Tag: Johnson

New Picture Book Celebrates Friendship of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

New Picture Book Celebrates Friendship of Marsha P. Johnson and

It’s Transgender Awareness Week, and hot off the presses today is a new picture book about transgender icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera!

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution, by Joy Michael Ellison and Teshika Silver (Jessica Kingsley, 2020), tells the story of Sylvia and Marsha by focusing on their close friendship and how they cared for their community in the face of harassment by police and others. We see them at the heart of the Stonewall Rebellion, then opening a home for homeless trans girls and continuing to fight “for the survival and rights of transgender people.”

Some of the violence during the rebellion has been tempered for the age group and a few historical details could be argued, but as the authors note, this is only one retelling of what happened. What comes through clearly, though—and is probably most important for young readers—is the bond between Sylvia and Marsha and the overall sense of how they worked to help those in need. To read that they “strode with pride, like two lionesses” down the street after the rebellion, and to see Silver’s image of them smiling confidently, arm in arm, is to know that trans women can be strong and powerful. A few of the narrative transitions are a little jumpy, but the thread of Sylvia and Marsha’s friendship helps hold things together.

One point that may require a little adult explanation is when members of the community call out “Here comes Alice in the blue dress!” to indicate the police are on the way. We’ve learned earlier in the book that the police can arrest trans women for wearing dresses—and the police (all male) are not wearing dresses themselves. Young readers may think the call means the police are chasing someone named Alice until they understand the ironic slang. (Having said that, I’m betting that once young readers catch on, parents may be hard pressed to stop them from shouting this phrase themselves when they see a real officer on the street. Fair warning….)

The back matter offers additional details on the two, a glossary, discussion questions, and activities. There are a couple of errors in the two online resources listed, though: “Queer Kids Stuff” should be “Queer Kid Stuff,” and “The Family Equality Council” should be just “Family Equality.” (Also, I would have added PFLAG and Gender Spectrum as key resources, since they do a lot of work with families of trans kids.) Those are minor issues, though. This inspiring story of friendship, community, and revolution rightly gives Sylvia and Marsha their place on our kids’ bookshelves alongside the mostly White and male figures who have dominated LGBTQ picture book biographies.


(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Punkie Johnson Is First Out Black Lesbian to Join SNL Cast

Punkie Johnson is the first out black lesbian cast member in Saturday Night Live History. Here she is on a street corner in New York looking handsome in a baseball hat.

This afternoon’s Saturday Night Live press release ahead of their new season came with some interesting tidbits: Jim Carrey will be recruited to play Joe Biden, if that’s your thing; they will go back to performing in front of a (limited) live studio audience inside Rockefeller Center — which sounds more dangerous than I’d be willing to be for 90 minutes of comedy, but hey maybe that’s just me; and one of my favorite players Ego Nwodim is finally getting her well-earned promotion to main cast member.

By far THE MOST EXCITING NEWS is that this season of SNL is about to get very real about who’s all gay here… adding self-proclaimed “brutally honest Southern lesbian” Punkie Johnson to the ensemble!

Punkie Johnson is the first out black lesbian cast member in Saturday Night Live History. Here she is on a street corner in New York looking handsome in a baseball hat.

I personally feel great about this development. And her hat game.

Let’s run some stats on that: With the addition of Punkie Johnson, SNL just got roughly 100% more lesbian than last season, joining Kate McKinnon for a record breaking two (lol, yes TWO!) out lesbians in the cast at the same time. Punkie and Kate will obviously also be joining out gay cast member and writer Bowen Yang, which certainly makes this the gayest ass season of SNL yet — and it hasn’t even started yet. But wait! There’s more! Punkie Johnson will officially become first out Black lesbian in the show’s 46 year history. Gay gasp!

She’s not the first Black lesbian to become a Saturday Night Live repertory player — that was Danitra Vance, who joined the cast in 1985, although she was not out at the time. Vance was the second-ever lesbian cast member, after Denny Dillon, who also was not out. She was cast the same year as Terry Sweeny, the first openly gay male cast member of SNL, marking the first time there were two LGBTQ+ cast members at the same time. Vance left the show a year later, reportedly “frustrated with being relegated to stereotypical black female roles.” She passed away in 1994 from breast cancer.

Punkie Johnson also adds her name to the small cohort of only just 22 Black cast members that have worked over the course of ensemble comedy behemoth’s 46 years. That group includes only seven Black women: Yvonne Hudson (1980–1981), Danitra Vance (1985–1986), Ellen Cleghorne (1991–1995), Maya Rudolph (2000–2007), Leslie Jones (2014–2019), Sasheer Zamata (2014–2017), and Ego Nwodim (2018-present).

From the press release, here is Punkie’s bio:

Punkie Johnson is a comedian and writer whose recent credits include “Space Force,” “Corporate,” “Adam Ruins Everything” and “Bill Burr Presents: The Ringers.” She was a New Face at the Just for Laughs Festival in 2019 and is a proud paid regular at the world famous Comedy Store in Hollywood.

Hot damn!

You might also know Punkie from her NOTABLE guest starring role in last summer’s A Black Lady Sketch Show where she competed as the “dance biter” in what was easily one of the show’s most iconic and gay sketches (thank you to Autostraddle TV writer and noted Internet research sleuth Natalie for the hot tip):

While we’re here, let’s go ahead and peep this very funny stand-up of Punkie talking about how role playing saved her marriage:

I don’t know a lot about Punkie just yet. Luckily, I have a month to obsessively learn everythiiiing possible to there is learn! SNL comes back on October 3rd. Personally I look forward to getting on my Issa Rae and:

A gif of Issa Rae at the 2017 Emmy Awards. She is wearing a red dress on the carpet and says: "I'm rooting for everybody Black."

