Yesterday, a grand jury indicted only one of the three police officers involved in the shooting death last March of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Kentucky—and the charge was “wanton endangerment,” not the more serious ones of manslaughter or reckless homicide. I hope that other White people like myself make it a priority to learn more about this case and about the ongoing need for racial justice in the U.S. Here are a few places to start.
Melanye Price at the New York Times writes in a piece worth reading in full:
Police officers who kill citizens are rarely convicted. But in this tragic situation, in which the woman killed was not only unarmed but asleep in the moments before a police officer took her life, we hoped that for once, justice would be on our side. This is yet another disappointing reminder that it’s not.
These efforts take a cumulative toll. Young African-Americans consuming a regular diet of Black death are learning to not trust their government. It’s painful to realize that kneeling for the national anthem can cost a football player like Colin Kaepernick his career, but a police officer firing a deadly shot into an innocent young woman’s home late at night will face no consequences.
Longtime civil rights activist Rev. Dr. William Barber II spoke with CNN to explain why “every American, of every race, creed, or color should be really, really concerned” that the grand jury decided “to not even have a trial” on a murder charge. And in the wake of two Louisville police officers being shot during protests on Wednesday night, he tweeted:
Violence & shooting cops is not the way. I denounce it, and I pray for the officers and their families. I pastor officers of the law in my church. I cannot be against the police or officers completely, and I cannot support violence.
Furthermore, it’s what Trump wants. When racists killed Emmett Till, Rosa Parks decided to take down Jim Crow. When Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed, Amelia Boynton and others took down voter suppression. We need to change the system and the people running the system!
Yet while we should denounce all killings, as he says, we should also try to understand the outrage felt by Black people in our country. Regardless of the specifics of this case, it’s wise to remember that the grand jury’s decision here came 65 years to the day after an all-White jury acquitted the murderers of Emmett Till, a Black teen. We should all know Emmett’s story and understand just how long White people in America have been killing Black people with impunity—since 1619, in fact. And White people took indigenous lives long before that. Even though you and I did not personally do such things, we nevertheless benefit from the system of privilege that has enabled such horrors.
That’s not a reason for guilt; it’s a reason for action. We should all learn how to talk about race in ways that can help us to become more anti-racist and help dismantle the systems that keep racism in place. We should continue reading, listening, and educating ourselves and our children about race and the many perspectives of Black people and other people of color, of which the links above are only a very, very small sample. We should continue to Fight for Breonna and work towards racial justice in the communities of which we are part. Those aren’t easy tasks, but they are necessary ones, both for our country and for our humanity.
A gay Taylor Swift fan was blown away when he received a handwritten letter from the singer-songwriter praising him for “choosing to live and love honestly even when it isn’t easy”.
Swift, who recently released her eighth studio album folklore, wrote a heartfelt letter to Andrew Mooney, who is currently finishing up his PhD at Trinity College Dublin.
The letter, dated 23 August, begins: “Andy, someone told me you’re about to finish your PhD! I wanted to congratulate you on this incredible accomplishment and to applaud you for all the hard work you’ve put into your studies.
Swift continued: “This is EPIC!! I saw how supportive you’ve been of my music over the years and was so touched.
“Thank you so much. I’m also so proud of you for the bravery you’ve shown in your personal life, choosing to live and love honestly even when it isn’t easy.
“I hope you’re doing well in and amongst the chaos we’re all living through right now,” Swift added.
“In these times, I think it’s important to revel in the great moments when we can, and this is a moment worth celebrating!”
Gay Taylor Swift fan was overwhelmed by her heartfelt handwritten letter.
Mooney shared a photo of the letter on Twitter along with an envelope addressed to “Dr Andy Mooney” to celebrate the completion of his PhD.
“Thank you Taylor Swift for taking the time to write me such a beautiful message,” Mooney wrote.
I’m also so proud of you for the bravery you’ve shown in your personal life, choosing to live and love honestly even when it isn’t easy.
