Award-winning journalist, social curator and author Tre’vell Anderson joins The Stacks to discuss their new book We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film. We talk about how the media portrayal of trans people impacts individuals and the conversation around trans rights, and the relationship between trans women and drag queens on screen. We also discuss the types of trans stories that are allowed to be told in media.
The Stacks Book Club selection for June is Oreo by Fran Ross. We will discuss the book on June 28th with Hannah Oliver Depp.
*Due to the nature of podcast advertising, these timestamps are not 100% accurate and will vary.
Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to the Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and today we are joined by Tre’vell Anderson, an award winning journalist, cohost on the today podcast and the FANTI podcast and the author of the brand new book, We See Each Other: A Black Trans Journey Through TV and Film. Today I talk with Tre’vell about their book, which is a personal history of trans visibility on screen and it traces the televisual trans history, both in plain sight and hidden in the shadows of history. The book is fantastic and adds much needed context to our current state of transphobia as well as increased representation. Remember our June book club pick is Oreo by Fran Ross. We will discuss the book with Hannah Oliver Depp on Wednesday, June 28. Everything we talked about on each episode of the show can be found in the link in the show notes. If you just cannot get enough of the stacks, I have even more for you. If you join the stacks pack, which is our community on Patreon. For just $5 a month, you get bonus episodes, or virtual book club access to the extremely active discord where we do buddy reads give book recommendations share our pop tart Power Rankings and a lot more. Trust me, this x pack is having a good time. If this sounds like you, or if you just want to throw a little money behind your favorite independent book podcast head to patreon.com/the stacks. I want to give a special shout out to some of our newest members, Cynthia Garza. Meghan McSorely, Sean Pola door, Ryan Cox, Marie matter and Julia Maura Kahn. Thank you all so much. And thank you to the entire stacks pack. All right now it’s time for my conversation with Tre’vell Anderson.
All right, everybody. I am so excited. I’m joined today by one of my just someone that I admire so much I think is so smart wrote an incredible book has a hilarious podcast. And then also like kind of like a smart newsy podcast. It’s Tre’vell Anderson. Welcome to the Stacks.
Tre’vell Anderson 2:07
Thanks for having me. So glad to be here.
Traci Thomas 2:10
I’m so happy you’re here. Let me tell folks about the book you wrote. It’s called We See Each Other a black trans journey throughout TV and film. I was not sure what to expect with this book. Because it’s like, you don’t really know what you’re gonna get necessarily you have an idea of black, you have an idea of trans. But otherwise, it’s like this could be anything. I love this book, the way that I was Googling as I was reading. I mean, like, Who the fuck is that? What? Oh, my God, I was like, Oh, I totally could feel you wanted me to do that. Like, I was like, Oh, I feel like I am tapping into long term eyes. But why don’t you tell folks in about 30 seconds or so what the book is about?
Tre’vell Anderson 2:51
Yes. Okay. So We See Each Other is part history of trans images on screen since the beginning of moving images part memoir. So I basically take little bits and pieces from my own personal gender journey and becoming journey and juxtapose them with some canonical images of trans folks in media, and then other images of gender expression in media that I think impacts trans folks lives.
Traci Thomas 3:20
One of the things that I appreciate about this book is that pretty early on you let us know that this is not comprehensive, that it’s not every image of a trans person on screen. It’s not every story that we’ve ever seen. It’s not every reference. And I really appreciate that. Because I think sometimes when books try to do everything, it’s like you can’t do it, you just simply can’t. But I want to know why you made that choice to narrow it down to the representations that mattered to you.
Tre’vell Anderson 3:49
Yeah, so what I pitched well, you know, the idea that I sold was this more comprehensive, deeply researched, you know, perhaps a little bit more clinical approach to the history of trans images on screen. That’s what I pitched. That’s what they bought. And then to be quite honest, in the course of writing, I was like, Okay, this is Ward, because, you know, there is just like, I couldn’t, I couldn’t hit on everything, right, even things that I thought were important. And then there were some things that I purposefully didn’t want to hit on. I felt myself I tell the story in the book of I found myself watching boys don’t cry, because that is a, you know, canonical piece of, of film about trans life. And, you know, it was really a, you know, triggering experience for me. And I was like, well, now why am I subjecting myself to some of these, you know, horrible images as a means of telling this like full history of how we as a community have been rendered on screen. I So it was really that point that I was like, You know what, I’m actually not going to do that. Which is not to say I don’t contend with some of the stereotypes and the tropes and like the, the negative images as it relates to transness and gender expansiveness on screen, but that I want it to be short to center the uniqueness of my experience, and, and my understanding and view on some of these films. One, because I felt like that was necessary. Oftentimes, we treat like film and TV as like, you know, superfluous and, you know, it’s just, it’s just that thing over there, that, you know, our parents don’t want us to be creatives, okay. And then the work that the creatives produce, right is often, you know, undervalued in, in our society. But so many of those images have led to the very real lived experiences and lives that so many of us live. And so why not, you know, be intentional about like painting that picture. So that’s how it became more personal. And I just kind of had to, you know, relieve myself of the burden of hitting on everything, and see it as an opportunity to just try to, you know, I do my contribution, and make space for somebody else to do their contribution.
