BY Brandon Voss
March 15 2010 2:35 PM ET
With your participation on I Want to Work for Diddy, you became the first African-American trans woman on a reality show. Are you comfortable being a role model for the trans community?
The term “role model” seems ridiculous to me, but I am aware that I’ve inspired some other transgender girls — like Jaila Simms, who won Diddy’s Making His Band. That’s a big deal to me, so I take it seriously. I do feel a certain responsibility to my community, but I’m a human being, so I have flaws and I’m going to make mistakes, which has to be OK. So many black transgender women wrote to me when I was on I Want to Work for Diddy and said they’d never seen any black trans woman represented on television as professional and articulate. It’s not usually so positive or uplifting when we see black trans women in the media.
You’ve played a number of transgender prostitutes, including your recent guest spots on Bored to Death and Law & Order. Is it frustrating that the few roles offered to trans women are so often hookers?
Well, that’s why I started producing. I realized that people weren’t writing complicated roles for transgender actresses, so I needed to start creating roles for myself. I’m happy to be in the reality realm, but there still aren’t many acting roles written for us that go beyond prostitutes, particularly for transgender women of color. But as an artist, I try not to judge a character, like, “Oh, she’s a prostitute, so I can’t play that.” That’s ridiculous, because there are transgender women who are prostitutes, and that doesn’t mean these characters aren’t human beings. I try to bring humanity to whatever role I play. It can get frustrating, though. I remember one day I was so excited that I had three auditions, but in every single one I was playing a hooker. It’s really sad that this is what the industry thinks of us, but I believe it can and will change. Baby steps.
You accepted the 2009 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Series for I Want to Work for Diddy. What was your experience like at the San Francisco ceremony?
Diverse representation of transgender people in the media is so important to me that I’ve made it my life’s work, so to be recognized by an organization with a similar purpose was so incredibly validating. I met Calpernia Addams for the first time — we were cowinners because she also won for Transamerican Love Story — and she’s a delight. She’s done so much amazing work for our community. I also met Dustin Lance Black, who I’m a huge fan of. There were a bunch of other amazing people there I didn’t meet because I was too shy. I may not seem shy, but I can’t go up to celebrities and be like, “I’m a huge fan!”
You’re a writer, a contributing producer, and a subject of T, an upcoming documentary on trans women executive-produced by Janet Jackson. Have you met her?
I have not met her yet because she mostly communicates with one of my business partners through her managers, but she did invite us all to her concert a couple years ago. She’s been so supportive of the transgender community. T has been a labor of love for our production company for a really long time because it’s been difficult to get off the ground, but hopefully it’ll be coming out soon.
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