When I first watched Episode 1 of The Peculiar Kind, a new web series exploring unscripted conversations with queer women of color, I smiled with pride as finally non-heterosexual women of color were getting a chance to share their lives and shine. The filmmakers, Alexis Casson and Mursi Layne, are black lesbian creative partners, who share a deep appreciation for the arts, film, and music. It’s clear that this project is a birth of love for women who are both like and different from them, as it’s rare to see queer women of color creating their own stories and gaining mainstream attention. But I hope that as the series gains more and more fans, more people will find the value and importance in LGBTQ media. I spoke with Layne about the show and what the sister-artists plan to accomplish with it.
EBONY: What inspired you to bring a show of real-life stories from queer women of color to the mainstream? And what made you choose the name, The Peculiar Kind?
Mursi Layne: There is such a narrow portrayal of queer women of color that we felt the need to document the conversations, thoughts and opinions of our community. We wanted the show to be fun but informative by creating content that relates to everyone, including viewers who do not identify as LGBTQ. The name of the show is somewhat of an oxymoron, because once you watch the show you realize that we are not "weirdos" and no different from anyone else.
EBONY: Is this show an answer to mainstream LGBTQ TV programming primarily showcasing white characters while ignoring or misrepresenting the realities of queer women of color?
ML: Yes and no. It's not really a direct answer to mainstream programming. It's more so showing the diversity of women of color who identify as lesbian or queer. We chose to produce an unscripted series because of the lack of genuine content that scripted programs portray. Some of the topics we will discuss are not usually seen on TV; topics include sex toys, safe sex, community, religion and spirituality, family and more as it pertains to queer women of color.
EBONY: You explore various types of relationships, including committed queer women of color practicing polyamory and singles enjoying informal hook ups. Why did you feel it was important to capture such diverse stories in your cast?
ML: The boys seem to have all the fun! Queer women of color talk about sex, safe sex and the dynamics of their relationships too, but it's almost taboo.
EBONY: There are certainly a lot of “laugh out loud” moments in the series, including blunt sexual innuendos, jokes, and real talk. Were the responses just for “TV” or truly a reflection of your cast’s personalities?
ML: When recording the interviews and discussions, there are times when we try not to laugh out loud because the response catches us off guard. Every response we get from the cast during filming is in their own words. We ask questions and they answer, we lucked out when we casted these amazing women. The ladies are genuinely funny and we love that they can say what's on their mind without feeling the need to censor themselves.
EBONY: Why did you choose to partner with Elixher and add a news element to the show, highlighting LGBTQ issues? Most reality TV style series keep it all entertainment and little education.
ML: If we don't report "Our News" who will? One of the main goals on a reality TV series is to entertain but we wanted to do something different by incorporating education. For instance, in the first episode, we discussed partying and touched on sex; the entertaining side. On the educational and informative aspect, we discussed a little about safe sex and getting home safely after partying with the assistance of organizations like RightRides. We actually had women, both LGBTQ and heterosexual, tell us that they signed up to volunteer with Right Rides since viewing The Peculiar Kind.
EBONY: Do you feel the web has become a ripe opportunity for more queer women of color to have their stories told? Could you ever see The Peculiar Kind on TV?
ML: We are extremely thankful for the web! We can express ourselves as we please without any restrictions and "sugarcoating" by TV networks. We can absolutely see The Peculiar Kind on TV as longs as the organic feel of the show isn't altered and the integrity of the cast and overall goal of the show isn't compromised.
EBONY: What’s your advice to fellow Black filmmakers working to mainstream LGBTQ stories?
ML:To be honest, we wouldn't use the term "working to mainstream" because that wasn't our initial goal. We just set out to create a show that we can relate to and want to watch. We are beyond thrilled that people feel that the show has such great potential to become mainstream. But as for our fellow filmmakers we say, “go for it!” Start today. With the support of great friends you can get the job done. We have no budget for this project – we use what we have. So if we can do it, you can do it!
EBONY: Anything else you’d like to share?
ML: We'd just like to thank everyone who's been so supportive of the project. We're overwhelmed with the feedback and hope that we make our queer women of color community proud.
Arielle Loren is the Editor-in-Chief of Corset, the go-to magazine for all things sexuality. Find her on Facebook and Twitter. Download Corset’s inaugural issue now and join the community’s daily discussions.