Traci Thomas 6:23
I love what you say, you said this in the book, and you just mentioned it about how people don’t really give film representation, maybe the credit that it’s due for both good and bad representation and the way that that affects us as people. I recently read a book called Rise, which was about it’s about Asian America and pop culture. And there’s like a huge section or a section of the book that talks about that movie. What about a poo? That’s like a sign you remember that movie? And it’s so interesting. It’s a movie for people who don’t know about the Simpsons character, who is voiced by Hank Azaria. And it’s like a very racist depiction of an Indian store owner. Perhaps he’s Pakistani, it’s very unclear. It’s very racist. And they talk about everyone in the documentary is Indian or South Asian. And they talk about how much that depiction played into their childhoods and their understandings of their families and everything. And I think, you know, you talk about that in this book is like, we do learn a lot of stuff from our families, but we learn a lot of stuff from the media and like, how to treat people and how that’s okay, or not okay, or who people are, and who’s worthy and who’s not. And I was so grateful to you for saying that. Because I know that, but I never would have articulated it that way. Do you know what I mean?
Tre’vell Anderson 7:46
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, yeah, I mean, I think that’s, that’s the reality, I think when you talk to people about the shows that we loved as kids or the movie that we always watch with our grandparents, and then you compare that to our behaviors, right, how we show up in the world. I’ve been saying a lot recently, particularly with the you know, legislative assault that we are going through as a community right now, that, you know, all of these, you know, conservative lawmakers are saying, and trying to make people believe that we as trans people are predators that we are groomers that we somehow want to hurt people or replace women. And a lot of those exact same kind of ideas, you know, first popped up on screen, right? Whether it was in cycle or Silence of the Lambs, or, you know, we can go down a very long list. And I think it becomes easy for John Q Public to believe that type of misinformation, because that’s all they’ve seen on TV and in movies anyway, already in their head.
Traci Thomas 8:51
It’s already like they’re laying there dormant.
Tre’vell Anderson 8:54
And then and so then you hear, you know, this conservative person, say this thing, and it it it unlocks that memory, right from that one thing that you saw all those many years ago, that is actually a very horrible and harmful portrayal, if we’re going to call it that of a trans person or trans experience, but it unlocks that and it makes you makes it okay, then, right? When you hear that another black trans person has been killed, right? Because you think that we should be right, because that’s what you’ve learned, right?
Traci Thomas 9:32
Okay, so then let me ask you this. How do you feel about this book coming into the world amidst this very public moment of people, killing trans people, especially black trans people, of people legislating against trans people have people legislating against trans children against trans athletes against trans authors? Like what is this book mean for you? Not just in the big picture, but in this exact moment.
Tre’vell Anderson 10:02
You know, let’s just say this was not the plan, right? Not did not conceptualize that this book would be coming out at this particular moment, in which not only the assault on trans community but also the assault on, you know, black history, right, that’s also unfolding, as well, you know, it’s really, it’s really, it’s really weird. Because the moment kind of ratchets up the urgency, right? For such a book like this for the types of stories like these. And yet it also on top of that is yet another example of what I talk about in the book is the paradox of visibility, right? How we become so visible as a community, and at the same time, we are the most vulnerable, right? As a community, and how that vulnerability, it shows up in different ways. Right? So like, the way that I knew that my interview that I did on Good Morning America about the book published is because when I woke up, I had a sea of hate. Right in my comments on my social media, right. And so that’s a particular type of vulnerability there, but we never talk about the types of vulnerability, right for the Black and Brown trans folks, right? In everyday life, right? Who don’t who aren’t actual visible, right, who are just trying to live their lives and walk through the world, right? And so it’s, it’s, it has been a perplexing moment and experience to have written this book and have it come out at this moment. And I still in it, right? So it’s, it’s even more kind of weird, but it definitely is kind of proof within itself of like, the need for the book and these conversations.
Traci Thomas 12:07
And I also just want to say, just because I don’t want people to think that I don’t understand that trans people have been under attack previously to now, I just want to, but I think this moment feels particularly vitriolic, particularly in the media in a way that maybe it wasn’t six years ago, or 12 years ago. So I just want to I want to clarify, so people don’t think that I’m like, oh, trans people just weren’t invented. And now people hate them starting today. Let’s talk a little bit about talking about art from the past and talking about it, contemporaneously. So there’s early on the book, you talk a lot about drag queens, because in media, in movies, a lot of characters were or even in culture, a lot of people who were trans use the language of being drag queens like that was just like what people used at the time, regardless of if they were a sis man who was you know, wearing women’s clothes and performing as a drag queen like we know it now, or someone who was living a trans life. I want to talk about the conflation of these two things. And like how you were pulling it apart and trying to decide what was trans representation? And what was drag queen representation. Does that matter? Like, does it matter if something from the 1980s is drag? Versus Tran like, or why does it matter? Or how does it matter to you? I don’t know. It’s a lot of questions, but I’d love for you to tease it out a little bit for us.
Tre’vell Anderson 13:47
Let me see what I can do with that. So I think we’ll one it was important to talk about drag in a couple of different ways. For me. I’ll start with you know the what I will call the traditional form of drag right, which is a man a sis identified man, dressing up in getting up in the Giggs right for some sort of performance. And it was important to talk about that mainly because of for me, the lady Chablis, who starred in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which is based on a book which in part was based on a chapter of it. We talked about the lady Chablis in real life, she plays a version of herself in the movie, right? And the leadership Lee was a trans woman, but she was also a drag performer. In the film, she is only ever regarded in text as a drag performer. Though there are these you know subtle inferences to you know, estrogen shots and you know, other other things that would signal a trans identity not just pronouns.