“You have been an inspiration to me for so many years and I can’t put into words how much this means to me. You have changed my life.”
Thank you @taylorswift13 for taking the time to write me such a beautiful message. You have been an inspiration to me for so many years and I can’t put into words how much this means to me. You have changed my life. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ERGCmk2vkC
Other things that Holland talks about include: Legally Blonde, duh; quarantining with Sarah Paulson — I know you want to know that! — and giving a shout out to one of my favorite black queer women writers, Angela Robinson!
There’s also this very sweet gem:
“I live my life in public. I do everything that I would do if I were an unknown person married to a man. I just live my life. And so if I happen to be seen in public, I’m not trying to be something that I’m not. But on the same token, I don’t talk with any depth about my private life because it’s not my personal style. But tweeting about Sarah’s show that she’s in and how wonderful she is, or even our personal tweets that we do back and forth, is not deeply personal. Or let’s say — it’s not private. I don’t have private communications with her in public. I don’t talk about the private aspect of our relationship in public. But I exist … I live in the public. And so I’m on Twitter. I love Twitter. Sarah doesn’t do Twitter so much.” 😍 💖
Literally everyone at Autostraddle cannot stop watching this on a loop:
Marry me, please. And then make us a wedding gazebo made out of recycled wine crates that you paint yourself, because wow “you love a project.”
Saw This, Thought of You
Happy Black Women’s Equal Pay Day! August 13th is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. But what is Equal Pay Day, and what does it mean for the state of the gender and racial pay gap? (I’ll give you a hint, if you are a non-Black woman reading this right now, it means that if we had the same job, you would still get paid more than me. Maybe we should… I dunno… Fix that?)
Countless actors fancy themselves overnight sensations. In the case of actress Mya Taylor, however, the claim is accurate.
A chance meeting at the Los Angeles LGBTQ Community Center paired Taylor–then a 23-year-old sex worker–with aspiring director Sean Baker. Baker convinced her to appear in his new movie, a film about Hollywood sex workers set to film on iPhones. The resulting movie, Tangerine, became a festival sensation. Taylor scored rave reviews for her work, and would go on to win the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress–the first-ever transgender performer to win the award.
Now Taylor returns to movies with Stage Mother. The film teams her with two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver, Lucy Liu, Adrian Grenier and Jackie Beat in a story about a conservative mother (Weaver) who inherits her son’s San Francisco drag bar. Taylor plays Cherry, a transgender queen who regularly takes to the stage, and who could use some maternal care herself.
Mya Taylor’s work in Stage Mother has earned her yet another accolade: this year, she receives the coveted Next Wave Award at the Provincetown Film Festival. The Next Wave Award recognizes distinctive artists who take artistic risks and have a passion for independent film. Past honorees include Chloe Grace Moritz and Jillian Bell.
So things are crazy in the world at the moment. How are you doing?
Well I’m perfectly healthy. I haven’t gotten the virus, or been exposed to it. I do work as a nurse, so I am in the field where I could be exposed to it. But we’re tested every single week—I was just tested yesterday. I’m getting tired of getting stabbed in the throat…
Oh my. I can’t blame you for that one.
It’s a lot.
Well, thank you for your service. I’m so glad to hear you’re alright.
I just work and come home. I do auditions, tape them, send them in. I don’t know what’s going to happen if I actually get a job. A set is made up of a lot of people.
And you have a new movie coming out, so congratulations. Stage Mother is really adorable. It’s a sweet film.
I really loved it.
And you’re getting the Next Wave award!
Thank you. I’m excited.
How did the role of Cherry come to you?
In the beginning, I had done a ton of auditions. I was waiting for my next audition to come, and I expected my manager to call with one. But he called with my agent at ICM and said “We have this script we want you to look at. The director really wants to talk to you to see if you’re interested.” So I read the script, and…
[Her voice breaks. A beat]
It’s kind of emotional to me. When I was 18, I came out to my grandmother. I knew she already knew, but I came out as gay at that time. I didn’t start my transition until I was 22. Just the way she looked at me, and the way she started being different with me, I ended up leaving home. And that’s what started my journey.
