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Love and Hip-Hop and Transphobia

Joseline Hernandez

Three things are usually on my television:  news, sports, and reality tv.

I enjoy reality television to such an extent that it’s not a guilty pleasure for me, but a way in which to escape the very heavy topics of politics, foreign policy, and oppression that comprise my daily work.

More of a Bravo than Vh1 viewer, I don’t regularly watch Love and Hip Hop – especially after Chrissy’s sucker punch on Kimbella left me with eyes bulged and heart palpitations – but I do love reading the blow by (literal) blow updates on my Twitter timeline.

Thanks to the power of social media I get to “watch” vicariously through many eyes. Now, I normally laugh hysterically at the commentary about ratchet antics that appear on my screen, however what I read as I scrolled through my phone during Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’s debut last week troubled me.

Comments about Joseline Hernandez, an aspiring Latin rapper and singer, were riddled with transphobia.

Transphobia is defined as an irrational fear and/or hostility of transgender people but most often manifests into “she looks like a man” or “he looks like a girl” comments that serve to ridicule and bully.

Having logged off, annoyed by how offensive comments about Joseline’s appearance could be shared cavalierly, I was even more appalled to hear she tweeted a nude (not safe at all for work) photo of herself in attempts to prove her womanhood.

“I’m 100% women I’m clearly perfect cause that’s the only thing y’all can say Sence I air my dirty laundry on tv.  F*ck y’all HATERS,” she fired back at critics from her @MsJoseline handle.

Nevermind the grammatical errors – ye without Twitter typos, cast the first stone – instead let’s discuss how she felt compelled to give physical evidence that she is “all woman.”

The same sort of gender policing that drove Joseline Hernandez to prove her gender made me immediately think of South African Olympian Caster Semenya who was subjected to tests when speculation arose that she was born biologically male.

Joseline, the latest is-she-or-isn’t-she gender casualty guised as the pop culture Caster remix, may make for a good laugh to some, but the slander against Black transgender women often comes with a high price – death.

Sadly, the outrage many expressed over Caster Semenya’s forced gender testing unfortunately doesn’t translate into taking up the mantle for Black trans women who are regularly targeted by citizens and law enforcement alike leading scholars like Dr. Marc Lamont Hill to aptly ask why aren’t we fighting for our Black transgender brothers and sisters?

The comments streaming from the #LHHATL hashtag provide us purview as to why we won’t march for CeCe McDonald, Brandy Martell, Paige Clay and countless others who sit in a jail cell or a coffin as a result of transphobia.

But with the NAACP and President Barack Obama recently coming out in supporting same sex marriage, I hold on to hope that Black folks can also grow to support the T in LGBT communities.

And while we evolve to recognize the civil rights of gay and transgender people, maybe we can also put the is-you-or-ain’t-you gender speculation to rest.

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