Traci Thomas 15:04
Exactly correct, the pronouns.
Tre’vell Anderson 15:06
Absolutely. And that would signal you know, trans. And not just drag, but because of the time period, right. And the language that we had at that time that was most often in use, right? She’s referred to in all of the press that you look at from the time as a dry clean. And then I think of a film like to Wong foo, in which John leg was almost character chichi has somehow been deemed a trans icon. Today. When if you watch the movie there, you we can make the case of a variety of different ways about you know, who Chi Chi is, as well as Wesley Snipes character, and Patrick Stacy’s Swayze has character. And so became important to talk about dragon that particular way, because of in part, this current cultural moment in which we see transcend this and drag kind of side by side in a show like Ru Paul’s drag race, for example. Yeah, right. It’s just so of the culture and of the moment. And because we know that back in the day, we didn’t have or use the language of trans, transgender, trans and this to describe identities, right? For example, Marsha P. Johnson, right, who’s considered you know, the mother of, you know, Stonewall LGBTQ movement, et cetera, alongside Sylvia Rivera, identified as a drag queen, use that language for herself, because that’s the language that they had. And so how do we have a conversation about images of drag, right as potential both potential sites of possibility that trans people have seen themselves within, as well as areas where John Q Public, right might be pulling from, you know, in terms of their thoughts and feelings and expressions as it relates to our identities as trans people. So that was one. And then there’s the second type of drag that we don’t talk enough about, in my particular opinion in the black community.
Traci Thomas 17:20
When it gets to this, I’m so happy.
Tre’vell Anderson 17:23
Which is the type of drag that gives us A Madea the type of drag that gives us a wand to shun a nation you know, arrest fuchsia, we can go down a long line, a Geraldine shout out to Flip Wilson, right. So these black men, black, mostly, at least publicly known as straight men, sis men, right, donning these woman characters as a means of entertainment, and how, in my own personal experience, I talk a lot about Medea, and how I have a soft spot for for that character, not necessarily Tyler Perry, just the character. And how, as I have gone through my own particular journey, I noticed that the same types of jokes that get lodged at A Madea a Wanda a Shinae, Nang, right are the exact same jokes, quote unquote, jokes that manifests as in real life violence, that we as black trans women in films experience, right, because they the jokes are about our bodies, it’s about our shoulders, it’s about the size of our hands, the size of our feet, right? Whether or not we have an Adam’s apple, whether or not our job is a particular type of way, or whatever, right? And how now, people, if we are not exhibiting and exuding the type of identity, the type of gender play for entertainment purposes, that A Madea right is doing, how that becomes some sort of aberration in in culture that leads to us as black trans people, black trans women in films in particular, being killed. Right for for existing. And I think we as a community need to talk a little bit more about that. Right. And the complexities that lead us there.
Traci Thomas 19:23
Do you I mean, you talk about it a little bit in the book. And I think, you know, I found it really interesting when you mentioned that. Dave Chappelle has famously not done this drag moment. And and you talk about in the book, how the black comedians who have done these, like, infamous drag characters sort of like cut their teeth, right? Like that was sort of like some of their earlier work, and it’s like, what made them who they are. And so I’m just I don’t know, I don’t I don’t there’s not a great question there. I mean, I think the question is, like, do we think that Dave Chappelle is transfer because he’s never I don’t know if that’s like, the real question. But there is definitely something in there about that. Like, he’s the only one who hasn’t like, walked a mile in her shoes, so to speak. And he’s like the biggest monster. But then of course, there’s like, the subtle digs at trans, a trans people, and also black women across the board even even says black women, right, like, Isn’t disdain for them as well, in these characters, and like, you know, maybe on a lesser level, because some of it, you know, and I think like, some of it, you can say, is homage.
Tre’vell Anderson 20:37
It’s like, well, that’s, that’s what they that’s what they say, right? They say that these characters are homage is to the women in their life to the women that we all know. And maybe, maybe it is, maybe it will be maybe can be. And it can also be, you know, a reproduction of stereotypes and harm, right, as it relates to black women writ large. Right? Not and more specifically, you know, the experiences of black trans women in films, and our community. And it’s not about necessarily trying to do away with these characters. I’m someone my friends always make fun of me, because I’m always like, well, it’s nuanced. It’s complex. It’s complicated. But like, it really it really is. And I just think that we should be like teasing that out a little more. You know, it’s interesting, that all of these men who have, you know, in various ways built their foundations of their careers on some of these women characters. Performing drag, you know, are nowhere to be heard from, right as drag is being, you know, legislated against right, you know, punch. Yeah, right. And this also, I mentioned this very briefly in the book, but this also applies to, in my opinion, your favorite social media influencer, who puts on a wig, right? And who gets up in drag, right? For this the same type of characters, the same type of effect? We don’t hear them talking out against, you know, drag being banned in these views, cultures and communities.
Traci Thomas 22:18
Do you think that that social media influencer or, you know, Martin, or whoever Do you think that they think that they’re doing drag, like, do you think that your favorite social media influencer is like, I should stand up for this? Because I’m doing drugs? Or do you think they’re like, I’m making content, and I’m putting on a wig because I’m doing a church woman? Because I feel like the way we talk about drag sometimes now is like that drag is a thing, and it’s a political thing. And it’s a this, you know, and it means something and I believe that’s true, but I wonder if that separates people who are just like, I’m being funny online?