Now, when I talked to Thom he mentioned that you were fairly uninitiated when it came to drag; your background was as an actress and singer. What kind of research did you do for the role?
Well, on set I was around professional drag queens. Even our make-up artist—she did drag too. And she did a little bit of coaching me. She was like ok girl, you’re going to wear these tall, platform heels. Walk like this and stick that ass out. Now, in my day-to-day life, I will wear heels, but no heels that are platform. But just to soften it up a bit, I was known as a trans drag queen. That’s my role. My character is a little bit more classy than my sisters.
You’re working with some heavyweight actors here, obviously. What do you learn from working with a great character actress like Jacki Weaver? How does it challenge you?
You know, I don’t even think about that. Here’s what I think about: there was a director that I worked with on the TV show Dietland. She’d been directing for a long time, like before I was even born. I asked her: “What makes a good actress? How can you be the best you can be as an actress?” She said, “The best thing you can do is just know your lines. When you get on the set, it will be totally different from what you imagined.” A director gives you the direction you need to go with that character. So that’s what I do. I just know my lines. You’ll never hear me say “Line?”
Related: Director Thom Fitzgerald on how the pain of loss fueled the comedy of ‘Stage Mother’
Well that’s good.
You have to take yourself out of the element, and really think how a character would react. That’s why you have to read a whole script: so you know the outcome. There’s a lot that comes along with it.
One of the themes of the film is motherhood, of course, and Maybelline’s arc is primarily one of redemption for failing her son. You’re someone who has been very honest about your relationship with your own family, and how it’s improved. Is it a difficult experience doing a film that echoes your own life?
I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. I’ve pretty much overcome everything with my own family. I think some of my problems with my own family had to do with me, internally, not being entirely comfortable with who I was.
Feeling like my family members were judging me, or not accepting me. I’m one person who will overact about something. For instance…
I have a BMW that has turbos in it. I had it tuned. Then my car started misfiring, and the check engine light came on. I was like oh hell no, bitch! I’m about to buy an X-5!
So I took it to a mechanic, and he said I needed new spark plugs. The tune gave it more power, so I needed new spark plugs, which is why it was misfiring. So I had overreacted. I was already on Cars.com looking for an X-5. I’m one to overreact. And my family—they just talk. I feel like sometimes they have diarrhea of the mouth.
They’ll say stuff and not really think about what they’re saying, and they don’t mean what it sounds like they’re saying. So that’s where I’m going with that. But the film, in relation to my life—I could pull from my life as far as the emotions.
Some of the things that happen in the film—if I’m doing a scene where I’m turned away or not accepted, all I have to do is think about the moment when I told my grandmother that I was gay. The look she gave…I remember how she looked in that moment. That’s how I pull out my emotions.
And it works every time?
Yes. If you notice in Tangerine I cried. That’s not glycerine. Those are actual tears. Any time you see my cry on screen, they are actual tears, not the fake stuff.
Is that exhausting? Do you feel like you carry pain around all the time then?
Not at all. I’m able to turn it on and turn it off. I’ve been through so much—all the prostitution and drug dealing and fights. I’ve been so much with so many different people, I can turn it on and turn it off. I’m pretty much numb to a lot of the emotions. I’m not saying things don’t bother me or hurt me, because they do. But I know how to get over it really quick and move on.
I’m not sure the way I do it is healthy. For instance, I just went through a divorce with my husband. But instead of being sad about it, I turn it to anger. I think about all the moments he pissed me off.
But I can get over anger faster than I can get over sadness. That probably sounds crazy, but that’s just how I deal with it.
I don’t think that sounds crazy at all; everybody is different. As long as it’s not taking a toll on you, it seems healthy.
