Breaking Binaries With B. Scott
BY Sunnivie Brydum
September 19 2013 6:00 AM ET
B. Scott is many things: a prolific blogger, a columnist, an experienced fashion correspondent, a multiplatform media maven, and TV, radio, and Web personality, a proud member of the black gay community, and an out transgender person.
That last label is one Scott has only recently donned, and he's still getting used to how it feels. But as with everything else in his life, Scott proudly wears the identity, and looks damn fine doing it.
Scott, who was assigned male at birth and prefers masculine pronouns, says his journey to accepting himself as a transgender person was a long one.
"I've always felt like I was somewhere in between," Scott says of his gender. "Even when I was younger, when I used to watch Tarzan, I just kind of imagined I was Jane. I don't know what all that meant, but I've always felt like my spirit was somewhere in between."
Occupying that in-between space can be tricky, though, especially when in front of a camera or dealing with straitlaced media executives. Scott received a crash course in the strict gender policing that happens in mainstream media when he was physically pulled off the red carpet for the June 30 BET Awards after producers decided his attire was too feminine.
For the record, Scott maintains he'd received explicit approval from the show's handlers and producers regarding the exact outfit he wore: loose black pants, a sleeveless top with a flowing navy tunic, and mid-height heels.
Scott was slated to be an anchor for the 106 & Park BET Awards Pre-Show as its sole style stage correspondent, with at least 12 one-on-one interview segments scheduled. But after just one interview and in the middle of another, on live television, BET handlers pulled Scott off the red carpet and told him his appearance "wasn't unacceptable," and if he wanted to continue on the air, he'd have to change into more masculine attire — something that fit BET's idea of what a black man should wear on the red carpet.
"I needed to pull my hair back, mute my makeup, change into solely men's clothing, and take off my heels and put on flats," Scott recalls being told. "That to me was just so shocking, it was like, 'You're not accepted. We do not approve of you.' It made me feel less than, it made me feel like something was wrong with me."
Not wanting to miss an important professional opportunity — Scott calls the BET Awards "the black Super Bowl" and notes that millions of his peers and community members were watching the show — Scott complied with the request. He pulled his flowing hair back into a ponytail, took off his makeup, and changed into fitted black pants with a black top and navy blazer, then completed the ensemble with a pair of blue loafers. See both his looks side by side here.
By the time Scott had completed the wardrobe change, BET handlers told him he wouldn't be able to participate as the pre-show's sole host as planned, so he was added back on-camera as a cohost with his replacement near the end of the program.
"It was a big moment for me," Scott says. "It was one of the biggest moments of my career, and [BET] embarrassed me."
While B. Scott is many things, he is not a shrinking violet. Unwilling to take BET's gender policing lying down, Scott lawyered up and filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleging that BET and its parent company, Viacom, discriminated against Scott because of his gender identity. The suit also contends that BET wrongfully terminated Scott's employment, amounting to a breach of contract, intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Scott, and violated his rights as protected under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act.
That lawsuit was one of the first times Scott publicly used the word "transgender" to describe himself.