Tre’vell Anderson 22:54
I think I agree with i Yes, I’m gonna, I’m gonna say yes, we don’t, especially with the, you know, how do they say mainstream application of drag due to a RuPaul? Drag Race? Yeah, there’s a very particular type of drag, right, that is mainstream now. Which is, you know, it’s full on done up wig. It’s a full beat, right, as its body, you know, it’s so beautiful gown so much. Right. And, and I do think that folks who might, you know, I’m thinking of like a terry Joe, for example, or, you know, any of the other influences, I do think they think there’s a difference, right? Because they’re not, they’re not getting dolled up in that specific type of way. They’re not going down to the club and lip synching, you know, for tips, right? No, but the reality is, yes, at the foundation, it’s all the same thing, the same thing, right? It is all the same thing, but we know that the drag bands won’t be enforced on them in the ways that will be enforced on you know, the drag queens down at the local club, right? The the communities who have had to cancel pride. Right, right. Because of, you know, some of this legislation that’s going around, but no, you the influencer, you the comedian will still be able to, you know, go on your tours, and do your characters on stage. Because we know the truth of what you know, all of this legislation is really about all this hate is really about. And it’s about making sure that we as trans people, we as queer people either don’t exist, or we only exist in very specific ways.
Traci Thomas 24:42
Yeah, it just made me think of like that phrase that I feel like so many Native Americans use which is like culture, not costume. And I feel like so many of the comedians in the influencers, it’s costume and I feel like for a lot of people who are going to the clubs who are actually in those spaces in those communities, its culture and We’re punishing the people whose culture it is and not the people who think that it’s a joke or think that it’s like a no big deal.
Tre’vell Anderson 25:06
Right? And no one should be punished. Right? To be clear, right? No, no one should be punished.
Traci Thomas 25:11
You’re right. I didn’t mean to. Drag all drag all the time honestly, matters. Okay, I’ll draw it all the time. All traffic matters more try. Not less, not less. Everyone. We love a drag moment here. Oh, my God, do not get me canceled. I’m gonna be in Florida, all of a sudden, I’m gonna be having to hang out with Ron DeSantis. Am I hanging out with you much longer? That was amazing. Okay, we have to take a break. We’ll be right back. Okay, we’re back. I’m still giggling. But you brought this up right before I almost got cancelled, which is about which portrayals are acceptable on screen and film and which ones are not. And you talked about this sort of early in the book about this idea of when did you first see yourself on screen? And one of the things you say back to that question is, first of all, you don’t like it, which I get, because you’re like, I haven’t been on screen. But the one of the things you say is that the portrayals on screen when you were coming up, didn’t represent you, because it was only acceptable portrayals of trans people and an often time and often cases of drag people and drag. So I’m wondering, like, what do you feel like is acceptable portrayals of trans people? And what are we still not being able to see on screen? What are we still not deemed have not has not been deemed acceptable?
Tre’vell Anderson 26:45
You know, it’s interesting, I’m glad you brought up this question. So as part of the book release, or whatever, I’ve been doing a limited series podcast called, we see each other, the podcast, co hosted with Shaw cell. And we’ve been teasing out a number of the topics that are in the book, interviewing various other trans folks about their thoughts on visibility. And one of the things that we recently spoke about in regards to this, this point, is how so many of even the images of trans folks that we love, and we lift up as, like great examples, are all still rooted in have the character rooted in sex work. And how clearly there are, there are trans women, right? Who are sex workers, both for by choice and doing it out of survival, and how it is important to represent and show those stories and narratives. But how we haven’t yet seen the trans barista, the trans grocery store worker, right, you know, that trans people doing anything other than having to or wanting to engage in sex work, right?
Traci Thomas 28:13
Or being like a kid, right? Like we see a lot more kids coming of age-
Tre’vell Anderson 28:19
into there’s a, there’s a preoccupation with the, the transition narrative, right, right moment of transition moment you knew and the moment you started, you know, engaging with the medical establishment to actualize these parts of yourself. Um, and so I say all that to say, that promised land that I think is where at least I’m trying to get to when it comes to trans representation is one where we have so many different slices of trans life represented, right? I’m not necessarily trying to do away with the narratives that have that show transcendence at the intersection of sex work, because that’s a very real part of many trans folks lives, often because, you know, they’re forced into that type of work. But we, we, as trans people exist in so many other ways beyond sex work as well. Right? And so how do we get to a point where we have, you know, our trans housewives and we have our trans, you know, Bachelorette, you know, or you know, all these other potential images, right, in which transmits can be part of a narrative, and not necessarily the center of said narrative. I think that’s what we’re trying to work towards. I don’t know if I answered your question.
