Filmmaker Cheryl Dunyje, well-known for the creation of The Watermelon Woman, Stranger Inside, and The Owls, is in production of a new short film entitled Black is Blue. In order to complete the film, Dunye has turned to Kickstarter.
In the starring role of Black is a transman who does not claim to be an actor. Kingston Faraday says he is a "defense-side investigator", activist and writer. He had appeared in two other short independent films and a documentary produced by a Mills College ethnic studies student…
All of which focused on the complexities of love and life as the topics relate to queer people of color, the militarization of women of color, and the intersections of oppression.
Faraday does have a background as an Oakland-based performance artist, who co-created the queer performance spaces Phat Tuesday's, Burning Bush, and Sister-Fire at Mills. He also founded an organization called Love Your Vehicle, which offers practical, traditionally based health and wellness, total fitness and life coaching for queer and trans people of color.
He has published on the subject of transracial adoption and is currently working on a novel "that explores the complexities of love, and how-to use love as a revolutionary tool for courageous social change."
Faraday didn't have to audition fr the role of Black. Dunye came looking for him, who had told a Bay Area promoter she was searching for "a black man who had transitioned his gender" for the role of Black. the promoter gave Dunye Faraday's name.
I was moved by the proposal and equally concerned because I knew that releasing a trans-narrative into the world was a complex task that could further marginalize a community that is currently facing a lot of misconceptions and phobias from all other communities, both queer and hetero-normative.
At the same time, I was clear on the importance of visibility for any marginalized community and am deeply committed to leading movements that unveil a community of people, those who have transitioned their gender, in a way that simultaneously protects our individual rights, like privacy, which every community is fighting to exercise without prejudice.
[F]or me it was very important to understand the motivation behind creating this film and the vision for offering this analytical fictional cinema to a world where just last year Brandy Martell was fatally shot on a street corner in Oakland for being transgender and on the other side of the world Thapelo Makutle was mutilated and also murdered in her apartment in South Africa for being transgender; all alongside the many murders of unnamed trans-people whose lives were taken silently.
I can't help but be fascinated by so much of what Faraday shared with interviewer Kortney Ryan Ziegler. And I have to admit that if I find it fascinating, I also believe that they are thoughts that should be shared outside our community.
I had to allow myself to fall in love with the character, Black, which was a very interesting process because it forced me to fall in love, once again, with my own transgender identity. I think this may be true across the board of marginalized people, but as a black-trans man, I found that I had become so use to the daily battle of defending my intersecting identities, and self, even on a subliminal level that I had forgotten to continue exploring and loving my black-trans identity with the intention that it is due.
In the film Black passes as a cisgender male. That sparked more important thoughts from Faraday.
Personally, I do not think passing is always a choice. There tends to be "active passing" and "passive passing." For example, when the world looks at me, they see a black man. However, I am actually half Jamaican and half Irish, along with transgender. Most do not assume that I am interracial because I have very African features, and most do not assume I am transgender because I am very masculine, so I passively pass on both fronts, not because I choose to pass, but simply because that is what it is. Now, I recognize that passing is about power, how it is being claimed, and by who. So, through a lens of race my passively passing as black when I'm interracial does not increase my social standing, whereas, passing as a cis-man could; but my example illustrates how we draw conclusions based on what we perceive, not based on fact.
How does Faraday feel about disclosing?
My thoughts are three-fold. First, I do not believe in disclosing any part of ones identity to satisfy the fears of others. What I mean by this is that often transgender people are targeted in the disclosure discussion because people are terrified of confusing their own sexual identities and intragroup characteristics with their misinterpretation of the gender identities of trans-people, and even though transitioning your gender is not about sex nor does it function to threaten the ties that bind, but the lack of understanding and fear in not understanding tends to push people to demand that trans-people fully disclose who they are to the world. This demand, to me, is not okay.
The second prong in my thoughts around disclosure relates to visibility, which I talked about earlier, and the importance of disclosing our trans-identities in an effort to educate the masses. This type of disclosure is about social development, self- and group-empowerment, and claiming space. I think this type of disclosure is critical, and needs to be both strategic, organic, and a personal choice.
The third prong is disclosing as it relates to intimate moments. Here, I believe in disclosing when I want to deepen my personal connection with someone, when I want to gift them with a knowledge about who I am that is not always easy to carry, and when I want to be seen in my entirety. So, yes, Black is passing as a cis man in the film, but in agreeing with that statement it is important to look at it in all of its complexity.
Asked to enumerate his trans heroes, Faraday said something exceptional:
My trans-men and-women heroes are the people that I run into every, single, day. They are the people who wake up every morning, and step outside, wearing the clothes that feel right. My heroes are the people that walk into clinics and doctor's offices, where they are often not welcome, and still ask for the hormones that they need. My heroes are the people that fight to manage their transitioning bodies behind bars, where courts are still determining whether they should have access to that type of resource. My heroes are the men and women who recreate any identity to better explain their spirit in an effort to achieve true happiness in this world. Even just thinking about my trans-brothers and -sisters inspires me and fills me with courage to unveil more of myself to this world because we too are worthy, necessary, and here, navigating a frontier that is not yet clear.