Breaking Binaries With B. Scott
BY Sunnivie Brydum
September 19 2013 6:00 AM ET
While BET did not comment for this story, the company did issue a public statement shortly after Scott filed suit. The network called its statement an "apology," but Scott doesn't buy it.
Calling the incident "a series of unfortunate miscommunications between both parties," BET says it regrets any "unintentional offense to B. Scott and anyone within the LGBT community." The network closes by promising it seeks "to continue embracing all gender expressions."
Scott's suit makes numerous mentions of the fact that BET executives were highly familiar with Scott's gender-nonconforming style, noting that he'd appeared on two prior episodes of 106 & Park. In fact, the suit contends, Scott's genre-defying fashion was one of the reasons he was pegged as a good fit for the style stage correspondent in the first place.
Although the lawsuit is still pending and won't have a verdict in the immediate future, public reaction to Scott's treatment at the BET Awards — which he blogged about in detail on his well-read site LoveBScott.com — was swift, and not always kind.
Headlines on some LGBT and media blogs blasted what others saw as Scott's overnight adoption of the transgender label. One post by fellow transgender blogger Monica Roberts asked if Scott was "genuinely embracing the trans umbrella." Roberts, herself a prolific and acclaimed trans woman of color, lobbed this tweet at Scott shortly after he announced his lawsuit:
"When B Scott starts taking hormones and calling himself Brittany (or another femme name starting with 'B') and declares he's transitioning then I'll consider him part of Team Trans."
Scott says that kind of criticism, especially from LGBT people and other people of color, stung. Scott was particularly struck by the allegations that he'd adopted the transgender label primarily because it added weight to his lawsuit.
Calling those allegations "delusional," Scott fervently denies the lawsuit prompted him to claim his identity.
"There's no way that I would ever claim that I was a transgender person, if it was not [true]," says Scott, citing the staggering number of transgender people of color who are brutally beaten and murdered every year abroad and right here in the U.S. "No amount of money would be worth me putting my life at risk. ... I'm not doing this for the money, I'm doing this for the people who don't have the voice, the people who are not supported, the people who can't push back like I've pushed back."
That's not to say that the incident with BET didn't shed some light on Scott's identity.
"This situation did allow me to educate myself to the point where I realized that I was included in the definition," Scott says, citing GLAAD's definition of transgender, which says the word is an umbrella term to describe those whose gender identity doesn't correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. GLAAD notes that transgender people might identify as male, female, neither, both, or a host of other identities.
That's when the light bulb went off for Scott.
"I didn't know that the 'both or neither' was in that term," Scott acknowledges. "I thought it was just a man or a woman who did not identify with their assigned, born sex. And I personally was uneducated to think that [being trans] only meant that you had to be transitioning."
And while many transgender people do seek a social and clinical transition, there are just as many who chose not to, or lack the resources and privilege to access hormone therapy and surgeries that are rarely covered by insurance.
But that doesn't stop some even inside the trans community from policing their own, and decreeing that their own experience is the only "right" way to be trans.