Traci Thomas 29:48
No, you did. You did. And a thing that comes up, you know, in the book and in representations that you talked about, that you loved, or that you liked part of or that you thought were valid. I think we can talk about this in a second. Like you’re very critical with I love about you because I believe in so much and criticism, I think it’s so important to not just say, I enjoyed this movie, it’s a 10 out of 10. But to say I enjoyed this movie, it’s maybe a seven out of 10. Because here’s some things I didn’t like. But I still enjoyed it. And it’s still like, worthy. But one of the things that you talk about, and it’s something that I think about, just in general with black representation is like, what, which of these stories are about trauma, for trauma sake, versus which of these stories portray trauma in a way that feels realistic to the actual lived experience? Like I was, like, I’m a black woman, I have experienced traumas. But I would not if you told the story of my life, the movie would be basically void of major trauma. But you couldn’t tell the story without, you know, the first time I was called the N word or something, you know? So like, do you feel like you’re seeing a little bit more of that, where it feels like the the trauma that comes along with being any sort of marginalized, marginalized person? And sometimes maybe it’s very extreme? And sometimes maybe it’s more minor is being portrayed? Or do you still feel like we’re stuck in a place where it’s like, sex worker, or, you know, you talk about a foreign film, where it’s like, they cut off their own penis like this, like horrific moments, sensational. So I’m wondering if you started to see portrayals that are slightly more nuanced, I guess, when it comes to trauma? Because you can’t tell these stories without some because it’s part of being a marginalized person in this country. Right? Yeah. Or do you feel like we shouldn’t even play into it at all?
Tre’vell Anderson 31:42
Well, I think the problem is that we’re only playing it well. Right. Right. And I in various ways, both like both like the the nuanced, complex, very real lived in tiny ways that you talk about, and also in the stereotypical, you know, trophy type of way. Because there are, there are ways to, I’m thinking right now of a film that is, is out in theaters right now called Monica, starring traceless set, wonderful trans actress, the the narrative, it’s a beautiful, you know, Oscar Beatty type movie, and in that it is, you know, a slow burn, there’s very little dialogue, it’s a very internal type of job. And it’s really a story about this title character, reconnecting with her family, after years of being, you know, apart from them, so much so that they don’t even recognize her right. But then it’s, it’s beautiful, in that we get to see this trans character, just kind of making coffee. Yeah. You know, like, having sex in the back of a truck. Just regular regular stuff, you know, just regular regular stuff. And I love that about the movie, but she’s still engaged in sex work. Right? You see what I’m saying? Yeah. So how we could have done that entire week, we could have had that same movie without the sex work. Right. And that would have been something different.
Traci Thomas 33:16
And lately, do you think that this like, obsession with the tropes and the stereotypes is coming from the executives, like from the tip top? Or do you think it’s coming from like, maybe the directors and the producers who just still don’t have an imagination for it or can’t see the wholeness of people? Like from your I mean, you’re, you’re sort of a Hollywood insider, you reported with LA Times. Right about? Well, maybe not an insider, like, nudge nudge, but an insider, like, you know, what’s going on, you’re privy to conversation.
Tre’vell Anderson 33:55
I think it’s a little bit of both to be quite honest with you, right? Like, I do think that people want people are obsessed specifically, I think with transition related stories, right? They want to see the transformation, right as a means of helping them articulate, right, what it is to be trans. And there are instances and we’ve had examples in culture in which you know, they do that type of story with love and care and gentleness and all that other stuff. And we have other examples in which they don’t. But I do think that that is the prevailing confusion as it relates to trans Ness that manifests as the types of narratives that we most often see on screen. Right. And so I think it’s both the people who are in the C suite, right, who believe they’ve never met a trans person, as well as the actual creatives, who many of whom also believe they’ve never met a trans person. And I want to be clear, it’s not to say that there’s like ill intent. I think so many of these folks think they’re doing the right thing. They’re trying, you know, they’re trying to humanize in their own way, trans people, but not realizing or perhaps not being interested in shouldering the broader responsibility that comes with telling a trans narrative that necessarily connects to our everyday lives as trans people in the same way that it did you know, once and I would say, to some sort of extent still does, when it when we talk about black representation at large.
Traci Thomas 35:47
Yeah. Okay, I want to talk a little bit about criticism. It’s something that I, I talk a lot about how I think like with books, writing reviews that are critical or negative, or call things out whether it’s harmful, but also sometimes when it’s just like, not good, like, the character develop just like wasn’t good. And a lot of people don’t like to do that. And they feel like, especially if they are from a group that is not says hat, white male, that there is an obligation to maybe be kinder or more gentler on the work because of identity. And I understand that. And I think to an extent I do that naturally, like I sometimes will be like, I’m being nice to this book, because the author is a black woman, and then I’m like, wait a second, it wasn’t good. So I’m wondering how you navigate that, because you you’ve written for many publications, and you are a cultural critic, and you talk about, you know, your, your sort of like be is representation in pop culture. And so that means you’re talking about diversity, and you’re talking about movies that maybe aren’t getting the same press? Or maybe they are, and they’re not getting called to task for certain things. So like, how do you personally navigate how hard you’ll go in on something? How much like, hold back, if something is like, okay, you know, it’s black trans wrap, they’re trying. But there’s an issue like, how do you navigate?
Tre’vell Anderson 37:17
I think we do ourselves a disservice when we want to blanket something into a binary. Yeah, by which I mean, it’s good, or it’s bad, or it’s necessary for representation, or it’s not, for me, one, I think, that to wrestle with an A cultural production, is the best way that we as an audience can honor the work that a creative puts into something, which is not to say, we always going to agree, right with the Creator, but so much, I think about the ecosystem of art writ large, should be about it should be like a dialectic conversation right with with the audience. And the entire audience, you will have some people who love it, and you will have some people who, who love it less No. For me, it’s about leaning into the complexity, all the way, right. So I can say that, like, Oh, it’s great to have this movie out here in the world, because of what it represents, right for the culture for the people, and also say, this particular portrayal is problematic, or that person cannot act, and we need to stop acting like they can you see what I’m saying? Like, you know, it, we I think we can, we can have the nuanced conversation that’s unnecessary. And my goal is, is to do it in a way that is digestible. That is, you know, what, well reasoned. Like, you’re going to understand why I feel the way I feel. And you also don’t have to be mean, when you’re being critical. Right. And I think, I think people forget that sometimes. And so for me, it’s about you know, I want to show the care that I have, and also the appreciation I have for what was created, right, but let’s talk about some of the things that just ain’t working.