You’ve been acting professionally for 5 years now. In that time—in part, thanks to your work—the images people have of transgender Americans has changed considerably. So have opportunities for trans performers. How have opportunities changed for you as an actress in that time?
You know, my manager Aaron Brown of Avalon Management—he shields me from a lot. I told him I didn’t want to keep getting offered roles and doing auditions for prostitutes or drug dealers. I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to play a transwoman that gets killed. Bring me an audition that’s just a regular person, a cisgender woman. A lot of the auditions he’ll send to me won’t even have a specific character in mind. [The character breakdown] won’t say “Latina woman,” or “caucasian man.” It’s just for a person. And the director wants to find a person that fits the role. I’ve done a lot of those kind of auditions recently. Yesterday I did an audition for a cartoon. They didn’t say they wanted a transgender woman or a white woman, they just needed a female.
That’s fantastic. So what kind of characters are you really interested in playing? What your dream role?
You know, what I really want to do is be a hero in something, or be in a horror movie. Not a whore movie. A horror movie.
Thank you for clarifying.
A couple days ago someone asked me the same question. I said I do not want to be the bitch that falls down all the time. I will be the one that runs away or kills the killer.
The final girl—the girl that survives and beats the killer. That’s great.
It would be so fun. I have so much fun on set, and if it’s gonna be dull, I’ll make it fun.
How do you create that atmosphere of fun?
I’m just normally really comfortable with people, and I know how to bring that out of them. I love to see people laugh. I love to see happiness. If you remember, back when I did Tangerine, I was comfortable with Sean [director Sean Baker] because I said “Look, if we’re going to do this project, I know it’s a sad subject matter. So we’re going to make it fun.” That’s how I get through life. Let’s say you’re homeless on the street with your best friend. You’re at the bottom. All you can do is go up. You might as well make it fun. Go out to the club. Throw a party. Handle your business at the same time, but have fun. You don’t have to be down just because something bad happens to you.
That’s a wonderful outlook, and a healthy one. Obviously, Halle Berry just stepped in a gigantic mess for announcing she was going to play a trans man. She’s since backed off of that. Why do you think Hollywood, for all its advances, still can be so tone-deaf when it comes to casting a trans role?
Quite honestly, I do not know. I do not get it, for the life of me. We have made improvements, but it’s not enough. You see cisgender men and women playing their own roles, or our roles. It seems like we don’t get hired for much of anything, unless it has to do with prostitution or drug dealing or getting killed. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. It’s so hard and expensive to make your own work without others to help cover the bill. And by others, I mean cisgender people.
It still boggles my mind. On the subject of coming a long way in five years, obviously your life has changed so much. You’re playing higher-profile roles and winning awards. What are you most grateful for?
You know, it’s not even about the material things or luxury items. I don’t have to struggle anymore. When I did Tangerine and started making money, I don’t know if you noticed, but I gained a ton of weight. I was eating finally!
Fortunately now I’ve lost 36 pounds.
I’m back to being small again. But I said this is my foot in the door. Time to get everything done. So I went and got my name and gender changed. I got a stable job, because acting’s not always stable. That’s what I’m most grateful for: normalcy.
That’s wonderful. When do you experience that the most?
When I go to work and live a stealth life of just being a woman. I go to work, and I’m Mya Taylor. Other than the coworkers that actually know who I am have seen my movies…I’m like bitch, shut your mouth. Then I get to come home and feel safe, not worry about where I’m going to sleep or what I’m going to eat. I still have people in my life like my longtime friend Alfred Lopez, who actually makes an appearance in Tangerine. I’m grateful for that.
It speaks so well of you that it’s just the basic stuff, not a misfiring BMW.
So many people take for granted having a job, or food, or a place to live or friends. That’s beautiful.
It’s funny, but it’s true.
Stage Mother plays at the Provincetown Film Festival July 16-19.