an integral part of the LGBTQ+ community. The show gives the viewers an inside look at the amount of work and artistry that goes into being a drag queen.
RuPaul’s Drag Race has garnered several awards, including eight Primetime Emmys. In his acceptance speech, RuPaul encourages younger members of the drag community and lets them know that they are loved despite what the world may think.
The show helped transform drag from being seen as satirical or campy to the true art form and way of life that it is. RuPaul’s Drag Race serves as inspiration for anyone searching for their voice and constantly reminds them to stay fabulous while they do it.
This HBO Max series introduces the audience to the competitive world of ballroom with a live competition filled with glitz, glamour, and, of course, vogue.
Ballroom is a larger-than-life event that showcases extravagant fashion and dazzling choreography. The underground subculture became popularized in New York nightlife during the early 1900s. In recent years, the mainstream media has made strides into giving the LGBTQ+ staple proper representation
Eight houses are chosen from across the nation to compete in different challenges in preparation for the chance to win $100,000. Each week brings a different challenge for each house to complete. Legendary just completed its second season.
“And the category is!!” This widely loved and critically acclaimed series is set in 1980s and 1990s New York. It follows the House of Evangelista led by housemother Blanca, played by MJ Rodriguez, and the youths in her care.
The show delves into the life and social issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and the popular ball culture. The characters are easy to love, and the predominant theme is not of the family you’re born into but the one you create. The series takes the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster, weaving between nail-biting performances as well as joyous and tear-jerking moments.
Performances from actors, such as Billy Porter in his role as Pray Tell, the surrogate God-Father of the group, have earned rave reviews. Porter’s performance keeps the audience connected to the characters’ trials and triumphs as he leads this chosen family. Standing opposite of the kind-hearted Pray Tell is the shrewd Elektra Abundance, played by Dominique Jackson.
Elektra is best known for her sharp tongue and reign over the ball, coupled with her elitist sense of self. The former housemother stands above them all. Her story, however, shows that her rough exterior was formed through survival. Jackson humanizes the character in ways that is sure to bring a tear to viewers’ eye.
The show, which had the largest transgender cast on television, just ended with its third and final season.
While this only a shortlist of suggestions, there are many more representations of the Black queer community out there. With so many different walks in life, this is just a start in bringing more Black LGBTQ+ stories to the forefront.