Traci Thomas 39:35
And do you ever get pushback from people who are involved in projects where you’re like, wasn’t great, this wasn’t working? And like how do you deal with that?
Tre’vell Anderson 39:45
Um, I have gotten pushback before nothing, nothing major. I know of other people in the industry who have you know, fiercer pins than I when it comes to criticism critical. The criticism of black art who had had, you know, people call their employer. Yeah, right to try to get them fired. I had nothing like that, okay? I’ve just, you know, rubbed elbows too with somebody whose movie I said was bad at a party. Or I’ve reviewed somebody’s book and said that they were capitulating to whiteness, and they’d had to see them, you know, two weeks later. But here’s the thing, I’m always down to have a conversation. That’s right, you, if you disagree with my estimation, let’s tease it out. So that I can understand perhaps even better what your intention was. And you can understand what my reception was, because both of there’s a place for both of them. And so it’s like, you know, if I’m gonna say what I gotta say, and if you would like to have some discourse about it, we can talk. Because that’s, that’s actually what gets me most excited about criticism. It’s the conversation, like even putting this book together. Like, you know, there are some things I say in this book that I was like, Oh, the girls are gonna try to drag me. But let’s talk about it. Right. And because I just I like to talk things out. I like to tease things out. Let’s sit at the table at the kitchen table. And let’s, let’s, let’s let’s dive into it. I’m gonna show you the light.
Traci Thomas 41:31
Yeah. Is the light inside of all of us on it’s at the kitchen table. It’s a candle on the table. Okay, one of my favorite things about receiving your book in the mail was when I opened it. I saw on the cover a past guest of the stacks from the early days, Zeke. Oh, okay. Zeke Smith was on the show in 2018 or 19. We did that novel last we did it for book club. And I was just so thrilled to see Zeke. That’s all it’s not a question. It’s just a comment. I was like, I posted it and then Zeke DMS me. And he’s like, That’s me. I’m like, No shit, Zeke. We talked for two hours about about my game. But I was like, of course, that’s you. It’s like, clearly someone doing survivor things. It’s your face and your shirt.
Tre’vell Anderson 42:27
Love it. I love Zeek. I think his story, in particular of what went down on survivor is one of those canonical moments of trans representation on screen. And so you know, he needed to be in the book. And so I’m glad that he is
Traci Thomas 42:42
I’m glad to really made me excited. I guess there is sort of a question about trans masculine representation. Because I think a lot of the ways that pop culturally, we think about and talk about trans people. It has a lot to do with trans femme representation. And a lot of you know, the violence is against trans women, specifically black and brown ones. A lot of the obsession about, you know, gender and bathrooms and sports is around trans feminine people. And so and then that, of course, as I’m reading the book, I’m trying to like they’re about halfway through the book. I’m like, were the trans masculine people and then like two sentences later, you’re like, don’t worry, we’re gonna get there. But I’m sort of wondering about about that. I think, you know, Elliott page, having come out recently, has maybe shifted the the representation, I guess, on that side, but I don’t know. I just I’m curious what you think about it. Why you think it’s this way? I know a little bit in the book, you talk about size and like body parts a little bit like we have we are comfortable with small men in a way that we’re not comfortable with large women. Yeah, a little bit. I’d love for you kind of just to talk about that.
Tre’vell Anderson 44:05
Yeah. Well, Elliot’s book comes out soon.
Traci Thomas 44:08
I think it’ll be out when people are listening to this. It’s called pageboy. I think yeah, it’s like June 6, or something. Yes.
Tre’vell Anderson 44:14
Yeah. Um, but you’re super right. You know, when when Eliot you know, disclose to the world His truth. He he put trans men trans masculine people, right, on a particular space in in culture and discourse. That I would say they haven’t been Yeah. As you know, writ large, in the same way that you know, when Laverne Cox, you know, jumped dropped onto the scene with oranges, the New Black, um, I think that what it comes down to is that it is a lot harder, I think, for people to rationalize in their mind how and why someone assigned male at birth would want to live out their life as a woman, okay? Because of the ways that we treat women in our society, why would you give up, quote unquote male privilege, right? To become a woman to embody womanhood or femininity. And I think in people’s minds it, it makes a little bit more sense that somebody assigned female at birth would want to, you know, grab a bit of male privilege this society. And it’s a lot harder to say. Or let me rephrase that it’s a lot easier to get people to overreact to misunderstand to carry out hate towards trans women, when you can say there’s a man in the women’s bathroom.