Mo Springer reviews You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson – The Lesbrary

Mo Springer reviews You Should See Me in a Crown

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has a lot to deal with. Her mother is dead, dad left long ago, and her brother has sickle cell. She doesn’t have wealth like the other rich kids she goes to school with and her town, and the school’s history is primarily white. When she doesn’t get the scholarship into the school of dreams, meaning she might not be able to go at all, she decides to shock everyone by running for Prom Queen to get a chance at winning the scholarship prize.

Prom is a big deal in this town, and the story really makes it clear how important it is to everyone, as well as how important it is that someone like Lighty is running. I can still picture the hall of past Prom King and Queens, all white kids in framed photos looming over the students. With that, there are characters who are very against her running, some because they are competing with her, but another because they are racist. The book doesn’t shy away from the realities of modern-day prejudice and discrimination.

The characters really shined. I love Lighty’s friends, but I especially loved her friendship with Jordan. He starts out as kind of your stock character jock who used to be friends with the nerd but then abandoned them for the cool crowd. I won’t give anything away, but Jordan’s character has the biggest surprises.

Then, of course, we have to talk about that romance. Mack is a really fun character who could have easily become a manic-pixie-dream-girl, but honestly she reminded me of some of the girls I knew as a kid (and of course had crushes on). The author does a good job of making it clear Mack is more than just the bubbly, talkative, creative girl she presents as, but has a complex story and life.

Lighty and Mack’s relationship is both cute and interesting. They are of course teenagers and going to make the mistakes and bad decisions that teenagers will make. The two of them have a lot of ups and downs that were fitting of their characters and made you want to root for them more and more with each chapter.

I did have a bit of a hard time being sold on the stakes of having to get into an elite college. I went to community college for the first two years of getting my BA, so whenever a teen story is all about how the main character has to get into the super expensive, elite college, I end up wanting to jump into the story and shake them and say, “It’ll be okay! You’ll be just fine without it!”

The stakes surrounding the prom itself and the school’s hierarchy are much more believable. I really got the sense of how unrepresented Lighty felt and the book shows how much she has to fight against, with racism and then also homophobia. On top of that, to mention she is also dealing with her brother’s sickle cell and feels like she must take care of him. Her decisions might not always have been likable, but they were believable and added to the complexity of her character.

Overall, this was a really fun and interesting read. I highly recommend you pick it up!

Sunday Funday Is Keeping Marsha P. Johnson Close

Sunday Funday Is Keeping Marsha P. Johnson Close

Hello it is Sunday and yesterday was Saturday! My neighbors had fireworks for some reason and they scared my cats, but per usual, my robot roommate came through. Not to be like a shill of big tech, but as a person who lives alone, very little makes my life feel more tech free than being able to talk to a robot and have it do what I tell it to do. It even sang me happy birthday when I woke up on my birthday! A roommate has never done that for me.

Okay, while you read about the good news, I’m gonna go feed my cats treats for breakfast to make up for last night.


+ Hopefully including tons of facemasks and hand sanitizer, Paris held a Pride parade and thousands came out for what turned out to be, in true historical Pride fashion, hella political.

+ Speaking of Pride, we can’t let it go back to a corporate-sponsored event, which Natalie highlighted earlier this week.

+ Youth activists from 50 Miles More recently completed a march for Black and LGBTQ+ lives from Milwaukee to Madison.

+ The songs our queer elders boogied to in the 70s and 80s.

ADVERTISEMENT

+ Queer folks in Ecuador are exploring gender identity through drag.

This metamorphosis, from one character to another and back is what’s so striking about transformismo. It isn’t just that Rentería changes into Dareyeska, or Macías into Destiny, but that they also have to transform the other way around. One complies with the arrangements, rules and expectations of society. The other creates a parallel world of fantasy and possibility where they can decide and rule on their own terms. These split realities aren’t necessarily at odds with each other, but rather emerge as adaptations and strategies for queer life to flourish on difficult terrain. Keeping these two worlds neatly separate, however, isn’t always easy as Rentería and Macías can attest to. But “easy” would be missing the aim of transformismo which, after all, is breaking free from all the ways being human is confined and constricted.

+ Wales has a new LGBTQ bookstore.

+ Want a documentary about LGBTQ friendship? Check out Jack and Yaya.

+ Google closed out Pride Month with a doodle of Marsha P. Johnson and a half-million dollar donation to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

+ Hmm, lesbians will turn anything into a dating app including…TikTok?

+ Seven queer folks share the beauty rituals getting them through the pandemic. Speaking of, let me go wash my face.

My Queer Blackness, My Black Queerness is a vital digital project about Black queer people by Jordan Anderson.

+ Some Dartmouth sororities rewrite their constitutions to include nonbinary people. Cute if we ever go back to school.

+ Teens and the gender binary.

+ My ancestor was a suffragist.


Okay weirdos and friends, I’ll see you soon. Love yourselves, love your communities, love your enemies into being nice, I guess? I don’t know, still working on that one. You’re always on my heart and mind.

Ari

Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 306 articles for us.