A new photo and podcast series is shining the spotlight on the experiences and cultural contributions of Black gay, bi and trans masculine artists and activists. 

A new photo and podcast series is shining the spotlight on the experiences and cultural contributions of Black gay, bi and trans masculine artists and activists, who for too long have been misrepresented, marginalised and erased.

Just two days after George Floyd was killed, Tony McDade, a 38-year-old Black trans man, was fatally shot by police in Tallahassee, Florida. While the Black Lives Matter movement surged to unprecedented heights, McDade’s death was underreported. 

In the coming month, a new refrain would emerge: ‘All Black Lives Matter,’ signalling the need to ensure visibility for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite their vast contributions to culture and politics, the Black LGBTQ+ community has historically been misrepresented, marginalised and erased.

With Being Seen, a ten-episode weekly podcast, award-winning writer Darnell Moore honours the lived experiences and cultural contributions of Black gay, bi and trans masculine artists and activists. “Simply put, we wanted to create a platform that would make legible the fact that we, Black queer and trans men, exist and live lives worthy of consideration and celebration,” Moore says. “We sought to involve Black people who come from a variety of places, people who contribute to culture in different ways, whether on screen, on the stage, or on the streets.”

Photo by Nate Palmer

Photo by Kennedi Carter

Produced by Harley & Co., and created in partnership with ViiV Healthcare, Being Seen features guest appearances by Harper’s Bazaar editor in Chief Samira Nasr, fashion designer Jerome Lamaar, musician Luke James, author Kiese Laymon, and poet Saeed Jones, among others.

“The podcast is a sonic landscape of Black queer and trans lives,” Moore says. “We wanted to create something original. Every facet of the podcast, from cover art to the theme music to the accompanying photography, is the works of Black artists. It’s more speculative than it is dogmatic.”

Each episode of Being Seen features a selection of photography curated by Texas Isaiah and Gioncarlo Valentine from their own personal archives, along with works by leading young photographers including Clifford Prince King, Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Shan Wallace, and Kennedi Carter, who recently shot Beyoncé for the cover of British Vogue.  

Photo by Shan Wallace

Photo by Jah Grey

At the heart of Being Seen is the idea that representation matters. So often Black people are represented in mass media as artifacts of the white imagination. But Black artists, photographers among them, reverts the white gaze in such a way that we no longer appear as subjects in art but human beings. The photography that accompanies the episodes reveal as much.”

In creating a space for Black LGBTQ+ artists and activists to speak among themselves, Being Seen offers a means for the community to assert its values and concerns without having to contort itself around the limitations of white supremacy. 

We deserve spaces in which we can, for once, center us. Black trans and queer folks have always been here. Period. We have long contributed to cultural uplift, community building, movement work, politics, art making, cultural production, and much else, even when our contributions are minimized or muted,” Moore says.

“We are brothers, sons, fathers, mothers, daughters, sisters, bristas, pastors, teachers, organizers, filmmakers, lovers, broken, whole, complicated, loving people. And we are here! Being Seen is evidence and testimony of that fact.”

Photo by Gioncarlo Valentine

Photo by Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.

Darnell L. Moore by Erik Carter

Being Seen podcast is available on most major streaming platforms. 

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