Traci Thomas 46:06
Do you think a little bit also, what I was thinking about as I was working through the question and reading through the book is like, there’s also this the sexism, right, of course of like, anti misogyny, all of these things, that even a trans man for people who don’t see or understand trans Ness or don’t want to or just hate it or whatever, for those people, that it’s like hating a trans man, in some ways is like hating a woman. And it’s like, harder, like, you don’t hit girls, you don’t you know, like, this whole sexist stuff, where it’s like, okay, but even still, this person’s a woman, even if they think they’re a man that they’re what do they know? They’re just a girl like some of this like dismissive and Cecily this, like,
Tre’vell Anderson 46:51
Absolutely. Oh, absolutely. I think I think there’s, I think there’s that in there, too. I also just think that there is a, it to me, it all comes down to back to film phobia back to misogyny, back to, you know, anti woman nests, all of it, right. And, and so as a result, right, we’ve seen trans men, some of them as a means of survival, right? disassociating themselves from queer community from trans community, right? And quote, unquote, passing or blending in, right into society in ways that, you know, a six foot seven black trans woman can’t cannot. Right, right. So and so. So there’s, there’s, there’s so many different layers, but I say all that and to also note, that there’s also a particular type of, of erasure, right, that happens of the trans masculine trans man experience as well. So then we don’t even as we’re having conversations about the need for greater trans visibility, we don’t even often consider that that also means trans men and trans masculine people, right? Because we’re focused on the visible ways that we often take down women, right, that we want to reproduce specifically on to trans women and trans femme folk.
Traci Thomas 48:18
Yeah, that’s so that’s so good. I’m so smart. Okay, I’m doing a hard shift. I want to ask you about the other title. How did you come up with it? What does it mean to you? What is it? What is it talking about it we see each other?
Tre’vell Anderson 48:32
Okay, so I have been waiting for somebody to ask me about the title directly this entire time. I keep having to bring it up and try to you know, get him to the interviewer to ask it. No one ever died. We love a title over here. Okay, so we had a lot of conversation about the title, as probably happens with most books. And ultimately, I wanted a title that would signal off bat who I’m talking to who I’m talking with, who I’m speaking in community with, right, and we see each other and this idea of being seen, just kept coming to remind we see each other obviously, I basically kind of stole it from the the back and forth moment between candy and Nene on Real Housewives. Those who No, no, and if you don’t go Google it, it’s on the YouTubes. But what I loved about it was that it kind of had this double speak in a way where the people who know that pop culture reference will know it and they will get it and they will understand that layer and the people who don’t, they won’t, but they will still be able to consume it. But I want it to be clear from the beginning. Right? That my goal and who I’m talking to and speaking with his other black trans folks, yeah. And the rest of y’all get to listen on in. You got to eat up this education as well and this knowledge but This isn’t a book that is interested in centering, you know, anything but a black trans perspective, and specifically my black trans perspective, right, which does not necessarily represent the entire right perspective of black trans minutes. So that’s how we got to the title, we had other titles, but they all to me, changed who the audience was that I was speaking to. I had, you know, it was it was, it was a lot of back and forth. But we ended up on the title that I wanted the original title, the title that I sold it, as was seen as EA in colon trans lives on screen. But I always knew I would change it. Because that was like, I was like, oh, that’s boring. Yeah, my book agent was like, Okay, it’s boring. But but it when we’re trying to sell this book, it’s super clear, and they will know exactly what it is. And I was like, Okay, girl, just as long as we all know, as long as changing sounds like this will be changed.
Traci Thomas 51:04
Can you tell us how you like to write how many hours a day how often music or no snacks and beverages that’s important?
Tre’vell Anderson 51:13
I would not say I like to write late. But I’m good at it. And I do love it more generally speaking. So I am an early riser. I wrote the majority of the book in the early morning, like, you know, like six to eight, six to nine. But I also have like, I was doing so much while reading this while writing this book by so much. I mean, I was writing the book, which I basically did in like three months do not advise. Do not advise. But I was also at the same time I was a consulting producer on the last season of the TV show legendary. So I was on I was writing on set, you know, when we were on break, while also doing the other podcasts. I am a it depends on my mood, whether I need some sort of sound in the background or whether I can just hammer away. But not not really too many snacks. I’m not too much of a snacker while writing while I love to eat don’t get me wrong, but just popped a now and later.
Traci Thomas 52:28
So let’s let the record show you like a now and later, at the very least.
Tre’vell Anderson 52:33
But not when I’m writing but I think that’s also because I write so early in the morning. Yeah, like you know, it is what it is. And then I’m just I’m a water girl just give me some water, maybe a Coca Cola, something like that. And then I tried to have like a candle or two around just to give me some there a specific scent that you like, there is a candle that I found while writing that is a fruit loop scented candle. Okay. And it’s it smells exactly like it.
Traci Thomas 53:08
So you telling me you don’t like a snack when you have a fruit candle? How dare you?
Tre’vell Anderson 53:16
I mean, if I need a nibble, nibble but you know, it’s six o’clock in the morning, ya know, but it’s not ready yet. But that’s basically how I for the most part, I’m right. But I’m also the type of writer where, you know, I cannot move on unless the sentence that I’m on is perfect. Okay, it needs to be I saw I guess people say that’s like editing as you go or whatever. But like it has to be perfect. The rhythm has to fall, right? And so that can be I’ll just say that meant that many days. I only wrote two sentences because it took me that entire time to get those two sentences the way I needed them to be.
Traci Thomas 53:58
What’s the word? You can never spell correctly on the first try?
Tre’vell Anderson 54:01
Oh my god. Um, oh, this is horrible- business.
