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Reina Gossett is a visionary and her work deserves prestige and compensation. 

As a writer and an organizer, I get a warm flush a few times a month when I get a shout out on social media from my many peers and colleagues in queer feminist POC networks. The last one that gave me real pause was the incomparable make-up artist Umber Ghauri of Brown Beauty Standards who let the world know that I did one of my usual backstage hook-ups for a great campaign celebrating trans women’s beauty for the End Violence Against Women campaign. Reina Gossett is a historical researcher, writer, filmmaker and activist who has been receiving the antithesis of the aforementioned warm treatment that comes from community solidarity and compassionate collaboration. She’s been done real dirty in the furore which has surrounded the Netflix documentary film “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”. If you are unfamiliar with what I am talking about, Gossett accused David France, the director, of capitalizing on her years of  research and ideas for the film I spoke with David France, just to get a measure of the man. I was not interested in the pernickety back and forth of accusations, allegations, defensiveness and labored partial truth seeking. The expansion of digital media has enlarged the court of public opinion exponentially to an extent that would boggle the minds of television watchers. In this era where many are concerned about the not-that-new phenomenon of 'fake news', the thoroughness of journalistic endeavor hasn't been diluted across the board. It seems that David France believes that because he had "trans and gender non-conforming people from the very top of our production to the bottom of our production” that it could exempt him from criticism of his cisgender white gaze and perhaps even invalidate Reina’s claims that her labor was exploited.

There are thousands of Black trans women who, if given the right resources, could have really educated us about the plight, successes and experiences of trans women of color.

By Dr. Jonathan P. Higgins Last Wednesday Netflix released the documentary directed by David France, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson. While the initial release was met with positive reception, the film’s validity was questioned upon learning that Reina Gossett, a trans woman of color and filmmaker, stated that the concept for the film was stolen from her. As a result many queer/trans people of color have been left wondering: Why are white, queer men so interested in telling the stories of trans Black people? https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ7byULA9KA/ In a statement put out by France, he states that he felt for years that because of his connection to both Marsha and Sylvia, that he should be the one to tell the story around Marsha’s death. But the stories of the lives of queer and trans people of color are often columbused and the stories are often told from a lens that rarely captures the full picture of what it means to be marginalized. It is not uncommon for QTPOC to have their stories stolen from them. It is not uncommon for white cisgender individuals to offer up their platform to supposedly assist QTPOC with telling their stories only for pivotal pieces of said story to be left out. This is not the first time that a white director profited off of Marsha P. Johnson’s story. We saw this happen in 2015, when the film Stonewall was released by Roland Emmerich. Not only did the film leave out important moments related to the original story, it centered a cisgender white man and erased the actions of both Johnson and Rivera, as well as other QTPOC. In the beginning 2017, the same thing happened when writer and producer Dustin Lance Black released his work entitled, When We Rise, a television docudrama about LGBTQ rights.

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