Traci Thomas 54:07
Oh, good one. I think you’re the first person to ever say business on the show.
Tre’vell Anderson 54:11
Business. And I have the way to remember it. Because I got very embarrassed when I was in middle school. But business is one that I’m always like, okay. BUSIN you I asked you know, it’s a loud-
Traci Thomas 54:25
That’s a good one is. What comes next for you? Do you think you’ll write another book?
Tre’vell Anderson 54:33
Um, so I have a second book coming out later this year. It’s called historically black phrases. It’s a coffee table type, you know, where I co wrote it with Jared Hill, who was my co host on fan tie. And it’s like a coffee table book. We’ve like taken these phrases that we’ve heard growing up, put definitions to them. We’ve got some essays in there and we did some different interviews with different. Oh, what’s that, September 19.
Traci Thomas 55:05
So you guys can pre order- ordering immediately,
Tre’vell Anderson 55:09
Please do we just released we just recently released the cover of it. It’s so cute. It’s gonna be so fun. But it was that was hilarious and wonderful. So that comes out September 19. Yes, that means I was writing both of these books at the same time. Again, I do not recommend do not recommend Busy, busy busy. I overwork it’s fine. I’m working on it, y’all. And so that’s the most immediate thing. There will be other books in the pipeline. I haven’t started working on anything specific yet. I think I’m going to be doing something you know, in the young adult arena next.
Traci Thomas 55:46
So stay tuned, stay tuned. What’s not in the book that you wish was?
Tre’vell Anderson 55:52
Oh, there’s so much there’s so and most of it was just like people whose contributions to culture I want it to talk about. That’s how I there’s a section at the end of the book called transistors, in which I do these like just many quick bios of like six trans people in culture. A Geeta Wilson, Wilmer, Broadnax. These are folks who maybe they were in film and television, maybe they weren’t, maybe they were artists, or whatnot, whose names just needed to be said. But if I had to choose a film that I would have put in or that I wanted to put in, but it just didn’t work, it would be the Cheetah Girls. A lot of folks don’t know that the character of drinka champagne, who’s like the drama teacher, or whatever, in the movie, is played by a trans woman, Sandra Caldwell is her name. She’s still living with us. And when I learned that piece of history, knowing the obsessive love that I have of that movie, I was like, oh, that must be the reason why. I mean, besides the fact that, you know, we now know Raven is clear as well. I was like, that’s, that’s gotta be it. So I wanted to figure out a way to bring in Cheetah Girls. But it just didn’t. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t fit.
Traci Thomas 57:13
Book Two, all about Cheetah Girls. And I just have two more questions for you. One is for people who love we see each other? What are other books you might recommend to them that are in conversation with your work?
Tre’vell Anderson 57:29
Hmm. I’m gonna go with we mentioned the lady Chablis earlier. You all should check out her autobiography. It’s called hiding my candy. And it’s wonderful. She also she read an abridged version of it for an audiobook in her own voice. So that was fabulous. And then I would also say, oh, black on both sides, which is it’s a more academic in nature text. But see, rally snore in does has done a lot of great research and information in terms of unearthing the experiences and existences of black trans people, you know, from from back back back in the day. And so that was like a foundational text for me when I was like putting the book together.
Traci Thomas 58:21
And for people there is a little page of selected Further reading or further reading. So when you get the book when you get to the end, and you’re like I need more, Chevelle has this plenty more for Yeah, that’s exactly right. Here’s my last question. If you could have one person dead or alive, read this book, who do you want it to be?
Tre’vell Anderson 58:39
I’m gonna go I’m gonna go kind of, you know, spiritual and amorphous here. Okay. My dedication to the book in the book is to who I believe to be a transistor that existed in my family that I just don’t know about.
Traci Thomas 58:55
Dedication says for the trans sisters from who I specifically came. I don’t know your names, but my spirit says you existed.
Tre’vell Anderson 59:03
Yeah. Um, I just, you know, I’m a bad bitch. And I’m wonderful. And I’m all of these, you know, amazing things. However, I pushed back against the thought that I’m like, the first trans person in my family. Yeah. And I often think about just like, Who do I not know about? Because for various reasons, my family lost their story. Yeah. Right. And so whoever that person is, I would want them to read the book and see my attempts at you know, reclaiming reasserting, you know, a presence, you know, in our particular bloodline.
Traci Thomas 59:45
Gosh, I’m obsessed with you, everyone. This has been a conversation with Revell Anderson. Their book is called we see each other a black trans journey through TV and film. You can get it wherever you get your books. Do you read the audiobook? I do read the audiobook. Okay, so you can live Ascenta travail read it. Thank you so much for being here. Thanks for having me. And everyone else we will see you in the stacks
All right, y’all that does it for us today. Thank you so much for listening and thank you again to Tre’vell Anderson for joining the show. And a special thank you to Alexandra Serrano for helping to make this conversation possible. Don’t forget our June book club pick is Oreo by Fran Ross and we will discuss the book with Hannah Oliver Depp on Wednesday, June 28. If you love the show and what insight access to it, head over to patreon.com/the stacks to join the stacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks wherever you listen to your podcasts and if you’re listening through Apple podcasts or Spotify be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stocks follow us on social media at the stocks pod on Instagram and Tiktok and at the stocks pod underscore on Twitter and of course check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of the stocks was edited by Cristian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin MacWrite. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
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